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Boy’s problems bringing iPad to school a bigger issue, autism advocate says

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 25th, 2017

The mother of a non-verbal, six-year-old boy with autism said until CityNews got involved, his Brampton school would not allow him to bring his iPad to class — the best way for him to communicate and express his needs.

Tara Bourgeois said she had been asking Homestead Public School for the concession since the beginning of the year, and officials kept putting her off.

She claimed taking away his mode of communication left her son Justin frustrated and has hindered his school year. He uses an app that speaks for him as he points at pictures.

“Sometimes I have to do a nudge on the arm, but most times when the iPad is in his view he knows to use it,” Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois said on Friday, the school’s principal again said Justin could not bring the iPad to class, and that’s when she reached out to CityNews.

Within two hours of CityNews contacting the Peel District School Board, the principal called Bourgeois and said her son could bring the iPad to class after all.

“We regret the length of time it has taken to review the request,” said Ted Byers, the board’s superintendent of special education support services.

“We are investigating the concerns and will be connecting with the parent tomorrow to learn more.”

The incident highlights the many struggles parents of children with autism have with school boards across the province, according to Bruce McIntosh, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition.

The group recently conducted a survey of 4,000 families of children with autism. McIntosh said the results show a pattern of roadblocks for parents fighting for their children.

“The special education system in Ontario is not serving the needs of the students that it’s supposed to help,” said McIntosh. “We’re finding that parents have to constantly fight in order to get what ought to be automatically provided.”

The Ontario Autism Coalition is holding a rally at Queen’s Park this Thursday to highlight the issue.

Liberals use a third of their economic windfall for new tax measures, spending

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 25th, 2017

The Trudeau government is dedicating about a third of the windfall it’s expecting from Canada’s surprisingly strong economy towards investments, tax relief and new spending on social programs to support children and the working poor.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau released a fall economic statement Tuesday that promises $14.9 billion in fresh spending over the next five years — on top of what it had outlined in its March budget.

The new measures take advantage of this year’s unexpectedly robust economic performance, which is projected to provide an additional $46.6 billion for its bottom line over the same five-year period.

“As we invest directly in Canadians and their families, we have an immediate impact on the economy,” Morneau said in his speech in the House of Commons. “Our strong fiscal position allows us to do what other countries would like to do, but can’t afford to do.”

The remaining funds will be aimed at reducing annual deficits, which are projected to shrink each year starting in 2018-19 — although a timeline for when the government plans to balance the federal books remains elusive.

Instead, the governing Liberals will press ahead with their deficit-spending approach, with a focus on lowering the debt-to-GDP ratio, a measure of Ottawa’s debt burden.

Morneau also announced Tuesday that the government will introduce an enhancement to child-benefit payments so they start rising with the cost of living two years earlier than initially promised — at a cost to government of $5.6 billion over five years.

He credited the government’s child-benefit program for helping lift the economy.

“Now, with a little more wind in our sails, we’re doubling down on a plan with proven results,” he said in his speech.

He will also bolster the working income tax benefit, a refundable credit aimed at providing relief for low-income Canadians who have jobs and encouraging those who don’t to join the workforce. The measure is projected to lower government revenues by $2.1 billion over five years, starting in 2018.

As it hits the mid-mandate mark, the Liberal government is in far better fiscal shape than it was in its March budget.

The economy has seen an average annualized growth rate of about 3.7 per cent over the last four quarters, which more than doubles the Bank of Canada’s estimate for that period. The government’s survey of private-sector economists predicts growth of 3.1 per cent this year, 2.1 per cent next year and 1.6 per cent in 2019.

The government is now expecting to run a shortfall of $18.4 billion in 2017-18, compared with a projection of $25.5 billion outlined in the budget. For 2018-19, Ottawa is predicting a $15.6-billion deficit, compared with the $24.4-billion projection last spring.

The update also accounted for some adjustments the government announced last week to its package of tax proposals, including the fiscal impact of its promised tax cuts for small businesses.

