1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

Blogs

No answers on cost of Ontario’s ‘Open for Business’ signs

DILSHAD BURMAN AND RICHARD SOUTHERN | posted Wednesday, Oct 31st, 2018

“How much will it cost?” That is the question.

Days after announcing his plan to install “Welcome to Ontario, Open for Business” signs along the province’s borders, Premier Ford has yet to answer the simple question that both the opposition and taxpayers are asking.

How much the signs will cost the taxpayer was the most frequently asked question on our Instagram post:

“These signs are going to be up on the highways, at border crossings, across Ontario,” said Ford in front of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce in Niagara on Friday, with no mention of a price tag.

CityNews posed the question about costs to the Premier directly on Monday.

“I’m not too sure but I’ll find out,” Ford told CityNews reporter Richard Southern at Queen’s Park. “I’ll find out and get back to you.”

During question period on Tuesday, NDP MPP Taras Natyshak pulled no punches when asking the same question again, even referencing Ford’s family business Deco Labels.

“We don’t care whether it’s billboards or bumper stickers from Deco Labels, we just want to know how much it’s going to cost the people of the province.”

Ford remained elusive and offered a variation of his oft-repeated slogan.

“We’re going to make sure the world knows that we now have a province that encourages businesses to open up,” he said.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli was also unable to shed any light on the issue.

“Well I would think that these ‘open for business’ road signs are a sign to the people all along the border that Ontario really is open for business,” he said, echoing Ford. “Ontario is open for business – just think how much money it’s going to bring in,” he said.

Minister of Transportation John Yakabuski offered a loose timeline, saying they have not nailed down the figures just yet.

“Over the next few days we should expect to have some more information,” he said. “We don’t have the exact numbers…our staff are doing it in-house and we haven’t done the calculations,” adding that as soon as they do know, they will share the information with the public.

Opposition leader Andrea Horwath said the people deserve to know where their money is going.

“A government that got elected on this mantra of fiscal responsibility sure as heck better know how much a road sign costs, ” she said. “When the government is asked a question about finances they should know the answer,” she reiterated.

“We’re quite confident that when this program is fully rolled out it is going to be very positive for the people of Ontario,” said Yakabuski when pushed on the principle of accountability to the people. “We’re excited about it. Ontario is once again open for business”

There is also still some confusion about how many signs will be made.

The provincial sign shop that is creating them told CityNews there will be 11, but the government said Tuesday there will be 18.

Charity the Cow returns home to the Royal Winter Fair

MEREDITH BOND | posted Wednesday, Oct 31st, 2018

A cow statue that caused controversy in a Markham community is back in the spotlight, but this time, it’s being welcomed with open arms.

The massive 25-foot chrome statue modeled after Charity the Cow, an award winning cow at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair back in the 1980s, is now standing in Exhibition Place.

The larger-than-life installation was erected in a small park on Charity Crescent near Woodbine Avenue and Elgin Mills Road East in July of 2017. It was created by CEO of Romandale Farms Helen Roman-Barber, the daughter of one of the owners of Charity.

But just three months after it was installed, homeowners in the area complained of the sculpture’s “imposing nature.” After the artist and donor refused to modify it, Markham council agreed to move the cow.

The cow was still standing in April of this year when a metal leaf from the garland that circles Charity’s neck fell from the statue, renewing calls from the community to get rid of it.

In May, it was finally moved from the neighbourhood and returned to its owner, Romandale Farms. A $4 million lawsuit filed by Romandale Farms against the town of Markham to force them to keep the cow in place was rejected.

Royal Agriculture Winter Fair CEO Charlie Johnstone said he thinks visitors will be delighted to see the statue at the fair. “I think people love it,” he said. “I mean, it’s beautiful, it’s absolutely beautiful. We have lights on her. She’s overlooking the ring of excellence. I don’t know how you couldn’t love it.

He said it’s fitting to have the tribute to Charity as she was one of the winningest cows in the history of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

The Fair opens to the public on Friday and runs through to November 11.

It’s not yet known where Charity the Cow will end up after the Fair ends.

Sinkhole swallows up TTC vehicle near the Port Lands

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Oct 31st, 2018

It was a frightening experience for a TTC Wheel-Trans supervisor after his car was swallowed up by a sinkhole near the Port Lands.

