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New security rules come into effect at Toronto City Hall on Wednesday

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Dec 4th, 2018

There will be new faces, and new security procedures, when a shrunken Toronto city council convenes for its first meeting of the new term.

As of Wednesday, visitors to city hall will have to pass through a metal detector to access the council chamber.

Metal detector screening will take place on the third floor, while baggage screening will continue to take place in the city hall rotunda.

“City staff, members of Council, and other building tenants with access cards will not need to pass through the metal detector or undergo baggage screening when wearing their access card,” the city of Toronto said in a release.

“The safety of all those who work, visit or do business at City facilities is a top priority of the City of Toronto. These security enhancements will help maintain an accessible, safe, and secure City Hall for staff, building tenants, and the public.”

Metal detection comes in addition to further security moves already undertaken in December 2017when council voted in favour of new vehicle-mitigation measures.

These included putting up perimeter posts around Nathan Phillips Square in order to prevent any vehicles from mounting a curb and plowing into a crowd of people.

A survey conducted by the city in March found 79 per cent of Toronto residents were in favour of security screening at public entrances, and that support jumps to 83 per cent when it comes to using metal detectors.

Unifor, OPSEU pooling resources to fight Ford government’s ‘destructive agenda’

MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 4th, 2018

The Ontario government is about to start facing co-ordinated opposition from two of the country’s largest unions bent on stopping what they describe as Premier Doug Ford’s “destructive agenda.”

The heads of both Unifor and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union announced their alliance in the wake of Ford’s reaction to General Motors’ planned plant closure in Oshawa, saying the premier’s comments indicate his priorities do not lie with everyday workers.

Ford said last week that there’s nothing his government can do to convince the automaker to change course, adding the company’s president had told him, “the ship has already left the dock.”

The union leaders contend that Ford and his Progressive Conservative government are more focused on corporate interests than the concerns of frontline workers and vow the two unions, with a combined membership of about 470,000 people, will be fighting back.

OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas said a weakened private sector will limit any government’s ability to collect taxes and fund public services, adding pushing back against Ford would benefit all Ontario residents.

“We understand that public services are the great equalizer in society,” Thomas said in a telephone interview. “It’s in both our best interests, for our members and for society, to work together and co-ordinate our efforts and see if we can’t back Mr. Ford up in some of his policies and encourage him to reinvest in public services.”

Thomas said the alliance, announced at Unifor’s Ontario Regional Council meeting held over the weekend, was prompted largely by Ford’s reaction to news that GM planned to shutter its Oshawa plant next year, taking at least 2,500 jobs with it.

Ford has said union leaders and politicians who talk about saving the Oshawa plant are selling “false hope,” adding that his government would help the affected workers find new jobs.

Both Thomas and Unifor National President Jerry Dias said Ford’s reaction wasn’t good enough. Thomas also criticized the premier for giving $34.5 million to Maple Leaf Foods for the construction of a consolidated plant in London, despite the fact the company will be shedding 300 net jobs by closing three other facilities in the province.

In a statement announcing their collaboration, Dias said Ford has given the two unions even more reasons to push back against his agenda.

“Between cowering to corporate interests, a dangerous public sector hiring freeze, and punishing the provinces’ most vulnerable workers, Doug Ford has clearly shown his playbook,” Dias said in the statement. “It’s one attack after another against working people and our families.”

The premier’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Thomas said the two union leaders had joined forces before, swelling picket lines and mobilizing protests during health-care sector strikes in the Ontario communities of Owen Sound and Thunder Bay.

This time around, he said it made sense for the two groups to “co-ordinate efforts” by lobbying legislators and speaking up against government moves that the unions feel could jeopardize workers.

Thomas said the unions will also push to reinstate some labour-related measures introduced by the former Liberal regime that have been reversed by the Ford government, including a $15 minimum wage that was planned for next year and more lenient sick day policies.

Thomas said the unions will try to see those measures put back in place through individual bargaining efforts.

With files from Adam Burns

Smaller Toronto council meets for first time on Tuesday

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Dec 4th, 2018

A much smaller Toronto city council will meet on Tuesday — for the first time since the October municipal election.

Among the items councillors will be considering is a report from city staff on how to govern with such a big reduction of councillors. The report was released last week.

The report has several recommendations including how to fund councillors’ office budgets, reducing the number of board and committee appointments for councillors, and the formation of a special committee to best decide how to move forward.

The meeting on Tuesday is mostly ceremonial and will start at 2 p.m. Councillors are not expected to tackle items on the agenda until the next day when council resumes at 9:30 a.m.

The recommendations outlined in the report are expected to be debated by council during on Wednesday and will be voted on next week, on December 13.