However, the framework has yet to account for additional revenues the government is expected to rake in once it moves forward with its proposal to limit the use of passive income investments within private corporations. The reform could eventually provide billions in extra revenue for Ottawa.

The Liberals are surely hoping that the good economic news in the update will take some of the public scrutiny off their embattled finance minister.

Morneau has been preoccupied of late with fending off conflict-of-interest accusations largely related to his multimillion-dollar corporate holdings.

In hopes of quieting accusations linked to how he handled his personal fortune upon entering public office in 2015, Morneau pledged last week to sell at least $21 million worth of stock and place his other assets in a blind trust.

Opposition MPs have also called on the former businessman to disclose whether he recused himself from making decisions on pension legislation that they allege will likely benefit his former human resources company, Morneau Shepell.

It’s not the only controversy Morneau has wrestled with in recent weeks.

He was busy last week promoting the government’s efforts to address widespread complaints about the controversial package of proposed small-business tax reforms. Morneau was forced to tweak and even back off some of the proposals after an angry backlash from doctors, farmers, tax experts and even Liberal backbench MPs.



Judge acquits Ontario Liberals in Election Act bribery case

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 25th, 2017

Two Ontario Liberals were acquitted of Election Act bribery charges Tuesday in a case the party and one of the defendants suggested was only brought to trial because of political motivations.

The judge hearing the case granted a directed verdict application from the defence that called for the charges to be tossed before any defence witnesses were called. Based on the Crown’s evidence alone, no reasonable jury could convict the pair on trial, the judge concluded.

The ruling means the case has been dismissed against Pat Sorbara, who was Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s deputy chief of staff and Liberal campaign director, and local Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed.

The pair were accused of offering would-be candidate Andrew Olivier a job or appointment to step aside for Wynne’s preferred candidate in a 2015 byelection in Sudbury, Ont.

The judge found Olivier never could have been the candidate because Wynne had already decided to appoint Glenn Thibeault — then the NDP MP and now the energy minister.

“There never was going to be a contested nomination in which Olivier could become the candidate. The applicants could not induce someone to refrain from becoming something he could never become.”

The case was a politically charged one from the start.

After the controversy first arose a couple of months before the Sudbury byelection, both opposition parties called on the provincial police and Elections Ontario to investigate. Since then the case has spawned endless attacks against the Liberals.

It even led the premier to move to sue Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown for defamation for saying she was personally on trial.

Acquittals will not end those attacks, the opposition parties signalled in statements moments after the court ruling.

“This whole episode is but one part of a consistent pattern of political corruption,” Brown wrote. “We’re worried about what they’ve been able to keep hidden and are fearful of what scandal will come next.”

New Democrat Gilles Bisson said Ontarians are not comforted by the Liberals “beating” the charges.

“People have been disturbed by the spectacle of two senior Liberals standing trial as a result of bribery allegations in the Sudbury byelection,” he wrote in a statement. “The glimpse of the inner workings of the Liberal party that Ontarians gained during this trial showed the Liberals to be a party obsessed with defending, protecting and promoting itself, not the people of Ontario.”

A statement from the Ontario Liberals said Sorbara is being welcomed back to the election campaign team as the province heads to the polls next summer. She remains on a leave of absence from her deputy chief of staff position in the premier’s office.

“We regret that vindictive Opposition demands for prosecution put these two innocent people through an ordeal of almost three years in order to defend themselves and their reputations,” the party said.

Lougheed said there was no doubt in his mind that the political element was a “great motivator” in why the case went to trial at all.

“I do have some concerns about the investigation and the proceedings because I might suggest the taxpayers of this province have spent an awful lot of money on this case, the investigations and my question would be: why and who in fact was the motivator for this? Because the judge has said there was no evidence,” he said outside court.

His lawyer, Michael Lacy, said the case should never have been taken to trial in the first place.

“There was a lot of political pressure, wasn’t there?” he said outside court. “Sometimes that happens, unfortunately, when politics get in the way of making decisions about charging, making decisions about prosecuting…We know that there was this political context to what went on here.”

Sorbara also faced a second charge, alleging that she bribed Thibeault to become the candidate by arranging for paid jobs on the byelection campaign for two of his constituency staff.

