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All hands on deck for emergency personnel bracing for Canada 150 bash in Ottawa

KRISTY KIRKUP, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jun 19th, 2017

Chinese tourists vist Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, as preparations for Canada Day are underway. Be alert but not alarmed, police are urging Canadians who will congregate under the Peace Tower next month for Canada 150 celebrations – a massive public gathering for which intelligence agencies and emergency teams have spent months preparing. Experts are well aware of what is at stake on July 1, especially in the wake of the deadly shootings that erupted on Parliament Hill in 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Be alert but not alarmed, police are urging Canadians who will congregate under the Peace Tower next month for Canada 150 celebrations — a massive public gathering for which intelligence agencies and emergency teams have spent months preparing.

Experts are well aware of what is at stake on July 1, especially in the wake of the deadly shootings that erupted on Parliament Hill in 2014.

“When you’re talking about (Canada) 150, you’re talking about bringing a number of Canadians together,” said Terence Chase, a former Canadian Forces soldier and director of B.C.-based security consultants Defense Intelligence Service.

“It is exactly the target-rich environment that (attackers) are looking for.”

Ottawa police Supt. Joan McKenna, who oversees planning for Canada Day events, said officers in the national capital will take an all-hands-on-deck security approach that will include everything from canine units to carbines and long guns.

“We can’t control everything,” McKenna said in an interview.

“What we can control is that there is strong communication between the federal intelligence agencies, the RCMP and our Ottawa police intelligence section. This happens daily, so there’s lots of communication happening with our police partners in this area.”

The public should be vigilant, but not afraid, she added.

“There’s lots of eyes and ears out there —not just the police but there’s the public … city workers, anyone part of emergency planning,” McKenna said.

“We will be standing up significant police resources for Canada Day and all will be alert for any suspicious situations that they see and suspicious calls to police warrant investigation … There will be high visibility with police on that day.”

A number of road closures and barricades will also be in place to prevent vehicle access, McKenna said.

“We will have controlled pedestrian access to certain areas and there will be identified routes in and out and that’s for everyone’s safety.”

Emergency personnel will also be deploying special resources in order to effectively navigate the security envelope, said Marc-Antoine Deschamps, superintendent of public information with the Ottawa Paramedic Service.

“If there’s limited vehicle access to a location, that means that our ambulances cannot go there so what it means is we have to find alternative ways of transporting our patients out of some areas,” Deschamps said.

Ottawa paramedics will use golf cart-sized vehicles to more easily navigate the crowds, and stretcher teams will be deployed when necessary to carry patients from dense areas toward transport vehicles.

Paramedics will also be riding bikes through the precinct, he added.

“We have a picture dating back years that has an ambulance trying to drive down Wellington,” he said, referring to the busy, tourist-jammed street that runs right along the edge of the Parliament Hill grounds.

“We keep using that example … we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The City of Ottawa is also identifying the most suitable location for a field hospital, provided by Ontario’s emergency medical assistance team, to help reduce demand at other facilities, its emergency and protective services department said in a statement.

Susan Adamson, a Calgary resident who was visiting Parliament Hill this week, said she would not think twice about taking in Canada 150 celebrations in Ottawa if she was here for the occasion.

“I think it is kind of exciting — 150 years,” she said. “I would be aware of my surroundings, but I’m not that worried.”

Jacqueline Stacey, a resident of Ottawa for more than 30 years, said she plans to avoid Parliament Hill on July 1 — but not because of the security concerns.

“I can’t even imagine on Canada Day, being the 150th, that it is going to be fun to get down here,” Stacey said.

“The party is great. The parking is a nightmare.”

Canada’s fed-prov finance ministers to start deep dive on marijuana taxation

ANDY BLATCHFORD, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jun 19th, 2017

A man lights a marijuana joint as he participates in the 4/20 protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, April 20, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
As the country’s finance ministers meet in Ottawa, the Trudeau government should expect to hear concerns about the added burden marijuana legalization could heap onto provincial shoulders.

The agenda for the two-day, federal-provincial-territorial gathering, which starts Sunday, will include discussions on how best to apply taxes on a regulated market for cannabis.

The federal government introduced legislation in April with a goal of legalizing and regulating the use of recreational marijuana by July 2018.

Pot taxation is expected to stay low to ensure the regulated market elbows out illegal dealers.

Details, however, on how the tax revenues will be shared between provinces and Ottawa have yet to be determined.

