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Andrew Scheer is resigning as Conservative Leader

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Dec 13th, 2019

Andrew Scheer is stepping down as Conservative leader.

The decision comes less than two months after a disappointing election result and after weeks of Conservative infighting about whether he should have a future as the head of the party.

Several prominent Conservatives have called outright for his resignation, or for him to re-apply for his job in a new leadership contest. Having not won power in October, he faced a mandatory leadership review in April.

The Conservatives held the Liberals to a minority government in October but many in the party had hoped for a better result.

Scheer was emotional in his seven-minute speech to the House of Commons, calling it one of the most difficult decisions he has ever made.

“This was not a decision that I came to lightly. This was a decision I came to after many long, hard conversations with friends, family over the past two months since the election campaign.”

Scheer was elected as the Tory leader in May 2017, barely besting Maxime Bernier in the contest after numerous rounds of voting.

Bernier, who left the Conservative Party to form the People’s Party of Canada, said in a tweet there was “zero chance” that he will run again for the party leadership.

“The party is morally and intellectually corrupt,” wrote Bernier. “Scheer was a weak leader who pushed it to the centre. The next leader will do the same. I started a principled Conservative alternative. I’m sticking to it.”

Scheer called his time as leader an “opportunity and challenge of a lifetime” but it was now time to put his family first.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saluted Scheer’s wife and family for the sacrifices they made to have him take on the leadership role of the Conservative party.

“I know from the many conversations I’ve had over the years with the honourable leader that he sees very much the way I and so many others, see our the responsibilities as parents,” said Trudeau. “That we are politicians, that we are in this house, not in spite of having kids but because we have kids and are dedicated to building a better world for them with everything we have. I respect that deeply of him and to thank him for that focus on a better future for his kids.”

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said he wanted to acknowledge the “hard work” that Scheer has put into his various roles. Before leading the Conservatives, Scheer was Speaker of the House of Commons.

“I think we speak as a united voice in acknowledging that and thank you for your service,” Singh said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford thanked Scheer for his work as leader of the federal Conservatives.

“I wish Andrew Scheer all the best as he undertakes this new chapter in his life, and thank him for his service as the head of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and leader of the Conservative party,” Ford said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the premier said Ford is not interested in Scheer’s job, as he is focused on Ontario.

The election saw Scheer take great pains to distance himself from Ford, declining to appear with the premier during the campaign and rarely even uttering his name.

Scheer said he has asked the Conservative national council to begin a leadership contest and that he intends to stay on as leader of the party and official opposition “as our party embarks on this exciting opportunity, electing a new Conservative leader and Canada’s next Prime Minister.”

Ford government to scrap retail cannabis lottery system

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Dec 13th, 2019

Big changes are coming to the way cannabis retailers will be able to operate in Ontario.

The Ford government will open up the cannabis retail market with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario accepting operator licence applications from prospective retailers starting on Jan. 6, 2020 on a first-come-first-served basis. Starting in April, about 20 retailers a month will be able to open for business.

The province has been choosing brick-and-mortar cannabis shops based on a lottery system which has faced criticism for not including a merit component.

“In response to the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis, our government is determined to open the cannabis market as responsibly as possible,” said Attorney General Doug Downey in a statement. “We have said all along that opening more legal stores is the most effective way to combat the illicit market, protect our kids and keep our communities safe. That is our number one priority.”

The province says it will remove the temporary cap on the number of cannabis stores in the province and eliminate pre-qualification rules for new retailers.

Strict rules with respect to cannabis stores and keeping children safe along with regulations deny retailers a license for certain cannabis-related offences or any association with organized crime will remain in place.

The government says it will also allow legal cannabis producers to enter the retail market by opening shops on their premises.

Previous cannabis system not making inroads on the illegal weed market

Critics have described the system as excessively slow, arguing the lack of private retail options has prevented the province from making inroads on the illegal weed market.

A group of rejected pot-shop applicants even spoke out against the lottery system in court, critiquing the application process in a legal challenge that was ultimately dismissed.

Ontario’s opposition parties did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Cannabis consultant Omar Khan hailed the move as a positive step. He said it will help eradicate the illegal market and provide consumers with access to safe and regulated products.

Khan said the price of legal pot will be a key factor.

“As the government moves forward with this new licensing system it should also look at ways to enhance the online consumer experience and find ways to empower retailers to be better able to compete with illegal operators on price,” he said in a statement.

With files from The Canadian Press

Boris Johnson wins Conservative majority in UK election


Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has won a thumping majority of seats in Britain’s Parliament — a decisive outcome to a Brexit-dominated election that should allow Johnson to fulfill his plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union next month.

With 642 of the 650 results declared on Friday, the Conservatives had 358 seats and the main opposition Labour Party 203.

Johnson said it looked like the Conservatives had “a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done.”

The victory makes Johnson the most electorally successful Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher, another politician who was loved and loathed in almost equal measure.

It was a disaster for left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who faced calls for his resignation even as the results rolled in.

Corbyn called the result “very disappointing” for his party and said he would not lead Labour into another election, though he resisted calls to quit immediately.

2 people hurt in 2 separate shootings Thursday evening

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Dec 13th, 2019

Toronto police are investigating after two people were hurt in two separate shooting calls on Thursday evening.

