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Anthony Bourdain has died, CNN reports

News Staff | posted Friday, Jun 8th, 2018

Chef and Emmy-winning television host Anthony Bourdain has died at the age of 61, CNN reports.

Bourdain, who was the host of the network’s Parts Unknown, reportedly took his own life.

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” CNN said in a statement on Friday.

“His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”

Ontario election: Ford motors PCs to majority, Liberals lose official party status

Michael Talbot | posted Friday, Jun 8th, 2018

 

Doug Ford will be Ontario’s next premier, leading the Progressive Conservatives to a majority government in a stunning shift of power as the Liberals lost official party status on Thursday night.

A beaming Ford addressed his raucous supporters following his victory, saying he would get right to work to put more money in taxpayers’ pockets.

“We have taken back Ontario,” he said to chants of “Doug! Doug! Doug!”

“We have delivered a government that is for the people and will respect your hard earned tax dollars. And my friends, the party with your hard earned tax dollars is over. It’s done!”

“Tonight, we have sent a clear message to the world: Ontario is open for business.”

Ford’s opponents criticized him for not releasing a fully-costed platform, but Ontarians took a leap of faith, clearing the path for the first PC victory in Ontario since 1999.

Echoing U.S. president Donald Trump, Ford promised to usher in “an era of economic growth and prosperity the likes of which the province has never seen before.”

“My friends, a new day has dawned in Ontario,” he said, his voice quivering. “We are going to turn this province around so our children and their children will always be proud to call Ontario home.”

It was a disastrous night for the Ontario Liberals, who failed to secure the eight seats necessary to maintain official party status, falling one seat short. Several prominent cabinet ministers also lost their seats as voters punished the Liberals for a scandalous stretch that saw hydro bills soar.

Despite her party’s dismal results on Thursday, Wynne managed to win her seat in Don Valley West. But it was small consolation and a glum Wynne announced that she was stepping down as Liberal party Leader.

“I am resigning as the Leader of the Ontario Liberal party,” Wynne said, choking up. “I have spoken to the party president and asked him to start the process of choosing an interim leader. It is the right thing to do,” she added. “There is another generation and I am passing the torch to that generation.”

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After Wynne announced her resignation, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath celebrated a breakthrough night.

“I am deeply humbled that Ontarians have asked us to serve as the new Official Opposition,” she beamed to a cheering sea of orange.

“Today millions of people voted for change for the better. We have won more seats than we have held in a generation.”

Despite falling short after late polls showed her neck-and-neck with Ford, Horwath said she was pleased with the result and proud of the NDP party.

“We rejected the politics of fear and cynicism and we put hope and vision for a better future at the heart of our campaign … and Ontarians responded like never before!”

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Thursday’s resounding PC victory caps a more than month-long campaign that saw Ford’s focus shift from arch-rival Wynne — to Horwath, whose surging popularity became a serious threat down the stretch.

With Horwath often polling as the most popular of the main three party leaders, Ford began attacking her candidates, calling them “radicals” who were ill-prepared to form a competent cabinet.

Polls heading into the final stretch showed Ford and Horwath in a virtual dead heat while Wynne humbly admitted defeat, urging Ontarians to vote Liberal to prevent a Conservative or NDP majority.

It didn’t work as Ford’s populist message resonated with an electorate thirsty for change after a scandal-plagued 15-year Liberal reign.

It’s not the first time a Ford has catapulted from punchline to powerhouse.

Doug’s brother, the late Rob Ford, was widely dismissed when he announced he was running for mayor of Toronto in March 2010.

But the long-time city councillor’s promise to “stop the gravy train” and put an end to government misspending saw him elected with nearly 50 per cent of the vote.

Doug Ford didn’t stray far from his brother’s popular mantras. His campaign slogan was “For The People” and he promised to lower corporate and small business taxes, slice the gas tax by 10 cents, and cut dreaded hydro bills by 12 per cent while returning Hydro One dividends to families.

“I know that my brother Rob is looking down from heaven,” an emotional Ford said during his victory speech.

