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Let’s dance, jazz it up, and celebrate the weekend in Toronto

PATRICIA D'CUNHA AND SAMANTHA KNIGHT | posted Friday, Jul 28th, 2017

StreetFest on Queen Street. COURTESY: Beaches International Jazz Festival
“You should be dancing, yeah.” Dance in the streets and at a public square this weekend – some of the many enjoyable things to do in the city during the summer. You can move to the beat as you watch other dancers in action on stage, or as you listen to live music under the summer sun.

If you are not into dancing, there are other events taking place to keep you amused.

Subway work continues this weekend, this time on Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina), so keep that in mind as you make your plans.


Toronto International Youth Dance Festival
Dances of all ages will take over Nathan Phillips Square for three days, showing off their moves and thrilling the crowd with energetic performances. The event, which started in 2014, celebrates multiculturalism and diversity through dance. Last summer, more than 600 local and international dancers performed at the festival. A portion of the revenue from this year’s event will be donated to the Hospital for Sick Children.


Celebrate and experience the richness of Mexico at this year’s MexFest at Yonge-Dundas Square. The cultural event takes over the square from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. It showcases Mexican art, music and of course, cuisine.

Last weekend of jazz in the Beach
The Beaches International Jazz Festival takes to the streets starting Thursday and until Saturday. A portion of Queen Street East will be closed for the three-day StreetFest. Jazz musicians will also perform at Woodbine Park stage from Friday to Sunday, the last day of the festival. There is a also a fun run taking place on the boardwalk from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.


With the CNE right around the corner, HorseCapades is back, offering programming for the next two weeks leading up to The Ex. The interactive event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Thursday until Aug. 17 in the Horse Palace. It features horse education, free pony rides for kids, guessing a horse’s weight, petting horses, and learning about grooming and shoeing. During the CNE, elements of HorseCapades will move to the farm in the Better Living Centre’s west side.

Canadian Open
Pro-golfers from the around the world – including Canadians Mike Weir, Jared du Toit, Nick Taylor and David Hearn – are teeing off at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville. The tournament started Thursday with the final round on Sunday, featuring hockey boards on the first hole and volunteers wearing referee shirts. A Canadian hasn’t won the Open since Pat Fletcher in 1954. Jack Nicklaus opened the Canadian Open during an outdoor ceremony at Glen Abbey on Tuesday.

Mike Weir of Canada reacts to the crowed as he finishes his round on the ninth hole during second round at the Canadian Open in Oakville, Ont., on July 26, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette


Toronto’s Festival of Beer
There will be no shortage of beer this weekend at Blandshell Park, Exhibition Place. It’s all for Toronto’s Festival of Beer, which runs Friday through Sunday. The massive pavilion showcases 416 brews and culinary delights from regions across Canada. The festival also includes musical entertainment, with Juno award-winning band Sloan headlining on Saturday night. Guests can also celebrate all things Canadian at the #Canada150 Pavilion.

Pedestrian Sundays
Another edition of the pedestrian-friendly festival takes place this Sunday, from noon to 7 p.m. The event, which is in its 14th year, features live music and dancing, street vendors and an outdoor art fair. The next one is on Aug. 27.

Jazz musicians play during Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market. Photo credit: Facebook/Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market

TTC and road closures

Partial Line 1 shutdown
A heads up if you’ll be navigating the city this weekend: there will be no subway service on the TTC’s Line 1 from Sheppard West to St. George stations. The closure is because of signal upgrades. Shuttle buses will run between Sheppard West and Lawrence West stations, but anyone wishing to travel beyond that is encouraged to use existing bus and streetcar routes. Additional service is being added during the shutdown and parking will also be restricted on Bathurst between Bloor and Barton for better bus service. Regular service is set to resume Monday at 6 a.m.

Road closures
Beaches International Jazz Festival StreetFest: Queen Street East from Woodbine to Beech avenues will be closed nightly from 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on July 27-29. The 501 Queen replacement bus will turn back at Queen Street East and Kingston Road, and the 64 Main buses will be on diversion.

With files from Sportsnet (regarding the Canadian Open)

Pearson ground crews on strike after rejecting latest offer

BRENNAN DOHERTY, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jul 28th, 2017

About 700 ground crew workers at Canada’s busiest airport went on strike Thursday night after they rejected a contract offer from their employer.

The members represented by the Teamsters union marched at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport waving picket signs and chanting “respect.”

“We’re hoping to have little or no impact on the public,” Local 419 vice-president Harjinder Badial told reporters after the membership voted.