The first call came in at around 9:45 p.m. for a report that a man had been found with gunshot wounds in Yonge and Wellesley streets area.

When officers arrived, they found a man outside a rehab hospital. He was suffering from serious, gunshot-related injuries and rushed to a trauma hospital.

Police said the victim had been dropped off outside the rehab hospital by someone, and the actual shooting took place on Chester Hill Road, north of the Danforth.

Multiple shots had been heard in the area and there had been reports of a silver or white vehicle fleeing the area at high speed.

A short time later, at around 10 p.m., police said they were called to a report of gunfire in the area of Jane Street and Yorkwoods Gate.

Police said four males were crossing the street when a car pulled up and someone opened fire.

All four males ran to a random home for help and the police were called.

A 15-year-old boy was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Police said two males were seen fleeing the area in a white sedan.

Toronto can expect a property tax increase as soon as next year

Simone Gavros | posted Thursday, Dec 12th, 2019

Mayor John Tory’s proposed plan to increase property taxes to fund transit and housing has been approved by the mayor’s executive committee. With Toronto’s population on the rise, transit and housing have become a top priority for the city.

The final step of approval before this tax increase comes into effect will be on Dec. 17.

The proposal that was presented early this month suggests extending the City Building Levy, which is currently at 0.5 per cent. What does this mean for the people of Toronto? The property tax will increase by about 10 percent over the next six years beginning with an increase of one per cent in 2020 and 2021. Property taxes will then increase by 1.5 per cent annually until 2025.

The overall increase is expected to cost the average household $43 annually.

The mayor plans to raise the $6.6 billion needed to improve various aspects of transit from new subway cars to signal upgrades. He assures it will also help fund 40,000 affordable housing units within the next 10 years.

A tax increase is the last thing people want, but Mayor John Tory stresses that this is the right thing to do for the city at this time and is imperative for its prosperity.

Elderly woman dead, 2 people injured after Rexdale collision

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Dec 12th, 2019

An elderly woman is dead following a two-car collision in the northwest Toronto community of Rexdale Wednesday.

Toronto police tweeted at around 7:30 p.m. that they had been called to the Rexdale Boulevard and Queens Plate Drive area for a report of a collision.

An elderly woman was pronounced dead at the scene and a man in his 70s was transported to the hospital with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries, EMS said.

Police said EMS had also transported another patient to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

No other details have been released by the police.

The police’s traffic services unit is investigating the incident.


Pedestrian struck in Scarborough

The collision in Rexdale wasn’t the only incident Traffic Services were investigating Wednesday.

At around 5:30 p.m. police tweeted that they had been called to a report that a pedestrian had been struck in the Victoria Park Avenue and Eglinton Avenue East area.

Police said a woman suffered serious head injuries and had to be transported to the hospital by EMS.

Police said they continue to investigate the incident.

Mayor’s executive committee approves proposal to hike property tax

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Dec 12th, 2019

The mayor’s executive committee has unanimously approved a plan to hike property taxes in order to pay for transit and housing.

Mayor John Tory first proposed the hike to the city building levy, which is part of property tax, earlier this week.

The proposal will now go before city council on Dec. 17 for final approval.

For the last few years, Tory has been steadfastly against raising property taxes above the rate of inflation, saying people in this city could not afford it.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, Tory said the city can’t afford not to act.

“The city is so successful now and we are, to some extent, victims of our own success in that we have thousands of people who are coming here, who want to come here to work and to invest and it’s all good news for the future in terms of jobs for kids and all that … but you need to have affordable housing for them to live in and you need to have transit to move them around,” Tory said.

The mayor has proposed extending the city building fund for another six years and increasing the property tax levy to almost 10 per cent over that span, starting with a 1.5 per cent increase in 2020 and 2021. The increase is expected to cost the average household $43 more a year.

While no one likes to hear that their taxes are going up, Tory feels the people of Toronto understand the long-term goals the city wants to achieve.

“People are generally understanding of this but in the end you have to let these things play themselves out, not just over a week or a month, but over a period of time. I think that when people actually see the transit getting built, when they see the affordable housing units actually getting occupied … they will understand what we did here and know that it would have been better than doing nothing.”

City manager Chris Murray said the city is trying to find tens of millions of dollars in savings to make sure their books are clear of waste before they dip into the pockets of taxpayers.

“I don’t want anyone thinking that when we come to the 2020 budget that there won’t be in the millions, efficiencies that we’re going to put forward,” said Murray.

The money from the increased levy would help fund the city’s new 10-year, $23.4 billion action plan that would approve 40,000 affordable housing units, as well as go toward the TTC’s state of good repair.

Ontario’s 4 major teachers’ unions to make announcement on joint action

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 12th, 2019

TORONTO — Ontario’s four major teachers’ unions will hold a joint news conference this morning to give an update on their ongoing contract talks with the province.

The unions — which represent both elementary and high school teachers in public, Catholic and French boards — have provided little detail about the planned announcement.

But last month, the four unions issued a joint statement condemning the passage of the Progressive Conservative government’s wage cap legislation.

The unions say the bill, which caps all public sector salary increases at one per cent per year for the next three years, violates their charter rights.

They said at the time they were preparing a court challenge of the legislation.

The government has said the wage cap bill respects the bargaining process, noting it still allows for employees to get raises for seniority, performance or increased qualifications.

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