 

How Kathleen Wynne ran out of energy with Ontario voters

Michael Talbot | posted Friday, Jun 8th, 2018

From the gas plant scandal to soaring hydro bills, Kathleen Wynne’s tenure as premier was largely defined by energy. On election night, Ontarians emphatically pulled the plug.

Wynne’s Liberals were dramatically cast aside by voters on Thursday night, falling to a distant third place and losing official party status after 15 years in power. 

Shortly after Doug Ford’s beaming victory speech, Wynne tearfully announced that she was stepping down as party Leader, saying it was time to “pass the torch” to the next generation after her party’s dismal performance at the polls.

It was an ignominious fall from grace for Wynne, a pioneering politician who became the first female and openly gay premier when she was sworn in on February 11, 2013.

McGuinty’s shadow

The October 2012 resignation of Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty may have cleared the path for Wynne to become premier, but it was also a path littered with her predecessor’s past controversies.

McGuinty stepped down amid outcries from the Opposition over several scandals at Queen’s Park. Union activists and teachers were furious over having contracts imposed on them, the Ornge air ambulance spending scandal was making headlines, and the costly 2011 cancellations of two GTA power plants would prove to be a stubborn thorn in the party’s side for years to come.

Despite those significant obstacles, Wynne took on her new role as premier with great optimism.

“We are going to be very clear with the people of Ontario that we understand where there were missteps and where we need to go forward,” she said at the time.

But the past would prove difficult to erase, and the gas plant scandal that the auditor general determined cost taxpayers $1.1 billion continued to haunt her.

Under searing questioning Wynne apologized for the scandal on behalf of the party, but maintained that she had nothing to do with the cancellations, or the subsequent deletion of emails that sparked an OPP probe.

That didn’t stop PC Leader Tim Hudak from trying to implicate her leading up the 2014 election.

“This is more Kathleen Wynne’s scandal than [former premier] Dalton McGuinty’s now,” Hudak said. “She oversaw and possibly ordered the criminal destruction of documents to cover up the gas plant scandal.”

Wynne steadfastly maintained her innocence.

“These allegations and accusations are false and utterly unsupported, and you ought to know it,” Wynne wrote in an open letter to Hudak.

Wynne ended up launching a $2 million lawsuit against Hudak, and MPP Lisa MacLeod, for libel.

She would later drop the suit.

Despite the stench of scandal that had enveloped the Liberal party, Ontarians were still willing to give Wynne a chance, and on June 12, 2014, the Liberals went from a minority to majority government, with Wynne defeating the NDP’s Andrea Horwath and her rival Hudak, who foolishly vowed to eliminate 100,000 public service jobs if elected.

Hydro Jolt

McGuinty’s former chief of staff, David Livingstone, was ultimately found guilty on two criminal charges related to the destruction of documents in the gas plants case and sentenced to four months in prison. Neither McGuinty nor Wynne were implicated in the criminal probe.

It provided a sense of closure to an ugly stretch for the Ontario Liberal party.

But it wasn’t the end of Wynne’s struggle to earn the trust of voters.

While the gas plant scandal was largely an inherited one, she couldn’t pass the buck when it came to surging hydro bills.

Whether left, right, or somewhere in between, Ontarians of all political leanings had one thing in common under the Wynne government — their hydro bills went up.

A Fraser Institute study titled Evaluating Electricity Price Growth in Ontario found that hydro prices in the province were rising at rates that far outpaced other provinces. Between 2015 and 2016 they spiked by 15 per cent — more than two-and-a-half times the national average.

“The problem of skyrocketing electricity prices and high bills is a made-in-Ontario problem directly tied to the provincial government’s policy choices,” the report stated. “It is time for the Ontario government to have a hard look at how their policy choices are affecting peoples’ lives.”

Adding fuel to the collective ire was the Wynne government’s decision to partially privatize Hydro One to raise funds for transit and infrastructure.

It proved to be wildly unpopular with voters.

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“It was my mistake”

Facing mounting anger and province-wide frustration, a contrite Wynne addressed the issue of surging hydro bills in November 2016.

