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More than 300 GTA school bus delays reported on 1st day back

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 6th, 2017

There were more than 300 school bus delays in the GTA Tuesday, including about 140 routes in Toronto, on the first day back to school on Tuesday.

The delays, which lasted anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, were slightly better than last year, when a driver shortage created chaos across the region.

“The Number 1 reason was traffic delays … obviously a lot of people out on the roads and slowing down those bus routes,” said Kevin Hodgkinson, general manager of Toronto Student Transportation Group (TSTG).

Other reasons included drivers arriving late or not showing up for their shift. A handful of delays were due to buses breaking down.

“Mind you, over the summer those buses aren’t running and they’re parked,” Hodgkinson said. “But there is supposed to be a routine in place where they’re checking those buses and there are dry runs to ensure the drivers are comfortable with their routes. So we’ll be investigating with the companies to find out why there were breakdowns.”

Last week, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), and the TSTG put out a joint statement saying no significant delays were expected in Toronto.

Any student, or parent of a student, who takes the bus to a TDSB or TCDSB school can see delay notices online, or call the transportation office at 416-394-4BUS (416-394-4287). Anyone with complaints can email complaint@torontoschoolbus.org.

In Halton, 30 routes remain unassigned, mainly in Oakville. Students in Milton and Burlington could also be affected. There are delays of 10 to 30 minutes in that area.

There are two dozen delays in Peel Region, mostly in Mississauga. In York Region, there are delays of 15 to 30 minutes, affecting about 40 routes.

To find out what’s happening with your bus route, or your child’s, check out the links below.

Toronto: torontoschoolbus.org/school-bus-delays 

York: net.schoolbuscity.com 

Halton: haltonbus.ca

Peel: stopr.ca

Durham: dsts.on.ca 

Related stories:

Students in Oakville, Burlington could face shortage of school bus drivers

Canadian schools reluctant to embrace later bell times despite mounting research

Ontario Ombudsman says school boards were ‘complacent’ about bussing issues

Video game giant Ubisoft announces $780-million Quebec expansion

JULIEN ARSENAULT, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 6th, 2017

MONTREAL – Twenty years after coming to Quebec, French video game giant Ubisoft announced plans Tuesday to invest $780 million in the province by 2027, hire more than 1,000 people and open two new studios.

Ubisoft’s expansion includes a $135-million investment to open a studio in early 2018 in Saguenay, about 250 kilometres north of Quebec City, said co-founder and CEO Yves Guillemot.

The company also plans to add 675 jobs in Montreal and another 200 in Quebec City, while opening a fourth bureau in the province in an undisclosed location.

“The expertise of Ubisoft’s Quebec studios is one of the motors of the company’s growth,” Guillemot said.

He said the company is looking to hire 125 people within five years to work in the Saguenay office.

Ubisoft’s studios in the province have developed some of the company’s famous brands including video games Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry.

The company, which currently has 3,600 employees in Montreal and Quebec City, has taken advantage of the Quebec government’s subsidy program for multimedia firms.

Up to 37.5 per cent of admissible salary expenses is eligible for reimbursement with tax dollars.

For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, Ubisoft received $90 million from Quebec’s coffers to subsidize employee salaries.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was on hand for the announcement and said the tax credit program is worth it.

“Tax credits on 1,000 jobs created by Ubisoft represents an expense of roughly $160 million,” Couillard said. “It’s a choice we have made.”

The province’s subsidy program has been criticized by non-multimedia companies in the province who aren’t offered similar tax credits but who are competing for the same talent.

Guillemot said Ubisoft’s Quebec investment has totalled $3.5 billion since 1997 and will increase to $9 billion at the end of its expansion plan.

All Toronto bus routes have a driver for first day of school, but delays persist

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Sep 5th, 2017

File photo of a school bus. CITYNEWS.

All school bus routes in Toronto had a driver for the first day of school, but delays persisted.

Meanwhile, a driver shortage still remains in Halton Region.

There were more than 50 delays in Toronto on Tuesday, lasting anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.

Last week, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), and the Toronto Student Transportation Group put out a joint statement saying no significant delays were expected in Toronto.

There were no cancellations in Toronto. Most of the delays were due to late drivers, and two buses had broken down.

Any student, or parent of a student, who takes the bus to a TDSB or TCDSB school can see delay notices online, or call the transportation office at 416-394-4BUS (416-394-4287). Anyone with complaints can email complaint@torontoschoolbus.org.

In Halton, 30 routes remain unassigned, mainly in Oakville. Students in Milton and Burlington could also be affected. There are delays of 10 to 30 minutes in that area.

There are two dozen delays in Peel Region, mostly in Mississauga. In York Region, there are delays of 15 to 30 minutes, affecting about 40 routes.

Toronto police launches back-to-school traffic safety blitz

CityNews | posted Monday, Sep 4th, 2017

Summer is winding down and with kids returning to school on Tuesday, you can expect to see an increase in traffic.