But the judge said he can’t see why agreeing to employ two qualified people would be detrimental to the electoral process. Bribery involves some element of dishonesty, Judge Howard Borenstein said, and nothing in the facts of that charge could be characterized as bribery.

Acquittals on a directed verdict are very rare, Sorbara’s lawyer Brian Greenspan said.

“It’s as close as you can get, factually, to a finding of innocence,” he said.

Sorbara herself said little outside court, except that she is grateful and she always knew the law would make the right decision.

With files from CJMX

Large crowd gathers in Toronto for singalong tribute to Gord Downie

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 25th, 2017

Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman wanted to pay tribute to late Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie after learning of his death.

And so the directors of Choir! Choir! Choir!, a Toronto-based singalong collective, invited fans to Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday night to honour Downie the best way they could — through his music.

“When we lose some of the great ones, if we can provide a space where people can come together and share the music and feel connected in a difficult time, then we’ll do it,” Adilman said. “It just felt like the right thing to do and I feel like these tributes are happening all over the country and big or small, they all matter.”

Downie died last Tuesday at age 53. Nearly two years ago, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an invasive brain tumour with one of the poorest survival rates of any cancer.

More than a thousand people gathered to sing about a dozen songs from the Hip as their tribute to the legendary Canadian band.

People braved the brisk, windy, 10 C weather to belt out songs such as “Wheat Kings,” “Bobcaygeon” and “Courage.” Downie’s “The Stranger,” off his solo album “Secret Path,” was also played.

Stylish suit jackets and hats similar to the ones Downie wore on the Hip’s “Man Machine Poem” tour in 2016 were worn. There were also people sporting hockey jerseys bearing the Hip’s name.

Children were placed on their parents shoulders to get a better view, while others lit candles in honour of the late musician.

Downie’s older brother, Mike, made an appearance on stage near the end of the set to thank those in attendance, which was met with a rousing applause from the crowd.

“I have to say that over the last week, the outpouring of emotion, grief and love has been overwhelming,” Mike said. “And my family and I have felt it and its made things easier and its made things harder.

“Made it easier because you showed how much you loved our brother and harder because we realized how many people were hurting and how many people were really affected by this.”

Mike also took the opportunity to talk about the Secret Path project, which he and his brother worked on. Choir! Choir! Choir! had asked that those in attendance to make a minimum donation of $5 to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund.

Mike said that “it’s up to all of us” to help the reconciliation efforts.

“I don’t think the government can fix it, I don’t think there’s a program big enough to fix it, I think it’s going to take everybody doing their part,” he said.

“We think we’re a young country, but we’re not. We think we’re 150 years old, but we’re not. If we tried a little harder, if we brought in the Indigenous people that have been here for 12,000 years, we could be something so much different. And we would be better for it and I think we would be the envy of the world.”

Choir! Choir! Choir! capped off the show with some audience members onstage to sing “Ahead by a Century.”

“Gord Downie has meant so much to this country, he’s given so much and we just wanted to celebrate him and his music,” Adilman said.




Impaired driving suspected in Burlington chain reaction crash

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 25th, 2017

 Impaired driving is suspected in a chain reaction crash on Tuesday night in Burlington.

Police said a concerned driver phoned 911 around 8 p.m. to report a vehicle being driven erratically on Appleby Line, north of the QEW.

The witness told police they saw the vehicle swerving before it crashed into another vehicle causing a chain reaction crash.

Minor injuries were reported.

An officer, who was in the area at a road construction site, ran to the scene and a 42-year-old woman was arrested.

Police said she failed a breathalyzer test.

Lakeshore East GO train service resumes near Guildwood Station

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Oct 24th, 2017

A police investigation into a death near the Guildwood GO station is causing major problems on Lakeshore East line.

It happened around 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

The line was temporarily suspended just west of Guildwood because of a police investigation into a fatality.

Metrolinx said a train is not involved in the incident.

Just before 7 a.m. Metrolinx said service was slowly resuming on the line and that there will be delays.