It was a rare admission of culpability from a politician, but it did little sway the electorate back in her favour.

“People have told me that they’ve had to choose between paying the electricity bill and buying food or paying rent,” Wynne said.

“That is unacceptable to me. It is unacceptable that people in Ontario are facing that choice. Our government made a mistake. It was my mistake.”

She also vowed to find savings for Ontarians beyond the plan to cut the eight per cent HST from hydro bills.

Plummeting popularity

A March 2017 Angus Reid poll saw Wynne’s approval rating dip to a disastrous 12 per cent. It cited hydro privatization as one of the main factors affecting her popularity.

According to the poll more than eight in 10 Ontarians said they were opposed to the sale of Hydro One, with 76 per cent saying they expected the decision would lead to even higher hydro rates in the future.

According to the pollster, Wynne was now the least popular premier in the entire country.

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During the 2018 campaign trail, Wynne tried her best to highlight her many accomplishments.

“We’ve made such progress over the last five years,” she said during a campaign stop in Toronto. “We have an economy that’s thriving, we have low unemployment rates, record lows.”

She also vowed to forge on despite several polls that showed her in a distant third place behind the PCs and NDP.

“Am I going to give up? Absolutely not,” she said. “This is way too important that we continue to talk at the doors across this province about what we have done and what we can do going forward.”

But there would be no going forward for Wynne and she conceded defeat less than a week before election night, urging Ontarians to vote Liberal to prevent an NDP or PC majority.

“After Thursday, I will no longer be Ontario’s Premier. And I’m okay with that,” an emotional Wynne said.

The damage was done, and her own words back in 2016 seemed to highlight the mortal political sin that would prove unforgivable to voters thirsting for change.

“Standing before you today, I take responsibility as leader for not paying close enough attention to some of the daily stresses in Ontarians’ lives.”

 

Senators approve pot legalization bill with dozens of amendments

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jun 8th, 2018

The Senate has approved the Trudeau government’s landmark legislation to lift Canada’s 95-year-old prohibition on recreational cannabis – but with nearly four dozen amendments that the government may not entirely accept.

Bill C-45 passed in the upper house late Thursday by a vote of 56-30 with one abstention, over the objections of Conservative senators who remained resolutely opposed.

The bill must now go back to the House of Commons, where the government will decide whether to approve, reject or modify the changes before returning it to the Senate for another vote.

Once passed, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has said that provinces and territories will need two to three months to prepare before retail sales of legal cannabis are actually available.

Most of the Senate’s amendments are minor, but about a dozen are significant, including one to allow provinces to prohibit home cultivation of cannabis if they choose, rather than accept the four marijuana plants per dwelling allowed under the bill. Quebec and Manitoba have already chosen to prohibit home-grown weed, but the amendment would erase the possibility of legal challenges to their constitutional authority to do so.

Another amendment would impose even more stringent restrictions on advertising by cannabis companies, preventing them from promoting their brands on so-called swag, such as T-shirts and ball caps.

Yet another is aimed at recognizing that marijuana is often shared socially. It would make it a summary or ticketing offence for a young adult to share five grams or less of cannabis with a minor who is no more than two years younger and it would allow parents to share it with their kids, as they can with wine or alcohol.

Petitpas Taylor has so far refused to say how the government views the many amendments, but it appears to have given its blessing to at least 29 of them, which were proposed by the sponsor of the bill in the upper house, Sen. Tony Dean.

Prior to the vote, senators spent almost six hours giving impassioned, final pitches for and against legalization.

Conservative Sen. Dennis Patterson, who represents Nunavut, said “easy availability of this mind-numbing drug” will be devastating in remote areas where vulnerable Indigenous populations are already ravaged by addiction, mental health problems, violence and suicides.

“I believe, and I do fervently hope I’m wrong, that we will pay an intolerable price that we will regret,” Patterson said.

“There will be casualties. There will be mental illness. There will be brain damage. There will be deaths.”

