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Doug Ford to cut Toronto city council by almost half: report

News Staff | posted Friday, Jul 27th, 2018

The Ontario government is planning to cut the number of seats on Toronto city council by almost half, according to a report in the Toronto Star.

The Star cited Conservative sources who say legislation will be tabled as early as Monday to reduce the number of councillors from 47 to just 25.

The move would re-draw ward boundaries to match federal and provincial ridings.

The report comes on the eve of a deadline for candidates to register for the municipal election on Oct. 22.

Premier Doug Ford has scheduled a news conference for Friday morning, just hours before the 2 p.m. cutoff.

Mayor John Tory’s spokesman said Tory had spoken with Ford Thursday evening and would also be making a comment Friday morning.

“This is unprecedented, anti-democratic and reckless,” Coun. Josh Matlow said on Facebook. “Premier Ford would be cancelling local elections after they’ve already started, ignoring elected council decisions, candidates have already received donations & are knocking at doors. Chaos is never good for a healthy democracy.”

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam said the move would only concentrate power further.

“Amalgamation in 1996 disenfranchised the legacy cities and residents by centralizing power,” she said on Twitter. “Any further erosion will destroy our democracy.”

However, some councillors expressed support for Ford.

The Star’s sources say the move could save as much as $25 million, though that number hasn’t been confirmed.

The overhaul goes against a review from 2016 that found increasing the number of wards to 47 from 44 is essential for effective representation.

Ford, meanwhile, is also reportedly planning to cancel regional chair elections in Peel and York.

Such a move would put a damper on the political redemption hopes of Patrick Brown, whom Ford replaced as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

Brown, who stepped down as Tory leader in January amid allegations of sexual misconduct that he denies, had thrown his hat into the ring to become the chair of Peel Region.

Ontario opposition leader Andrea Horwath called the move “chilling” and accused him of having “cooked up a backroom plot.”

“It appears that Doug Ford cooked up a backroom plot to use his new power to meddle in municipal elections. He didn’t campaign on it. He didn’t consult people on it,’ she said in a statement released Thursday night.

“It’s clear that Mr. Ford wants a smaller number of councillors to have more power, fewer checks and balances, and less accountability. This is obviously a move to make it easier for the premier to control Toronto City Hall.

“The actions we hear Mr. Ford plans to take not only mean less accountability and transparency at City Hall, but that each Torontonian will have less help and less access to their city councillor.

“And reports that Mr. Ford is cancelling elections in which his political enemies are running – elections for the chairs of the York and Peel regions – are deeply chilling. ”

Representatives for the Progressive Conservative government did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Thursday.

Ontario government now wants to privatize marijuana sales: report

News Staff | posted Friday, Jul 27th, 2018

The LCBO will reportedly no longer have a monopoly on the sale of recreational marijuana when it becomes legal this October.

According to a report by the Globe and Mail, the Ontario PC government will instead turn to private retailers with licenses granted by the LCBO.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Attorney-General Caroline Mulroney are reportedly expected to make the announcement as early as next week.

This comes just three months before the first Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) is scheduled to open.

Last September, the province announced it plans to open 150 standalone stores to sell legalized marijuana by 2020, with the first 40 slated to open this summer.

Job postings for the OCS have already been online for several months.

A number of illegal cannabis shops are already running in Toronto and, in many cases, have been the targets of multiple raids by police.

This weekend is all about fun in Toronto

PATRICIA D'CUNHA AND SAMANTHA KNIGHT | posted Friday, Jul 27th, 2018

Fun is what everyone in Toronto needs this weekend. There is so much going on that you won’t be bored for even one moment.

It is a given that there will be TTC and road closures, so plan ahead for those. But don’t let that stop you from heading out.


Events

A run with a view
Lace up your sneakers for the Toronto Carnival Run along the Martin Goodman Trail on Saturday morning. The Caribbean-inspired event takes place one week ahead of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, along the same route. It kicks off at 8 a.m. from Sir Casimir Gzowski Park. The race offers a one-kilometre kids’ run, five-kilometre run/walk, and a 10-kilometre run/walk. Awards will be handed out for the top finishers.