The sinkhole was caused by a watermain break that happened on Commissioners Street, near Lake Shore Boulevard East, around 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The supervisor was near a Wheel-Trans facility in the area when his vehicle got stuck.

“We’ve got a 300-millimetre watermain that’s ruptured, creating a void under the road. Unfortunately, there was a TTC vehicle that travelled over that, [and] got its front wheels stuck,” Bill Shea, the director of Toronto Water, said.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said the driver was checking out the watermain break to see whether they’d need to divert service.

He was able to get out with no injuries, but the vehicle completely disappeared into the hole.

Commissioners is closed in both directions from Bouchette Street to Logan Avenue.

A TTC vehicle was swallowed up by a sinkhole due to a watermain break on Commissioners Street on Oct. 30, 2018. CITYNEWS/George Joseph

Really, Toronto? Internet loves ill-conceived construction blunders

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Oct 30th, 2018

Who thought this was a good idea?

A hydro pole has been spotted completely blocking traffic signs at Shuter and Sherbourne Streets, forcing drivers to guess the rules of the road.

Meanwhile, on Queen Street near Woodbine Avenue, anchor cables have been installed in the middle of the sidewalk and in case you missed the bright yellow poles, a large pylon has been placed in front of each one.

CityNews reached out to the City of Toronto planning department on the reason behind the poorly placed poles and anchor cables, but have yet to receive a response.

Do you know of any other City of Toronto planning gaffes? Let CityNews know HERE

Woman accused of fatal drugstore stabbing in the PATH declared fit to stand trial

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Oct 30th, 2018

A woman accused of fatally stabbing another woman at a drugstore in the PATH has been declared fit to stand trial.

Rohinie Bisesar faces first-degree murder for the death of Rosemarie Junor, who was stabbed in a Shoppers Drug Mart in 2015.

A jury declared Bisesar fit to stand trial on Monday after officials who oversaw her treatment also declared her fit this past summer.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Ian Swayze has told the jury that Bisesar has schizophrenia, but is doing well after being treated for the past year.

Bisesar’s lawyer, Robert Karrass, says the trial will begin Friday and will consist of a set of agreed-upon facts along with arguments from the prosecution and defence rather than a series of witnesses.

Karrass says he will argue Bisesar is not criminally responsible for the death of Junor.

Junor’s brother, Richard Junor, says the family is ready for the case to move to trial after three years of delays due to Bisesar’s mental health.

A fitness ruling pertains to the person’s mental state at the time of their court proceedings, and is separate from a ruling on a person’s criminal responsibility for their actions, which is based on their mental state at the time the alleged crime was committed.

Mother reunited with son 31 years after alleged parental abduction

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Oct 30th, 2018

A mother was reunited with her son after an alleged parental abduction 31 years ago, solving a case that she hopes will encourage others grappling with the pain of missing a child to remain optimistic.

Lyneth Mann-Lewis of Brampton met her son Jermaine Mann on Saturday in Connecticut.

In a press conference at Toronto police headquarters on Monday, Mann-Lewis said she was in disbelief when she saw her son for the first time since he was less than 2 years old.

“I grabbed him and I squeezed his head – I wanted to feel if he’s real. I touched him and said ‘oh my God my baby’.” He replied “Oh mummy, you have my eyes.” Jermaine had been told his mother died shortly after his birth.

Lyneth Mann-Lewis describes the moment she was reunited with her son:

While tearfully recounting the reunion, which gave her the chance to cuddle and cook for her son for the first time in decades, Mann-Lewis said she also thought of others whose children are still missing.

“I am the proof that after 31 long years of suffering, one should never give up,” she said. “Be patient, be strong, and believe that all things are possible and that anything can transpire.”

In the emotional briefing, she thanked Amanda Pick, CEO and investigator Ted Davis of the Missing Children Society of Canada for their unwavering belief and support.

“Ted encouraged me to always believe,” she said, thanking him for never giving up till he found her son over the course of an investigation spanning more than 20 years.

“From the moment I first talked to Amanda I knew…she would also be an extremely great person, (she) helped me through this ordeal and kept the positivity throughout the time I have known her, and for that I am very grateful.”