But other senators argued that almost a century of criminalization has done nothing to stop Canadians, particularly young people, from using marijuana illegally and, thereby, creating a lucrative black market dominated by organized crime.

“There is one thing I know for certain,” said Liberal independent Sen. Art Eggleton. “Our current system is broken. It needs to be fixed.”

Independent Sen. Andre Pratte said C-45 takes a pragmatic approach to regulating cannabis that is preferably to continuing the failed war on drugs.

“Do we take a deep breath, close our eyes and stick with a demonstrably failed, hypocritical, unhealthy, prohibitionist approach of the past or do we move forward, eyes wide open, and choose the alternative? … I choose to open my eyes, rather than put on blinders,” he said.

Ontario election 2018: Your voter questions answered

News Staff | posted Thursday, Jun 7th, 2018

Ontarians head to the polls on June 7, and while some have already voted in advance polls, others will be doing so on election day. Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the voting process, as well as what’s new this year.

When do I vote?

Advance voting takes from May 10 until June 6 at 6 p.m. at your returning office. On election day, you can vote in-person from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET at your assigned voting location.

Who can vote?

You must be:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Canadian citizen
  • A resident of Ontario

Where do I vote?

The number of electoral districts has now increased from 107 to 124, which means your voting location may have changed from the last election in 2014. Elections Ontario provides a list of locations based on your postal code. Click here to find yours.

What do I need to vote?

Bring your Voter Information Card and a piece of identification that has your name on it. Examples of ID include:

  • Driver’s licence or Ontario photo card
  • Bank or credit card statement
  • Utility or phone bills
  • T4 slip or pay stub
  • Or any of the following listed on the Elections Ontario website:

What if I did not get my Voter Information Card?

If you are not on the voters’ list and did not receive a card, you will need to bring a piece of identification that indicates both your name as well as residential address. Originals, photocopies or electronic copies of identification documents are all acceptable as ID.

What if I am away from my riding?

If you are not able to vote in-person in your riding, you can vote by special ballot.You will need to complete an application form and provide a copy of your ID, either by mail, email, or fax. The application and ID must be received by Elections Ontario by 6 p.m. ET on June 1.

A special ballot officer will review your application and ID, and if it is approved, a special ballot kit will be mailed to you.

How do I decline my ballot?

You are expected to tell the election official you are declining your right to vote when they hand you a ballot. This must be stated publicly, out loud. The official will then write “declined” on your election documentation. The ballot will not be placed in the ballot box but rather in a separate envelope for declined ballots.

What’s new this year?

For the first time in a provincial election in Ontario, electronic poll books (e-poll books) and vote tabulators are being used across the province. Elections Ontario says the new technology should help speed up both the voting and ballot-counting process.

How do I vote?

When you show up at a polling station, a machine will scan your registration card. Then you will receive a ballot from an official, fill it out and hand it back to the official operating the tabulator, who will put it through the tabulating machine.

Will the electoral official see my ballot?

No. On its website, Elections Ontario says after you mark your ballot, you will place it in a secrecy folder.

The person operating the tabulator will then feed the ballot face down into the tabulating machine.

How are the votes tabulated?

Vote tabulators electronically count each ballot and a report with the results is printed after polls close at 9 p.m. ET.

Can I take a selfie with my ballot?

Absolutely not. Taking a picture of a completed ballot, whether it is yours or someone else’s, is a violation of the Election Act. You are also not permitted to publish the photo on social media or elsewhere.

Ontario could see a seismic political shift in today’s provincial election

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jun 7th, 2018

Ontario goes to the polls today in an election that could see a seismic political shift if Doug Ford’s Tories beat out the NDP, their closest rival, and win a majority government, as the latest polls suggest.

Either way, the vote will bring an end to 15 years of Liberal government, as Premier Kathleen Wynne herself admitted last week in a stunning announcement.

The Progressive Conservatives and the NDP have polled neck and neck for most of the campaign, with the Tories giving up a strong lead they held at the beginning. But a tie in popular support could lead to the Tories winning a majority of seats, projections suggest.

