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Another winter storm brewing in the GTA, to arrive Tuesday

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Feb 11th, 2019

The GTA is bracing for another winter storm, with the potential for heavy snow, freezing rain and ice pellets accompanied by gusting winds.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for the region that includes Toronto, calling for 15-20 centimetres of snow and ice accumulations.

The national weather agency said the snow will start early Tuesday morning, which will then mix with or change to ice pellets later in the day. There is also a risk of freezing rain.

Since the high on Tuesday will be near 0 C, the type of precipitation will depend on the temperature.

With the wind gusting to 80 km/h, the blowing snow will add to the treacherous driving conditions.

The storm system is expected to leave the region by Wednesday.

Drake wins best rap song Grammy award for ‘God’s Plan’

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Feb 11th, 2019

Drake picked up his fourth career Grammy for “God’s Plan” in the best rap song category at the awards held on Sunday night.

The Toronto rapper surprised many of his fans by showing up to collect his award — but he had a few choice words for organizers of the glitzy event.

The hitmaker, born Aubrey Graham, held his golden trophy in one hand while he acknowledged his turbulent relationship with the Grammys.

“This is like the first time in Grammy history where I actually am who I thought I was for a second, so I like that, that’s really nice,” he said as he accepted his award.

“I definitely did not think I was winning anything.”

Drake, who walked into the event with seven nominations, second only to Kendrick Lamar, wasn’t necessarily expected to show up to collect any wins. He often shuns appearances at awards shows and boycotted last year’s Grammys by not submitting anything from his previous release, “More Life.”

He’s also chose to forgo consideration at the Juno Awards again this year with his latest album “Scorpion.” Tensions have lingered after he hosted the 2011 show but was shut out of all of his five nominations.

As he accepted his Grammy, Drake added that working in the music industry is like “playing in an opinion-based sport, not a factual based sport.”

“It’s not the NBA where at the end of the year you’re holding a trophy because you made the right decisions and won the games,” he said.

“This is a business where sometimes it’s up to a bunch of people that might not understand what a mixed race kid from Canada has to say or a fly Spanish girl from New York or anybody else.”

He added that an artist has already won if “you have people who are singing your songs word for word” and “if you’re a hero in your hometown.”

1 dead after shooting outside nightclub near Queen and Parliament

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Feb 8th, 2019

One person is dead after a shooting in the city’s downtown core overnight.

Emergency crews were called to Queen Street East, just east of Parliament Street, around 2 a.m. Friday, for multiple reports of gunshots in the area.

Police said the victim was shot while standing in a doorway in front of a nightclub in the area.

“Our officers were in the area and arrived here very quickly,” Toronto police Insp. Jim Gotell explained.

“We located one male who had been shot several times in a doorway on Queen Street.”

The victim suffered critical injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

There has been no word on suspects.

Homicide has taken over the investigation.

Investigators are speaking with people inside the club as well as the multiple witnesses who called 911.

Queen is closed in both directions from Parliament to Power Street. The 501 streetcar is diverting both ways via Shuter Street.

Facts and figures about potholes in Toronto

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Feb 8th, 2019

The roller-coaster temperatures over the past couple of weeks have created ideal conditions for the potholes that have been appearing on roads around Toronto. Here are some facts and figures about how the city handles the problem.

By the numbers

$25: Cost to repair each pothole

$4 million to $5 million: Annual budget for repairing potholes in Toronto

15-20 minutes: The amount of time it takes to repair one pothole

4: Number of days after receiving a report the city aims to have a pothole repaired

25: Number of city crews out repairing potholes on a typical day


About potholes

Potholes are created when water penetrates the top layer of asphalt through cracks in the road. After the moisture freezes and expands, sections of the pavement are forced up. The weight of vehicles going over these sections breaks the pavement, forcing the asphalt out.

Potholes are more frequent in the spring, after the freeze-thaw cycle, but they happen at other times of the year.

The city has crews in each district which respond to potholes reported to 311 and another crew that patrols each district looking for potholes.

Much like plowing and salting, when there is a large number of potholes that need to be repaired, the city triages based on size and prioritizes repairs on expressways and arterial roads first.

Repairing potholes is an affordable way to maintain roads. City crews routinely monitor road conditions and identify areas that need repairs.

Road users and business owners can help by reporting potholes online, by calling or emailing 311 or by using the 311 online app

To repair, crews place asphalt and rake it into the pothole. Then they tamp down the asphalt and smooth it out until the road surface is improved.

