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Federal government blocks Dakota Access oil pipeline route

James MacPherson, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Dec 5th, 2016

CANNON BALL, N.D. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday that it won’t grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota, handing a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters, who argued the project would threaten the tribe’s water source and cultural sites.

North Dakota’s leaders criticized the decision, with Gov. Jack Dalrymple calling it a “serious mistake” that “prolongs the dangerous situation” of having several hundred protesters who are camped out on federal land during cold, wintry weather. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said it’s a “very chilling signal” for the future of infrastructure in the United States.

The four-state, $3.8 billion project is largely complete except for the now-blocked segment underneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that her decision was based on the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline’s crossing. Her full decision doesn’t rule out that it could cross under the reservoir or north of Bismarck.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, had said it was unwilling to reroute the project. It had no immediate comment Sunday.

The decision came a day before the government’s deadline for the several hundred people at the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, encampment to leave the federal land. But demonstrators say they’re prepared to stay, and authorities say they won’t forcibly remove them.

As the news spread Sunday, cheers and cheers and chants of “mni wichoni” — “water is life” in Lakota Sioux — broke out among the protesters. Some in the crowd banged drums. Miles Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, said he was pleased but remained cautious, saying, “We don’t know what Trump is going to do.”

“The whole world is watching,” Allard added. “I’m telling all our people to stand up and not to leave until this is over.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday that the Department of Justice will “continue to monitor the situation” and stands “ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions.”

“The safety of everyone in the area – law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike – continues to be our foremost concern,” she added.

Carla Youngbear of the Meskwaki Potawatomi tribe made her third trip from central Kansas to be at the protest site.

“I have grandchildren, and I’m going to have great grandchildren,” she said. “They need water. Water is why I’m here.”

Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault didn’t immediately respond to messages left seeking comment.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, whose department has done much of the policing for the protests, said that “local law enforcement does not have an opinion” on the easement and that his department will continue to “enforce the law.”

U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the Corps’ “thoughtful approach … ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts.”

Earlier Sunday, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said tribal elders had asked the military veterans not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, adding the group is there to help out those who’ve dug in against the project.

About 250 veterans gathered about a mile from the main camp for a meeting with organizer Wes Clark Jr., the son of former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. The group had said about 2,000 veterans were coming, but it wasn’t clear how many actually arrived.

“We have been asked by the elders not to do direct action,” Wes Clark Jr. said. He added that the National Guard and law enforcement have armoured vehicles and are armed, warning: “If we come forward, they will attack us.”

Instead, he told the veterans, “If you see someone who needs help, help them out.”

Authorities moved a blockade from the north end of the Backwater Bridge with the conditions that protesters stay south of it and come there only if there is a prearranged meeting. Authorities also asked protesters not to remove barriers on the bridge, which they have said was damaged in the late October conflict that led to several people being hurt, including a serious arm injury.

“That heavy presence is gone now and I really hope in this de-escalation they’ll see that, and in good faith . the leadership in those camps will start squashing the violent factions,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said in a statement, reiterating that any violation will “will result in their arrest.”

Veterans Stand for Standing Rock’s GoFundMe.com page had raised more than $1 million of its $1.2 million goal by Sunday — money due to go toward food, transportation and supplies. Cars waiting to get into the camp Sunday afternoon were backed up for more than a half-mile.

“People are fighting for something, and I thought they could use my help,” said Navy veteran and Harvard graduate student Art Grayson. The 29-year-old from Cambridge, Massachusetts, flew the first leg of the journey, then rode from Bismarck in the back of a pickup truck. He has finals this week, but told professors, “I’ll see you when I get back.”

Steven Perry, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran who’s a member of the Little Traverse Bay band of Odawa Indians in Michigan, spoke of one of the protesters’ main concerns: that the pipeline could pollute drinking water. “This is not just a native issue,” he said, “This is an issue for everyone.”

Art Woodson and two other veterans drove 17 hours straight from Flint, Michigan, a city whose lead-tainted water crisis parallels with the tribe’s fight over water, he said.

“We know in Flint that water is in dire need,” the 49-year-old disabled Gulf War Army veteran said. “In North Dakota, they’re trying to force pipes on people. We’re trying to get pipes in Flint for safe water.”

Some veterans will take part in a prayer ceremony Monday, during which they’ll apologize for historical detrimental conduct by the military toward Native Americans and ask for forgiveness, Clark said. He also called the veterans’ presence “about right and wrong and peace and love.”