The labour dispute could have an impact on some operations at Pearson, but the Greater Toronto Airports Authority earlier said it had a contingency plan in place in the event of a strike or labour disruption but did not provide details.

The GTAA posted a message on its website warning that the “labour disruption may affect some flights” and advises travellers to contact their airlines to check their flight status.

The arrivals and departures board at Pearson displayed only a handful of flight delays as of early Friday morning.

The unionized workers are employed by Swissport, a company that services 30 airlines at the airport including Transat and Sunwing, and large global airlines such as Cathay Pacific, KLM, Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways, Alitalia and El Al..

Ground crew workers at Pearson airport demonstrate during a strike on July 28, 2017. CITYNEWS/Adrian Golombek


The workers include baggage handlers, cargo handlers, cabin cleaners and other ground staff, as well as some employees who tow planes for the airlines Swissport services.

The workers rejected a contract proposal from Swissport by a 95 per cent margin, Badial told reporters. He scoffed at the notion that Swissport said it was the final offer.

“I’ve heard that many times before in my career as a labour unionist and I assure you eventually I will get a call,” he said.

“We’re certainly open to meeting with the company, sitting down and negotiating a collective agreement, but at the end of the day we’re going to wait.”

The union says Swissport is attempting to impose a three-year wage freeze on the majority of the workers, require staff to work a minimum of 30 hours a week to qualify for full benefits, and is seeking the right to change schedules with 96 hours advance notice.

“We tried our best to reach an acceptable agreement with the company. Swissport just wasn’t interested,” said Badial.

“Sadly, the company is insisting on forcing a bad deal on workers.”

Workers will be picketing at the airport but Badial said they would not interfere with passengers trying to catch planes.

“Our fight is not with the general public, it’s with Swissport management and we’re not here to delay any sort of flights or anything like that,” he said.

Some of the airlines serviced by Swissport also said they were prepared if workers walked off the job.

Air Transat said it was taking measures to ensure none of its flights would be delayed if a strike occurs. British Airways said it had a contingency plan and would continue to operate all its flights.

WestJet, which like Air Canada does not work with Swissport, said it was aware of the situation and advised passengers to arrive early for their flights to avoid delays.

Pierre Payette, Swissport Canada’s vice president of operations, said the company has bargained in good faith throughout contract talks. It also put out a memo to employees Tuesday, asking them to vote in favour of the company’s final offer.

“We remain hopeful that there will be a positive outcome when employees vote today as our offer is fair to all parties,” Payette said in a statement issued earlier Thursday.

The union, however, has described Swissport’s contract as unfair to its workers. It has also taken issue with the company’s decision to hire 250 temporary workers last May.

The union filed a complaint with the Canadian Industrial Relations Board over that matter, alleging the temporary workers are poorly trained and have been involved in multiple accidents over the past few months.

Swissport said it categorically denies those allegations.

The last collective agreement expired on July 23, 2017.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority says it has a contingency plan in place to deal with the labour disruption by the Swissport workers. However, travellers should be prepared for delays and possible cancellations.

Iconic Sam the Record Man sign to shine over Yonge-Dundas Square this fall

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

Work has begun to restore a giant neon sign that once drew people to Toronto’s landmark Sam the Record Man music store in the city’s downtown.

The sign, composed of two enormous spinning discs on a red background, used to be a familiar sight near the city’s busy Yonge-Dundas Square.

Toronto’s Ryerson University acquired the sign when it bought the store’s property in 2008, a year after the business closed, and initially said it planned to showcase it on a new building being built on the site.

The university said it decided later to install the sign two blocks away, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square.

Ryerson says restoration work on the sign has begun and it is expected to go up at the new site in the fall.

A lighting ceremony is being planned by the school when the sign, nearly 50 years old, shines again later this year.

The music store’s owner, Sam Sniderman, began his business with his brother by opening a small store in Toronto in 1937. Together they built a chain of Sam the Record Man stores that spanned the country.

He opened his flagship store on Yonge St. in 1959. The iconic store with its huge flashing red neon record signs closed in 2007, seven years after he retired.

Mom stopped from boarding Air Canada flight with two infant children

ADRIAN GHOBRIAL | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

She was hoping to take her young children to PEI to visit their ailing great grandmother – until a little-known Canadian airline regulation stopped them from boarding their plane.

When Tara Stemkoski’s 81 year-old grandmother was hospitalized with pneumonia in Prince Edward Island, the mother of three knew what she had to do. Stemkoski, who lives near Seoul, South Korea, booked a flight home for herself and her three children – 5-year-old Aria and 3-month-old twins Malcom and Elise.

