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You’ve been warned: Grace period over on King Street

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 20th, 2017

The grace period for drivers who disobey the rules of the King Street pilot project officially ended Monday morning.

All traffic on King Street between Jarvis and Bathurst streets is only allowed to travel a single block before being forced to turn right – no left turns and no through traffic is allowed. The pilot project aims to keep that stretch of road virtually car-free, allowing streetcars to move unhindered.

The TTC says more than 65,000 people use the King streetcar during the week, but traffic congestion slows the service down to a crawl.

Toronto police have been handing out warnings instead of fines over the past week as drivers adjusted to the new rules on the downtown street.

But starting Monday, there will be a no tolerance policy. Fines begin at $110 and come with two demerit points upon conviction.

Bill to end five week Ontario college strike passes

The Canadian Press | posted Sunday, Nov 19th, 2017

Ontario has passed back-to-work legislation, ending a five-week college strike and paving the way for students to return to class.

The Liberal government first attempted to introduce the bill Thursday evening, after restarted talks between the colleges and the faculty’s union reached an impasse.

But unanimous consent of all parties was needed, and the NDP refused, leading the government to introduce the legislation Friday.

It was debated through special weekend sittings in which the NDP argued it takes away workers’ rights and only comes after the Liberals failed to bring the two sides together for five weeks.

The colleges have said they would need two days to restart classes, meaning students could be back on Tuesday.

Around 500,000 students have been out of class since the strike by 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians began Oct. 15.

TransCanada Keystone pipeline leaks 795,000 litres of crude oil in South Dakota

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 17th, 2017

TransCanada Corp. said its original Keystone pipeline has leaked an estimated 795,000 litres of oil in Marshall County, S.D. just days before Nebraska is set to decide the fate of plans to expand the pipeline network.

The company said its crews shut down the Keystone pipeline system Thursday morning between Hardisty, Alta. to Cushing, Okla, and a line to Patoka, Ill. The line is expected to remain shut while it responds to the spill.

The leak comes as the Nebraska Public Service Commission is set to vote on the Keystone XL sequel on Nov. 20 to clear the last major regulatory hurdle for the $8 billion project. Keystone XL would route the pipeline on a more direct path through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines that feed Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

American environmental groups seized on the spill as evidence that their warnings against Keystone XL would come to pass. Among the groups, 350.org, which helped launch national protests against the project in the U.S.

“This is exactly the kind of disaster we can expect more of if Keystone XL is approved,” said the statement from 350.org Executive Director May Boeve. “No matter what TransCanada says, there’s no such thing as a safe fossil fuel pipeline.”

Among other concerns, opponents of Keystone XL say the pipeline would pass through the Sandhills, an ecologically fragile region in Nebraska of grass-covered sand dunes, and would cross the land of farmers and ranchers who don’t want it.

“Just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commissions decides on whether to approve Keystone XL we get a painful reminder of why no one wants a pipeline over their water supply,” said Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema.

The Sierra Club was also quick to condemn the spill, urging the commission not to vote for the project.

“We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us,” said campaign director Kelly Martin.

After years of delay, and rejection by Barack Obama, the Keystone XL project was given the go-ahead by President Donald Trump this year, but it’s still mired in economic and legal hurdles. In addition to the regulatory process in Nebraska, it faces dwindling demand for oil that has already prompted TransCanada to cancel its biggest Canadian project, Energy East.

With files from Alexander Panetta in Washington

Is Santa here yet? Christmas season comes alive this weekend in Toronto

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 17th, 2017

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?,” Charlie Brown says in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Linus Van Pelt replies: “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”

Grab hold of the Christmas spirit and never let go. The festivities are already underway, with the tree at the Eaton Centre already lit up and the Toronto Christmas Market opened for the holiday season. The big news (if you didn’t already know) is that Santa is on his way this weekend, one of many appearances he is making in the city. Now, all we need is some snow (don’t be a snow hater, remember what it felt like when you were a kid).


Santa Claus Parade
The jolly St. Nick is mostly known for handing out presents, but it is his message of being kind to others and sharing happiness that people embrace around the world. And that’s what Santa will bring when he comes to Toronto on Sunday.

The 113th edition of the Santa Claus parade starts at 12:30 p.m. at Bloor and Christie streets. It then heads down Bloor to Queen’s Park Crescent East, University Avenue, Wellington Street, Yonge Street and ends at Front and Jarvis streets around 3-4 p.m. Click here for the parade route.