Associated Press writers Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

Toronto housing prices increase 23 per cent in November vs. last year

News Staff | posted Friday, Dec 2nd, 2016

A sign advertises a new home for sale in Carleton Place, Ont., on March 17, 2015. A new report says sales of homes worth $1 million or more heated up in Toronto and Vancouver last year as the low loonie fuelled demand from foreign buyers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Housing prices in Toronto increased by 23 per cent in November compared to last year, to an average price of $776,684 for most types of properties, the Toronto Real Estate Board said in a statement today.

The average price of a detached home is $1.06 million.

More to come

Deck the halls on the first weekend of December

PATRICIA D'CUNHA AND SAMANTHA KNIGHT | posted Friday, Dec 2nd, 2016

“Ding dong merrily on high.” You will hear that tune at most malls and Christmas concerts over the festive season, and it truly captures the heart of the holidays.

Keep that joyous spirit close to mind as you deal with crowded malls, finding a parking spot, traffic, and long lineups.


Christmas in the Valley
The city can be a little bit country, and a country-like Christmas experience is (nearly) at your doorstep. The Miller Lash House, nestled in Highland Creek and the Rouge Valley, is situated at University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. On Saturday, the home will be turned into an indoor market featuring handmade items made by local artisans and students.

Habitat for Humanity GTA’s Gingerbread Build
Who knew building homes could be so sweet? Habitat for Humanity GTA is hosting its 14th annual Gingerbread Build event this weekend at Toronto City Hall.

The event offers an easy way to help build safe and affordable homes for local, low-income families, while celebrating the holiday season. Children of any age can participate. All you need to do is pre-order one of the Gingerbread kits. Proceeds from the event support Habitat for Humanity’s home building projects for families across the GTA. Building sessions run Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m., 12 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the City Hall rotunda.

West Toronto Bakers Holiday Market
Are you dreaming of a chocolate-bar-stuffed chocolate chip cookie? And all you want for Christmas is to put your sweet tooth to work? Then prepare to go sugar crazy at The Great Hall at Queen Street and Dovercourt Road. Aside from the above mouth-watering cookie concoction, you can stock up on butter tarts, custards, meringues, vegan treats, savoury snacks like gourmet empanadas, and a whole lot more. The market is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Santa in the Junction
Santa Claus is sure clocking in some overtime this season. He has to stay on top of the naughty and nice list, oversee the toy-making at the North Pole, pose for photos with children at the malls, and be the guest of honour at various parades. But he is not one to complain.

This Sunday, St. Nick and his elves will be at the Junction Train Platform on Dundas Street West near Pacific Avenue spreading Christmas joy. Starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday, the entire street and sidewalks from Indian Grove to Quebec Avenue will be “dressed in holiday style” with indoor and outdoor markets, live music, dance performances (in store windows), and workshops. You can also warm up with hot cocoa while listening to Mr. Claus read Christmas stories.


Don Mills Holiday Market
CF Shops at Don Mills is getting into the spirit of the season with its outdoor holiday market.

The market features a collection of 40 seasonal and artisan vendors selling goods including art and photography, home décor, health and beauty, clothing and holiday treats. Live music will be played throughout the centre and shoppers can take a break from the chilly December air at the warm-up lounge. There will also be a strolling Santa Claus.

The holiday market is held each Friday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. It wraps up on Dec. 18.

Toronto’s First Anonymous Art Show
Toronto’s First Anonymous Art Show is celebrating its second anniversary this weekend. The show is being held at the Art For Cancer Foundation (AFC) on Davenport Road from Thursday to Sunday.

It will feature original artwork from established and emerging artists, including AFC workshop participants. Hundreds of donated paintings will be on sale, each priced at $100 with the entire proceeds going to AFC programs.

The co-chair of the event says the artist of each painting remains a mystery until after the purchase, when a sold tag featuring the name and photo of the artist is be placed on the art.

Free family movie event
Take a magical journey to the North Pole this weekend during the free family movie event at Queensway Cineplex.

The special screening is being held by World Vision Gift Catalogue to celebrate Christmas and thank residents for their generosity this year. ‘The Polar Express,’ starring Tom Hanks, features Billy, a reluctant passenger on the ride of his life to the North Pole. His adventure pays off when he gets to meet Santa.

The movie starts at 10 a.m. Donations are accepted.

TTC and road closures

Partial Line 1 and Line 2 shutdown
The bad news is that there are two partial subway closures on two lines this weekend. The good news is that these are the last ones of the year, according to the TTC website.

From Saturday to Sunday, Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) will be closed from St. George to Pape stations due to track work. At the same time, signal upgrades will force Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) to shut down from Wilson to Downsview stations.