The Toronto police launches it’s week long back-to-school traffic safety blitz at midnight Monday to make sure motorists remain alert during this busy time on the roads.

Toronto police constable Clint Stibbe with traffic services told 680 NEWS both drivers heading to work and those dropping their children off at school need to play it safe.

“Drivers that are going to work, we’re asking that you slow down, be aware that some kids may be stepping out from between vehicles. You may be in a school zone, you need to make sure your speeds are at or below the posted speed limits, especially where any children are expected to be.”

And when it comes to school drop-offs in the morning, he says drivers who ignore the rules are a major concern – so don’t be that parent.

“Anybody that’s going to school to drop their kids off, the biggest problem we see is parents double parking or parking in areas that they’re not permitted or disobeying even school crossing guards,” he said.

Stibbe also said pedestrians should take note of increased traffic and stay safe by crossing the street at marked crossings and never mid-block or between vehicles.

The back-to-school traffic safety blitz runs through till Friday.

Toronto parents say condo boom is sending schools over the edge

SALMAAN FAROOQUI, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Sep 4th, 2017

TORONTO – Serina Manek has been living in Leslieville for seven years, and has watched it go from a rough-around-the-edges area in Toronto’s east end, to one of the city’s most desirable neighbourhoods.

The demand for Leslieville was always building, she says, but when the condos started going up, the boom of young families started to have an effect on the neighbourhood dynamic, and ultimately, the schools.

“It was starting to burst at the seams with just the young families coming in at first,” said Manek, who has a five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. “But with the addition of the condos, things are becoming unmanageable. It’s too much.”

Toronto public schools in condo-heavy neighbourhoods are starting to feel the squeeze of a dense population. The Toronto District School Board has been warning new home buyers in certain neighbourhoods that not all children will be accommodated in their home school.

TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird says the board has placed signs on the street level warning potential home buyers that a spot in a home school isn’t guaranteed, and similar warnings are also included in the home buyer’s agreement. Bird says the most recent statistics show that there are 110 new developments in Toronto with those warnings.

Leslieville is one of them, and Manek says that she doesn’t know if her daughter will be able to go to the same school as her brother when she starts kindergarten.

“It’s unsettling to walk around the neighbourhood and see that sign, and for that to be your form of communication,” said Manek. “I guess the frustration is the communication, but I don’t know where that communication would come from.”

Sitting in a buzzing Leslieville park — one that Manek notes used to be empty a few years ago — she says that she doesn’t see the population boom as sustainable.

Her friend, Holly Andruchuk, will be sending her son to his first year of kindergarten in the upcoming school year, but says that the implications of her crowded nearby school just keep piling up.

Their school, Morse Park Junior Public School, is nestled on a small street just off of Leslieville’s main thoroughfare. In 2010, it was home to around 200 students, according to the TDSB. This year, it’s grown more than double that with over 500 students. Bird says the dramatic increase is due to changing demographics in the region, as well as the addition of French immersion at the school.

Andruchuk says that the high number of students means that her son will be in a classroom with as many as 27 other students, and that is one of five kindergarten classes this year. And his classroom will be on the second floor, which she says is unusual for a kindergarten student.

“Our teacher on orientation night actually said that, because we’re on the second floor, our kids don’t go outside as often,” said Andruchuk. “Because in winter time, trying to dress four- and five-year-olds (and then get them down the stairs) is a challenge on its own.”

However, Andruchuk is optimistic that her son’s education won’t suffer. She believes that the community will have to step up to support their children in a way that a stressed school system might not be able to. Her friend Manek, however, is not so sure. She thinks that ultimately, some parents will give up on the Leslieville area and move on further away.

Whether a community culture can save Leslieville or not, the problem isn’t isolated to the one Toronto neighbourhood. Bird says that the housing development warnings are sprawled in locations all across the city.

Next door in Mississauga, Ont., the Peel District School Board uses the same warning messages to prospective buyers in the crowded city centre area, where more families are living in condos than originally expected.

“The numbers would bear out a trend that families are seeking a more affordable form of apartment condominiums,” said Randy Wright, a planning controller with the PDSB, who says that finding land for new schools for the incoming families is proving to be a difficult task.

And across the country in Vancouver, the city’s public school board says it can’t always guarantee that students will be able to go to their home school, and may have to be bussed out to further schools.

In the meantime, Andruchuk and Manek are gearing up for the upcoming school year, and plan to volunteer in the school system as much as possible.

“I will always put my kids’ education first,” said Manek.

Eastern Caribbean battens down as Hurricane Irma approaches

The Associated Press | posted Monday, Sep 4th, 2017

Government workers on the islands of the northeast Caribbean are clearing drains and pruning trees as authorities urge residents to prepare for Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm that grew stronger Monday and will likely begin buffeting the region Tuesday.

The Antigua and Barbuda weather service said Irma was expected to bring heavy rains, rough surf and high winds, and the government closed schools Monday.