The ministers are scheduled to start working on a “co-ordinated approach to the taxation of cannabis,” says a news release from the office of federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who hosts the twice-yearly meetings.

Taxation is poised to emerge as a key focal point of Canada’s pot-legalization process.

Since the federal legislation was tabled, several provinces have voiced concerns about how much work will fall within their jurisdictions — from addiction treatment, to distribution, to policing.

For example, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has warned that provinces will be left with a lot of the “heavy lifting” related to pot legalization, including considerable costs.

In Quebec, Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois has expressed doubts the tax revenue generated by recreational pot will cover the price tag of preparing for regulation, particularly when it comes to health, security and education efforts.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said in an interview he is not apprehensive about cannabis legalization, he just wants to ensure the transition into regulated markets doesn’t impose any extra costs on provinces.

“There’s going to be a lot of requirements on behalf of the provinces,” said Sousa.

“We want to make sure that the proper sharing is there and enough is supported for the implementation of cannabis and the protection (of) our society as we proceed.”

Sousa said he will also be keen to hear how his counterparts are approaching legalization.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has promised to work with provinces and to commit more resources to cannabis-related needs like public security, policing and educational campaigns.

Philpott’s office has also argued that the current system of prohibition is very expensive and legalization could significantly lower the provinces’ existing costs.

The trick for Canada’s lawmakers will be finding the pricing sweet spot — high enough to cover costs, but cheap enough to squeeze out the illegal market.

The federal government has repeatedly stated its primary goals with legalization are to get weed out of the hands of young Canadians and prevent criminals from profiting from the drug.

In addition to cannabis, the finance ministers will also discuss how to improve information sharing between jurisdictions as a way to address tax avoidance, tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing.

They will also focus on the Canada-U.S. trade relationship.

For Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, the discussions on Canada-U.S. trade, including renegotiation of the North American free trade agreement, will be perhaps the most important issue on the agenda.

“I think the objective is to get to a consensus amongst the provinces and the federal government as to what is it that we think that we should be doing, both in terms of the taxation of cannabis and in terms of our relationship with the United States,” Leitao said in an interview.

Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz will be on hand to deliver a presentation on the state of the economy.

Sousa said he would also like to hear more about the state of the federal government’s infrastructure plan, including its proposed, $35-billion infrastructure bank.

The bank is designed to use public funds as leverage to attract billions more in private investment for large projects.

Senators have been debating whether to split legislative provisions related to the creation of the bank from the government’s budget implementation bill.

Death toll in London highrise fire rises to 30

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Jun 16th, 2017

In this image taken by eyewitness Gurbuz Binici, a huge fire engulfs the 24-story Grenfell Tower in Latimer Road in London, England, in the early hours of June 14, 2017. GETTY IMAGES/Gurbuz Binici

The number of victims has increased to 30 in the fire that engulfed a highrise building earlier this week, London police said Friday.

Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said that 24 people are being treated in the hospital, including 12 in critical care. The number of victims is expected to grow.

Authorities say they’ve examined original location of fire and there is no indication it was started deliberately.

More to come

Collagen protein bars, bites recalled due to listeria risk

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jun 16th, 2017

Bulletproof’s Collagen Protein Bar Fudge Brownie. Photo credit: bulletproof.com

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public not to consume certain Bulletproof 360 collagen protein products because they may be contaminated with listeria.

The recalled products include several collagen protein bar and bites. Click here for a list.

The U.S.-based company sold the products nationally and online.

Consumers who have the recalled products should throw them out.

So far, no illnesses have been reported.

Police Services Board defers cops in school decision until December

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jun 16th, 2017

The Toronto Police Services board has decided to postpone a decision on the future of the School Resource Officer program until a review is completed later this year.

With several in the crowd present chanting “shame”, a motion put forth by Mayor John Tory and seconded by Coun. Shelly Carroll will see a steering committee established and present an interim report to the board by August. At that time, the committee would be expanded to include the input of youth, educators, school boards, parents, school administrators, youth advocacy organizations and other community groups.

A final decision on the SRO program would then be made by the end of December.

The highly contentious School Resource Officer program is an initiative which involves 36 uniformed police officers working in 75 Toronto high schools. It has been met with harsh criticism from activists in Toronto’s black community and some educators who say it leaves vulnerable students feeling targeted.

“We have had instances of people reporting to us how police are interacting with students in a way where they feel unsafe and scared coming to school,” said Sandy Hudson of Black Lives Matter.