Best in Sri Lankan street food
Named after a popular Sri Lankan street food dish, Kothufestshowcases the country’s food, culture, and music — with a focus on the best Kothu Roti. The festival, which is on Saturday, is usually held in the city’s east end, it moves to Yonge-Dundas Square this year. Several vendors will be on hand offering the street food delight. Aside from the mouth-watering food, there will also be performances from local musicians.

Where the streets have names
Two street festivals will take over two different neighbourhoods this weekend, which means pedestrians can roam without having to worry about cars. On Saturday, a stretch of Ossington, between Dundas Street West and Queen Street West, will be shut down for all things “F” in OssFest — no bad words, just “fun, fashion, food, and fitness.” Then on Sunday, Kensington Market will the scene of its second Pedestrian Sundays event of the summer, and there will be dancing in the street. There will also be live music, street food, an art market,  and a pop-up #LoveTorontoandFriends market of “All-Toronto merchandise. Made by Torontonians, for Torontonians.”

What’s the deal with Seinfeld?
Seinfeld fans will have the chance to step back into the ’90s this weekend, as Lloyd’s on Queen transforms into a Seinfeld pop-up shop. The bar will be serving up foods and drinks inspired by the sitcom. Drinks will be flowing starting at 5 p.m. and food will be served at 6 p.m. until it’s sold out.

Aloha it up in the square
Don’t forget your lei and hula skirt for this weekend’s fourth annual AlohaFest. The event takes place at Mel Lastman Square from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. The “Hula School in the Sun” will share the hula spirit with thousands of people through cultural performances, kids’ crafts and a marketplace. Guests can also indulge in local favourites and unique Hawaiian treats. The event is the city’s original — and only — united celebration of Polynesian culture.

Who is up for Charade?
“Oh, I love you Adam, Alex, Peter, Brian, whatever your name is. Oh, I love you.” You can see the loving chemistry between Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant in the 1963 romance-comedy-mystery classic Charade, which is set and filmed in Paris. Head on down to Sorauren Park on Saturday to watch the film as the sun sets at 9 p.m. Ahead of the movie, enjoy pizza freshly made in an outdoor oven, and later snuggle up with some popcorn.

A different kind of capades
The unofficial start to the CNE kicks off this Saturday at Horse Palace at Exhibition Place. HorseCapades is designed to introduce the young and young at heart to the magical world of horses. It features interactive and educational games and activities, including guessing a horse’s weight, learning about nutrition and grooming, mini tractor rides and pony rides. There will also be two ‘HorsePower Live!’ shows each day. The event runs until August 16, with some elements continuing during the CNE between August 17 and September 3.

Fusion of fun in Etobicoke
The 12th annual Fusion of Taste Festival is taking over the Albion Islington Square BIA this Sunday. The multicultural festival features a wide range of vendors, activities, entertainment and a kids’ show. The outdoor celebration gets underway at noon and runs until 9:30 p.m. Admission is free.

TTC service

Partial Line 1 closure
This weekend, transit crews will be upgrading the signal system on Line 1 between Finch West and Lawrence West stations, which means subway service will be off-limits along that stretch. Shuttle buses will run between those two stations.

Road closures

Beaches Jazz Festival: Queen Street East from Woodbine to Beech avenues will be closed each night from 6 p.m. to midnight from Thursday to Saturday.

OssFest: Ossington Avenue between Dundas and Queen streets will be closed from 6 a.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday.

Kensington Market Pedestrian Sundays: Parts of Kensington Avenue, Augusta Avenue, Baldwin Street and St. Andrew Street will be closed from noon to 10:30 p.m. on Sunday

Fusion of Taste: Islington Avenue between Albion Road and Wardlaw Crescent will be closed from 6 a.m. on Sunday to 1 a.m. on Monday

Hundreds pack Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood for shooting vigil

ALANNA RIZZA, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 26th, 2018

A group of young girls clung to each other Wednesday evening in Toronto’s Greektown, as they mourned a friend and teammate who was killed by a 29-year-old gunman just days earlier in the same neighbourhood.