As Tory leader, Ford rolled out several popular promises, from cutting gas prices by 10 cents a litre to introducing buck-a-beer to cutting hydro bills. But he was accused of failing to be transparent by dodging calls to release a fully costed platform.

With about one week left in the campaign, the party published a list of promises and their price tags, but didn’t indicate how they would pay for them, what size of deficits they would run or for exactly how long.

Then in the waning days of the campaign, Ford family drama — that had laid mostly dormant in the public sphere since the death of his brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford — burst onto the scene with a lawsuit from Rob Ford’s widow alleging Ford mishandled his brother’s estate and destroyed the value of the family business.

Late in the campaign, to soothe wary voters, Ford also began emphasizing the strength of his team,which includes former long-time legislator Christine Elliott, lawyer and businesswoman Caroline Mulroney and former Postmedia executive and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. CEO Rod Phillips.

By contrast, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath consistently polled as the most popular of the three party leaders, so Ford repeatedly slammed her roster of candidates as radical and inexperienced.

The Liberals warned that the NDP’s plan was not practical, gleefully pointing out mathematical errors in their platform, including one that increased their proposed deficit by $1.4 billion annually. Wynne also frequently slammed Horwath’s opposition to back-to-work legislation, saying it would lead to indefinite strikes.

Horwath made a pitch to undecided voters Wednesday, framing the ballot as a “stark” choice between her positive plan to help families create better lives and the cost-cutting proposals of Ford.

The NDP has been relegated for the past several decades to holding pockets of seats in the north, southwestern Ontario and Toronto. But party insiders say their number crunching shows them poised to capture seats in broader swaths of the province, eyeing several Liberal strongholds.

The Liberals came to power in 2003 under Dalton McGuinty, and when he stepped down in 2013, Wynne took the reins. She led the party to a majority in 2014, despite the party already being bogged down by scandals at eHealth Ontario, air ambulance service Ornge and a price tag of up to $1.1 billion to cancel two gas plants.

But her popularity began to soon dip, and reached well below 20 per cent in 2016 and 2017, in large part due to anger over rising hydro prices.

The Liberals eventually cut bills by eight per cent, then another 17 per cent months later, but by her own admission, Wynne failed to recognize early enough the impacts that investments in the energy system were having on people’s wallets.

She also faced criticism over her partial privatization of Hydro One and her decision to plunge the province’s books back into the red after finally getting them to balance in 2017-18.

Wynne insisted that the billions it pumped into health care, child care and a drug and dental-care program was necessary spending.

Wynne spent the last few days of the campaign pleading with voters to at least elect some Liberals _ party insiders say they are worried they could win fewer than eight seats, which would mean a loss of official party status in the legislature.

What happens if the Liberals lose official party status

Amanda Ferguson | posted Thursday, Jun 7th, 2018

It could be a new dawn for the Liberal Party on June 8. And eight is the magic number.

If recent polls hold true, the Liberals look poised to go from governing party to losing their official party status. Any less than eight seats, and everything could change. Veteran political observer Bob Richardson says it would be like cutting off the party’s political oxygen.

“You don’t get to have a regular question period or be on legislative committees automatically,” says Richardson. “The media at Queen’s Park don’t necessarily follow what you’re saying. If you have eight members or above, you get money for research, you get stakeholder outreach and you have a caucus service bureau. If you don’t get eight members, you don’t get that.”

As Richardson suggests, losing official party status could mean major financial troubles for the Liberals. They are the ones that introduced a new annual subsidy to the parties in 2016, worth $2.71 per vote they received in the last election. The annual amount each party receives will change in 2019 based on the results of Thursday’s vote.

If they receive 20 per cent of the vote as pollsters predict, their funding would be cut in half to $2.5 million from about $5 million annually. It’s a loss that Richardson says would put them in precarious financial situation.

“That may be something if it’s a minority parliament,” he says. “You can bet that will be on the agenda for discussion because it’s important for the Liberals’ survival that they get that money.”

