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Winterlicious among the events in Toronto this weekend

PATRICK LUCIANI AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jan 25th, 2019

If winter has you singing the blues, maybe it is time for you to change your playlist. Several events are taking place in Toronto this weekend that are sure to make you do the happy dance.

If you are looking to escape from this winter weather, don’t hibernate. Instead, warm up with some comfort food at one of the nearly 200 restaurants taking part in Winterlicious this year. The foodie event starts Friday and runs until Feb. 7. The three-course prix fixe lunch menus priced at $23, $28 and $33 or dinner menus priced at $33, $43 and $53. This year, there will be several food experiences to enjoy, including Dinner with the Mackenzies at Mackenzie House, A Culinary Tour of Toronto at the Palais Royale, Afternoon Tea at Casa Loma, Savour St. Lawrence Market, to name a few.

Afternoon tea at Casa Loma
A pot of tea can do wonders for the soul, and what better place to have it than at the historic Casa Loma. Enjoy a selection of tea and baked goods including crumpets, scones, pastries, mini croissants. There will also be those delightful tea sandwiches. The tea service, which is part of Winterlicious, takes place this weekend and next. The cost is $40, which also includes admission to the castle and grounds. Reservations are required.

Happy Place
This is the last weekend to experience Happy Place at Harbourfront Centre. This interactive, immersive exhibit sold out in Los Angeles and Chicago. It features multi-sensory, larger-than-life displays including the world’s largest indoor Confetti Dome, seven-foot stilettos made of a million candies (seriously), and a huge rubber ducky bathtub of fun!

Toronto Pug Grumble
Calling all Pug lovers! This Sunday is the monthly Pug meet-up at the Dog Bowl in Trinity Bellwoods Park. This Toronto Pug Grumble is your chance to surround yourself in a pile of cuddly, snorting puppies, or bring your own and meet a new friend. You’ll even have a chance to pet Helmut The Pug of Instagram fame in person. The event runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Winter Craft Beer Festival
A liquid sweater could be one way to warm up this weekend. The Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival takes place this Saturday. The first 500 guests at 255 Bremner Blvd. will receive a free toque, which will come in handy since the festival takes place outside. Enjoy delicious winter food and wash it down with great craft beers from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are available at the gate, but they are limited.

Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard voted in as all-star starter

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 25th, 2019

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers is a captain and an All-Star starter — again.

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks will choose his own teammates as the other captain.

Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard was named a starter for the third time, first with Toronto in the East.

And Hornets guard Kemba Walker is about to make his first All-Star start, on his home floor in Charlotte.

While there were perhaps mild surprises, there were no real stunners during Thursday night’s unveiling of the starters for the NBA All-Star Game that will be played in Charlotte on Feb. 17. James and Antetokounmpo are captains, their perk for being the leading vote-getters out of the Western and Eastern Conferences, and nine of this year’s 10 starters have been chosen to begin All-Star Games in the past.

Walker is the lone exception, and broke into a smile when realizing he was a pick.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Walker told TNT during the broadcast to announce the starters.

The starting guards from the East are Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Walker. The East frontcourt picks were Antetokounmpo, Leonard and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. From the West, Stephen Curry and reigning NBA MVP James Harden were the picks at guard, with James, Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City’s Paul George getting the frontcourt spots.

“I had a lot of doubt coming into my early career about just even being an elite point guard in this league,” Walker said. “So for me to become an All-Star for two straight years and then now to become an All-Star starter most definitely proves the doubters wrong. So this is an unbelievable moment in my career.”

James, who has been out for a month with a groin injury but is nearing a return, extended his own record by getting picked as a starter for the 15th consecutive year. He was also a captain last year in the first usage of this captain’s-choice format — and just like last year, James will have the No. 1 pick when he and Antetokounmpo get together on Feb. 7 to choose their 12-man teams.

The Bucks, off to an NBA-best 34-12 start, were predictably thrilled that Antetokounmpo earned one of the captaincies.

“It speaks to how incredible of a player he is, how much excitement he creates for fans and people want to follow him and watch him and I guess vote for him in this case,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who currently is the front-runner to coach one of the two All-Star teams. “It’s just well-deserved.”

Reserves will be announced Jan. 31, based on the selections made by NBA coaches. From there, James and Antetokounmpo will choose their rosters on Feb. 7, with conference affiliations irrelevant.

