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Icelandic budget airline WOW Air ceases operations

Egill Bjarnason, The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Mar 28th, 2019

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Icelandic budget airline WOW Air ceased operations on Thursday, stranding passengers across two continents.

In a statement on its website the airline, which had earlier suspended all its flights, told passengers there would be no further flights and advised them to check flights with other airlines for ways to reach their destinations.

The airline, founded by entrepreneur Skuli Mogensen, began operations in 2012 and specialized in ultra-cheap flights between North America and Europe, with flights to airports in cities including Washington, D.C, New York, Paris, London and its Reykjavik hub.

Its bankruptcy comes after six months of turbulent negotiations to sell the low-cost carrier, first to its main rival and flag-ship carrier Icelandair and later to Indigo Partners, an American company operating the airline Wizz.

“I will never forgive myself for not acting sooner,” Mogensen said in a letter to employees Thursday. “WOW was clearly an incredible airline and we were on the path to do amazing things again.”

Tourism is Iceland’s largest industry and WOW’s disappearance is set to have an effect on this summer’s high season.

In its early years the airline expanded fast to 37 destinations and reported up to 60 per cent annual growth in passenger numbers. Its revenue per passenger, however, has not kept up and fell by about 20 per cent in 2017, according to the last earnings report.

WOW grounded at least six planes in North America that were set to leave late Wednesday from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, New York and Baltimore.

In Europe, Reykjavik-bound planes from seven cities — Amsterdam, Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt and Copenhagen — did not take off Thursday morning.

Blue Jays trade Kendrys Morales to Athletics for minor-leaguer

Shi Davidi, Sportsnet | posted Thursday, Mar 28th, 2019

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays eased some of their roster challenges and created a spot on the 40-man by trading DH Kendrys Morales and cash considerations to the Oakland Athletics for minor-league infielder Jesus Lopez and international bonus pool room.

The deal, on the eve of the 2019 season, is somewhat of a stunner given the game’s recent aversion to offence-only players. More impressive is that general manager Ross Atkins not only found a taker for the one-dimensional 35-year-old who posted a .760 OPS over his two seasons in Toronto and is widely respected as a top-flight teammate, but he also returned some assets.

That wouldn’t have been possible without the money to offset the $12 million Morales is due this season – more than $10 million, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Essentially, the Blue Jays bought Lopez, a 22-year-old from Nicaragua who posted a .695 OPS in 84 games at low-A Beloit last year, along with the pool room.

But in moving off Morales, they’ve found more at-bats to spread around their position player group while giving themselves a spot on the 40-man to add a non-roster reliever – Javy Guerra is the current favourite – for Thursday’s season-opener against Detroit.

They now have only 11 position players on the 25-man roster, but an industry source indicated outfielder Anthony Alford was on his way to join the club. That would allow the Blue Jays to give Teoscar Hernandez plenty of time at DH while fielding a strong defensive outfield with any combination of Kevin Pillar, Randal Grichuk, Billy McKinney and Alford.

The Blue Jays signed Morales to a $33-million, three-year contract as a free agent in November 2016, a divisive agreement that came a day or two after Edwin Encarnacion turned down a four-year contract that would have guaranteed him $80 million.

Morales never provided the type of offensive impact the team hoped for from him – totalling 0.9 WAR as calculated by Baseball Reference over his two seasons – but was deeply admired and beloved by his teammates. His influence on and care for the club’s young players, the Latinos especially, brought an unquantifiable value.

A sample of the feeling towards him:

The additional bonus pool room, on the heels of the $500,000 acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for Dwight Smith Jr., allows the Blue Jays to make some additional adds in Latin America to bolster their prospect pool.

Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, who oversees the club’s international scouting, and vice-president, baseball operations Ben Cherington were recently in the Dominican Republic.

Letters from province outline shift in plans for Toronto transit projects

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Mar 27th, 2019

The province of Ontario is prepared to fork over more cash for Toronto transit, but in return it wants control of several major projects.