The Ontario Liberals wouldn’t be the first to go from governing party to having no official party status. In the 1993 federal election, the governing Progressive Conservatives dropped to just two seats from 154 with Kim Campbell.

They, of course, took 13 years to rebuild with Stephen Harper at the helm.

Party leaders make final-day pitch to undecided Ontario voters

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jun 7th, 2018

Ontario’s main party leaders used the final day of the provincial election campaign to make a last pitch to those voters still sitting on the fence.

They warned of the economic perils of voting for their rivals, while playing up the social and fiscal advantages of voting for their parties.

True to much of her campaign, the NDP’s Andrea Horwath framed the ballot as a “stark” choice between her positive plan to help families create better lives and the cost-cutting proposals of Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives.

“Mr Ford’s plan is one that makes the rich even richer, will cut our public services and cause families to struggle even more,” Horwath said Wednesday in east-end Toronto, where the NDP hopes to nab some seats. “What I would say to folks is this: We can change our province for the better.”

Ford echoed Horwath’s message that voters have clear options in front of them, though he urged Ontarians to opt for his party.

“They’re going to have a very clear choice here,” he said in Burlington, Ont. “They’re either going to vote for the NDP that will destroy our economy, or they will vote for a PC government that will create prosperity in this province.”

The most recent polls suggest Horwath and Ford are running in a virtual tie, although vote distribution could favour the Tories. The Liberals, in office since 2003, have been lagging badly, surveys suggest.

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has already acknowledged her party won’t return to power, has been urging voters to deny either Horwath or Ford a majority by electing at least some members of her own party.

In an interview with 680 NEWS political affairs specialist John Stall on Wednesday morning, Wynne said she will continue to warn voters against giving either of the other two parties a majority. Stall also asked Wynne if she will resign on Thursday, should things end up bleak for her and her party.

“My hope is, my sincere hope is, that I will retain my seat and that I’ll be able to continue to represent the people of Don Valley West. I’ve worked hard for them and I want to continue to do that. In terms of the leadership, I really need to see the numbers tomorrow, think about the timing, but I will have more to say about that tomorrow night,” Wynne said.

Wynne has taken some fierce shots at the NDP by portraying them as rigid left-wing ideologues, and at the Tories for being hell-bent on slashing services while refusing to put out a proper election platform.

“There has been such a disruptive influence by having a leader of the Conservatives that really hasn’t laid out what he would do,” Wynne said. “People are still trying to decide.”

Ford’s lack of platform clarity and the sharp attacks from both Wynne and Horwath on one another has left some voters wondering whether it’s worth even casting a ballot.

Sean Evans, who lives in downtown Toronto, said he might simply abstain from voting. Despite being a life-long Conservative, Evans said he had little time for Ford, but no more time for either Horwath or Wynne.

“(Ford) makes a lot of statements about what he’s going to do without the facts to back it up or a plan to get there without making pretty severe cuts, (but) the NDP are the Liberals in terms of spending their way out of everything,” Evans said.

“I would like to see an option come up where if the majority says, ‘do it over again because we don’t want any of them,’ then that’s what I would select.”

Asked whether the campaign has been nastier than usual, Horwath side-stepped by insisting her NDP is offering a message of hope to Ontario families, better health care, better child care, better prospects for working people.

“There’s been a lot of lies, there’s been that negative, negative tone, lots of accusations being flung my way,” said the veteran Hamilton politician now on her third campaign as NDP leader. “I’m trying to stay focused on people … I’m a tough cookie, a Steeltown Scrapper, so I can handle it.”

Wynne called elections partisan by nature. But even as she has denounced her rivals, she said she hoped the province would pull together after what has been a divisive campaign. However, she conceded that might prove difficult.

“Some of the tone and tenor of this campaign, which has been pretty negative at many points, makes it harder to get to that place where in between elections we actually think about the broader issues,” Wynne said.

Kevin Lee, another Toronto resident, said he definitely planned on voting but would likely make his choice at the polling station.

“I’ll make up my mind by then for sure”

– with files from Nicole Thompson, Paola Loriggio and Shawn Jeffords.

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