A stretch of Toronto’s Danforth Avenue was packed with mourners as the community gathered for a candlelit vigil to honour 10-year-old Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont., and 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto, who were killed in Sunday’s shooting. Thirteen other people were injured, and five patients remained in hospital as of Wednesday afternoon. The gunman, identified by Ontario’s police watchdog as Faisal Hussain, was also killed.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the corner of Danforth and Bowden Avenue to start Wednesday’s procession, which ended at the nearby Alexander the Great Parkette.

At the parkette, a moment of silence was held to honour Kozis, Fallon and those injured. A rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” brought some in the crowd to tears, including members of Kozis’ swim team, who hugged each other and sobbed as the crowd sang along to the mournful ballad.

Howard Lichtman, a spokesman for the Danforth Business Improvement Association, which co-organized the walk, said he hoped the event would give the community a chance to “re-claim” the neighbourhood after the attack.

“This walk is for those that were senselessly killed and injured. And it’s a thank you to the first responders,” he said.

Karen Chandler, a longtime resident of Greektown, said she attended the vigil because she walks the Danforth streets everyday — but Wednesday evening was quite different.

“It’s hard to imagine that a tragedy like this could happen on pretty much your doorstep,” said Chandler.

Before the vigil began, Reverend Sarah Miller said she hoped the incident did not “stigmatize those with mental health issues,” adding: “We recognize that this doesn’t represent the Muslim community or the practice of Islam.”

The shooter’s family has released a statement saying he struggled with depression and psychosis his entire life, but none of the medications or therapies he tried managed to work.

Toronto’s police chief said Wednesday there was no evidence to support a claim from the Islamic State terror group that it was behind the attack. The federal government also reiterated that there was no national security connection to the gunman.

Among those in attendance at Wednesday evening’s event were Toronto Mayor John Tory, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti and Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Toronto councillors Mary Fragedakis and Paula Fletcher, whose wards include parts of the Greektown neighbourhood, led the procession.

Speeches were read by representatives of the Danforth BIA and a long-time resident of Greektown who heard the gunshots on Sunday night.

On Wednesday evening, the CN Tower was to be lit blue and white in support of the Greektown neighbourhood.

Ontario ends York University strike with back-to-work legislation

SHAWN JEFFORDS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 26th, 2018

Students at York University will head back to class this fall after Ontario’s government passed legislation Wednesday ending a nearly five-month-long strike.

An omnibus bill dubbed the Urgent Priorities Act contained key priorities for the newly-elected Progressive Conservatives, who called back the legislature for a rare summer sitting to deal with the issues. The bill contained back-to-work legislation to end the York strike, and was supported by the Tories and Liberals but voted against by the Opposition NDP.

The labour dispute at the Toronto university saw 3,000 contract faculty and graduate teaching and research assistants walk off the job on March 5 over issues of wages and job security.

“It’s not about the union, it’s not about the university, it’s about the students,” said Labour Minister Laurie Scott. “The strike has more than run its course. It’s time to get these students back to class.”

Scott said it was clear in May that all parties had reached an impasse, and the bill’s passage ensures the school and the union will now enter into binding interest arbitration.

He said the strike is believed to have been the longest ever at a Canadian university.

In a statement, Premier Doug Ford lauded the passage of his government’s first bill and confirmed Ontario’s legislature will meet for an additional two or three weeks this summer, continuing the rare summer sitting at Queen’s Park.

“During the election we promised to hit the ground running on delivering our plan for the people of Ontario — a plan to deliver real change for Ontario taxpayers,” Ford said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government’s imposition of back-to-work legislation sends a bad message.

“This initial move sends a signal that if the government’s not happy with the process of negotiations, they’re prepared to bring the big hammer of legislation forward. And that’s never a good thing,” she said.

Horwath said the Ford government needs to address the underlying issues which led to the strike, including what she called the under-funding of post-secondary schools.

“What the government needs to do is fund our universities properly. Instead they’ve trampled on the rights of these workers, and we’ll see whether they end up going to court as a result of that.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents the workers, said last week it would consider launching a legal challenge if back-to-work legislation was used to end the strike.

Meanwhile, the omnibus legislation also gives the government authority to approve executive compensation at the power utility Hydro One.

It would require the Hydro One board of directors to establish a new compensation framework for the CEO and board, in consultation with the province and the partially privatized utility’s five largest shareholders.

