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No seats change hands in byelections, Tories and NDP come on strong in Ontario

LEE BERTHIAUME, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 4th, 2017

Upstart Conservative and New Democrat candidates gave their heavily favoured Liberal rivals a bit of a scare Monday in a pair of byelections in Ontario where some of Justin Trudeau’s policies and promises played a central role.

In the Toronto-area riding of Markham-Thornhill, Liberal candidate and former PMO staffer Mary Ng defeated Ragavan Paranchothy by a margin of nearly 2,500 votes after a stronger than expected early showing by her Conservative rival.

A robust performance in the riding, long a Liberal stronghold held by ex-cabinet minister John McCallum, was critical for the Liberals, given the importance of holding Toronto if they want to form government in 2019.

It was also important for Ng, who is currently on a leave of absence from her job in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office and seen by some as a strong candidate for cabinet.

“The Liberal future is in Ontario,” said political analyst Tim Powers, vice-president of Summa Strategies. “If the Liberal vote goes down in Markham-Thornhill, then they will want to spend a lot of time diagnosing what went wrong.”

That did indeed appear to be the case: with all polls reporting, Ng had claimed just 51.3 per cent of the vote, compared with 55.72 per cent in 2015. The Tory share of the vote was nearly seven per cent higher.

None of that seemed to dampen Ng’s spirits late Monday as she credited the victory to her team of volunteers, who “knocked on a lot of doors, talked to thousands of people, and we earned their vote.”

Conservative insiders had said the local campaign strategy involved talking about the Trudeau government’s forthcoming plan to legalize marijuana, but Ng said it “wasn’t an issue I heard at the door.”

Ng, whose previous experience includes roles at the Ontario legislature and in the president’s office at Ryerson University, was also circumspect Monday about her chances of ending up in cabinet.

“Today is Day 1,” she said. “My job is to represent the people of Markham-Thornhill. And I’m going to work very, very hard to be their strongest voice and their strongest advocate. That’s my job today.”

In Ottawa-Vanier, where the New Democrats campaigned aggressively against the Liberals for breaking a promise to abandon the oft-maligned first-past-the-post electoral system, the NDP’s Emilie Taman gathered 28.7 per cent of the vote.

It was nowhere near enough to challenge Liberal candidate Mona Fortier, however, who had 51.2 per cent of the vote and finished 6,667 votes ahead of Taman.

“I’m feeling really good. We had a great showing. I’m proud of what we achieved,” Taman said in an interview afterward.

“The government is going to take notice that the people of Ottawa-Vanier have their concerns … I think it was an overall disappointment that I was hearing from people, that they didn’t really get the government they thought they were getting.”

Liberal party spokesman Braeden Caley was having none of it Monday, calling the outcome a “phenomenal result,” also noting that the government would be getting three new female MPs.

“They’re going to be tireless champions for their communities in Parliament,” he said.

Add in Conservative Stephanie Kusie, who cruised to victory in Calgary Midnapore, and that makes four more women on their way to Parliament Hill, said the advocacy group Equal Voice, which is committed to electing more female MPs.

That brings to 92 the total number of women in the House of Commons – 27 per cent of the available seats, up from 26 per cent, said spokesperson Catherine Fortin LeFaivre.

“We are hopeful that tonight’s results will inspire even more women to seriously consider running for political office – Canada needs them.”

Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal strategist now at lobby firm Environics Communications, said significant inroads in Ottawa-Vanier for the NDP suggest a surprising degree of anger over the abandonment of electoral reform.

“Electoral reform came up a lot in the course of the campaign – a lot,” said the NDP’s Taman “Even people for whom it was not their No. 1 priority were really, really disappointed in the way the prime minister went about breaking the promise.”

Three other byelections took place Monday, and their results were hardly a surprise.

In the Montreal riding of Saint-Laurent, Liberal candidate Emmanuella Lambropoulos won 59.1 per cent of the vote, compared with Conservative rival Jimmy Yu, a distant second at just 19.5 per cent.

