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Will Canada’s first approved roadside pot test actually work?

PAM SEATLE AND MIKE VISSER | posted Wednesday, Aug 29th, 2018

With recreational marijuana set to become legal on Oct. 17, the Canadian government has approved the first roadside test aimed at stopping drivers who are under the influence of cannabis.

But some experts are questioning whether the Drager DrugTest 5000 will actually be effective in detecting drivers who are impaired by THC — the main psychoactive agent in cannabis.

Harrison Jordan, who specializes in cannabis law, is raising several red flags over the test.

Jordan says that while the Drager device does determine levels of THC, it doesn’t detect whether a driver is actually impaired. Jordan also points to studies that claim two nanograms of THC can remain in a person’s blood for up to seven days after marijuana usage. Another concern is that the optimal working temperate for the Drager DrugTest 5000 is between four and 40 degrees Celsius.

Jordan believes all those factors will ultimately make it difficult for test results to stand up in court.

“We’ll have to see if the tests have merit,” said Jordan. “They probably have some sort of predictive value, but are they constitutional? That’s a question that’s going to be answered by the courts, and I think the courts won’t take too kindly to the flaws that are in the test.”

Even police forces admit there are flaws in the DrugTest 5000. But an inspector with the York Regional Police Road Safety Bureau says that’s why the roadside test is only one tool officers will use.

“This particular device will measure the presence of a drug in the saliva of a person. It won’t necessarily tell you that that level of the drug is impairing for that particular person at the time,” said Inspector Ed Villamere.

“This will be just yet one more tool that we will have at our disposal to provide one more piece of evidence in addition to the observations of the officer and the opinion of the drug recognition expert that someone is impaired by a drug.”

According to Dr. Don Redelmeier who cares for patients at Sunnybrook Hospital in the aftermath of life-threatening crashes, driving under the influence of marijuana can result in a twofold or threefold increase in the risk of a fatal crash.

Redelmeier admits the roadside tests for THC aren’t completely accurate, but adds that they may be effective in applying another type of pressure to drivers.

“The test is hardly perfect, lots of false positives, lots of false negatives. I doubt it’s going to be admissible in court, but it does go some way in terms of changing public attitudes.”

Drager is standing behind the DrugTest 5000, saying it’s being used reliably in other countries.

“If we weren’t confident in the technology we wouldn’t have submitted this for testing,” said Rob Clark, Managing Director for Drager Canada.

“The concern about accuracy and false positives, false negatives, really that should be the least of people’s worries.”

Air Canada, WestJet raising checked baggage fee to $30 for lowest-fare passengers

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Aug 28th, 2018

Many Canadians will be forced to spend a little more to travel after Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. said they are increasing fees for passengers to check their bags.

The country’s two largest airlines are raising the fee for the first checked bag to $30 from $25, and for the second bag to $50 from $30.

The moves were made swiftly after major U.S. airline JetBlue Airways Corp. hiked its fees for checked bags and to change a ticket.

“This is the first change since 2014 and will help offset overall increasing costs and keep overall ticket prices competitive,” Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur wrote in an email.

The new baggage fees apply on flights across Canada, to and from the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico, departing on or after Oct. 5.

WestJet’s changes apply on flights starting Oct. 1 for domestic bookings made as of last Friday, and as of Tuesday on flights to the U.S. and international destinations.

“By raising fees for optional services, such as checked bags, we can continue to maintain the lower fares our guests expect,” added WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart.

She said its fares and fees allow passengers to pay for services that matter most to them.

The fees apply to the lowest fare classes at both airlines.

Air Canada economy flex and economy comfort fares will continue to receive a first checked bag free of charge as will elite members and those who booked Air Canada Vacations packages. Military personnel with identification have up to three free checked bags, regardless of destination.

Fees are waived for WestJet Plus passengers, gold and silver rewards members or those booking with RBC World Elite Mastercards.

Porter Airlines says its fees aren’t changing. Air Transat and Sunwing couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Airlines have been adding fees for a decade and now charge for seats with more legroom, early boarding, upgrades, food and beverages, entertainment and wireless access. Air Canada earned more than $1 billion from these payments last year while WestJet collected about $440 million.

The world’s top 10 airlines collected US$29.7 billion in revenues from ancillary fees last year, up from US$2.1 billion a decade ago, according to IdeaWorksCompany, a U.S. research company that tracks airline revenue.

Some Ontario students will still learn the 2015 sex-ed curriculum

News Staff | posted Tuesday, Aug 28th, 2018

As kids across Ontario prepare to head back to class, with some even opening the school door this week, parents are left scratching their head over just what will be taught to their child when it comes to the Health and Physical Education Curriculum (HPE).