Not only has the size of council changed to 25 seats from the previous 47, but so have the faces that once sat on council.

Ahead of the Toronto election, Premier Doug Ford and his government passed legislation to slash the size of council by nearly half. When that happened, veteran incumbent councillors faced off against each other, with some of them losing.

In four wards, incumbent councillors did not run so this left the door open for new people to come in. The new councillors are: Brad Bradford (Ward 19 – Beaches-East York), Cynthia Lai (Ward 23 – Scarborough North), Jennifer McKelvie (Ward 25 – Scarborough-Rouge Park), and Mike Colle (Ward 8 – Eglinton-Lawrence) — who is moving back to the municipal level after leaving provincial politics.

CityNews will be reporting on the four new councillors over the three-day meeting as they embark on their new role as councillor.

GM’s push into new technologies expected to boost peer-to-peer car sharing

IAN BICKIS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 3rd, 2018

General Motors signalled a major pivot towards new technologies and mobility platforms when it announced the closing of its Oshawa assembly plant, but it will be playing catch-up to start-ups that have pioneered in the field.

One of the spaces it’s pushing into is peer-to-peer car sharing, which GM added to its Maven app in July in the U.S., as it tests out new models of transportation in an evolving market.

“What we truly believe is as society progresses, shareable assets will be the most desirable to own,” Julia Steyn, vice-president of urban mobility and Maven at GM, said at a recent technology conference.

“People don’t want anymore, to have the dream that their parents had, which is they don’t want half of their paycheque to go to housing and transportation. And so that’s just fundamentally what’s happening in the world.”

Still in a pilot phase, the peer-to-peer platform allows GM customers to rent out their vehicles, offsetting some of the costs of ownership.

“The wasted assets that the car represents when it sits there 95 per cent of the time, idle, is ridiculous. So you want to be able to monetize it,” Steyn said.

Canadians don’t yet have the option of using Maven’s peer-to-peer sharing option and its more conventional service of renting company vehicles is only available in Toronto, but Steyn said the company plans to “aggressively grow in Canada.”

When it does expand the service to Canada, it will find competition in Turo, which has been operating a peer-to-peer car sharing service in Canada for more than two years and in the U.S. for a decade.

Turo, however, welcomes the news of Maven’s expansion plans.

“It just shows that this type of car sharing model is becoming more mainstream,” said Cedric Mathieu, director of Turo Canada.

“And I do think the more players in the space, the more people will hear about it, and the benefits of this model.”

The model allows drivers to list any vehicle on the app, with a few restrictions on its age, mileage, and condition, and then rent it out along a similar idea to Airbnb.

“The concept is simple, but the mission is pretty ambitious, because it’s really about putting the world’s billion-plus cars to better use,” said Mathieu.

The company believes the platform solves many of the issues such as parking, variety and supply that have prevented other car-sharing efforts from delivering on the promise of the concept.

The efficiency of the model and the technology behind it, has allowed for rapid growth, Mathieu said.

“You can grow this extremely fast. That I think really is shown by our numbers in Canada. In just two and a half years, we now have 16,000 cars listed, 4,000 cars available to book on a daily basis.”

The company says that as of early November, cars listed on Turo had been shared for 3.2 million hours this year, or about 133,000 24-hour rentals, while car owners are earning an average of $600 a month.

The revenue helps those who need to own a car offset the costs, while allowing those who can generally do without a car to get access to one when they need it at a potentially lower cost, said Mathieu.

As the first-mover in Canada, Turo has also pushed to solve the insurance issue of renting out a personal vehicle for money.

The company has partnered with Intact Insurance to provide a separate insurance product that only kicks in for rentals and is separate from the owner’s primary insurance. Intact has partnered with Uber on a similar model.

The system is still evolving, so owners looking to rent their vehicles still need to check if their insurance allows the system, as do renters who might want to use their credit card insurance. Turo is also only available in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta because of insurance issues in other provinces, but both Intact and Turo are working to expand.

But while the company has signed up thousands of people, experts don’t expect a quick shift away from ownership.

Some estimates suggest that 20 per cent of mobility will move to shared mobility in the next couple of decades, said Shauna Brail, a director at the University of Toronto’s urban studies program.

“It is a slow transition, but it is a really significant transition, and it’s one that absolutely impacts the bottom line of these established automotive firms, which is why they’re all involved in looking at new models and investing probably billions of dollars in a variety of new models.”

As the market grows and companies fight for market share, the lines between each will blur, Brail said.

“We’re no longer looking at automotive firms and car rental agencies, and car sharing, we’re just looking at mobility.”

Brian Mulroney remembers George H.W. Bush as ‘a great friend of Canada’

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 3rd, 2018

Canadian politicians past and present offered their condolences on Saturday following the death of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, with former prime minister Brian Mulroney calling it “an enormous loss.”

