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Competition Bureau takes on Ticketmaster, Live Nation over alleged deceptive pricing

CityNews | posted Friday, Jan 26th, 2018

Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. allegedly used a deceptive practice known as “drip pricing” that saw customers pay sometimes more than 65 per cent above advertised costs, the Competition Bureau said Thursday.

The law enforcement watchdog filed an application with the Competition Tribunal, asking it to end the alleged practice and make the companies pay an administrative monetary penalty.

Findings from its investigation allege that Ticketmaster’s advertised prices deceived consumers by adding more mandatory costs – like service fees, facility charges or order processing fees, depending on the ticket – later on in the purchasing process.

This so-called drip pricing allegedly caused consumers to pay much higher prices than advertised.

“Ticketmaster’s mandatory fees often inflate the advertised price by more than 20 per cent and, in some cases, by over 65 per cent,” the bureau said.

In its filings, the bureau said it’s misleading to reveal the true cost of tickets after fans use the original price representation to decide which seats to buy. Consumers often don’t want to lose their tickets once they learn the truth, the document reads, and in certain cases the companies use a countdown clock that increases pressure on consumers to finish their purchase.

In Quebec, where provincial law makes all-inclusive pricing mandatory, the companies do not use drip pricing, the filing said.

“This model demonstrates that the internet buying process can be structured in a way that is transparent and not misleading,” the document reads, adding that companies choose not to use this model elsewhere in Canada.

A statement from Ticketmaster said that it “remains committed to getting tickets into the hands of fans and has long practised transparency to enable informed purchasing decisions.”

The ticket sales and distribution company added it is working closely with provincial governments to enhance consumer protection.

Live Nation did not immediately responded to a request for comment.

In July, the bureau asked sports and entertainment ticket vendors to review their marketing practices and display the full price up front.

“Together, these actions send a strong signal to online retailers: consumers must have confidence that advertised prices are the ones they will pay,” Commissioner of Competition John Pecman said in a statement.

One of the Competition Bureau’s roles is to promote truth in advertising by discouraging deceptive business practices. The watchdog has previously called this “a priority.”

The case against the ticket sellers is consistent with action that the bureau has taken in other industries dating as far back as 2011, said Anita Banicevic, a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP in Toronto.

That year, the bureau reached an agreement with Bell Canada over what it said were misleading representations about the prices offered for Bell services due to additional mandatory fees. The telecom agreed to pay $10 million.

Since then, the bureau’s applied its view that such mandatory fees should be included in advertised prices in cases against companies in a range of industries, Banicevic said.

In recent years, the bureau reached agreements with multiple car rental companies to resolve concerns over their use of drip pricing.

In June 2016, Aviscar Inc. and Budgetcar Inc. agreed to pay a $3 million administrative monetary penalty and $250,000 towards the bureau’s investigative costs after an investigation found mandatory fees disclosed later when making a car reservation could boost the price by five to 20 per cent over the one originally advertised, a bureau statement said.

In April 2017, the bureau reached an agreement with Hertz Canada Ltd. and Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Canada Inc., according to another statement. The companies agreed to pay a total of $1.25 million after an investigation found their advertised low prices were unattainable because mandatory fees boosted them by 10 to 57 per cent.

“All of the cases the bureau has brought in this area with respect to the disclosure of fees have to date been settled,” said Banicevic, with the exception of an ongoing case against Leon’s Furniture Ltd. and The Brick Ltd. that is still before the courts.

2 new homeless shelters, 1 permanent, to open in Toronto this weekend

CityNews | posted Friday, Jan 26th, 2018

Toronto is opening two new winter respite services this weekend which will be able to shelter up to 200 homeless people.

The announcement comes as the Moss Park Armoury is set to close on Monday.

At a news conference on Thursday, Coun. Joe Cressy announced a shelter will open at 348 Davenport Rd., near Dupont Street, on Saturday at 4 p.m.