Lambropoulos, a 26-year-old high school teacher, stunned many when she won the Liberal nomination contest in Saint-Laurent, defeating former Quebec cabinet minister Yolande James.

“I’m sure it will hit me a little later,” she said after her victory speech late Monday.

The Alberta ridings of Calgary Heritage and Calgary Midnapore, formerly held by Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney, respectively, were no contest as the Tories cleaned house.

Bob Benzen, who claimed 71.5 per cent of the vote in Calgary Heritage, well clear of the Liberals’ Scott Forsyth at 21.7 per cent, portrayed his victory as a protest against Trudeau’s environmental policies.

“We wanted to send our prime minister, Mr. Trudeau, a message and I think we did,” Benzen said in his victory speech. “We are telling him we don’t want this job-killing carbon tax.”

Kusie took a similar tone as she cruised to an easy win in Calgary Midnapore, taking 77.2 per cent of the vote, leaving her closest rival Liberal candidate Haley Brown at 17 per cent.

“The Liberal party policies, Justin’s policies, are not working here in Calgary Midnapore,” she said. “The electorate has shown that … they are not satisfied with the job the Liberal party is doing.”

With files from The Canadian Press’ Giuseppe Valiante and Bill Graveland.

Smoke detectors credited for saving lives in Mississauga apartment fire

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Apr 4th, 2017

Working smoke detectors are being credited for saving the lives of a mother and her two young children in Mississauga.

A fire began in their apartment on Goreway Drive near Morning Star Drive just after midnight on Tuesday.

An unattended candle sparked the blaze, Mississauga Fire said. The woman, a nine-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl all made it out safely.

A few other units in the building were evacuated as a precaution. Brampton Transit buses were brought in to shelter the residents. While the other residents have been allowed been home, the three people in the affected unit will not be able to return.

There is significant damage not only from the fire, but also from smoke and water, Mississauga Fire said.

St. Petersburg subway bomber identified as Kyrgyz man

IRINA TITOVA AND NATALIYA VASILYEVA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 4th, 2017

St. Petersburg residents on Tuesday laid flowers outside the city’s subway where a bomb blast a day earlier killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 40. Thousands of miles to the east, authorities in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan identified one suspect as a Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came while President Vladimir Putin was visiting the city, Russia’s second biggest and Putin’s hometown.

Residents have been bringing flowers to the stations near where the blast occurred. Every corner and window-sill at the ornate, Soviet built Sennaya Square station on Tuesday was covered with red and white carnations.

The entire subway system in this city of 5 million was shut down and evacuated before partial service resumed six hours later. Typically crowded during the rush hour, the subway on
Tuesday morning looked almost deserted as many residents opted for buses.

“First, I was really scared,” said Viktoria Prishchepova who did take the subway on Tuesday. “I didn’t want to go anywhere on the metro because I was nervous. Everyone was calling their loved ones yesterday, checking if they were OK and how everyone was going to get home.”

Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security said in a statement that one suspect behind the bombing is a Kyrgyz-born Russian national it identified as Akbarzhon Dzhalilov. The Kyrgyz intelligence agency said Russian authorities informed them about the man, aged between 21 and 22, but they were not aware of his specific role in the bombing. The intelligence agency said it is co-operating with Russian authorities to help the investigation.

Authorities have not specified whether the attack was a suicide bombing or whether the bomber got away. The Interfax news agency on Monday said authorities believe the suspect was linked to radical Islamic groups and carried the explosive device onto the train in a backpack.

Within two hours of the blast, authorities had found and deactivated another bomb at another busy station, the anti-terror agency said. That station is a major transfer point for passengers on two lines and serves the railway station to Moscow.

St. Petersburg, like Moscow, is home to a large diaspora of Central Asian migrants who flee poverty and unemployment in their home countries for jobs in Russia. While most Central Asian migrants in Russia have work permits or work illegally, thousands of them have received Russian citizenship in the past decades.