To alleviate some confusion, both the Toronto District School Board and the Peel District School Board have released statements on what to expect in both elementary school and high school.

According to the statements, both TDSB and PDSB high school teachers will continue to teach the 2015 secondary school curriculum — including the revised sex-ed curriculum.

However, when it comes to elementary schools, the TDSB said it will be teaching the 2010 curriculum — which is really the 1998 curriculum.

The Director of Education for the TDSB said he’s confident teachers will “continue to deliver the provided curriculum in ways that align with Ministry direction, and create a learning environment for students that is safe, inclusive and focused on their success and well-being.”

“From the beginning, we have been vocal about our concerns with regards to the inclusion of important topics such as online safety, gender identities, sexual orientation, and consent. Our central staff have been reviewing both the 2010 and 2015 curriculum documents to determine which topics are covered and which are not. While that work is continuing, it is already clear that many important topics remain in the curriculum,” John Malloy wrote.

“While the wording may be different than the 2015 curriculum, the 2010 curriculum still contains many critically important topics. In some cases, these topics are now covered under “prompts” as opposed to “expectations,” but they remain in the curriculum. As a result, educators will continue to have discussions about diverse families, online safety, consent, etc.”

But elementary school teachers in Peel will have to wait before they put together their complete health plan.

The Peel Board said the Curriculum & Instruction Support Services is expected to send out a memo that will clarify elementary HPE curriculum expectations, as well as provide an analysis of the re-issued elementary HPE curriculum and the 2015 curriculum.

“Because we know there may be confusion in our school communities about what will and will not be taught in HPE after the ministry’s announcement, we will provide families with clarifying information in the coming days,” the memo from the Peel Board reads.

“It is also important that families know that they can share concerns about how their children are taught directly with teachers. As is our long-standing process, we will continue to encourage parents/guardians to raise concerns first with their child’s teacher, as per our Public Concerns Policy #85. If concerns are raised about the curriculum itself, those should be directed to the Ministry of Education.”

As for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, it won’t be turning back the clock when it comes to health and sex education.

“It is Fully Alive program we have been teaching for the past three years. Endorsed by ICE (Institute for Catholic Education) and the Bishops of Ontario,” TCDSB Trustee Maria Rizzo explained.

“We will continue to teach the 2015 curriculum with a Catholic lens. Not going back to Leave it to Beaver days.”

The Fully Alive program will be taught at both Catholic elementary and Catholic secondary all across Ontario.

Changes to the sex education curriculum have long been controversial. In 2010 the McGuinty Liberals scrapped a plan to update the 1998 curriculum after religious groups promised to demonstrate outside Queen’s Park. That revised curriculum was then passed in 2014 by the Wynne government, once again to heavy criticism by some parents claiming topics such as masturbation, gender identity and the correct names of body parts were being taught to children at too young an age.

The Ford Conservatives successfully campaigned on pulling back the revised curriculum until more parental consultation could be done and a new curriculum could be created. This drew ire from the NDP and Liberals who claimed these changes this would stop teachers from educating children on topics such as consent, same sex families and online safety.

The Ford government issued the interim curriculum on Wednesday, warning teachers who use the scrapped version would face consequences — and invited parents to anonymously report potential breaches to the province. The government also said it’s launching a website where parents can file such complaints, which critics have dubbed a “snitch line.”

Man seriously injured after falling out of Uber in Burlington

News Staff | posted Tuesday, Aug 28th, 2018

A 31-year-old man is recovering in hospital after falling out of the backseat of an Uber in Burlington.

Halton regional police said it happened just before 12:30 a.m. Tuesday on North Shore Boulevard near Eagle Drive, in the area of Plains Road and Lasalle Park Road.

Alcohol is believed to have been a factor in the incident.

The victim was taken to hospital with a head injury. He is listed in serious, but stable condition.

The Uber driver and another passenger in the front seat were not injured.

The area was closed off for about four hours while police investigated. It has since reopened.

Ontario judge rules in favour of Tesla in rebate program dispute

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Aug 28th, 2018

An Ontario court has ruled in favour of the Canadian arm of Tesla Inc. in its petition that it had been treated unfairly in the provincial government’s cancellation of an electric vehicle rebate program.

Ontario Superior Court judge Frederick L. Myers said the decision to exclude Tesla from a grace period for the program’s wind-down was arbitrary and had singled out Tesla for harm.

Tesla launched the legal petition after Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government ended the rebate program on July 11, but said it would extend the rebates to vehicles already sold through dealerships if they were delivered and registered within 60 days.

The provincial government later clarified that the extension only applied to vehicles sold through franchised dealerships, which excluded Tesla’s Ontario dealerships.

Tesla said it was pleased with the court’s decision to strike down the discriminatory policy.