Hurricane watches were posted for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Monserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, and St. Barts.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said islands farther north, including the U.S. British and Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, should monitor the progress of the storm and be prepared for Irma possibly to head their direction.

Long-range forecasts indicated Irma likely would curve to the northwest beginning late Monday and skirt to the north of the islands in the eastern Caribbean on a path that could potentially take it to the U.S. East Coast, but it was too early to make a definitive prediction.

Antigua’s prime minister, Gaston Browne, urged people to take preventative measures in case the storm should keep on its current arc, saying that should include cleaning drains and removing objects that could be sent flying by high winds. Workers began pruning trees and shrubs to reduce chances for branches to tear down power and phone lines.

“The passage of a hurricane is not a matter to be taken lightly, but we must not panic,” Browne said in a statement.

The U.S. hurricane centre said Irma had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph) Monday morning and some strengthening was expected through Tuesday night. The storm was centred about 610 miles (980 kilometres) east of the Leeward Islands and moving west-southwest at 14 mph (22 kph).

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said government agencies in the U.S. territory were prepared to deal with any emergencies caused by the storm but warned of flooding and power outages. He said 4 inches to 8 inches (10-20 centimetres) of rain were expected, as well as winds of 40-50 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph.

“We have established protocols for the safety of all,” he said as he urged islanders to take precautions.

In the Dominican Republic, Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo said workers there were clearing away road works and also cleaning out blockages of sewer drains. He said President Danilo Medina would hold a meeting with emergencies agencies Monday to discuss storm preparations.

Meteorologists on Monday issued an alert for the Dominican Republic’s entire eastern coast from the island of Saona to the town of Cabo Frances. Officials said the effects of Hurricane Irma would be felt Thursday.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting third child: Kensington Palace

DANICA KIRKA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Sep 4th, 2017

Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their third child, Kensington Palace said Monday.

Kensington Palace made the pregnancy announcement as they said that the former Kate Middleton was not feeling well enough to attend an engagement later in the day. As with her other two pregnancies, the duchess is suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or acute morning sickness. Kate is being cared for at her Kensington Palace home in London.

“The queen and members of both families are delighted with the news,” the palace said in a statement.

William and Kate, both 35, already have two children: Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 2.

The announcement came at a time when the royal couple is due to mark a milestone in the life of their young family: They are set to send George to school for the first time on Thursday.

Their choice of Thomas’s Battersea in south London indicated that the Cambridges were settling into their Kensington Palace apartment, having moved recently from their Norfolk home Anmer Hall.

No details were immediately available about when the third baby is due, but betting agencies were quick to start offering odds on possible names for the soon-to-be-born child in the House of Windsor.

Paddy Power offered 8-to-1 odds on Alice. Also popular was Diana, after Prince William’s mother, particularly given the timing of the announcement.

Together with Prince Harry, William and Kate have taken a leading role in marking the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death. Last week the royals toured the garden of their Kensington Palace home to remember the princes’ mother and celebrate her contributions to their family and to the monarchy.

“Given the recent anniversary, there’ll be plenty of interest in the name Diana if the baby is a girl,” the agency said.

The royals have said from the time of their engagement that they wanted to have a family _ the only question was how many children they wished for. Royal watchers recorded every aside for clues as to what the plans might be.

When asked on a royal tour in Singapore in 2012 about how many children he wanted, William said he was “thinking about having two.”

More recently, during a royal tour of Poland, Kate joked about a third child when given a cuddly toy designed to soothe tiny babies.

Kate thanked the well-wisher for the present and turned to William. “We will just have to have more babies,” she said laughing.

Kate is the eldest of three siblings, and reportedly had a very happy childhood. William has a younger brother, Prince Harry.

The royal couple can also be seen as following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who have four children.

Man arrested after OPP officer injured during Mississauga traffic stop

CityNews | posted Monday, Sep 4th, 2017

One man is in custody after an Ontario Provincial Police officer escaped serious injury after a traffic stop gone horribly wrong on Monday morning.

Peel Region Police say OPP Const. Patrick Chatelain was conducting a routine traffic stop at around 9 a.m. on Highway 403 near the eastbound off-ramp to Hurontario Street.

According to police, the vehicle then accelerated away, dragging the officer for approximately 200 metres as it fled the scene northbound on Hurontario Street.

Police later recovered the abandoned vehicle a few kilometres away.

A few hours later, Peel police said one man had been arrested and was in custody and that charges were pending.

Police told CityNews its uncertain if the man arrested was indeed the driver of the car. They continue to search for as many as three other persons who may have also been in the car at the time of the incident.

The officer was transported to Sunnybrook Hospital with what was initially reported to be serious injuries.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt updated the officer’s condition late Monday, saying his injuries were considered minor and that Chatelain, a former Peel Paramedic and reservist with the armed forces, had been released from hospital and was expected to make a full recovery.

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