Det. Sgt. Wayne Banks from organized crime enforcement, fugitive squad also commended Davis and acknowledged his tremendous contribution to solving the case.

“(Davis) took this on as a passion. My heart goes out to him…for the amount of work he has put into this investigation,” said Banks.

Banks says Toronto police also conducted investigations but could not find a connection to Canada and their “leads went cold.”

A break in the case came in 2016, when the Toronto Police Fugitive Squad hosted their annual international fugitive investigative training. The conference brings in representatives from 21 countries and over 200 investigators from across the world attend the training sessions.

“During the conference we had the opportunity to introduce Mr.Davis (to) representatives from the U.S. Marshal Service where they were able to start talking about the case in a more in-depth fashion,” said Banks.

Banks says as a result of this meeting and the investigation that followed, carried out by Davis and the U.S. Marshal Service, Jermaine’s father Allan Man Jr. was identified.

U.S. federal agents say Mann Jr. was arrested on Friday in Connecticut, where he and Jermaine had been living under aliases in a quiet suburb near Hartford.

After running off with his then 21-month-old son on June 24, 1987, following a visitation in Toronto, Mann Jr. entered the U.S. and obtained fake identification for himself and his son, including bogus Texas birth certificates, officials alleged.

U.S. officials said Mann Jr. has dual Canadian and Ghanaian citizenship, and was found living under the name Hailee DeSouza in subsidized housing in Vernon, about 20 kilometres east of Hartford.

He appeared briefly Friday in federal court in Hartford, where he faces charges including making false statements in transactions with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Hartford Courant reported that Jermaine sobbed quietly in the front row as his father appeared in court on Friday, and left the courthouse without commenting. His alias has not been released and he has asked for privacy as he reconnects with his mother.

Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham says the suspect is alleged to have “lived a lie for the last 31 years.”

“We thank the many law enforcement agencies, in the U.S. and Canada, that have investigated this matter, worked hard to apprehend this fugitive and finally provided some answers to a mother who has suffered with her son’s absence for far too long,” said Durham.

Police chief Mark Saunders said after the charges are dealt with in the U.S., Mann Jr. is expected to be extradited to Canada to face one abduction charge.

The investigation has involved multiple U.S. agencies as well as Toronto police and the RCMP.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

Office of Ontario ombudsman reviewing cannabis delivery complaints

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Oct 30th, 2018

The Office of the Ontario Ombudsman says it has received complaints over delays in the delivery of cannabis in the province, almost two weeks since the drug was legalized across the country.

In an email Monday, spokeswoman Linda Williamson says there is no formal investigation, but staff are reviewing all complaints against the Ontario Cannabis Store and resolving them informally wherever possible.

She says the office has been receiving complaints “over the past several days,” but did not say how many have been filed.

The online Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) is the only legal retailer of cannabis in the province, and private retail brick-and-mortar stores aren’t set to open until April next year.

Williamson says if the ombudsman decides to pursue a formal investigation, the process is to first inform the organization in writing and then announce it publicly.

She adds the ombudsman has been in contact with OCS officials and is monitoring developments.

Ontario residents have expressed their frustrations on social media at the delays, saying consumers have no other legal means of purchasing cannabis while they await their orders.

The provincially run OCS warned on its website last week that delivery times for their orders may be longer than expected due to “unbelievably high demand” and labour action at Canada Post.

It said in a statement Thursday that it has processed more than 150,000 orders since Oct. 17 and has added “additional capacity” to its processing facility to meet the “unprecedented demand” for legal marijuana.

The OCS was not immediately available for comment Monday night.

Fragmented bus service market emerges as Greyhound exits Western Canada Oct. 31

DAN HEALING, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Oct 29th, 2018

A hodge-podge of public transportation services are already starting to fill the gap as Greyhound Canada moves steadily towards its midnight Halloween disappearance from most of Western Canada.

The venerable national motor coach operator is being replaced by a mix of provincial government-subsidized services, Indigenous-owned bus lines, locally owned startups, flexible fleets of shuttle buses and a scattering of formal and informal ride-sharing services.