Shuttle buses will be running and Wheel-Trans buses will run between the affected stations upon request.

Regular subway service resumes at 6 a.m. on Monday.

Road closures

Etobicoke Lakeshore Christmas Parade: Dwight Avenue from Lake Shore Boulevard West to Birmingham Street, Birmingham from Dwight Avenue to Islington Avenue, and Lake Shore from Royal York Road to Thirty-Seventh Street will be closed for the parade on Saturday. Buses will replace streetcars from 9 a.m. to noon.

Low-income TTC users to get discount in 2018

News staff | posted Friday, Dec 2nd, 2016

The executive committee has given its stamp of approval to a plan to give low-income transit users a break starting in 2018.

The committee unanimously endorsed the idea which gives eligible transit riders 33 per cent off a single adult fare, and 21 per cent off an adult monthly pass.

The threshold to be considered “low-income” varies depending on family size. According to the Toronto Star, the maximum a two-parent, two-child household can make is $45,075 in order to be eligible to qualify. A single-parent, one-child household would have to make a maximum of $31,522 and a single person would have to make a maximum of $22,537.

The plan will use Presto cards.

The plan still needs final approval from city council, which will debate the issue on Dec. 13.

Air Miles reverses course, cancels reward expiry set for end of year

ALEKSANDRA SAGAN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Dec 2nd, 2016

Following an uproar from consumers, the company that runs the Air Miles loyalty points program says it is cancelling plans that would have seen collectors lose any miles not used within five years.

But the change of heart swiftly angered some who had scrambled to redeem their miles before the expiration policy was to take effect Dec. 31.

LoyaltyOne announced Thursday it was walking away from the policy, effective immediately, citing an uncertain legislative environment throughout the country.

“There is uncertainty with provincial governments proposing or considering legislation across Canada, so we have decided to cancel the expiry policy so that all collectors, regardless of location, can be confident that their balances will be protected,” LoyaltyOne CEO Bryan Pearson said in a statement.

“Our commitment is to create an environment where reward programs continue to deliver value to consumers and the companies that operate them.”

In Ontario, there was a private member’s bill before the provincial legislature that sought to make it illegal for companies to allow points to expire strictly due to the passage of time.

LoyaltyOne said it believes cancelling the expiration policy will lead to governments and industry members having more meaningful conversations that can help such loyalty programs remain viable across Canada.

Some Air Miles collectors welcomed the news that they wouldn’t be losing their rewards.

Others, however, quickly expressed disappointment, saying they wouldn’t have claimed their miles if they had known Air Miles was going to pull an about-face.

Patrick Arsenault, a Canadian studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, said he started acquiring Air Miles in 2004 and had about 7,000 miles he needed to claim before the end of the year.

“The goal was always to be able to buy a trip at the end of my studies or buy something,” said Arsenault, who graduates in May.

Faced with the looming expiration, he said he claimed miles to pay for his parents and brother to fly from Montreal to visit him this holiday season. They had been planning to drive to see him, he said.

The three tickets cost him nearly all his points and about $450 in additional fees, he said.

“I could have used my points to treat myself when I graduate in May, but now I have barely any points left.”

LoyaltyOne did not make anyone immediately available for comment.

The Air Miles reward program launched in 1992 and has more than 11 million active collector accounts.

Trump the campaign trail showman returns on ‘Thank you’ tour

JONATHAN LEMIRE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Dec 2nd, 2016

The pugnacious, brawling Donald Trump voters got to know during the presidential campaign is back.

The president-elect returned to his campaign roots Thursday in his first major public appearance since Election Day, holding court in front of thousands of adoring fans – and even announcing a Cabinet pick from the stage.

Trump’s first stop on this “Thank you” tour to salute his supporters was in Ohio and, ever the showman, he made the surprise announcement that he will be offering the post of defence secretary to retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis. Trump said he was supposed to unveil that Monday, so he jokingly warned the Cincinnati crowd to “not tell anyone.”

The raucous rallies during the Trump campaign road show often had the feel of a rock concert, and Thursday night in Cincinnati had all the hallmarks of a reunion tour: Trump took a veiled swipe at fellow Republicans. He remembered his general election foe by joking, “We had fun fighting Hillary, didn’t we?” He boasted about the size of his victory and repeatedly bashed the media. Protesters briefly interrupted the proceedings. And the crowd chanted “Build the Wall” and “Lock Her Up.”