Counc. Giorgio Mammoliti says he’s not convinced that the people who brought this issue to the table are acting in good faith.

“They don’t have the pulse of the community at all,” he said. “I would categorize them as bad as some of the gangs that are out there already.”

Whether the board decides to keep the program or get rid of it, those most impacted will be students. A number of them showed up in support of the program, saying it has had a positive impact in their lives.

“Today we came to send a message that, our experiences in high school, the police have had a positive impact in our lives and have helped us see that there is so much more than the stereotypes that we’ve been introduced to due to the areas that we come from,” said Grade 11 student Jason Finn.

“We’ve had an officer that was at our school last year – he’s not with us anymore – but I still call him on weekends or after school when I do need his help and he’s always there for me,” added fellow Grade 11 student Jordan Jackson. “That’s why I’m here right now because I feel like he’s always been there for me so it’s time I return the favour.”

The SRO program was implemented following the 2008 shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Manners at a school in North York.

According to Toronto Police, from 2015-2017 there were six complaints against SRO’s. Two were informally resolved, two others were withdrawn, one was unfounded and in another, an officer was disciplined.

Lots to do to celebrate No. 1 dad this weekend

PATRICIA D'CUNHA AND SAMANTHA KNIGHT | posted Friday, Jun 16th, 2017

A little boy holding a Father’s Day greeting card. GETTY IMAGES
“A father is neither an anchor to hold us back nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.” – Author Unknown

Fathers across the GTA will be celebrating their special day on Sunday, whether it is an intimate gathering at home or with other dads at events across Toronto and the GTA. Below are some events to consider, even if you can only hang out with dad on Saturday.

As you make your weekend plans, keep in mind that a portion of Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) is closed for TTC work.

Father’s Day and other events

One of North America’s top art festivals has taken over Toronto and stays in town until Sunday. The event features 100 news works of art and 3,000 performances from artists from more than 40 countries. The events will be held at a number of venues, including the Berkeley Street Theatre and Longboat Hall.

Taste of Little Italy
College Street will turn into a street party starting Friday and it won’t stop until Sunday as the neighbourhood celebrates its rich history and culture. You won’t be hungry with lots of restaurants offering tasty meals, tastings and food vendors. You can also sip on a drink as you listen to live music, and then walk around to check out the various artisan vendors. Click here for the event schedule.

One of the dishes offered at Taste of Little Italy in the past. Photo via Facebook.com/TheTasteofLittleItaly/photos?ref=page_internal


Nuit Rose Light Parade
The first parade of Pride month hits city streets this Saturday. The Nuit Rose Light Parade is returning for its third annual event that is free and open to the public. To take part, you simply need to wear or carry a light-emitting object. The parade kicks off at 9 p.m. from James Canning Gardens on Gloucester Street, heading across Isabella Street and south on Church to Wood Street. This year’s festival theme is ‘What Lies Between Venus and Mars.’ On the day of the parade there will be a free lantern building workshop at the 519 Church Street Community Centre from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Pride flag is shown in Toronto in an undated file photo. CITYNEWS


Toronto Waterfront 10K
Roughly 7,000 runners will be lacing up their sneakers for the Toronto Waterfront 10K this weekend. The run gets underway at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, taking off from University Avenue, north of Queen street. Participants will have an hour and 40 minutes to complete the 10K, which travels along Lake Shore Boulevard and finishes at Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place. There will be a post-race awards ceremony and party at the finish line. All proceeds from the event go towards HereToBe and New Leaf Foundation.

Father’s Exotic Car Display
If your dad is a car lover, then this is the event for him. Casa Loma is hosting a one-of-a-kind exotic car display this Father’s Day. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is included with general admission to Casa Loma. After taking in all the cars, guests can explore the castle grounds.


Beaches Rib Fest
If your dad is into grilling and loves his meat, then maybe you should consider celebrating Father’s Day at the rib fest on Sunday. The food event at Woodbine Beach Park features the best BBQ in Canada and various food vendors, as well as a craft beer market and life-sized board games. Admission is free and so is the parking.
Ribs on the barbecue. Photo credit: INSTAGRAM/northernheatribseries


Do it for Dads Walk Run
The 5K walk and run is perfect way to tell your dad how much you mean to him. Not only will you’ll be active together but are also helping to raise money and awareness of prostate cancer, which is the leading cancer affecting Canadian men. Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. The walk and run starts at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday at Ashbridges Bay Park, rain or shine. There will be food and refreshments, face-painting, games and other activities.