“You never know when you start getting up into your 80’s how things are going to go down once you get into the hospital,” said Stemkoski.

Her husband who frequently travels for work was unable to join them, so Stemkoski called Air Canada to ensure she was allowed to travel as a single parent with three young kids.

“The agent explained to me that I could only have one lap baby which I fully understand,” Stemkoski told CityNews. “And I would have to book a seat for the additional infant plus my five year old so three seats total four tickets.”

An Air Canada agent helped Stemkoski book the tickets. When another mother alerted Stemkoski that she may run into an issue trying to flying alone with two babies, Tara says she called the airline and was assured a second time that everything would be fine.

But Stemkoski received some devastating news when she arrived at the airport in Seoul with her three children. After a delay of more than an hour, she was informed of a Transport Canada rule that states “No passenger shall be responsible for more than one infant” under the age of two.

In an email to CityNews, Transport Canada explained the rule is in place for safety reasons. “In the event that an evacuation is needed, it is very difficult to safely evacuate an aircraft in a timely manner while holding two or more infants. These rules align with international standards and best practices.”

Stemkoski is wondering why she was able to buy her tickets in the first place.

“It just seems so ridiculous that you could get to the point of having a boarding pass in hand after going through so many people.”

In a statement to CityNews, Air Canada wrote “We’re so sorry we didn’t get this right the first time during the booking process. We’ve been in contact with the family and have made arrangements to make sure they all get to see their Nan as soon as possible.”

Air Canada has since refunded Stemkoski’s tickets and offered to help her reschedule another flight. They’ve also offered her an additional complimentary ticket for a second adult to accompany her.

Air Passenger Rights advocate Gabor Lukacs agrees with the Transport Canada regulations but believes the entire situation could have been averted if Air Canada had asked another passenger to help out with the infants.

“I’m sure there are many people on board the flight who have had kids themselves, who’ve had babies, who would be delighted to help out the mother and simply say, ‘Yes I’m responsible for the baby,’” said Lukacs. “For Air Canada, whose expertise it is to transport passengers, this should be the basics.”

As for Stemkoski, she says one of the hardest parts was delivering the news to her grandmother that she and the kids couldn’t come home to Canada.

“She’s a really great person. I take away the hurt of having to tell her that.”

Loblaw expects higher minimum wage to increase labour costs by $190M

LINDA NGUYEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

A women carts out her groceries from a Loblaws in Toronto on May 1, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s largest grocery and drug store operator warned Wednesday that minimum wage increases in Ontario and Alberta threaten to harm its bottom line and it will have to find ways to cut costs.

Loblaw Companies Ltd., which owns Shoppers Drug Mart and grocery chains including Loblaws and No Frills, estimates the wage hikes will mean its labour costs will grow by about $190 million next year.

“We are flagging a significant set of financial headwinds and the organization is mobilizing all of its resources to see whether or not it can close that gap,” Loblaw chairman and CEO Galen G. Weston told analysts during a quarterly earnings conference call.

“At this point, we don’t know the answer.”

The Ontario government has proposed legislation that would boost the hourly minimum wage, which is currently set to rise from $11.40 an hour to $11.60 in October, to $14 on Jan. 1 and $15 the following year.

The province has said the wage increases are intended to increase people’s purchasing power and stimulate the economy. But a number of business groups, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, have decried the legislation, saying it will result in job cuts.

Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn called Loblaw a “true Canadian success story,” noting that profits attributable to shareholders have more than doubled since last year and dividends have also increased.

Despite the growth, “not everyone is sharing in the benefits,” he added.

“Many workers are feeling as though they are not able to get ahead and some are struggling to support their families on part-time, contract or minimum-wage work. Given this uncertainty, government has a responsibility to protect workers and create opportunities so people feel confident about the future,” Flynn said in an emailed statement.

In 2015, Alberta announced plans to hike its minimum wage from $10.20 an hour to $15 an hour by next year.

Weston called the wage increases “the most significant in recent memory,” adding that the company is expediting measures to save money such as rolling out more self-checkouts at its Shoppers Drug Mart stores.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us as we’re still assessing the extent to which we can mitigate these headwinds,” Weston said.

Loblaw said Quebec’s changes to generic drug prices are also expected to cut into its bottom line. Last week, the Quebec government reached a five-year deal with the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association that will see the launch of new cost-saving generic prescription medicine and reduced prices.

The agreement will result in lower generic drug prices beginning in the fall and is expected to save the province more than $300 million a year.