After April 15, the site will be renovated as an accessible permanent shelter with up to 90 beds, and health and other support services.

The province has also made 354 George St. available until April 15. The site, which will be operated by Homes First Society, will begin accepting the homeless by 10 a.m. on Sunday.

The city will provide transportation to the two sites or other shelter beds for those staying at the Moss Park Armoury.

“Working to ensure these locations are located seamlessly in communities, and are part of their communities, is a collective effort which requires the cooperation and the sensitivity of every single Torontonian just as it is the responsibility

The city continues to grapple with expanding shelter spaces for the homeless, especially during the cold winter months. Critics have said there is a lack of adequate shelter for the homeless, which prompted both the City of Toronto and its ombudsman to launch formal investigations.

On Tuesday, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the province is working with the city toimprove access to health services for people who are homeless or using shelters. Toronto is beginning with a project in five new shelters across the city that will provide more than 300 beds to vulnerable people with often complex health needs.

The new initiative comes at a crucial time as concerns are being raised over how the shelters are dealing with the health issues of the homeless.

On Wednesday, a man died after an outbreak of the what appears to be flu at Seaton House — Toronto’s largest homeless shelter. The cause of the man’s death has not been confirmed but it’s believed he was among 28 people at the shelter who have exhibited flu-like symptoms.

The city is also investigating after a homeless man was sent to hospital from the Moss Park Armoury shelter on Sunday.

Man charged with murder of 2 missing men was barred from Gay Village

CityNews | posted Friday, Jan 26th, 2018

A 66-year-old charged with the murder of two missing men last week had been barred from Toronto’s Gay Village due to an assault almost two decades ago.

Bruce McArthur was arrested and charged with first-degree murder last week in the deaths of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen, and police believe there are more victims.

Court documents show almost 17 years ago, on Oct. 31, 2001, McArthur assaulted a man with a metal pipe.

He was convicted in 2003 and received a conditional sentence of two years less a day and three years’ probation.

As part of the sentence — except for work and medical appointments — McArthur was barred for three years from an area bounded by Bloor Street to the north, College and Carlton streets to the south, Sherbourne Street to the east and University Avenue to the west — an area encompassing the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood.

He was ordered not to have contact with his victim, or any male prostitute, or go near the victim’s home. Plus he had to undergo psychological counselling, including anger management, and provide a DNA sample.

McArthur was banned from possessing weapons for 10 years — including firearms, crossbows, ammunition or explosive substances — and ordered to abstain from non-prescription drugs, including amylnitrate or “poppers.”

Selim Esen, 44, went missing near Yonge and Bloor streets on April 14, 2017. Andrew Kinsman, 49, was last seen near Parliament and Winchester streets on June 26, 2017. Their bodies have not been found.

McArthur remains in custody and will appear in court on Feb. 14 by video link.

Senior politicians step aside, prompt MPs to reflect on changing attitudes

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jan 26th, 2018

The swift sidelining of two prominent politicians jolted MPs into reflecting Thursday on the societal shift in attitudes about allegations of sexual impropriety, and how to ensure their parties handle the issue in the best possible way.

Patrick Brown resigned as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives after CTV News reported that two women have come forward with graphic sexual misconduct allegations against him _ allegations he denies.

The Brown case prompted a woman who once worked at the Alberta legislature to state publicly that Liberal MP Kent Hehr made sexually suggestive comments about her when he was an MLA a decade ago _ an accusation that cost him his job as sport and disabilities minister, pending the outcome of an investigation.

Harassment of any kind is unacceptable, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

“As a government we take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and we believe that it is important to support women who come forward with allegations and that is exactly what our government will do.”

For his part, Hehr echoed the sentiment, saying the current conversation about harassment is a very important one.

“Throughout my career I have always tried to conduct myself with respect towards others, and I understand the most important thing is how each individual feels.”