TTC and road closures

Line 1 closure

TTC riders take note, there will be no subway service between Sheppard West and St. George stations on Line 1 this weekend. The closure is to allow crews to complete signal upgrades. Shuttle buses will be running, but only between Sheppard West and Lawrence West stations because of on-street construction. Riders are asked to use existing bus and streetcar routes to access the rest of Line 1 and Line 2. Regular service is set to resume at 6 a.m. on Monday.

Road closures

Taste of Little Italy: College Street between Bathurst and Shaw streets will be closed from 6 p.m. on Friday to 3 a.m. on Monday. The 506 and 306 streetcars will be on diversion.

Flavours of Fairbanks: Eglinton Avenue between Dufferin Street and Ronald Avenue will be closed from 2 a.m. on Friday to 4 a.m. on Monday.

Highland Creek Heritage Festival and Parade Old Kingston Road between Watson Road and Kingston Road, and Morrish Road between Kingston Road and the south side of 226 Morrish Rd., will be closed on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Waterfront 10k Race: University Avenue will be closed between Queen and Dundas streets from 4:30 to 9 a.m. on Saturday, while Lake Shore Boulevard will be closed between Bathurst Street and Colborne Lodge Drive from 4:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Click here for more details.

Thrill of the Grill: Danforth Avenue between Broadview and Playter Avenues will be closed from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The Village Festival: Church Street between Wood and Gloucester Streets will be closed from 9 a.m. on Saturday to 2 a.m. on Monday.

Journey to Conquer Cancer Run/Walk 5K: University Avenue between Bloor and Wellington Streets will be closed from 8 a.m. to noon on Sunday.

Bloor Yorkville Exotic Car Show: Bloor Street between Avenue Road and Bay Street will be closed from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

MuchMusic Video Awards: Road closures will be in effect in the area bounded by Richmond Street, Queen Street, Simcoe Street and Peter Street from 4 p.m. on Sunday to 3 a.m. on Monday. The 501 and 301 replacement buses will divert from 8 a.m. on Sunday to 3 a.m. on Monday.

Canadian home sales register biggest monthly decline in nearly 5 years

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jun 16th, 2017

A sign advertises a new home for sale in Carleton Place, Ont., on March 17, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Home sales across the country dropped sharply last month, driven by a plunge in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) after the Ontario government imposed a tax on foreign buyers aimed at cooling the red-hot market.

The number of residential properties sold nationwide fell by 6.2 per cent in May compared to April, the largest month-to-month decline in nearly five years, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Thursday. The industry group, which represents real estate agents, brokers and salespeople in Canada, noted sales were down a whopping 25.3 per cent month-over-month in the GTA.

The data showed that while real estate may be local, the impact of changes in a market the size of Toronto can have a sweeping effect nationally.

“This is the first full month of results since changes to Ontario housing policy made in late April. They provide clear evidence that the changes have resulted in more balanced housing markets throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe region,” CREA chief economist Gregory Klump said in a statement.

“For housing markets in the region, May sales activity was down most in the GTA and Oakville. This suggests the changes have squelched speculative home purchases.”

The Ontario government introduced more than a dozen measures, including a 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers, aimed at stabilizing Toronto’s blistering housing market. Prices have spiralled out of reach for many potential homebuyers both in and on the outskirts of the city.

Sal Guatieri, a senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, said while the rules have had an effect, they merely brought back “some semblance of normalcy after a manic winter” that will likely be short-lived.

“Given the strong economic, demographic and financial backdrop, don’t expect the GTA market to stay down for the count,” Guatieri said in a note to clients.

“Policy tinkering will do little to cool demand on a sustained basis. Time to take out the heavy artillery: higher interest rates. The ball is now firmly in the Bank of Canada’s court.”

The central bank has dropped hints that the era of historically low interest rates may be coming to an end. Just this week, governor Stephen Poloz said cuts to the benchmark rate have “done their job” as the economy builds momentum, a statement that some market watchers have interpreted as a sign that a hike could be six to 12 months away.

In the closely watched Vancouver market, sales were up by 22.8 per cent month-over-month. There are concerns that the city may be returning to bubble territory less than a year after the British Columbia government instituted a tax on foreign buyers of properties in the Vancouver area.

Nationally, the average price for all homes sold last month was $530,304, pulled up by Toronto and Vancouver, where it was $863,910 and $1,110,376, respectively.