Source: City of Toronto

Raptors acquire Gasol from Grizzlies for package including Valanciunas

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 8th, 2019

The Toronto Raptors have pulled off one of the league’s biggest deals at the NBA trade deadline, acquiring Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and Delon Wright.

The blockbuster deal, which was completed late Thursday evening, brings a player long coveted by Raptors president Masai Ujiri to Toronto. It’s also a power move for a Toronto team looking to at least keep pace with Milwaukee and Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference.

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet spoke highly of Gasol shortly before Toronto tipped off against the Hawks in Atlanta.

“(Gasol) is one of the best fives in the league for a long time now, perennial all-star, defensive player of the year,” VanVleet said. “Just really excited to see how we can acclimate him to what we do and see how much he can give us a boost. Obviously we’re very excited about that.”

In a separate deal, the Raptors also sent veteran forward Greg Monroe and a 2021 second-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for cash considerations.

The 76ers and Bucks had made major moves ahead of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline, the Sixers landing Tobias Harris and Milwaukee acquiring Nikola Mirotic.

As Thursday wore on, Raptors fans took to social media to implore Ujiri to make a major move.

And he did. It’s Ujiri’s biggest trade-deadline deal since returning to the team in 2013.

Gasol is a three-time all-star and the 2013 defensive player of the year. He’s averaging 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals a game, and his 4.7 assists a night is second best in the league behind Jokic. The seven-foot-one Spaniard is a two-time Olympian, and will be reunited with Spanish coach and Raptors assistant Sergio Scariolo in Toronto.

Gasol, who played 11 seasons in Memphis, is slated to make US$24.1 million this season and has a player option for $25.6 million next season.

Last summer, Gasol volunteered as part of a Spanish rescue effort in the Mediterranean Sea, plucking people from the water who were fleeing Africa. A photo showed Gasol helping lift a woman onto a stretcher. He voiced his “Frustration, anger and helplessness” on Twitter, writing “It’s unbelievable how so many vulnerable people are abandoned to their deaths at sea. Deep admiration for these I call my teammates at this time. ?openarms_fund”

In Valanciunas, the Raptors’ lose of their most popular players. The 26-year, who was drafted by Toronto fifth overall in 2011, was finally cleared to play Thursday after missing 25 games with a dislocated left thumb. The team posted a photo of the big Lithuanian on social media with two words: “I’m back.”

Valanciunas told reporters in Atlanta on Thursday morning: “I am really excited. I was really looking forward to this day and there you go. If nothing crazy happens, I will be playing.”

Toronto guard Norman Powell said he will miss his departing teammates.

“We were in the foxhole when we weren’t getting minutes, talking about the process, and working to make an impact when we did get the time and growing together in the league, so it was definitely tough seeing guys like that go, but you just wish them the best,” said Powell. “I’m sure they’ll make the most of a new opportunity and chance to go out there and prove themselves with another team.”

The moves leave the Raptors with just 10 players under NBA contracts, and they must be at 14 within the next two weeks. They could convert one or both of their two-way contracts with Chris Boucher and Jordan Loyd to NBA contracts.

Ujiri, meanwhile, made two moves just prior to the 2017 deadline, acquiring Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic and P.J. Tucker from the Phoenix Suns. That Raptors team was swept by Cleveland in the second round of the playoffs.

Serial killer Bruce McArthur to be sentenced today

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 8th, 2019

Serial killer Bruce McArthur is set to be sentenced Friday.

The 67-year-old self-employed landscaper pleaded guilty last week to murdering eight men with ties to Toronto’s gay village.

The Crown is seeking a life sentence with no chance of parole for 50 years.

The defence has asked that sentences for all eight first-degree murder counts be served concurrently, which would make McArthur eligible for parole in 25 years.

First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, but when there are several convictions, the court can impose consecutive periods of parole ineligibility.

McArthur has admitted to murdering Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.

Toronto real estate board calls on Ottawa to revisit mortgage stress test

LINDA NGUYEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Feb 7th, 2019

Canada’s largest real estate board is calling on Ottawa to revisit whether a stricter mortgage stress test introduced last year is still needed, arguing that the policy has negatively impacted the economy and Toronto’s once red-hot housing market.

“While we saw buyers return to the market in the second half of 2018, we have to have an honest discussion on whether or not today’s homebuyers are being stress tested against rates that are realistic,” said John DiMichele, chief executive of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) in a statement Wednesday.