It would also require the Ontario Energy Board to exclude executive compensation from consumer rates for Hydro One or its subsidiaries.

The omnibus bill also cancels the White Pines wind project in Eastern Ontario, something the government promised last week when it laid out its key priorities for the session.

The legislation also authorizes the government to pay WPD Canada, the company behind the White Pines project, compensation — but it doesn’t spell out how much. The company has suggested it could be over $100 million.

The bill also contains a clause the government says will make it immune from civil litigation over the cancellation of green energy projects.

Installation of safety gate at Queens Quay TTC tunnel begins

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Thursday, Jul 26th, 2018

After a number of costly incidents where cars drove into the streetcar tunnel at Queens Quay, the TTC is making good on it’s promise to install a permanent barrier.

Work began Wednesday to install two ten-foot safety gates just outside the entrance of the tunnel.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green says the gates will be operational once they have been tested and the “timing of streetcar transponders is complete.” The process should be complete in around two weeks.

The TTC also installed additional bollards outside the tunnel back in April to make it obvious that the tunnel is a no-go zone for vehicles.

According to the TTC, each time a car drives into a streetcar tunnel, it costs thousands of dollars in time and money to remove the vehicle and fix any track damage.

Staff has to be paid overtime, service is delayed, detours need to be set up and shuttle buses have to be mobilized. In addition,expensive heavy machinery needs to be brought in to remove the cars.

The decision to install a gate came after two vehicles found themselves stuck in the tunnel less than a week apart in March.

At the time, TTC spokesman Brad Ross called the incidents “the tipping point” and staff began looking into a suitable gate mechanism.

 

Amazon to open Caledon fulfillment centre, creating 800 full-time jobs

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jul 26th, 2018

Amazon will open a new fulfillment centre in Caledon, Ont. to pick, pack and ship books, electronics and toys.

The Seattle-based e-commerce company says the centre will create more than 800 full-time jobs.

The one-million square foot centre will be Amazon’s sixth facility in Ontario and ninth in Canada.

The centre is expected to be built by the end of 2019 and, along with its future Ottawa facility, will bring more than 1,400 jobs to the province.

The announcement came as Amazon is hunting for a home for its second North American headquarters, dubbed HQ2.

Toronto is the lone Canadian city still in contention to house the headquarters, whose location the company said it will announce sometime this year.

Julianna Kozis, 10, identified as second victim in Danforth shooting

News Staff | posted Wednesday, Jul 25th, 2018

Toronto police have identified Julianna Kozis as the 10-year-old girl killed in the Danforth shooting.

Kozis was from Markham and her family has requested privacy.

She was one of two victims when a gunman opened fire in Greektown around 10 p.m. on Sunday night. Reese Fallon, 18, has been identified as the other victim.

There were 13 others injured in the shooting, with injuries ranging from minor to serious.

Markham Mayor Frank Scaripitti released a statement expressing condolences to the Kozis family.

He adds they will be lowering flags in honour of her memory and a book of condolences will be placed at the Markham Civic Centre.

The full statement reads:

On behalf of the City of Markham and Members of Council, I would like to offer our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of the ten year old girl Julianna Kozis of Markham who tragically died on July 22, 2018 in a shooting in Toronto’s vibrant Greek neighbourhood.

This heartbreaking story speaks to the unbreakable bond between a father and his daughter, and I salute the Toronto Paramedics, doctors and nurses who reportedly brought them together, showing incredible compassion and kindness in her final moments.

This senseless act of violence has shaken us and hurt us. We stand with the victims, the brave first responders and all the communities impacted by this tragedy.

Our thoughts and prayers are also with the family of the 18 year old Reese Fallon who tragically lost her life, an accomplished young woman who had plans to study nursing. We continue to pray for the injured and wish them well.

The City of Markham will lower flags in honour of her memory and in remembrance of all who are affected by this unspeakable tragedy. There will also be a book of condolences at the Markham Civic Centre. We hope by coming together, we can offer some solace in a time of great sadness.

Toronto city Coun. Jim Karygiannis told The Canadian Press that he knows the girl’s family and that her death is a “devastation” to the community.

“She had her whole life ahead of her, only to be taken in a senseless act of terror,” Karygiannis said Tuesday night.

With files from The Canadian Press

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