And passengers aren’t waiting for the last Greyhound next Wednesday to check out new options — according to Stuart Kendrick, senior vice-president of Greyhound Canada, ticket sales have already fallen off to the point that some route frequencies are being reduced.

“Demand is quite low as we run into this last week or 10 days,” he said in a recent interview.

“You’ve got single-digit riderships on the schedule that we have left throughout Western Canada, so that’s probably about a 50 or 60 or 70 per cent decline based on what corridor you look at.”

The company plans to stop selling tickets on long-distance routes a few days before the buses stop running to help ensure passengers aren’t left stranded and holding the unused half of a two-way ticket, Kendrick said.

The loss of Greyhound spells opportunity for Regina-based Rider Express, a company that began operating a handful of 15-passenger minibuses on inner-provincial routes shortly after government-owned Saskatchewan Transportation Company shut down its bus services in the spring of 2017.

Rider has acquired five full-sized 50-seat buses and plans to begin passenger service on a Vancouver-Calgary-Winnipeg route on the Trans-Canada Highway this week, followed in November by a Highway 16 route linking Edmonton and Saskatoon, said manager Shauna Hardy. Both routes will directly replace Greyhound routes.

The interest from Saskatchewan residents has been “overwhelming,” she said, adding the company is being asked to take on more routes but has so far declined.

Late last May, Calgary-based Pacific Western Transportation was hired by the province of British Columbia to operate its BC Bus North service after Greyhound cancelled service to communities including Prince Rupert and Dawson Creek.

Greyhound’s announcement in July that it would exit almost all of Western Canada convinced the company to offer its own inter-city services in B.C. for the first time, said John Stepovy, director of business development. He added the company is also expanding its Alberta offerings.

He said he thinks his company can provide the hub in a hub-and-spoke business model as Greyhound closes — it’s already in discussions with operators of small-scale shuttle bus and transit operators about establishing connections with his firm’s routes.

“Overall, long-term, where the needs are, where there’s demand, we would anticipate voids will be filled but it could take a little bit of time for those things to shake out once the landscape changes,” Stepovy said.

“Discount airlines coming in will probably take on some of that longer-haul (Greyhound demand),” he said. “For bus travel, That one-to-five/six-hour travel time is kind of in the sweet spot.”

He added “disruptors” — new travel options such as Poparides, an app that matches passengers with drivers who happen to be going to the same destinations — are also expected to fill the gap.

Indigenous-owned charter service Kelsey Bus Lines is being renamed Mahihkan Bus Lines and has announced plans to offer daily passenger routes from Thompson and Flin Flon in northern Manitoba to Winnipeg, as well as freight service.

In Alberta, the provincial government has launched pilot programs at a cost of $2.8 million to help five rural municipalities start inter-city bus services. One, centred on Camrose, about 100 kilometres south of Edmonton, has already started and the others are expected to begin over the next three months.

The fragmented inter-city transportation model that is emerging can be a positive change, said Barry Prentice, professor of transportation economics at the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business.

Greyhound likely failed in Western Canada in part because its costs were too high and it lacked the flexibility to respond to changing markets because it carried freight as well as passengers, he said.

“As long as they were in the market, it was hard for anyone else to come in. Now that they’re gone, it creates an opportunity,” he said.

Most new services are planning to pick up and drop off passengers at hotels, gas stations or tourist information centres. Prentice said that means they won’t be burdened with the costly terminal network Greyhound had to maintain.

Kendrick said shutting down all routes from northern Ontario to the West Coast involves a “significant cost’ to Greyhound Canada.

He said it’s expected to take several months to sublet its leased real estate and sell its few owned facilities, which include maintenance shops in centres such as Edmonton, Red Deer, Prince Rupert, Prince George and Winnipeg.

The company is laying off about 420 employees. It will move 70 or 80 of its 110 western buses to its ongoing operations in Eastern Canada and sell or scrap the rest.

A Seattle-Vancouver route operated by Greyhound U.S. will continue to use a Vancouver terminal leased by the Canadian arm. Kendrick said the company plans to ask other bus companies to come in as tenants to fill unused capacity there.

Follow @HealingSlowly on Twitter.

Page 1 of 1212345...10...Last »