Russian authorities have rejected calls to impose visas on Central Asian nationals, hinting that having millions of jobless men across the border from Russia would be a bigger security threat.

Patriach Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, led a service at Moscow’s main cathedral on Tuesday for those killed in the blast.

“This terrorist act is a threat to all of us, all our nation,” he said quoted by the Interfax news agency.

In the past two decades, Russian trains and planes have been frequent targets of attack, usually blamed on Islamic militants. The last confirmed attack was in October 2015 when Islamic State militants downed a Russian airliner heading from an Egyptian resort to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.

The Associated Press’ Leila Saralayeva in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and Iuliia Subbotovska in St. Petersburg, Russia, contributed to this report.

What will it take for Toronto to continue to sustain the condo boom?

Shauna Hunt | posted Monday, Apr 3rd, 2017

Look up. Way up. Toronto is booming.

You’ve probably noticed the cornucopia of condos that tower over city streets, especially in the downtown core. The transformation over the last five years is astonishing – 91,855 new condo units in 683 projects were built between the beginning of 2012 and the end of 2016.

There are no signs of slowing down.

“We are now looking at building out the last duration of the downtown,” said Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s chief city planner. “We already have more than 275,000 people living in the core and over the next 20 years we plan to double that population.”

According to data we collected from City Hall, another 272,000 units or 3,200 towers are in the pipeline, meaning they are either under review, being appealed or are actively under construction. In fact, every two years we are building a city the size of Kingston, Ontario.

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The downtown core is beginning to fill up. A simple drive along the Gardiner Expressway shows you the evidence of our rapidly growing skyline.

Click here to see a photo gallery. 

Inside the core, King West, Queen West, City Place and the entertainment district have all undergone the big build. Closer to the lake, Mimico, heading east through the Canary District, which was home to the Pan Am Athletes village, have also become their own self-contained condo communities.

What’s left of the core is now in the cross hairs of developers, with the eastern portion now being targeted.

From Bay to Parliament and Bloor down to Lakeshore, another 54 projects are in the works and could bring another 38,000 units – or 74 high-rises – to an area that’s just 4.5 square kilometers. And these towers are no joke. The tallest, which will be located at the bottom of Yonge Street, is expected to be a whopping 95 stories. The average building will be 43 stories high.

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University of Toronto Professor Matti Siemiatycki, who specializes in urban planning, calls this an exciting time in Toronto.

“This really is a moment of transformation when it comes to how the face of our city is changing, how the social fabric is changing, the liveliness on the streets,” Siemiatycki says, while stressing this rapid growth is also creating a lot of challenges.

“It’s putting pressure specifically on our transportation but also on our energy, waste and water systems, our hospitals, schools and parks. We need to invest to ensure we are keeping a high quality of life.”

Yonge and Eglinton, just north of the core, is another area that is undergoing a complete transformation. By the time the new Eglinton LRT is up and running, tens of thousands of people will have moved into the area. The master plan is make Toronto more walkable and transit friendly, so areas along future and existing transit lines will be developed next.

Bombardier execs to defer payment of part of their 2016 compensation

NICOLE THOMPSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Apr 3rd, 2017

Bombardier further retreated Sunday on a hefty pay increase to six senior executives, announcing they would defer receiving payment on a sizeable chunk until a later time.

A statement from company President and CEO Alain Bellemare late Sunday said he has asked the transportation giant’s board of directors to defer more than half of the US$32.6 million the executives received in compensation in 2016 until 2020.

“This compensation will only be payable if we achieve our performance objectives; delivering value to all our shareholders, including the people of Québec and Canada,” Bellemare said in a brief statement.

 

Public anger about the roughly 50 per cent increase in compensation from the US$21.9 million paid to the executives in 2015 has mounted steadily in the past few days in light of the fact Bombardier has received hundreds of millions of tax dollars.

Two Quebec cabinet ministers called for Bombardier to rethink the pay packages last week and roughly 200 people gathered outside the company’s Montreal headquarters on Sunday to voice their anger against Bombardier. The outcry was acknowledged by Bellemare in his statement.