UPS Canada launching bike courier project in Toronto

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Oct 24th, 2017

 UPS Canada has launched a cargo bike pilot in Toronto in which deliveries will be done by bicycle.

Mayor John Tory joined UPS officials at Nathan Phillips Square on Monday for the announcement.

“Well I think it’s a wonderful innovation that we’re going to try,” Tory said.

City cyclists don’t need to be intimidated by these rather large bikes. The three-wheelers will not be allowed in the bike lanes.

“The experiment will take place on the roads and it will be treated in that manner,” Tory explained.

“It will not be something that will be in the bike lane, nor are they contemplated to be in the bike lanes going forward.”

Tory said the UPS pilot project will ease some of the frustration of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists about courier companies parking their trucks in bike lanes or taking up a lane of traffic.

“Assuming the pilot is successful and it gets rolled out … having these downtown, (it) will be a lot easier to find a place for them on a side street than would be the case with one of those great big trucks that are the way we’ve done things in the past.”

Ontario creating 1,200 new hospital beds across province to ease overcrowding

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Oct 24th, 2017

The Ontario government is spending $100 million to add hundreds of new beds to hospitals across the province to address the issue of overcrowded wards ahead of what’s expected to be a bad flu season.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins made the announcement on Monday and said adding the 1,200 beds is the equivalent of opening six medium-sized hospitals.

“The majority of these beds will be up and running in two to four weeks,” he said. “Certainly, most, if not all of them, this calendar year because we feel that it’s important that they be made available at that time.”

The province is also spending $40 million to create 600 transitional spaces to provide specialized care outside of hospitals and 200 spaces for supportive housing for seniors, Hoskins said. The transitional spaces will be in long-term care homes, or will take the form of specialized care provided in a patient’s own home.

A portion of the new hospital beds – 225 –  will be in two previously shuttered Toronto hospital sites, the Humber River Hospital’s Finch site and the University Health Network’s Hillcrest site. Both sites will be used to care for alternate level of care patients, many of whom are waiting in hospital for a bed in a long-term care facility.

“These are appropriate settings,” Hoskins said of reopening the hospital sites. “They will be providing the highest quality care.”

The Liberal government has been facing mounting calls in recent months to act on overcrowded hospitals, where patients have ended up in hallways, boardrooms and even cafeterias when regular beds fill up.

The new hospital beds across the province will be added ahead of the flu season, which is anticipated to be difficult this winter, Hoskins said. Canada looks to Australia as a predictor of the flu season to come and that country – which has its winter when we have our summer – had a high level of illness, he said.

“It’s prudent that we make sure that we are prepared and certainly one aspect of this decision is to ensure that our hospitals do have the capacity should we face a particularly bad flu season this year,” he said.

Ontario Hospital Association CEO Anthony Dale said the province’s plan will give flexibility to hospitals and other health care providers this winter.

Right now, there are about 5,000 alternative level of care patients in Ontario hospitals who could be better served in another setting, he said.

And with a growing and aging population with increasingly chronic conditions to treat, additional capacity must be built into long-term care and home care, he said.

“There’s not yet the capacity outside of the hospital’s four walls to discharge them in a timely manner,” Dale said. “We have to get to a place, and we have to get there very soon, where we have the right kinds of services so that people are getting the exact right care in the right place at the right time.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the new beds will be helpful but added that the government is scrambling to address a problem it created by under-funding the hospital system.

Over the last two weeks, the NDP have pressured the government to address the issue by releasing hospital overcrowding data across the province – obtained through a series of Freedom of Information requests.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm bells, as have the doctors and nurses and the Ontario Hospital Association,” Horwath said. “It shows just how deep the cuts have been, how much damage the Liberals have done to our hospital system that they’re now in the last-minute scramble before flu season to try to make it better.”

Progressive Conservative legislator Todd Smith said the new beds are a good start but don’t go far enough to address overcrowding.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in hospitals right across the province are people not getting into beds,” he said. “They’re sitting on stretchers outside in crammed and busy hallways, which is hardly ideal. The announcement today is really just a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed to improve the situation across Ontario in our hospitals.”

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