That was the gist of two letters the province sent to TTC Chief Executive Officer Rick Leary and City Manager Chris Murray earlier this month. The documents — an initial letter and a follow up with clarifications — were posted on the city’s website on Tuesday.

“With major financial commitments by the Government of Ontario will come the expectation that the province will have a leadership role in the planning, design, and delivery of these projects,” one of the letters stated.

Read the full text for the first letter dated March 22 below:

Province Letter March 22 by on Scribd

The letters outlined discrepancies between the city and province when it comes to their respective visions for four major projects.

Instead of a one-stop Scarborough subway extension, the letters say the “province is committed to a three-stop extension” that would end, as per current plans, at the Scarborough Town Centre.

The Ford government is also proposing that a significant portion of the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) line be underground — marking a significant shift from the current design plans.

For the Relief Line South, the province “would propose alternate delivery methods and an approach that would create such a free-standing project, which would enable the procurement of a truly unique artery spanning the city that is not beholden to the requirements of the technologically-outdated Line 2.”

And finally the province wants work on the Yonge Subway Extension to take place in tandem with the Relief Line “so that the in-service date for the extension is fast-tracked to the greatest extent possible.”

Read the full text of the second letter dated March 26 below:

Province Letter March 26 by CityNewsToronto on Scribd

Province Letter March 26 by on Scribd

Mayor John Tory was quick to release a statement concerning the province’s letters.

“I have been clear that any decision on upload about our subway system needs to be in the best interests of the people of Toronto, including transit riders and employees, and that the people of Toronto and the City of Toronto must be completely involved and consulted,” he said.

Tory faced questions about the province’s plans after meeting with Premier Doug Ford at Queen’s Park on Monday to discuss transit.

Councillor Gord Perks said if the possible upload of the subways to the province was a topic of discussion behind closed doors, the mayor had an obligation to tell council and the public about it.

“Something this big — it’s incumbent on the mayor and all of us on council to make sure that Torontonians know what the options are and have a chance to tell us what they think of those options,” he told 680 NEWS.

Perks says upload discussion have to be transparent and decisions cannot be made without public input. He has written a letter to mayor Tory asking for a memo to council, detailing everything discussed during his sit down with the Premier.

Immediately following the Monday meeting, Tory said transit was a key topic of his meeting with the Premier, but did not elaborate on the exact details of what was discussed.

“It was a constructive discussion,” he said. “There are some things we all have to clarify with one another, but that’s why we’re sitting at the table, having a process.”

Tory has previously said that the term “upload” is unclear and understanding just what uploading means is “absolutely essential” before the city decides to accept or reject the proposition, and has expressed willingness to continue meeting with the province to discuss the plan further.

Tory revealed more about the meeting in his statement on Tuesday night.

“At my meeting on Monday with Premier Ford, I reinforced Council’s position on the matter of the subway upload and Council’s expectation that the discussion between our two governments will proceed according to the agreed upon Terms of Reference, which include public consultations and transparency,” he said.

Coun. Perks responded to Tory’s statement on Twitter calling the province’s proposal “disastrous” and reiterating that neither he nor the public were aware of it.

Mayor Tory’s spokesman Don Peat said in a statement that Coun. Perks’ “instant outrage” and “over-the-top theatrics” about the letters was “extremely disappointing though not surprising,” adding that they do not contribute to getting transit built.

“Councillor Perks has been hell-bent on opposing any transit other than the plan he supported a decade ago. I don’t recall him championing the City’s current Council-approved transit network plan,” said Peat. “It’s the same old song – resist, put head in sand, pop up just to oppose, and then repeat.”

Peat also provided a timeline of the approximately 34 hours during which Mayor Tory became aware of the provinces letter and the events that followed:

  • Mayor Tory was alerted to the first letter on Monday by the City Manager around 9 a.m.
  • Tory met Premier Ford at his office at 10 a.m., raising strong concerns with the letter.
  • The steering committee met Monday night to discuss the letter and the issues it raised.
  • The province sent a follow-up letter on Tuesday morning
  • The City Manager filed both letters along with a supplementary report to City Council so everything could be considered at Wednesday’s debate.