Bush, who served in the Oval Office from 1989 to 1993, died Friday night at his home in Houston at the age of 94 – just eight months after the death of his wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush.

Mulroney, whose nine years in power overlapped with Bush’s four, said the last time he saw his friend was in late September, when he was in Kennebunkport, Maine, to accept the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service.

Bush wasn’t well enough to attend the event, so Mulroney paid the former president a visit at home before the ceremony.

Bush asked to hear Mulroney’s acceptance speech, so the former prime minister read it out to him. The two friends also spent time listening to music and talking.

“It was just a delightful experience, and my last visit with him after all these years,” Mulroney said Saturday in an interview.

“I think we both knew that that was probably the last visit we were going to have.”

Mulroney said that among the two leaders’ joint accomplishments, two stand out: the signing of the Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement, known as the acid rain treaty, in 1991; and the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1994 after both had left office.

Bush “was a great friend of Canada, and he made very important things possible for Canadian history,” Mulroney said.

Mulroney said Bush asked him three years ago if he would speak at his funeral, and he said he’d be “honoured” to do it.

“I spent a little time on it. I’m not finished yet, but I think I know what I want to say,” Mulroney said.

The White House announced Saturday that a state funeral for the former president would be held at Washington’s National Cathedral. President Donald Trump also closed government offices Wednesday and designated it a national day of mourning, which traditionally occurs on the same day as the Washington component of a late president’s state funeral.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered his thoughts on Bush’s legacy, saying the former U.S. president’s commitment to his country was clear.

“His exemplary spirit of service and commitment to country would mark each of his roles – including in Congress, as ambassador to the United Nations, as head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and in the White House,” Trudeau said of the former president in a written statement.

Canadian conservatives also offered up their sympathies, with federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also commending Bush as a “friend to Canada.”

“He was truly a gentleman of American politics and one of the world’s most principled defenders of freedom and democracy,” Scheer said in a statement.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper tweeted that Bush was “a conservative leader and deeply devoted family man” who leaves behind an incredible legacy.

Some of Canada’s conservative premiers also tweeted their condolences.

“We Canadians will remember his friendship and generous spirit,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford tweeted. “May he rest in peace.”

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe wrote that Bush was “a humble, well-respected political figure while serving and through his many years post-presidency.”

Alberta orders oil production cut to deal with price differential

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 3rd, 2018

Premier Rachel Notley is ordering a mandatory cut to oil production to deal with a price crisis she says threatens to gut Alberta’s bedrock industry.

Notley announced the province will impose across-the-board cuts amounting to 8.7 per cent of output to reduce a growing glut of oil that is forcing Alberta oil to sell at steep discounts compared with the North American benchmark.

“In the last few weeks, this price gap has reached historic highs,” Notley said Sunday in a speech timed to run live on supper-hour newscasts in Alberta.

Roughly speaking, Notley said, while the rest of the world sells its oil at about $50 per barrel, Alberta fetches only $10.

“We are essentially giving our oil away for free.”

Fire-sale prices have led to concerns the oilpatch will have to find savings elsewhere in the coming weeks and months by slashing capital spending or jobs.

Notley said the 8.7 per cent reduction begins in January, with the expectation that figure will gradually decrease until the cuts are scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2019.

“This is a short term measure,” she said.

Output of raw crude oil and bitumen will be reduced initially by 325,000 barrels per day. As the excess storage clears, the reduction is expected to drop to 95,000 barrels a day.

There will be a 10,000-barrel-per-day exemption to ensure small producers are not hurt disproportionately. The province estimates 25 producers will have to impose cuts.

About 35 million barrels of oil are in storage — about twice the normal levels.

The announcement is expected to narrow the differential by at least $4 per barrel and add an estimated $1.1 billion to government revenues in 2019-2020.

The move is not unprecedented — in 1980, Tory premier Peter Lougheed forced oil production cuts to protest the federal Liberals’ national energy program.

The current glut is due in part to pipeline bottlenecks.

The Trans-Mountain line to the B.C. coast is now in legal limbo despite being approved two years ago.

The Enbridge Line 3 project, shipping more oil from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest is expected to come online late next year.

The premier has already said the province will buy as many as 80 locomotives and 7,000 rail tankers — expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars — to move the province’s excess oil to markets, with the first shipments expected in late 2019.

The Opposition United Conservatives and the centrist Alberta Party had already called for the production cut. Notley thanked them both in her speech.

Opposition United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney said Notley made the right decision.