All-Star starters are chosen by a weighted combination of voting from fans, media and NBA players. Among the notable snubs based on who the fans want to see: Dallas rookie Luka Doncic, second in the West frontcourt voting; Minnesota’s Derrick Rose, second in the West guard voting; and Miami guard Dwyane Wade, who fans voted second among East guards in his 16th and final NBA season.

Wade is one of four still-active past All-Star MVPs waiting to see if an All-Star nod is coming. The others are Houston’s Chris Paul, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.

Antetokounmpo already, and understandably, seems sure that Westbrook will be a reserve pick. Westbrook and Embiid tangled in a 76ers-Thunder game last week, and sent a few pointed words in each other’s direction afterward. And mindful of that, Antetokounmpo said he wants to bring the stars together.

“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” Antetokounmpo said. “If I can pick Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook on the same team, I’m going to do it.”

Fare hike, hiring more fare inspectors: TTC board to discuss budget

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Jan 24th, 2019

The TTC board meets Thursday and among the items up for discussion are a proposed fare hike and cracking down on riders who skip out on paying the fare.

TTC staff are recommending a 10-cent fare hike for April 1, as part of the transit system’s 2019 budget. The hike would raise almost $26 million to partially offset an expected $100-million increase in expenses this year.

If approved, the fare increase would be on all fare types except adult cash fares, which will remain unchanged at $3.25. Children under 12 years old will continue to ride for free.

Meanwhile, two transit advocacy groups are planning to attend the 1 p.m. board meeting, to denounce the proposed fare hike.

TTC Riders and the Fair Fare Coalition are demanding the city provide more money to fund projects and provide more service.

The TTC is also expected to discuss potentially hiring an additional 45 fare inspectors and 22 transit enforcement officers, to better deter fare evaders.

“With automated fare collection now occurring across all modes, TTC will review and strengthen its inspection activities using a risk-based approach to provide a consistent and more visible deterrent to fare evasion,” the TTC states in its budget.

It adds that the fare inspectors and transit enforcement officers will also enhance security within the transit system.

The estimated cost for the hires is around $4.5 million — it is believed some of that cost would be offset by the extra fare revenue.

Any decisions that the TTC board make would still have to be approved by city council.

Exclusive: Violence in GTA hospitals on the rise

CRISTINA HOWORUN | posted Thursday, Jan 24th, 2019

A serious assault on a nurse and security guard at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket last week was just the latest in an increasing number of violent incidents in Ontario hospitals.

The security guard had a broken orbital bone. The nurse remains in hospital with several broken facial bones and a brain injury.

Violence in our hospitals isn’t often so severe, but it is on the rise — not only at Southlake, but also at most hospitals surveyed by CityNews.

Through a series of Freedom of Information requests to GTA hospitals, CityNews has learned the number of so-called code whites — used to alert staff about a violent person in the building — is on the rise.

In 2016, there were 112 code whites at St. Michael’s Hospital, 206 at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, 119 at Toronto General Hospital and 161 at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. All of the hospitals noticed an increase in 2017, and most were on pace for even more increases by the end of 2018. (Data collected ends in June 2018.)

Link to photo gallery

Perhaps most alarmingly, Brampton Civic Hospital was on pace for more than 600 incidents at the end of last year.

“It’s really sad and really shocking to see how many code whites we’ve had at Brampton Civic Hospital,” Brampton NDP MPP Sara Singh told CityNews.

“Over 400 — That means every single day we’re seeing at least one code white, if not more. And we’re continuing to see those numbers increase.”

Dr. Naveed Mohammad, executive VP of Quality, Medical & Academic Affairs at William Osler Health Centre, said code whites are more prevalent at the group (which includes Brampton Civic), because staff members are encouraged to sound the alarm whenever they feel there’s a potential for violence.

“We’d rather have staff be proactive and do those things early then wait until the situation becomes more dangerous. Most of our code whites are situations where de-escalation happens,” he explained.

“Code whites are not people running around and tackling people or fighting — that’s what we don’t want to get to.”

He stressed that patients aren’t the only source of code whites — they can arise from hospital visitors or people entering the hospital off the street — but many stem from patients suffering from mental health issues.

“We have close to 100 beds overall at Osler, and 75 at Brampton, that serve mental health patients,” Mohammad said.

“We’re the only level one facility in our (Local Health Integration Network) — which means that for this whole catchment area of over one million people, we’re the only facility that deals with the highest level of mental health patients. We also have the lowest number of psychiatrists per capita in the province.