 

The subway upload is one of the key items on the agendafor Wednesday’s city council meeting.

OSPCA turns down Ontario’s request to stay on until new animal laws in force

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Mar 27th, 2019

Ontario’s animal welfare watchdog has turned down a government request to continue enforcing cruelty laws until the province passes a new law, saying those responsibilities should rest with police.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the Ontario Society for the Prevention Cruelty to Animals, Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones said she hoped the new legislation – based on a “new animal welfare enforcement model” – would be in force by January 2020.

“In the meantime, it is important that enforcement of animal protection laws continue without any gaps that could leave animals more vulnerable than they are today,” Jones wrote in her letter, which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

On March 4, the OSPCA told the government it would no longer enforce animal cruelty laws when its current contract expires on April 1.

In its response to the government’s request, the OSPCA offered a three-month extension, and pointed to police services to enforce cruelty laws.

“This charity has never provided enforcement services for more than one-third of the province as it has never been resourced to do so,” wrote the society’s lawyer, Brian Shiller. “Consequently, law enforcement agencies have been enforcing and can continue to enforce animal protection laws in the province and are best equipped and resourced to do so.”

The charity has said the cost of investigating more than 15,000 cruelty cases per year has become too burdensome and surpasses the $5.75 million it receives annually from the government.

Its role came into question in early January when an Ontario court ruled the government erred when it gave the OSPCA policing powers without also imposing accountability and transparency standards.

The OSPCA has said that ruling was the catalyst to abdicating its role as it shifts its focus from enforcement to its shelter business.

Shiller wrote in his letter that the OSPCA would like an answer to the three-month extension by Wednesday.

“As, after that day, we will be required to take steps to ensure that inspectors and agents no longer have in their possession certain equipment related to their enforcement work and have them transition their job responsibilities to support services to assist policing agencies.”

The OSPCA has pointed to a model that exists between the New York Police Department and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. There, the police conducts the investigations while the ASPCA provides veterinary care, housing and forensic services.

Jones told the OSPCA that “it is clear that a new approach to enforcement is required.”

“Until my ministry can introduce and implement a new animal welfare enforcement model, the OSPCA is uniquely positioned to continue its legacy of protecting animal welfare in Ontario,” Jones wrote.

“It is vital that the OSPCA and the government work together to ensure a smooth transition to the new model.”

No injuries reported after vehicle found in Etobicoke Creek

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Mar 27th, 2019

Toronto police are investigating after a vehicle was found in Etobicoke Creek.

Police were called around 1 a.m. Wednesday after witnesses reported someone drove the car into the water, using a boat launch.

They added that someone got out of the car and into a black vehicle, before driving away.

An officer dove in to check if anyone was inside and it was determined the vehicle was empty.

No injuries were reported, but the police officer was examined by paramedics at the scene.

Confusion, lack of rebate details leave businesses on edge about carbon tax

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Mar 27th, 2019

OTTAWA — Canada’s small business operators say they are not ready for the carbon tax to kick in next week — particularly since the federal government has still not told them how they will be compensated for the cost.

The federal carbon pricing backstop kicks in April 1 in the four provinces that didn’t have their own carbon pricing system — Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. Nunavut and Yukon, both of which asked to use the federal system, will start on July 1.

More than half a million businesses will be affected.

Ottawa has promised to return all the funds collected in rebates to individuals, businesses, local governments and other organizations. The rebates for individuals are already flowing as tax returns get filed, but the promised program to help small and medium businesses hasn’t been finalized.

“These are rebates of some nature yet to be determined,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Kelly also said “small firms are still very freaked out” by the coming carbon price, with a lot of unanswered questions about how it will work, who might get an exemption and what documents will be required to prove payment or exemptions. Operators are also wondering who is required to register with the Canada Revenue Agency to collect or apply the charge, and for whom registration is optional.