But he said Notley’s government has played a role in creating the problem by not pushing back as the federal government cancelled the Northern Gateway pipeline to B.C. and introduced legislation that industry leaders say will make it more difficult to get oil megaprojects approved.

“Many of these policies (were) supported either by acquiescence or actively by the NDP government,” said Kenney. “That’s one of the reasons why in the past week we’ve been giving away our oil.”

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel said the government was warned in the spring that this crisis was coming, and should have acted sooner.

“They dragged their feet. They had an opportunity early to do something and they didn’t,” said Mandel.

“It’s frustrating to me to see so many people losing their jobs as a result of this incompetence.”

Industry feelings prior to the announcement had been mixed.

Cenovus Energy proposed the idea of a production cut last month. However, Imperial and Husky said Friday they remain opposed to involuntary production cuts.

Expanded hours at LCBO, Beer Store and authorized retailers begins Sunday

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Dec 3rd, 2018

Ontarians are now able to purchase alcohol between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week.

The extended hours were announced back in November during the Ford government’s economic statement, but were officially expanded on Sunday.

The move was made to align with the hours of Ontario’s private retail recreational cannabis stores which will begin to open on April 1.

Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport Michael Tibollo made the announcement on Twitter, stating the expanded hours are for LCBO stores, The Beer Store, authorized grocery stores and off-site winery retail stores.

Most LCBO stores in Toronto close at 9 p.m., with several closing at 10 p.m. and a few already closing at 11 p.m

It is not immediately clear how many retailers will take advantage of the new extended hours, but the provincial government said the move “will provide retailers with the flexibility to respond to local market conditions and consumer demands.”


Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques set to blast off to space

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 3rd, 2018

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques won’t be carrying much with him when he leaves Earth to blast off to the International Space Station on Monday.

If all goes according to plan, he will take off at 6:31 a.m. Eastern Time from the steppes of Kazakhstan on the first manned Russian rocket launch since a dramatic aborted Soyuz failure in October.

Watch a live stream via NASA TV below:

What does one bring to space? A small shoebox containing items such as wedding rings and a watch.

“I brought a few personal items that remind me of my family, of my children, of my parents, my wife and the people I love on the planet, so they’re mainly mementoes,” he said recently, adding that his luggage has already been sent ahead.

There will also be a few Christmas presents, which he’ll unwrap as his family watches him back on Earth, his wife Veronique Morin said last week.

The 48-year-old doctor and astronaut has spent years training for the six-month mission, which was originally scheduled for Dec. 20 but was moved up after the aborted Soyuz launch.

Aboard the station, his role will include conducting a number of science experiments, some of which will focus on the physical effects of the weak gravity astronauts experience in orbit, as well as how to provide remote medical care.

And while he’s likely to keep in touch, he says Canadians shouldn’t expect a repeat of the out-of-this-world guitar performances that brought his predecessor Chris Hadfield international fame during his own stint on the space station in 2013.

“I don’t think I’m going to try to top what Chris did in terms of entertainment — that is his forte,” Saint-Jacques said on Nov. 29.

“We each go there with our own personalities and our own ambitions.”

People all over the world are expected to watch Monday’s launch with extra attention, given the fate of the previous mission.

On Oct. 11, a rocket failure forced a Soyuz capsule carrying two astronauts to abort and make an emergency landing. Russia suspended all manned space launches pending an investigation before giving the green light Nov. 1.

The crowd on the ground in Kazakhstan will include members of Saint-Jacques’ family as well as Governor General Julie Payette, herself a former astronaut.

In an interview, Payette expressed confidence in Saint-Jacques and the technology that will bring him to space.

“David is exceptional…. He’s been working for years, and he fully deserves it,” Payette said, adding that the fact that the launch has been moved up “demonstrates to what point everyone has complete confidence in the equipment that’s leaving.”

Payette, who completed missions to the space station in 1999 and 2009, knows what to expect during the drama of the launch.

“It shakes, as they say,” she said. “It’s very powerful — a rocket that’s leaving Earth’s gravity, and it’s very impressive for a spectator. In fact, it’s very emotional when you know there are people aboard.”

She said the most dangerous moments will come in the moments following the launch, as the rocket passes through several “critical zones” on its way into space.

Payette would not say whether she’d offered Saint-Jacques advice, saying only that astronauts are a tight-knit group.

“We’re very few in Canada, they can be counted on the fingers of two hands,” she said.

But while the list of astronauts may be small, both Payette and Saint-Jacques emphasize the strength and importance of Canada’s space contributions.

“I believe that Canada has a big role to play in that community,” Saint-Jacques said. “To me, it’s the kind of innovative, creative, bold Canada that I would like my children to live in —  Canada is there to stay in space.”

With files from Melanie Marquis and Peter Rakobowchuk

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