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Toronto home sales to slip, but remain vulnerable to overvaluation: experts

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2018

Continued signs of overheating in some cities leaves Canada’s housing market highly vulnerable for the sixth straight quarter, the federal housing agency said Tuesday as the country’s largest real estate board predicted another year of rising prices.

 

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said Tuesday that the country could fall prey to market instability. The cities of Toronto, Hamilton, Victoria and Vancouver are its greatest source of concern.

“This assessment is a result of the detection of moderate evidence of price acceleration and moderate evidence of overvaluation,” CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan said.

He noted that Manitoba, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces are faring better than their Ontarian and British Columbian counterparts and that Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina are seeing rashes of overbuilding, but house prices there are in line with the population and its income.

He stressed that across the country there are only “weak” signs of overbuilding and overheating — a problem that has plagued the Greater Toronto Area in recent years.

The agency’s observations came the same day the Toronto Real Estate Board reported an 18 per cent drop in annual sales last year as the market started to cool from previous overheated conditions.

In its annual forecast released Tuesday, the board said it expects home sales this year to slip to somewhere between 85,000 and 95,0000, slightly lower than 2017 when there were 92,394 sales.

However, the real estate board also forecast that the average home will sell for between $800,000 and $850,000 — similar to TREB’s prediction for 2017.

“The midpoint of that range suggests a slight increase in the average selling price this year,” it said in the report.

The average selling price reached $822,681 last year.

The market is being dampened by the Ontario government’s moves to stabilize housing conditions after 2017 saw a busy first quarter, another interest rate hike from the Bank of Canada in January, a rise in five-year fixed mortgage rates and a new mortgage stress test brought in Jan.1.

“Federal and provincial policy decisions will act as a drag on demand for ownership housing,” TREB predicted in a Tuesday release.

“In response to the stress test, many intending buyers will change the type and/or location of home they are looking to purchase or potentially tap other down payment sources, rather than simply deciding not to purchase a home.”

TREB’s forecast comes about two weeks after the Canadian Real Estate Association slashed its outlook for 2018 to predict a 5.3 per cent drop in national sales to 486,600 units this year. When compared with previous estimates, that’s a drop of 8,500 units.

At the time, CREA said it was already seeing signs that the country was “fully recovering” from last year’s surge in home prices that sent the market into a frenzy.

TREB and CREA’s predicted Toronto slowdown is unlikely to seep across the country, TD Canada Trust economists Michael Dolega and Rishi Sondhi said in a note to investors on Tuesday.

They found Atlantic markets are looking positive “with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, owing to a continued influx of international migrants.”

In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, they expect higher mortgage rates will lengthen the time needed for sales to recover and dampen activity, but Quebec will “enjoy a relatively healthy performance.”

However, they added, the recent mortgage regulations “coupled with higher rates will meaningfully weaken housing demand in the high priced Toronto and Vancouver markets, leading to softer activity in Ontario and B.C.”

Puck Protest: Business owners play hockey on King Street

Nitish Bissonauth | posted Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2018

A group of business owners on King Street organized a spontaneous game of road hockey on the east-west thoroughfare this afternoon to protest the city’s King Street Transit Pilot.

 

“You can’t be nice on the ice anymore — we’ve been talking to deaf ears” said Kit Kat owner Al Carbone, who helped organize the event.

The pilot project, which launched in the fall, prioritizes streetcars over other vehicles between Jarvis and Bathurst streets.

Carbone said the initiative has turned the Entertainment District into a ghost town during the day and has had a serious impact on local business profits.

Former NHL player Jarrod Skalde — now a player development coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins — was there to show his support.

“For 25 years, I’ve been going to the Kit Kat, when I played against the Maple Leafs,” he said.

“Took my teammates there, I wanted to support Al and get the chance to play ball hockey on King.”

The city said it understands the importance of supporting businesses, but it’s also focussed on moving traffic on the once-gridlocked street.

“The mayor is committed to the year-long King Street Pilot and its objectives, and will focus on real data and meaningful actions that will ensure that we are improving the movement of people along one of our busiest transit routes, while keeping the corridor vibrant and supporting local business,” a spokesperson said.

Carbone said he’s not giving up and plans on organizing more games of shinny.

Man handcuffed to McArthur’s bed on day of arrest, source says

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2018

Toronto police may have saved the life of a man who was in Bruce McArthur’s apartment at the time of his arrest.

 

Police had McArthur under surveillance the day he was arrested at his Thorncliffe Park area home.

A police source tells CityNews that on Jan. 18, police saw a young man enter McArthur’s 19th floor apartment, and that’s when officers decided to move in.