The president-elect had eased up on those campaign promises recently, suggesting the U.S.-Mexico border wall could be part-fence and indicating no willingness to pursue criminal charges against Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps befitting an encore presentation, the downtown arena that Trump packed in October – drawing a crowd that was one of the loudest of the campaign – was only about half-full Thursday night. But the thousands who were there cheered Trump as he vowed to restore America to greatness, saying, “Now is not the time to downsize our dreams.”

Trump did nothing to downplay expectations before he takes office, declaring that “America will start winning again, big league.” Much like he did during the stretch run of the campaign, he read from teleprompters, but he was bombastic as ever, spending more than a dozen minutes bragging about his victory before outlining his economic plan.

He boasted about his wins in Midwest states that normally vote Democratic, declaring he didn’t just “break the blue wall, we shattered it.” He veered off-script to make fun of a protester, saying she was being ejected from the arena so “she could go back to Mommy.” He repeated his recent threat that, despite constitutional protections, “if people burn the American flag, there should be consequences.”

And he stunned his own aides when he announced the Mattis pick from the stage. Mattis, nicknamed “Mad Dog,” is considered one of the foremost strategic thinkers of his generation, but to gain confirmation as Pentagon chief, he would need Congress to waive a requirement that a defence secretary be a civilian for at least seven years before taking up the post.

Mattis retired as chief of the U.S. Central Command in 2013 after serving more than four decades in the Marine Corps. There is no sense of strong opposition to his nomination in Congress.

Trump supporters were thrilled that he had hit the road again.

“That he wants to do this, to take time out of his schedule to fly out here and personally thank the people … shows what kind of man he is,” said Josh Kanowitz, 43. “He’s one of us.”

But while Kanowitz largely praised Trump’s initial moves as president-elect, he visibly recoiled at the suggestion that he might pick Mitt Romney as secretary of state, saying the 2012 Republican presidential nominee was “someone we should leave behind as we move forward.”

Others at the rally also expressed some hesitancy at Trump’s picks, with a few suggesting that choosing former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary was not exactly fulfilling Trump’s campaign promise to “Drain the Swamp” and eliminate corruption and elitism from Washington.

The rally in Cincinnati was the second stop on a victory lap through the Midwest on Thursday, coming hours after Trump saluted workers, owners and himself at a Carrier plant in Indiana. There he declared that a deal to keep a local plant open instead of moving operations to Mexico was only the first of many business victories to come.

Some questions remain about the extent of the victory at Carrier, which announced this week that it will keep an Indianapolis plant open. In February, the heating and air conditioning company said it would shut the plant and send jobs to Mexico, and video of angry workers being informed about the decision soon went viral.

“Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences. It’s not going to happen. It’s simply not going to happen,” Trump said to workers at the Indianapolis plant.

Officials said this week that Carrier had agreed to keep some 800 union jobs at the plant. Seth Martin, a spokesman for Carrier, said Indiana offered the air conditioning and furnace manufacturer $7 million in tax incentives after negotiations with Trump’s team to keep some jobs in the state.

Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Washington, Lisa Cornwell from Cincinnati and Brian Slodysko from Indianapolis contributed reporting.

Road tolls, hotel tax unanimously approved by mayor’s executive committee

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 2nd, 2016

Mayor John Tory’s executive committee has unanimously approved asking the province for the power to introduce road tolls and a tax on hotels and short-term accommodations.

The proposed revenue tools and taxes are needed to help fill a $33-billion gap in unfunded projects.

Tory has thrown his support behind road tolls and a hotel tax, and he challenged his detractors on Thursday to step up with alternatives.

“If they are opposed, I think they have an obligation to expose what they would do instead,” Tory said during a break from the meeting.

Coun. Joe Cressy supports the proposal for road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.

“It’s good to see that the mayor has recognized that we have a revenue problem, that we need to invest more and get more money to build a strong city for the future,” he said. “The proposal to bring tolls in as part of that solution is a good start.”

But outspoken Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti thinks road tolls would only cause more congestion on Toronto’s side streets.

“What (Tory’s) going to do is create a network of traffic through the city because all of those people who work outside of the city of Toronto are going to take our side streets to get to work now.”

Mammoliti brought a pair of boxing gloves to Thursday’s meeting to symbolize his fight against the proposed taxes and revenue tools that he feels take advantage of taxpayers.

“I’ve started a campaign to fight taxes and fees,” he said. “It’s a campaign to defend the taxpayers, the car driver. This budget is about hitting seniors in the wallet with taxes. I want to defend those seniors…and those car drivers from tolls.

“These are Mayor Tory’s taxes. And I’ll make sure that everyone in the city knows that the mayor is leading the tax increase and the fees and I want to fight it.”

Other options that were debated included a $120 vehicle registration tax and an alcohol tax.

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