There may also be more challenges ahead for Loblaw.

Last month, U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon announced a US$13.7-billion deal to acquire Whole Foods, a move some say could upend Canada’s grocery industry.

Earlier Wednesday, Loblaw reported a second-quarter profit attributable to shareholders of $358 million or 89 cents per diluted share, up from its profit of $158 million or 39 cents per diluted share a year ago.

Revenue for the quarter ended June 17 amounted to nearly $11.08 billion, up from $10.73 billion in the same quarter last year.

With files from Allison Jones

Related stories:

Ontario seeks public input on $15 minimum wage

Ontario’s Liberal premier sets focus on fairness one year away from the election

Highlights of Ontario’s planned changes to labour laws

Toronto Island Park will reopen July 31, Tory optimistic about other sections

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

Crews are working on the ferry docks on Toronto Island ahead of Monday’s planned reopening of sections of the park to the public.

Mayor John Tory said Wednesday they’re making sure the boats can properly and safely allow passengers to get on and off.

“Some of the work is being done on the docks in order to allow the ferry boats to properly and safely have people come on and off those boats to get to the island and that work is being done as we speak,” Tory told CityNews.

“I talked to the contractor yesterday and they’re well advanced on their work.”

Ferry service has been halted for non-island residents since early May because of flooding, but Tory said he’s optimistic the reopening date will be met.

“We’re optimistic that the July 31 date will be met and that lots of people will be able to go to significant portions of the islands at that time, but we’re going to take it one day at a time,” he explained.

Despite the progress, parts of the island will be closed for the rest of the summer including Olympic Island and Gibraltar Point.

On Thursday morning, the day after Tory spoke to CityNews, it was announced that Toronto Island Park, including Centre Island, Centreville Theme Park, Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point, will reopen to the public on July 31.

“The regular summer ferry schedule will resume on Monday, with the first ferry departing from the mainland for Ward’s Island at 6:30 a.m. and the first ferry departing from the mainland for Centre Island at 8 a.m. City of Toronto recreation programs will also resume on Monday,” the city said in a statement.

“All beaches on the island will be open with lifeguards on duty, however, portions of some beaches will be in a reduced state. Signs will clearly indicate areas that are closed to the public. Olympic Island remains closed to the public due to high water levels.”

But visitors may have more to worry about than just getting soggy shoes.

According to The Toronto Star, residents of the islands received an email on Tuesday from a Toronto Public Health official warning them that mosquitoes collected from traps on the Toronto Island tested positive for West Nile virus this week.

Dr. Christine Navarro, associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health, said the risk of catching West Nile in Toronto is low.

“The risk for acquiring West Nile virus in Toronto is low. Since 2002, Toronto Pubic Health has been testing mosquito batches for West Nile virus and shares this information with the public,” she said in a statement.

“Mosquitoes positive for WNV have been have been found in various parts of the City for many years through our mosquito surveillance program, including on Toronto Island this year.”

Ways to prevent becoming infected with West Nile virus include wearing long pants, loose-fitting shirts with long sleeves, socks and a hat. It’s advised to wear clothing that is light-coloured as mosquitoes are generally attracted to dark colours.

For more information on the West Nile virus, click here.

Related Stories:

More than half of buildings on Toronto Islands threatened by rising water levels

Video: Carp swimming in flooded baseball diamond on Toronto Islands

Island Public School relocated due to Toronto Island flooding

Canada, U.S. heading in opposite directions as Trump says ‘No’ to trans troops

LEE BERTHIAUME, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

The Canadian Forces says it is pressing ahead with improvements to its transgender policy, even as U.S. President Donald Trump looks to bar transgender people from military service south of the border.

Trump surprised many Wednesday when he announced on Twitter that he was reinstating a ban on transgender people serving in uniform, after the previous Obama administration lifted the ban last year.

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory,” he wrote, “and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

The announcement sparked concern for the hundreds of trans members already serving in the U.S. military, and accusations that the president was exaggerating the challenges of accommodation.

It also cast a light on the Canadian Forces, which lifted its own ban on transgender people and LGBT members following a court case in 1992 — a fact the Forces highlighted on its own Twitter account Wednesday.


National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said work continues on an update to the Canadian military’s transgender policy, which first came into effect in 2012.

While many of the changes are expected to be technical in nature, it is also expected to give commanding officers and units more guidance when it comes to such basics as bathrooms and showering.

The update, which started last year, is expected to be complete in the fall.