The source says when police broke down the door, they found the man handcuffed to McArthur’s bed.

The young man was not hurt and later interviewed by police.

The Toronto police forensic unit remains on scene, combing the apartment for evidence.

The source said photos were found on McArthur’s computer that helped investigators identify some of the victims.

The 66-year-old has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and police believe that number will rise as the investigation continues.

Investigators are searching approximately 30 properties connected to McArthur, who worked as a self-employed landscaper.

Police say they recovered the remains of three individuals from a home on Mallory Crescent, a property in Leaside used by McArthur to store landscaping equipment, but the remains have not been identified and it’s unclear if they’re connected to the five victims.

“Right now, where we’ve recovered the bodies, are from large planters and they’ve been hidden in the bottom of these planters, so we’ve seized quite a few planters from around the city,” Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga said in a news conference on Monday morning.

“They can’t be identified because they are skeletal remains and they have been dismembered so we have to wait for DNA tests… before we can identify those remains.”

Following his arrest, McArthur was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in relation to the disappearance of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen. On Monday, three more charges of first-degree murder were added, in connection with the deaths of Majeed Kayhan, 58, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Dean Lisowick, 47.

Trump calls for unity on immigration in State of the Union

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2018

Addressing a deeply divided nation, President Donald Trump called upon lawmakers Tuesday night to “summon the unity” to make good on long-standing promises to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and fractured immigration systems, infusing his presidency with a sense of optimism, for at least one high-profile night.

 

“To every citizen watching at home tonight, no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time,” Trump declared in his State of the Union address. “If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.”

Despite his calls for bipartisanship, Trump spoke with tensions running high on Capitol Hill. An impasse over immigration prompted a three-day government shutdown earlier this year, and lawmakers appear no closer to resolving the status of the “Dreamers” — young people living in the U.S. illegally ahead of a new Feb. 8 deadline for funding operations. The parties have also clashed this week over the plans of Republicans on the House intelligence committee to release a classified memo on the Russia investigation involving Trump’s presidential campaign — a decision the White House backs but the Justice Department is fighting.

The controversies that have dogged Trump — and the ones he has created— have overshadowed strong economic gains during his first year in office. His approval ratings have hovered in the 30s for much of his presidency, and just 3 in 10 Americans said the United States was heading in the right direction, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In the same survey, 67 per cent of Americans said the country was more divided because of Trump.

At times, Trump’s address appeared to be aimed more at validating his first year in office than setting the course for his second. He devoted significant time to touting the tax overhaul he signed at the end of last year, promising the plan will “provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.” He also highlighted the decision made early in his first year to withdraw the U.S. from a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade pact, declaring: “The era of economic surrender is totally over.”

He spoke about potential agenda items for 2018 in broad terms, including a call for $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure spending and partnerships with states and the private sector. He touched only briefly on issues like health care that have been at the centre of the Republican Party’s policy agenda for years.

Tackling the sensitive immigration debate that has roiled Washington, Trump redoubled his recent pledge to offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants — as part of a package that would also require increased funding for border security, including a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, ending the nation’s visa lottery method and revamping the current legal immigration system. Some Republicans are wary of the hardline elements of Trump’s plan and it’s unclear whether his blueprint could pass Congress.

Trump played to the culture wars, alluding to his public spat with professional athletes who led protests against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, declaring that paying tribute to the flag is a “civic duty.”

Republicans led multiple rounds of enthusiastic applause during the speech, but for the opposition party it was a more sombre affair. Democrats provided a short spurt of polite applause for Trump as he entered the chamber, but offered muted reactions throughout the speech. A cluster of about two dozen Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, remained planted firmly in their seats, staring sternly at the president and withholding applause.

After devastating defeats in 2016, Democrats are hopeful that Trump’s sagging popularity can help the party rebound in November’s midterm elections. In a post-speech rebuttal, Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, was seeking to undercut Trump’s optimistic tone and remind voters of the personal insults and attacks often levelled by the president.

“Bullies may land a punch,” Kennedy said, according to excerpts from his remarks. “They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defence of their future.”

On international affairs, Trump warned of the dangers from “rogue regimes,” like Iran and North Korea, terrorist groups, like the Islamic State, and “rivals” like China and Russia “that challenge our interests, our economy and our values.” Calling on Congress to lift budgetary caps and boost spending on the military, Trump said that “unmatched power is the surest means of our defence.”

The president also announced that he had signed an executive order directing the Department of Defence to keep open the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. The order reverses the Obama-era policy of the executive branch, long stymied by Congress, to close the prison.