If you are coming to the parade from outside of the city, GO Transit will be running special train service on the Milton, Kitchener, Stouffville and Barrie lines. Round trip fares are $5 for children and seniors, $10 for adults, and $20 for a group.

Toronto Christmas Market
Shortbread, fudge, waffles, poutine, and gingerbread … is your mouth watering yet? Those are just some of the yummy treats you can indulge in at the Toronto Christmas Market, which opened at the Distillery District on Thursday. And what would a European-style Christmas market be without beer gardens and Glühwein (mulled wine)? Aside from the food and drinks, you can get merry with Christmas music performances and traditional dances. Several vendors will also be on hand, selling Christmas treats and ornaments. You can also meet up with Santa and bring along your pet on Tuesdays to pose for a photo with him. Admission to the market is free during weekdays with a $6 fee starting at 5 p.m. on Fridays and into the weekend. Revenue generated from the admission fees will go towards the event and three charities.

Holly Jolly Fun Run
Ahead of the Santa Claus parade, people will be getting into the Christmas spirit in the Holly Jolly Fun Run. Those taking part in the 5k event will run along the same route as the parade. The run starts at 11:45 a.m. on Bloor Street between Manning and Euclid avenues and ends on Bremner Boulevard at Maple Leaf Square. As an added bonus, after the run there will be snacks.

Christmas lights glow
Several neighbourhoods in the city get lit up for the holidays on Saturday, including at the main event in downtown Toronto. Join the Illuminite party at Yonge-Dundas Square as the tree is lit up during an evening of music and dancing. The events runs form 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Village of Yorkville Park at Cumberland and Bellair streets will also be illuminated, as lights will be turned on during the Holiday Magic event, which runs from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Refreshments are available for a $2 donation – money raised will go to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research.yongedundas-tree2013

Road closures

Bloor Street West from Christie Street to Ossington Avenue will be closed from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday for the Santa Claus Parade. There will also be road closures from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. along the parade route, as well as for the staging area. Road closures will also in effect for the Holly Jolly Fun Run and other events. Click here for a full list.

Ontario men charged with human trafficking after string of incidents at hotels

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 17th, 2017

Ontario provincial police have charged two men with human trafficking offences in the Toronto area.

Officers say the pair were arrested after a series of incidents at hotels in the Durham region in October.

They say more charges are expected to be laid as the investigation unfolds.

Police have released few details, citing a court-imposed publication ban on the case.

Artem Sterekhov, 19, of Kleinburg, Ont., and Roman Culeanu, 22, of Bradford, Ont., are charged with trafficking in persons, advertising sexual services, uttering threats, extortion and procuring.

Investigators have asked anyone with information related to the case to contact the OPP’s Highway Services Division Crime Unit.

Back-to-work legislation to end Ontario college strike delayed until Friday

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 17th, 2017

Ontario’s Liberal government is moving to introduce back-to-work legislation that would end a nearly five-week strike by college faculty, though opposition from the NDP means it may not happen quickly.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said unanimous support of the legislation would have meant students could return to class on Monday morning.

“We have said repeatedly that students have been in the middle of this strike for too long and it is not fair,” she said in a statement. “We need to get them back to the classroom.”

But the NDP blocked a government attempt to table the bill by refusing unanimous consent to allow the Liberals to do so Thursday evening after the normally scheduled time period for introducing legislation.

Some 500,000 students have been out of class since the strike by 12,000 college professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians, began Oct. 15. It is now the longest strike in the colleges’ history in Ontario.

The legislature will now reconvene Friday, when it does not normally sit, and the Liberals will again try to introduce the legislation in the afternoon. If it is again blocked, they say they intend to sit through the weekend.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party does not support any legislation that takes away workers’ rights.

“It looks like Kathleen Wynne wanted to use anti-worker back-to-work legislation all along,” Horwath said in a statement, criticizing the premier for what she called five weeks of inaction.

Horwath also wants students back in the classroom Monday, she said, but wants that to happen through a deal.

NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said the government has the tools to pass the legislation over the weekend.

Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews said with unanimous consent the legislation could have been introduced and sped through first, second and third readings Thursday night.

“We could have done it in 10 minutes and then students would know they’re back in the classroom on Monday,” she said. “It was very disappointing that the NDP decided to block it.”

The legislation would have to pass on Friday for the province’s 24 colleges to prepare for classes to resume Monday, Matthews said.