“Tesla only sought fair treatment for our customers and we hope the Ministry now does the right thing by delivering on its promise to ensure all EV-owners receive their incentives during the wind-down period.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General said the government was reviewing the ruling.

The government had said the decision to limit the program to franchised dealerships was to help protect small- and medium-sized businesses that may have been hit by the program, but Myers said the government provided no evidence to back up its plan.

“The discretionary decision to limit the transition to franchised dealers is not at all related to either protecting small to mid-sized dealers or to protecting dealers who may suffer losses to manufacturers.”

Myers quashed the government’s exercise of discretion as it was made for an improper purpose and because it singled out Tesla without providing the car maker “any fair process whatsoever.”

Tesla said it had 600 active customer orders when the government ended the program in July and that 175 customers had since cancelled their orders.

Liberals approve first saliva screening roadside test for marijuana

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Aug 28th, 2018

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is giving the green light to a new roadside test to check for drugs.

On Monday, Wilson-Raybould approved the Drager DrugTest 5000 as the first saliva screening equipment to be used by law enforcement to test for THC, the main psychoactive agent in cannabis.

The equipment will now be made available to police forces across the country, but the government says it will still be up to police forces to decide what testing equipment they want to use.

Manufacturers have told the government that they could meet demand for roadside saliva testing equipment within four to six weeks.

Legislation that passed Parliament in June allows for the use of roadside saliva tests to detect the presence of drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

The Liberals have pledged $161 million in funding for police training and drug-testing equipment over the next five years, as well as a public awareness campaign about the perils of driving while high.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said last month that it is unlikely to reach its goal of having 2,000 officers trained to spot drug-impaired drivers when marijuana becomes legal later this year.

Cannabis will become legal for recreational use on Oct. 17.

‘Buck-a-beer’ arrives in Ontario, in time for Labour Day

News Staff | posted Tuesday, Aug 28th, 2018

Buck a beer went into effect in Ontario on Monday, but only a handful of brewers have embraced the new, lower minimum price.

The policy lowers the minimum price of a bottle or can of beer to $1 from $1.25. Brewers are not required to charge less and the minimum price doesn’t apply to draft beer, nor does it include the bottle deposit.

The Progressive Conservative government has said the policy would see more competition in the beer market without affecting the province’s revenues from beer and wine taxes, which brought in roughly $589 million in 2016-2017.

Businesses will be offered prime spots in Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores or advertising in the store magazine’s inserts, among other possible incentives for selling their beer for $1.

Premier Doug Ford, who had promised buck a beer during the spring election campaign, announced the policy earlier this month, calling it a “win-win.”

Two breweries, Cool Brewery in Toronto and Barley Days Brewery in Picton, Ont., have said they will offer lower-priced brews while Loblaws has said its President’s Choice beer will be available for one dollar a bottle for a limited time.

The founder of Cool Brewery, which Ford was set to visit Monday to mark buck a beer going into effect, said the company will offer four-packs for $4 ahead of the Labour Day but noted that getting more lower-priced product on shelves quickly will be a challenge.

“It will take us a few weeks to build up the inventory to expand to more LCBO and Beer Stores across the province,” Bobby Crecouzos said in a statement.

A number of craft brewers have said they won’t be implementing buck a beer because they can’t afford to participate without sacrificing the quality of their product.

Ontario previously had buck-a-bottle beer but the then-Liberal government quietly hiked the minimum price in 2008, citing its “social responsibility” mandate.

In its heyday, buck a beer was a successful marketing campaign and seized a significant share of the market, said Scott Simmons, president of Ontario Craft Brewers, who was an executive at The Beer Store at the time.

But the costs of making beer have gone up, as have the provincial and federal taxes, making it less feasible for brewers to sell their product at the $1 minimum price now, he said shortly after Ford announced the policy.

TTC’s hop-on, hop-off transfer starts Sunday for Presto users

News Staff | posted Monday, Aug 27th, 2018

It’s going to make a big difference in the lives of people who use transit to run quick errands or drop kids off at daycare on their way to work.

Sunday marks the start of the TTC’s new hop-on, hop-off transfer for Presto card users.

The new program will give Presto users a two-hour window to hop on and off the TTC — including switching directions at any point.

“It is important that everyone in Toronto has access to public transit, and this new two-hour transfer will make transit more affordable and convenient for people,” Mayor John Tory said in July when the program was first announced.

“With this year’s fare freeze, the Kids Ride Free program, the Fair Fare Pass for low-income residents and now the hop on-hop off transfer, the TTC is more affordable for more people in Toronto.”

Transit users will still need to tap their Presto card each time they change buses or streetcars, or enter a subway station.

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