“Over the past 75 years, our fellow citizens have always been by our side. It is because of this deep relationship that we are sensitive to the public reaction to our executive compensation practices,” Bellemare said.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said in a tweet Sunday that he spoke to Bellemare about Quebecers’ concerns about the pay package and that he was happy with Sunday’s decision.

Public anger appeared fuelled by the fact Bombardier received a US$1 billion investment from the Quebec government in 2016 in exchange for a 49.5 per cent stake, and in February, the federal government pledged $372.5 million in repayable loans to the company — a far cry from the US$1 billion it had been asking Ottawa for since 2015.

The company has also laid off thousands of workers worldwide.

The reaction last week prompted Bombardier chairman Pierre Beaudoin, one of the other six executives who received a hefty pay hike to announce Friday that he would ask the board of directors to bring his 2016 compensation in line with what he received in 2015, a cut amounting to around US$1.4 million dollars.

The company also issued a defence of its compensation policy and called it “inappropriate” to compare the 2016 compensation to that of the previous year because some of the executives did not start at the beginning of 2015. Bellemare for example started in his job in February, 2015.

Bombardier’s damage control efforts over the weekend appeared to do little to calm the waters.

The crowd outside of the company’s headquarters Sunday chanted in French “shame to Bombardier!”

Jessica Lacombe, a teacher, carried a sign that read “I’m still waiting for my invitation to Bombardier’s shareholders’ meeting.”

She said the company’s actions are especially hard to take after years of government austerity that have included cutbacks to health and education.

“If it’s private money they can do what they want, but now it’s public money,” she said. “It’s our taxes, it’s our money.”

The opposition Parti Quebecois said it would introduce a motion in the Quebec legislature this week calling on all of Bombardier’s executives to renounce their 2016 compensation increase. PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee tweeted late Sunday that Bombardier’s latest effort at damage control wasn’t good enough.

“The Parti Quebecois, like 93 per cent of Quebecers, refuse a “deferral” of scandalous raises. We demand a cancellation!” Lisee tweeted.

Time to play ball: Blue Jays kick off season in Baltimore

CityNews | posted Monday, Apr 3rd, 2017

The wait is finally over. The Toronto Blue Jays kick off their regular season against the Orioles in Baltimore on Monday.

Right-hander Marco Estrada will the get the start. The game gets underway at 3:05 p.m.

As excited as Jays fans are about the new season, the team appears determined to get down to business.

Slugger Josh Donaldson tweeted “Eyes on the prize, so the vision doesn’t get blurry.”

Russell Martin said the mood in the clubhouse is good.

“We know it’s a long road ahead. We’re just going to try to take it day by day. I know it’s a cliche. We’re in a good spot right now and hopefully we can just keep our mindset and keep moving forward the right way,” Martin said.

But the starting rotation will shoulder a heavy load to start the season after Roberto Osuna was placed on the 10-day disabled list due to back issues. The Blue Jays also released outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. over the weekend.

The first home game of the season is April 11 against the Milwaukee Brewers. The first pitch flies at 7:07 p.m.

Dozens of luxury cars impounded after reported stunt driving on Hwy. 400

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Apr 3rd, 2017

Ontario provincial police say reports from the public led them to charge at least a dozen people with stunt driving on Sunday afternoon.

Witnesses say a group of luxury vehicles were driving “erratically” on Highway 400 and weaving in and out of traffic at extremely high speeds.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said the charged drivers all had their vehicles impounded and licenses suspended for a week. Other drivers were let go with a warning.

Among the seized high-end vehicles were a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and an Aston Martin.

OPP caught up to the accused drivers by reducing Hwy. 400 to one lane near the Barrie ONroute service station, which brought traffic to a crawl. Officers then stopped the vehicles one by one.

Breakfast Television’s Kevin Frankish was on the scene. He watched as several vehicles were impounded, and broadcast the event live on Periscope.

 

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