Related stories:

Pentagon may not have been aware of Trump’s decision on transgender military members

We got this: Trans advocates, celebrities react to Trump’s military decision

There are no official figures for how many transgender people are in the Forces, but estimates put the number at about 200.

Le Bouthillier also said the military has paid for 19 sex-reassignment operations between 2008 and October 2015, at a total cost of around $309,000. That works out to about $16,200 per operation.

While the costs do not include any hormone therapy, Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military at the Canadian Forces College, said many service members receive such treatment for various conditions — not just sex reassignment.

By comparison, Veterans Affairs Canada spent nearly $20 million on medical marijuana last year.

Okros also said he was unaware of any negative impacts that allowing transgender people to serve in uniform has caused on operations or the military’s overall ability to do its job.

Through an Access to Information request, CityNews discovered that Cadets Canada has been dealing with the issue of transgender cadets since at least 2013.

Cadets Canada is a youth program aimed at children aged 12-18, where they learn leadership, teamwork and citizenship skills and attributes through one of three separate branches- the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Army Cadets and Air Cadets.

Documents obtained through Access to Information reveal that there have been several openly transgender cadets since 2013 – and that it seemingly posed no problems or obstacles until it came to training camps, where cadets have to share showering and sleeping accommodations. In the absence of a formalized policy, senior staff were quick to work out solutions for sleeping arrangements and showers, being sensitive to the needs of the transgender cadet, and their peers.

In an April 2015 email, a Colonel writes: “The number one concern is the safety of this cadet and all others. We do not want to create a negative experience for all concerned.” Later adding: “Our program accepts all applicants and this cadet is just another cadet with individual needs,” before working through where the cadet in question would sleep.

A May 2015 email reads: “We need to put a policy in place… we need to be prepared to accommodate these Cadets as long as it does not cause us or cause them undue hardship.” A policy was developed and implemented in 2016.

The policy directive reaffirms the organization’s commitment to providing a discriminatory-free environment, but also addresses the logistics of shared sleeping and bathing quarters:

Use of Washroom/ Showers
5.3 Any cadets, including those who are transgender cadets, may use the washroom / shower that best correspond to their gender identity. All adult supervisors are responsible to ensure that there is adequate washroom / shower facility space available; this may mean providing a single space facility or setting up a schedule for use of an existing space in order to accommodate all cadets.

Sleeping Quarters 
5.4 It is incumbent on the adult supervisor to make arrangements for the transgender cadets in order that they are not discriminated against. This may include, depending on the location and availability, a separate sleeping arrangement away from the group in order to accommodate the cadet. Corps / squadron / CTC COs will, at all times, exercise discretion and be considerate of what state of the transition the transgender cadet is currently going through before making a decision.

Canada is one of 18 countries that currently allow transgender military personnel, which includes Israel, Australia, Britain, Germany and France.

“The disruption factor is not a major issue for these countries at all,” Okros said. “So some of (Trump’s) objections are based on concerns or exaggerations that aren’t borne out.”

Randall Garrison, who serves as both the NDP’s defence critic and its LGBTQ critic, called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to denounce Trump’s “despicable” comments.

“Service to one’s country is of the highest honour. Transgender people who are currently in the military and those who wish to serve are, in many ways, the bravest of the brave,” Garrison said in a statement.

“Prime Minister Trudeau must denounce this policy immediately in order to demonstrate that Canada not only respects human rights but that we will stand up against discrimination.”

The Liberal government sidestepped questions about Trump, however, as Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office noted transgender military personnel have been allowed to serve openly for 25 years.

“Our position on their valuable service in the Canadian military has not changed,” spokeswoman Jordan Owens said in a statement.

‘Why Can’t He Be Our President?’ Justin Trudeau on the cover of Rolling Stone

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

Photo credit: Martin Schoeller/Rolling Stone)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau graces the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine accompanied by a provocative headline: “Why Can’t He Be Our President?”

Trudeau follows in the footsteps of former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama among the world leaders who have previously fronted the venerable pop-culture magazine.

Trudeau is pictured with his shirtsleeves rolled up leaning against a table in the cover photo captured by Martin Schoeller.

In an article published online on Wednesday, writer Stephen Rodrick contrasts the policies and style of Trudeau to those of his American counterpart, Donald Trump, outlining their stark differences on health care, marijuana legalization and environmental policies.

Trudeau is quoted as telling Rodrick that while he disagrees with Trump “on a whole bunch,” the pair have “a constructive working relationship.”

Trudeau adds that going out of his way to “insult the guy or overreact or jump at everything he says (that) we might disagree with is not having a constructive relationship.”

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