First lady Melania Trump, who has largely stayed out of the spotlight following the latest allegations of Trump infidelity, arrived at the capitol ahead of her husband to attend a reception with guests of the White House. Those sitting alongside the first lady included an Ohio welder who the White House says will benefit from the new tax law and the parents of two Long Island teenagers who were believed to have been killed by MS-13 gang members.

‘Glee’ actor Mark Salling dies weeks after child porn guilty plea

John Rogers and Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2018

Mark Salling, who played bad-boy Noah “Puck” Puckerman in the hit musical-comedy “Glee,” died of an apparent suicide Tuesday, weeks after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography. He was 35.

Salling pleaded guilty in December after authorities said a search of his computer and a thumb drive found more than 50,000 images of child porn. He was scheduled to be sentenced March 7, and prosecutors planned to ask a judge to send him to prison for four to seven years.

A law enforcement official not authorized to speak publicly said Salling was found hanging in a riverbed area in the Tujunga neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Ed Winter, assistant chief investigator for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, said the death is being investigated as a suicide.

Winter said Salling was pronounced dead at 9 a.m. Tuesday, six hours after police received a report that he was missing.

“Mark was a gentle and loving person, a person of great creativity, who was doing his best to atone for some serious mistakes and errors of judgment,” Salling’s attorney, Michael J. Proctor, said in an email to The Associated Press.

Proctor didn’t discuss the cause of death, but said the actor’s family appreciated the support it is receiving and asked that a request for privacy be respected.

The darkly handsome actor had appeared in only a handful of projects before his breakout role in “Glee,” the popular Fox TV series about students in a high school glee club and their circle of family and friends. It aired from 2009-15.

Earlier credits included 1996’s “Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering,” a 1999 guest role on the Chuck Norris series “Walker, Texas Ranger” and a part in the 2014 TV movie “Rocky Road.”

A singer-songwriter as well as actor, he released two albums: “Smoke Signals” in 2008 and “Pipe Dreams” in 2010.

Following “Pipe Dreams’,” release, Salling told The Associated Press he had been a singer-songwriter long before he became an actor.

“I put out a record before. It went triple cardboard,” he joked. “I was very excited about selling 125 units for that but you know this is something I’ve been doing my whole life. It’s not something that I just decided to randomly do now. This is not the first. It won’t be the last. And I hope people enjoy it and have something to look forward to for the next round.”

He said he chose the album’s songs from 50 to 60 he had compiled over several years.

Salling’s character on “Glee” was a member of the school’s football team who ends up joining the glee club. One of his character’s friends was another jock-turned-singer, Finn Hudson, who was played by Cory Monteith.

Monteith died in 2013 from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin, according to a coroner’s finding.

Mark Wayne Salling was born Aug. 17, 1982, in Dallas, the youngest child of John Salling, an accountant, and his wife, Condy, a school secretary.

Like his character on “Glee,” Salling was a jock, taking part in wrestling, rugby, basketball and other school sports when he wasn’t playing guitar or piano. By high school he was playing gigs in local bars.

Soon after finishing school he moved to California to pursue an acting and music career and to study guitar at the Los Angeles Music Academy.

After seven years of failing to land any substantial roles, and having released just one album, Salling was ready to give up when his older brother, Matt, exhorted him to keep trying. Soon after he landed the role on “Glee,” where he quickly captivated audiences. His performance of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” even won praise from Diamond himself.

Salling said his own musical preferences covered a wide range from jazz to country to rock, pop and hip-hop. He cited Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails as among his musical influences.

He is survived by his parents and brother.

AP Television Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this story.

Hookworm-related skin infection a risk with travel to tropics: expert

Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2018

The experience of a Windsor couple who returned from a Caribbean vacation with their feet severely infected with parasitic worms is a cautionary tale of what travellers to some warm-weather destinations might encounter — and how they might avoid a similar fate, says a tropical medicine specialist.

Dr. Jay Keystone, a physician in the tropical disease unit at Toronto General Hospital, said cases of the hookworm-related skin infection that afflicted Katie Stephens and Eddie Zytner on a recent trip to the Dominican Republic are not that uncommon among travellers to developing countries.

Stephens, 22, and Zytner, 25, spent time walking barefoot on the beach in Punta Cana and unwittingly picked up an infection known as cutaneous larva migrans, or CLM. Keystone said the parasite is a form of hookworm spread in the feces of animals.

“It’s from dogs and cats pooping indiscriminately on the beaches,” he said, explaining that the microscopic worms multiply and then infect people whose bare skin comes in contact with sand or soil.

CLM doesn’t penetrate beyond the skin layer in people, unlike the human form of hookworm that makes its way through the skin and eventually “sets up shop” in the small intestine. The blood-sucking parasites are the major cause of iron-deficiency anemia in developing countries.