Earlier Thursday, Trudeau applauded the courage of those who levelled allegations of sexual misconduct against Brown.

“My thoughts turn immediately to the women who came forward, knowing how difficult it can be, to salute them for their courage and their leadership,” the prime minister said at a news conference wrapping up his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Trudeau said he hopes the women who have spoken out about Brown retain support among their friends, families and communities at large.

“I certainly hope their example will resonate.”

Brown was a Conservative backbencher under Prime Minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2015, when he stepped down to run for leader of the Ontario PC party.

Current federal party leader Andrew Scheer said the allegations against Brown must be investigated fully.

At a caucus meeting in Victoria, Scheer said he never heard any allegation of any kind about Brown, until now.

“I certainly invite anybody who feels that they have been a victim of these types of things in the past to reach out to our office. We’ll certainly do our best to make sure that any program or service that could be made available to them will be,” Scheer said.

“I’m encouraged by the spirit that this is happening now, where you have all-party agreement in the House of Commons to deal with these issues seriously.”

Brown “did the right thing” in stepping down, said Ontario Conservative MP Lisa Raitt.

Fellow Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu said she believed the provincial party should take the lead on the Brown issue, but added the federal party would also likely become involved since Brown was an MP at the time of the alleged incidents.

Conservative MP Tony Clement was more blunt, calling the behaviour utterly unacceptable.

“Our staff had to be treated with dignity and respect. We should always keep our policies and procedures respectful.”

Clement said he expected the federal party to have “more discussions about this.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also said Brown was right to resign based on the serious nature of the allegations.

“With Mr. Hehr, I don’t know. I don’t know the details to that extent. What I do know is you have to believe survivors. That’s the starting point.”

Trudeau has repeatedly said his government has zero-tolerance for sexual misconduct, and he used his keynote address at the World Economic Forum earlier this week to urge companies and politicians to do more to confront the problem.

“Me Too, Time’s Up, the Women’s March – these movements tell us that we need to have a critical discussion on women’s rights, equality, and the power dynamics of gender,” Trudeau said Tuesday.

“Sexual harassment, for example – in business and in government – is a systemic problem and it is unacceptable. As leaders, we need to act to show that truly, time is up.”

Ontario Tories to pick interim leader on Friday

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jan 26th, 2018

TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives say they will select an interim leader on Friday to replace Patrick Brown, who stepped down amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

 

The party’s deputy leaders would not say, however, whether the person they choose would lead them in the scheduled June election or if a leadership race would be held before then, saying only that caucus members would need to have those discussions.

Deputy leader Sylvia Jones says the party is moving on and is focused on getting ready for the campaign.

Brown announced he was stepping down in a statement issued early Thursday morning, following a hastily called news conference in which he “categorically” denied what he called “troubling allegations” about his conduct and his character.

The allegations, which have not been proven in court, were made by two women who spoke to CTV News.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, meanwhile, says she will not seek a snap election, noting that it’s too early to know what impact Brown’s resignation will have on the province’s political landscape.

The premier would not comment specifically on the allegations levelled against Brown but broadly denounced sexual assault and harassment.

When asked if she would consider changing the date of the provincial election, she said: “No. This is not about politics.”

“I think that many of us feel very shaken by what we heard last night,” Wynne said. “There are obviously lots of political questions that are going to come forward. I honestly feel that right now I’m thinking about this in my role as a mother, as a daughter, as a community leader.”

“It is really, really important that we understand how deeply troubling this is to human beings, to people. This is a human problem…this is about creating safety.”

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also said there was more at stake than the upcoming election.

“This is not about me and it’s not about my campaign,” she said. “This is about women coming forward and calling out behaviour that they experienced and I have to say I was pretty disgusted by what I heard in terms of their story.”

Ontario school board restores funding to produce play depicting gay teen couple

Peter Cameron, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jan 25th, 2018

A southwestern Ontario school board says it has reversed a decision to pull funding from a local youth theatre program over a play depicting the true story of a gay teen couple fighting to attend prom.