The College Employer Council, which represents the colleges, said it supports the introduction of back-to-work legislation as soon as possible.

The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents the striking faculty, said Thursday morning that he would not support any back-to-work legislation.

“From my perspective, if they do that, the labour movement has to oppose that,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Labour rights are enshrined in law and to this point in time they’ve respected the collective bargaining process.”

Wynne had asked the colleges and the union to return to the bargaining table Thursday after workers voted to reject a contract offer, but within several hours the two sides reached an impasse when they could not agree to binding arbitration.

OPSEU had recommended the colleges’ contract proposal be rejected.

The colleges have said the offer included a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years, improved benefits and measures to address concerns regarding part-time faculty, with language surrounding academic freedom remaining as the only major outstanding issue.

But the union said the offer contained “serious concessions” that were not agreed to, which would erode faculty rights and contribute to an unsustainable staffing model.

Under the proposed back-to-work legislation, the strike would end and all outstanding issues would be referred to binding mediation-arbitration.

Earlier Thursday, Matthews had sharp words for both the colleges and the union.

“I would say that both parties share the failure, and it is a failure,” she said. “Both parties need to recognize that their approach to this date has not resulted in any kind of success. They have to focus on students.”

Matthews also said that the semester can still be salvaged.

“We are approaching the time where we will start to see people with lost semesters but we are not there yet,” she said. “We need to get them back immediately so that the semester can be saved.”

The provincial government has ordered the colleges to create a fund – using savings from the strike – to help students who may be experiencing financial hardship because of the labour dispute. Matthews has estimated Ontario’s colleges have saved about $5 million so far.

Hu Zhengtao, an international student from China attending George Brown College to study business and marketing, said the labour disruption has thrown his plans to graduate in December and return home into serious doubt. He spoke with Matthews on Thursday to express his concern about the strike.

“Because of the strike I don’t know when I can finish my classes and graduate,” he said. “The school has nothing to say right now. … They say they’re planning but can’t say exactly what they’re going to do because they don’t know if the strike will keep going.”

Law firm Charney Lawyers filed a proposed class action against the 24 colleges Tuesday, saying 14 students have come forward to potentially stand as representative plaintiffs.

The notice of action alleges the colleges breached contracts with students by failing to provide vocational training and a full term of classes. It seeks full refunds for students who choose not to continue with their programs and refunds “equivalent to the value of the lost instruction” for students who do want to continue.

Concrete barriers and police: the new norm at Distillery Christmas market

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 17th, 2017

The Distillery District Christmas Market opened Thursday and visitors will notice more than just a European feel to this popular holiday destination.

Security measures have been tweaked in the wake of recent attacks where vehicles have been used as weapons and driven through pedestrian areas.

Dozens of people have been killed in recent years in terrorist attacks where the assailants drove vehicles into crowds. In the most recent attack, eight people were killed on a New York City bike path.

The market’s creator says the extra precautions won’t impact the user experience.


“The safety installations that we’ve put in place are really not that visible,” said Matthew Rosenblatt. “So, we hope that they certainly do act as a deterrent, but they’re not going to take away any of the market’s magic.”

Rosenblatt wouldn’t go into too many details but added that the concrete barricades at the entrances should prevent or at least slow down any vehicle.

“We think it’s a safe place. Toronto and Canada is one of the safest places in the world. We’ve done what we think is appropriate to protect the people here,” said Rosenblatt.

Toronto police would only say they have met with market officials and developed a site safety plan.

Striking Ontario college faculty reject offer that would have ended job action

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Nov 16th, 2017

Ontario’s striking college faculty have voted not to accept an offer that would have ended the nearly five-week job action.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents the 12,000 workers, had recommended the colleges’ contract proposal be rejected.

The strike, which involves college professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians, began Oct. 15 and has left some 500,000 students out of class.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she will meet with college and union representatives today to discuss how the situation can immediately be resolved.

She says she is looking at all options, but she is hopeful the parties can reach an agreement.

“Students have been in the middle of this strike for too long and it’s not fair,” Wynne said in a statement.

“This afternoon I will be meeting representatives of the College Employer Council (CEC) and OPSEU to discuss how we can resolve this situation immediately and get students back to class where they belong.  We are looking at all of our options, but I am hopeful that an agreement to return students to class immediately can be reached by the parties.”

Talks between the colleges and the union broke down on Nov. 4, prompting a request for the final offer vote.

Reporters Momin Qureshi and Amanda Ferguson are reporting live. See their tweets below.

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