Cases of cutaneous larva migrans make up about 10 to 20 per cent of travel-related skin problems among patients seen by hospital tropical disease units, Keystone said.

“We have seen this year alone probably two or three dozen patients with CLM,” said Keystone, adding that the parasitic worms are common in the Caribbean, South America, Mexico and southeast Asia, especially in Thailand. About 60 per cent of the cases doctors at TGH see are in travellers who have returned from Jamaica, he said.

Most people aren’t as severely affected as Stephens and Zytner, whose feet and ankles were swollen and marked by angry-looking snake-like tracks burrowed under the skin.

“Most people only have one or two lesions,” said Keystone, who has been practising tropical disease medicine for 40 years. “They don’t get the blisters that can occur.”

The infection is extraordinarily itchy — the result of the immune system trying to rid the parasite from the body.

“The itchiness is so severe that people who come back from the Tropics in the winter, one of the ways they get rid of the itching is they run outside and put their feet in the snow, ” he said.

CLM usually goes away on its own in a couple of months without treatment, although Keystone said he’s had some patients afflicted for up to a year.

There are two oral drugs that can kill the infestation, but getting them can be tough, as neither is approved for sale use in Canada by the Health Protection Branch.

Keystone said he can be obtain prescriptions for patients through a compounding pharmacy or they can be purchased in the U.S., which is what Stephens and Zytner were forced to do when Health Canada denied them access to the drug ivermectin.

He said ivermectin is expected to be licensed for sale in Canada later this year.

So what can Canadians who travel to sunnier climes do to prevent the parasitic infection?

Sandals offer no protection, nor does washing the skin after exposure to sand, says Keystone, who is nevertheless loathe to suggest winter-weary travellers wear closed-toe footwear while walking on the sand.

“I would tell people they shouldn’t be lying on the sand and especially if they see a lot of dogs or cats around — that’s a red flag. Even lying on a towel on the sand doesn’t protect you,” he said, advising sun-worshippers to recline on a lounge chair instead.

“I don’t want people to freak out about it … I would tell people you take your chances. You’re going to the developing world, this is one of things that you may have to contend with.”

Couple returns home from Aruba to find luggage burned

Brandon Rowe, News Staff | posted Tuesday, Jan 30th, 2018

No amount of sunscreen could have prevented this vacation burn.

A Bradford couple claims they returned home from Aruba on Saturday night to find their luggage badly burned, with some of their clothes inside even melted together.

The couple first noticed something was amiss when they spotted their suitcase rounding the carousel at Pearson Airport wrapped in plastic.

After hauling it off and unwrapping the plastic they noticed the burn damage.

The couple didn’t want to appear on camera but told CityNews they were left with few answers from Sunwing Airlines.

Sunwing told CityNews it was aware of the damage and was willing to provide compensation through the appropriate channels.

“Our ground services team at Toronto Pearson International Airport has confirmed that one item of luggage was reported as damaged upon arrival on yesterday’s inbound flight from Aruba,” a Sunwing representative said in an email statement to CityNews.

Sunwing believes that luggage was damaged on the sortation conveyor belt in Aruba.

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“Our policy, once a claim is made, is to offer our passengers a replacement for their suitcase and any damaged items within it when incidents such as this one occur,” the airline said.

Air passenger rights advocate, Gabor Lukacs, says in cases like this Sunwing could be liable for damage up to $2000.

He also had some advice for passengers who finds themselves in similar situations.

“When you’re baggage is damaged you should report it, if possible, at the airport when you arrive,” he advised. “And certainly within seven days in writing. Don’t just phone. Make sure you send a letter of complaint, setting out the date, the nature of the damage, perhaps some photos …within seven days of your arrival.”

2 on-duty Toronto officers ate weed edibles seized from raid: Source

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Jan 30th, 2018

Two Toronto police officers ate marijuana edibles that were seized during a dispensary raid on Saturday night, a source tells CityNews.

The two officers were not in uniform when they allegedly consumed the weed edibles, but were on duty, the source said.

CityNews has learned one of the officers is Const. Vittorio Dominelli. He and another officer allegedly consumed the marijuana at 13 Division, located near Allen Road and Eglinton Avenue West.

But the buzz was anything but mellow. Instead, the officers began to hallucinate, with one of them eventually putting out a distress call for help. One of the responding officers slipped on ice and had to be treated for a head injury, while both the intoxicated officers were treated at hospital.

Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said he was aware of the allegations and police spokesperson Mark Pugash said two officers from 13 Division are being investigated by the Professional Standard’s Unit, but he wouldn’t say what for.

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