The Thames Valley District School Board says it will restore its $15,000 sponsorship of the Grand Theatre’s production of “Prom Queen,” which officials had earlier said contained inappropriate content.

Organizers of the Grand Theatre’s High School Project in London, Ont., said last week they were disappointed when the Thames Valley District School Board and the London Catholic District School Board decided to withhold a combined $30,000 from the theatre’s production of the play.

The London District Catholic School Board said Wednesday in a statement that it would not be reversing its decision.

The Grand Theatre’s board of directors says a community-driven fundraising effort has raised enough money for the project to go ahead without the support of the Catholic board.

It says as a result of the community support, it will offer two student matinees, completely free of charge to students.

“We want to assure donors that the funds raised will be used exclusively to support the 2018 High School Project, a program that costs $250,000 to produce annually,” it said.

The Thames Valley District School Board said it would be requiring parental permission for any student attending a performance of “Prom Queen” and that schools would be required to notify parents of the nature of the play’s subject matter and language.

“The play’s use of adult themes, stereotypes and offensive language were considered inappropriate for the High School Project, whose audience has traditionally included thousands of elementary school children,” it said.

The board said guidelines will be developed for staff to determine the play’s suitability for different grade levels and materials will be developed for pre- and post-play discussions with students to help them understand the play’s context and content.

“I am delighted our administration has listened to the concerns of the community and has reconsidered its decision,” board chair Matt Reid said in a statement. “The play is part of an uncomfortable conversation that we must have.”

Every year, Grand Theatre’s High School Project helps about 70 London secondary students produce and star in a stage musical.

“Prom Queen,” the play chosen for 2018, tells the true story of Marc Hall, an Oshawa, Ont., high school student who took the Durham Catholic District School Board to court in 2002 and won the right to bring his boyfriend to prom.

“This is a Canadian musical about true events that happened to high school students, when one boy stood up and said, ‘I can make a difference in the world,’ and (succeeded),” Grand Theatre artistic director Dennis Garnhum said.

Privacy breaches paving way for new frontier of cyberwarfare: expert

CityNews | posted Thursday, Jan 25th, 2018

Amid news North Korean hackers targeted Ontario transportation agency Metrolinx, a security expert said he believes the next global wars will be fought online.

 

Cyber expert Mick Bhinder with IamI Authentications said when it comes to online threats, privacy is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I have to ask the question if it was a distraction,” he said. “I would ask the question and investigate (if it) was Metrolinx as the specific identified target or if it was an opportunity. Often hackers scour and run across the Internet looking for vulnerabilities, looking for points in.”

Metrolinx said the cyberattack did not access its safety systems or computer systems that operate its trains.

The agency said it was able to stop the malware attack, and no private information was breached.

Spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins said the company is constantly updating its systems which are built to detect viruses like this one.

But Bhinder said even though the North Korean breach was thwarted, the public needs to stay vigilant and educated about the very real threat that could be caused by cyber breaches.

“Today’s real concern is what could hackers do to cause chaos, harm and a lot of grievance,” he said. “Hospital networks, power grids, policing system or networks, and it goes all the way from societal infrastructure services all the way down to banking, public services and retail.

“The list doesn’t stop. Not to paint a bad picture — the reality is we are all vulnerable.”

Tourist in your own town: Locals share their Toronto secrets

CityNews | posted Thursday, Jan 25th, 2018

Anyone who’s travelled knows what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange town. You can feel a bit lost, trudging from tourist trap to tourist trap snapping pics while locals snicker and saunter to all those secret spots that give a city its true character.

 

Visitors to Toronto, and there’s a lot of them, could use a hand.

So we asked you, along with CityNews reporters and staff, to think outside the box, and share some of your local gems.

Here’s some friendly advice for how to have an authentic Toronto experience.

 

 

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