“There is a dearth of information out there about how this is going to work,” he said. “There’s a whole bunch of technical questions and we’ve gone to the feds with these questions and they’ve come up short in terms of answers. Yet we’re a week away from the tax being in place.”

The CFIB wants an assurance that businesses won’t be hit with big fines if they make a mistake in the early days of the program.

The tax is being applied starting at $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions produced, rising to $50 by 2022. It applies to 21 different input fuels and combustible materials used to produce energy, including gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, tires and asphalt shingles. The expectation is that at $20 a tonne, a tank of gas will cost about $2 more, and a monthly natural gas heating bill will go up $8.

The tax will generally be applied early in the supply chain by a fuel distributor, and ultimately built into the price paid by the end user. It will be harder to gauge the impact on prices of consumer goods that will cost more to produce or transport as businesses pay the tax on their energy inputs.

Kelly said businesses expect to shoulder the weight of about 50 per cent of the burden of the carbon price, but are only getting seven per cent of the rebates — an imbalance he called “grossly inadequate.”

The assumption that businesses will be able to just increase prices to offset their costs is wrong, he added, noting that a majority of CFIB members say in order to remain competitive, they won’t be able to pass along the burden to consumers.

Ottawa is giving individuals cash rebates averaging between $248 and $598 per household, depending on sources and energy use.

For businesses without big emissions, however, the rebates will be made to offset investments businesses make to cut their energy use or switch to greener sources.

An estimated $155 million is to be made available in 2019-20 for businesses, and $1.5 billion over the next five years.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said the final details of the business rebates were still being worked out. Last week’s federal budget made mention of legislation to allow the funds to be transferred, but offered no specifics.

A spokesman for the Canada Revenue Agency, which is administering the carbon price, said in a statement the agency is aware registering for the new fuel charge may cause some concern for many businesses. However, he said the CRA began informing the affected sectors last fall through a series of “fuel charge webinars” as well as in direct meetings with different industries.

There are also documents available online to help and CRA staff can answer questions through any regional office, he said.

Conservative environment critic Ed Fast said small businesses are “going to suffer the most” from the carbon price and are getting the least help.

The Conservatives have promised to do away with the carbon price if they win the next federal election, scheduled for October.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Review into missing persons investigations expanded to include McArthur cases

Kyle Mack | posted Wednesday, Mar 27th, 2019

The Independent Review, an interdisciplinary journal critically analyzing government policy, will include the Bruce McArthur investigation in their report of how Toronto Police handle missing person cases.

The Toronto LGBTQ2S+ community placed a lens of scrutiny on the Toronto police last year when claims of disappearances in the community were dismissed.

With the pressure of ongoing criticism, the Toronto Police Services Board brought in retired Justice Gloria Epstein to conduct a review of the force’s handling of the Church-Wellesley Village missing persons cases. As the prosecution against McArthur was still ongoing (the review began July 2018), restrictions were initially implemented for the fear of compromising the police investigation. Now that McArthur has been sentenced to life in prison, Epstein requested that Toronto Police Services board chair, Andy Pringle, widen her scope.

At a meeting on Tuesday, members of the board have voted in favour of the request and extended the completion timeline of the review until January 2021.

Police board chair Andy Pringle wrote that “it is time to expand the review’s mandate so that it can independently assess and make recommendations about the very cases that motivated its launch in the first place”.

McArthur is currently serving life in prison with no chance at parole for 25 years after pleading guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder.

 

Power outage affecting thousands of customers in The Beaches

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 26th, 2019

A power outage in The Beaches has left around 2,800 customers in the dark Tuesday morning.

Toronto Hydro said the area is bounded by Cowell Street, Danforth Avenue, Victoria Park Avenue and Lake Ontario.

Hydro crews are still looking into the cause of the outage and the current estimated time of restoration is 3 p.m.

A TTC bus in the area, 20 Cliffside, was rerouted due to downed wires, but regular service has since resumed.

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