“We admit the third most mental health patients in the province. The only two organizations that admit more mental health patients than us is (the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) which is a mental-health-only facility and Homewood (Health Centre) which is a mental health and addictions facility. Our one unit at Brampton Civic could be its own, full-blown mental health facility. “

Mohammad said care is tough to access in the community, resulting in patients that come into the hospital at the “height of their illness.”

“We saw this government cut $330 million out of mental health funding,” Singh said.

“So rather than investing and making sure that those services are going to continue in the communities, this government is looking for ways to cut and find efficiencies rather than invest in services that are needed.”

The provincial government recently committed to spending $3.8 billion on mental health care services over the next 10 years — its first investment was for 50 more mental health beds at 12 different hospitals — but Mohammad said much of the violence in hospitals could be avoided with investment outside of their halls.

“If the ministry can provide or work with us to provide more resources in the community to help our mental health patients, that would be a big step forward for us,” he said.

In a statement to CityNews, Hayley Chazan, spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott, said the Ford government is making “the biggest commitment to mental health in provincial history.”

“Minister Elliott is in the process of hosting province-wide consultations on mental health to help inform the development of a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions strategy,” she said.

However, Chazan didn’t say whether the province would address violence in hospitals, for example by mandating the number of security personnel on staff or providing funding for additional security.

Canada endorses Venezuelan opposition leader as interim president

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 24th, 2019

Canada is recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president.

A government source who was not authorized to speak publicly says Canada will issue a formal statement shortly, following the lead of the United States.

The move comes as Guaido declares himself interim president, just two weeks after Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a contested second term.

Canada has accused Maduro of seizing power through fraudulent, anti-democratic elections in May of last year.

Earlier this month it rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s new presidential term, calling on him to immediately cede power to the democratically elected National Assembly until new elections are held.

Canada said the suffering of Venezuelans would only worsen should Maduro continue to cling to power.

Ontario considers removing caps on kindergarten, primary class sizes

ALLISON JONES, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 24th, 2019

Ontario is considering removing caps on class sizes in kindergarten and in Grades 1 to 3 as the Progressive Conservative government tackles a multi-billion-dollar deficit.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson announced Wednesday that she is launching consultations with education partners on class sizes and teacher-hiring practices.

Currently, the kindergarten class size cap is 29 students, and the average of class sizes across any board can’t be more than 26. For the primary grades the cap is 23 students, but at least 90 per cent of classes in any board must have 20 or fewer students.

A government consultation document poses questions such as whether hard caps on class sizes should continue, and if they were removed, what would be an appropriate way to set effective class sizes.

“The province’s current fiscal circumstances require an examination of whether changes to class size would allow school boards to deliver better value for government investment,” the document says, noting that educator staffing costs make up about 80 per cent of government funding to school boards.

Sam Hammond, the president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said in a meeting with government officials Wednesday, the officials made it clear they need to work toward balancing the budget.

“Given that, they’re going to have to make some difficult decisions and there’s no doubt that some of those decisions are going to affect publicly funded education,” Hammond said, adding that moving from hard caps to a system based on averages “would be an absolute disaster.”

The government document says the ministry has heard in previous talks that implementing hard caps on class sizes is expensive and difficult for school boards to manage.

“It has been suggested that board-wide class size averages offer more flexibility for classroom organization and allows for more efficient use of board funds,” the document says.

The consultations are also looking at changes to teacher-hiring practices.

The Tories are in the midst of trying to trim a deficit they peg at $14.5 billion — though the financial accountability officer says it’s closer to $12 billion.

Hammond thinks Wednesday’s meeting and consultation is a harbinger of both what’s to come in the budget for education, and negotiations that are to start this year ahead of teacher contracts expiring in August.

The previous Liberal government negotiated the last round of teacher and education worker contracts as two-year extensions to existing deals, which ensured they wouldn’t have to contend with heated teacher bargaining ahead of the 2018 election.

That deal for elementary teachers came with $56 million to hire teachers and early childhood educators so the current kindergarten cap could be implemented.

Under the existing contracts, high school, elementary, English Catholic and French teachers, as well as support staff, got four per cent salary increases over the two years.

They also got a one-time payment for professional development, supplies and equipment equivalent to a 0.5-per-cent salary increase.

Wildly-changing weather day in store for the GTA

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Jan 23rd, 2019

A mixed bag of weather could create problems for those heading to school and work in the GTA on Wednesday morning.