“Home sales in the GTA, and Canada more broadly, play a huge role in economic growth, job creation and government revenues every year. Looking through this lens, policymakers need to be aware of unintended consequences the stress test could have on the housing market and broader economy.”

The OFSI-mandated stress test, which came into effect in 2018, cooled housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver by limiting the ability of those with a more than 20 per cent down payment to qualify for mortgages.

The stricter rules requires borrowers to prove that they can service their uninsured mortgage at a qualifying rate of the greater of the contractual mortgage rate plus two percentage points or the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada. The policy also reduced the maximum amount buyers would be able to borrow to buy a home.

An existing stress test already required those with insured mortgages to qualify at the central bank’s benchmark five-year mortgage rule.

On Tuesday, OFSI assistant superintendent Carolyn Rogers defended the stricter rules, saying that a “margin of safety” was still “prudent” in the current economic climate. She also said the group was open to changes when warranted.

TREB, which represents more than 52,000 real estate agents across the region, says under the stress test rules, homebuyers have to qualify for monthly mortgage payments nearly $700 more than what they would actually pay.

“In order to account for the higher qualification standard, intending home buyers have adjusted their preferences, including the type of home they intend on purchasing,” said the report, resulting in the increased popularity of condos and townhouses over detached homes.

Realtor Tom Storey says demand in the Toronto housing market remains strong despite the stress test rules, noting that a bungalow in east Toronto he visited last month with a client garnered 21 bids and sold for more than $200,000 over asking. He says there are still many buyers out there, but the problem is that inventory is drying up, especially in these slow winter months.

Storey says he doesn’t think doing away with the stress test would result in a more equitable real estate market.

“I am no longer seeing prices that make me scratch my head,” he said. “The properties that are priced correctly are selling quickly and the ones that are overpriced are sitting on the market. That’s what a healthy market should be like. We had a 10-year run of serious price growth and we’re going to go back to more moderate levels now.”

Despite the challenges, TREB says it expects to see a “moderate improvement” in sales and sale price this year in Toronto’s real estate market but doesn’t anticipate either to hit the record levels seen in previous years.

The board says other factors such as population growth, low unemployment rates and potentially stable interest rates will help Toronto’s housing market this year.

The Bank of Canada has raised the benchmark rate five times since mid-2017, encouraged by a stronger economy, and signalled that more rate increases are likely but will come about slower than originally expected.

The outlook forecasts that 83,000 sales will be reported through the board’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system in 2019, up 7.2 per cent from 77,375 sales recorded in 2018.

TREB expects the average selling price for the year in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area will increase to $820,000 _ close to the peak reached in 2017 _ and up from an average of $787,195 in 2018.

Much of that price growth will be led by the hot condominium market as homebuyers look for more affordable housing options, while the board anticipates the price growth for detached properties to be below the average growth rate for the total market.

Meanwhile, the board expects new listings will remain flat this year after pulling back in 2018 to sit between 155,000 and 156,000.

The report also cautions that the rental market in Toronto and the surrounding area will remain “tight” this year.

“The supply of rental units could continue to be problematic in 2019,” it warned.

The board also reported Wednesday that home sales in Toronto and the surrounding area saw a small uptick in January, a sign that the real estate market in Canada’s largest city remains stable.

TREB says there were 4,009 home sales recorded in January, up 0.6 per cent compared with January 2018. On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales were up by 3.4 per cent versus December 2018.

The board says the average selling price for all property types was $748,328 last month, an increase of 1.7 per cent from the same month a year ago. TREB reports that the more affordable condo segment led the price growth, up by 7.9 per cent in January.

Semi-detached and townhouse properties also saw increases, while the price of detached homes fell by 2.8 per cent in January year-over-year.

The board says the total number of new listings were up, climbing 10.5 per cent to 9,456 listings last month.

First pot stores could be coming to Toronto, Brampton, St. Catharines

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Feb 7th, 2019

The first three cannabis stores in Ontario could be set up in Toronto, Brampton and St. Catharines.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) says applications for pot shops have been made in those three cities and will now be subject to public feedback.

The Toronto shop would be located in the city’s Yorkville neighbourhood at 20 Cumberland St.

The Brampton store would be located at 186 Main St., near a city mall, and the St. Catharines store would open at 33 Lakeshore Rd.

Ontario announced the first 25 entities that could apply for cannabis retail licences in the province last month.

The AGCO will accept feedback on the licences and possible store locations until Feb. 20, with the stores to open in April.

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