Trump to announce plan to stop cash flow to Cuban military


President Donald Trump speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on June 12, 2017, during a ceremony honoring the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions Clemson University Tigers. AP PHOTO/Susan Walsh
Stopping short of a complete turnabout, President Donald Trump is expected to announce a revised Cuba policy aimed at stopping the flow of U.S. cash to the country’s military and security services while maintaining diplomatic relations and allowing U.S. airlines and cruise ships to continue service to the island.

In a speech Friday at a Miami theatre associated with Cuban exiles, Trump will cast the policy moves as fulfilment of a promise he made during last year’s presidential campaign to reverse then-President Barack Obama’s diplomatic re-engagement with the island after decades of estrangement.

Senior White House officials who briefed reporters Thursday on the coming announcement said Obama’s overtures had enriched Cuba’s military while repression increased on the island. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the policy before Trump announces it, despite the president’s regular criticism of the use of anonymous sources.

The moves to be announced by Trump are only a partial reversal of Obama’s policies, however. And they will saddle the U.S. government with the complicated task of policing U.S. travel to Cuba to make sure there are no transactions with the military-linked conglomerate that runs much of the Cuban economy.

By restricting individual U.S. travel to Cuba, the new policy also risks cutting off a major source of income for Cuba’s private business sector, which the policy is meant to support.

Under the expected changes, the U.S. will ban American financial transactions with the dozens of enterprises run by the military-linked corporation GAESA, which operates dozens of hotels, tour buses, restaurants and other facilities.

Most U.S. travellers to Cuba will again be required to visit the island as part of organized tour groups run by American companies. The rules also require a daylong schedule of activities designed to expose the travellers to ordinary Cubans. But because Cuban rules requires tour groups to have government guides and use state-run tour buses, the requirement has given the Cuban government near-total control of travellers’ itineraries and funneled much of their spending to state enterprises.

Obama eliminated the tour requirement, allowing tens of thousands of Americans to book solo trips and spend their money with individual bed-and-breakfast owners, restaurants and taxi drivers.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana, which reopened in August 2015, will remain as a full-fledged diplomatic outpost. Trump isn’t overturning Obama’s decision to end the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed most Cuban migrants who made it onto U.S. soil to stay and eventually become legal permanent residents.

Also not expected are any changes to U.S. regulations governing what items Americans can bring back from Cuba, including the rum and cigars produced by state-run enterprises.

More details about the changes are expected to be released Friday, when the new policy is set to take effect. But none of the changes will become effective until the Treasury Department issues new regulations, which could take months. That means that any U.S. traveller currently booked on a flight to Cuba in the next few weeks, or even months, could go ahead and make the trip.

Critics said the changes would only hurt everyday Cubans who work in the private sector and depend on American visitors to help provide for their families. Supporters expressed appreciation for Trump’s emphasis on human rights in Cuba.

Obama announced in December 2014 that he and Cuban leader Raul Castro were restoring diplomatic ties between their countries, arguing that the policy the U.S. had pursued for decades had failed to bring about change and that it was time to try a new approach.

The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro’s revolution. It spent subsequent decades trying to either overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including toughening an economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The embargo remains in place and unchanged by Trump’s policy. Only the U.S. Congress can lift the embargo, and lawmakers, especially those of Cuban heritage, like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have shown no interest in doing so.

The son of a Cuban immigrant, Rubio opposed Obama’s re-engagement with Cuba, saying Obama was making concessions to an “odious regime.”

Trump aides said Thursday that Rubio was “very helpful” to the administration as it spent months reviewing the policy. The senator, who challenged Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, was expected to travel with the president aboard Air Force One and appear with him at Friday’s announcement.

The change in the U.S. posture toward Cuba under Trump marks the latest policy about-face by the president.

While campaigning last year in Miami, which is home to a large Cuban-American population, Trump pledged to reverse Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba unless it met certain “demands,” including granting Cubans religious and political freedom, and releasing all political prisoners. He said he would “stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression,” and went on to win about half the Cuban vote in Florida in the presidential election.

Trump had previously said he supported restoring diplomatic relations but wished the U.S. had negotiated a better deal.

For the announcement, the White House chose to have Trump speak at the Manuel Artime Theate in Miami. The theatre is named for an exile leader of the Bay of Pigs veterans’ association that endorsed Trump last October.

Weissenstein reported from Havana.

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