The GTA, including Toronto, remains under a special weather statement, which was issued by Environment Canada on Tuesday.

“Snow with brief freezing rain changing to rain late near noon with strong and gusty winds this afternoon into tonight,” the national weather agency said in its statement.

Environment Canada said the snow will mix with or change over to freezing rain this morning and then transition to rain as warmer temperatures move it.

The warm front will be accompanied with strong winds gusting to 70 km/h this afternoon and into the evening.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said the GTA could receive 2-4 centimetres of snow before the precipitation changes to rain. There is also a risk for a brief period of freezing rain during the transition.

The high for the day is 6 C and the temperature will remain steady into the evening, as the rain continues.

Colder air will return overnight as the mercury drops to -1 C.

Former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay voted into Baseball Hall of Fame

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jan 23rd, 2019

Former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay has been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Halladay, who died in a plane crash on Nov. 7, 2017 at age 40, will be inducted into the national baseball shrine in Cooperstown, N.Y., this July along with Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina.

Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, received 85.4 per cent of the vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced Tuesday night. Eligible players need at least 75 per cent to be inducted.

Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker, a former National League MVP for the Colorado Rockies, received 54.6 per cent.

Rivera become baseball’s first unanimous Hall of Fame selection, receiving all 425 votes in balloting. The quartet will be enshrined in Cooperstown along with Today’s Game Era Committee selections Harold Baines and Lee Smith on July 21.

Ken Griffey Jr. held the mark for top percentage at 99.32 when he was on 437 of 440 ballots two years ago.

Halladay spent 12 seasons with the Blue Jays from 1998-2009, pitching more than 2,000 innings and winning the American League Cy Young in 2003.

He represented Toronto at six all-star games _ he appeared in eight overall _ had three 20-win seasons and five with 200 or more strikeouts, and earned the NL Cy Young award with the Phillies in 2010 in his first season in Philadelphia.

The towering right-hander signed a one-day contract with Toronto in December 2013 to retire as a Blue Jay.

Toronto retired Halladay’s No. 32 on opening day of the 2018 season, four months after he died when the small sport plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Of the countless players that have worn the Blue Jays uniform, few have done so with the determination and elegance of Roy Halladay,” Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said in a release. “Today is a bittersweet day for our community and organization, as we remember a beloved pitcher, teammate, and family man, but we can take comfort in the boundless impact Roy had on Canadian fans nationwide and the game of baseball.

“On behalf of the Toronto Blue Jays organization and all of our fans, we congratulate Brandy, Braden, Ryan, and the entire Halladay family on this monumental honour.”

Halladay amassed a 203-105 record and a 3.38 earned-run average and 2,117 strikeouts over 416 regular-season major league games and was 2-3 with a 2.37 ERA through five post-season starts, all with Philadelphia.

He became just the second pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter in the post-season, opening the 2010 National League Division Series with one against the Cincinnati Reds in the first playoff start of his career.

Halladay also threw a perfect game for Philadelphia earlier that season against the Miami Marlins.

Halladay led his league in complete games seven times, strikeout-to-walk ratio five times, shutouts four times, innings pitched four times and victories twice.

Toronto selected Halladay 17th overall in the 1995 draft. The Denver native remained in the Blue Jays organization until he was traded to Philadelphia ahead of the 2010 season.

Halladay stayed involved in baseball following his retirement, helping coach his son Braden’s former high school team in Clearwater, Fla., to a state championship in the final year of his life. Braden, now a freshman at Penn State, is also a pitcher.

Halladay also spent time working with young pitchers in the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations during spring trainings, which Toronto right-hander Aaron Sanchez called “something I’ll be forever grateful for.”

“There’s no doubt he should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” the 26-year-old right-hander said last weekend in Toronto. “His resume speaks for itself, I don’t think I really need to touch on that. As a person I think he’s way beyond Hall of Fame.”

Canadian right-hander Scott Mathieson, who spent some time with Halladay in Philadelphia, recalled Halladay’s unmatched work ethic and preparedness.

“I’ve never met someone who worked as hard as he did. There’s nobody that even came close,” the Vancouver native said in a phone interview this week. “They had to give him a key to the facility because he was beating the grounds crew and the maintenance people to the field.

“I remember sitting through some of the pitchers’ meetings and talking to him one on one about different hitters. He was such a student of the game. I felt embarrassed sometimes because he was so much more prepared than everyone and when I talked to him it felt I really had to do my homework because it was like going up to a professor.”

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