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Erin O’Toole wins leadership of federal Conservative party

STEPHANIE LEVITZ, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Aug 24th, 2020

Conservative members sought stability Monday in choosing Erin O’Toole as leader after a campaign where he focused on keeping the party close to its “true blue” fundamentals.

O’Toole secured his victory in the leadership race after three rounds of counting.

The results had been expected Sunday night but were delayed into the early hours of Monday morning after problems opening the envelopes containing several thousand of the estimated 175,000 ballots sent in by mail.

“To the millions of Canadians that are still up, that I’m meeting tonight for the first time: Good morning. I’m Erin O’Toole, you’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot from me in the coming weeks and months,” O’Toole said in his victory speech.

“But I want you to know from the start that I am here to fight for you and your family.”

His victory over rival Peter MacKay could spell the end of MacKay’s political career. It is also likely to immediately raise questions about the future for progressive Conservatives in the party, who hoped that with MacKay, the party could finally move past the debates around social conservative issues.

In a message on social media, MacKay offered his congratulations to O’Toole after the hard-fought campaign.

“It’s now time for our (Conservative) party and movement to come together, and to focus on what’s most important: ensuring our country gets moving in the right direction again,” he said.

Even if MacKay had won, he would have found himself grappling with the surprise success of Leslyn Lewis, the Toronto lawyer who placed third in the contest, despite never holding office and entering the race as a near-total unknown to most, but not all.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who had endorsed O’Toole, called Lewis a friend, and said her showing in the campaign remarkable.

“Leslyn has broken through many barriers to become a significant voice in Canadian political life. I hope and expect to see great things from her in the future!” he wrote on Twitter early Monday.

Derek Sloan, who was also running with the support of social conservatives, placed fourth with 4,864 of the available points after the first round of counting.

O’Toole’s victory reflects a pitch he’d made to both their supporters in the waning weeks of the race, asking them to use the ranked ballot to make him their number 2 or number 3 choice.

His sell: with a seat in Parliament, and the political experience necessary for the job, he was the best choice to lead the party forward, but he would ensure their views would remain respected as well.

Bringing together the party’s various factions will be one of O’Toole’s challenges, and the results also showed some fault lines regionally.

In the first round, Lewis beat out both O’Toole and MacKay in Saskatchewan and placed second to O’Toole in Alberta, a reflection of her ability to connect strongly with the grassroots there.

With none of the four candidates hailing from the West, all eyes had been on how the party’s western base would voice its concerns over the candidates and the campaigns in the vote.

O’Toole spoke to them, to voters in Quebec, and to all prospective Conservative voters in his speech Monday morning, saying that no matter a person’s race or religion, sexual orientation, how long they’ve been in Canada, income level or education, they matter.

“You are an important part of Canada and you have a home in the Conservative Party of Canada,” he said.

O’Toole takes over the party — and the job of Official Opposition leader — exactly a month before the minority Liberal government will deliver a throne speech laying out a post-pandemic recovery plan.

The vote on the speech is a confidence motion and the Liberals have all but dared the Tories to try to bring them down.

The Liberals congratulated O’Toole but also warned him.

“We have a real chance to build a Canada that is healthier and safer, greener, more fair, and more competitive, and while we will have our differences, we hope the Conservative leader will join us in that work,” party president Suzanne Cowan said in a statement.

“We also hope Mr. O’Toole will reconsider continuing to push the same policies of Stephen Harper and Andrew Scheer that he also proposed in this leadership campaign. They would take Canada backward by making harmful cuts to services that Canadians count on, weakening Canada’s gun control laws, rolling back our work to fight climate change, and much more.”

Much of the leadership race itself was shaped by the pandemic. The vote was supposed to take place in June, but was pushed back and for a time, the campaign itself was paused.

A leadership convention, the kind filled with thousands of supporters, was jettisoned in favour of a hybrid in-person and virtual results reveal after an entirely mail-in ballot vote.

Those had to be returned by Friday. While counting was underway throughout Sunday, the machines tasked with slicing envelopes malfunctioned, requiring several thousand ballots to be extracted and replicated by hand under the close eye of scrutineers.

It led to an excruciating wait for the candidates, their campaigns, and the party staff and volunteers. MacKay passed the time doing push-ups in his hotel suite, O’Toole doing live Zoom chats with supporters.

Feds and Ontario reach agreement with 3M to make N95 masks in Brockville

SHAWN JEFFORDS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Aug 21st, 2020

The federal and Ontario governments have secured an agreement with 3M that will see the company produce N95 masks at a facility in Brockville, Ont., a spokesman for the province’s minister of economic development confirmed Thursday.

Ottawa and the province will each contribute $23.3 million to help increase capacity at the Brockville plant, allowing it to produce up to 100 million N95 masks a year, Robert Gibson said.

The masks made at the expanded facility will be used to meet “private sector, provincial, and North American market demand throughout the pandemic and beyond,” Gibson said in a statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford are both appearing in Brockville on Friday, where they are expected to make the deal official.

Ford has repeatedly said the province needs to ramp up its own production of personal protective equipment in light of the pandemic.

He has also been publicly critical of U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempts to limit the export of N95 masks from American plants.

“We will never be put in this position again,” Ford said during a news conference in April. “I’m not going to rely on any country ever again.”

This will be the second domestic contract to produce N95 masks, after Quebec-based Medicom signed a 10-year agreement to supply N95 and surgical masks to the federal government in April.

Medicom’s combined contracts are worth more than $113 million, and include providing 24 million surgical masks and 20 million N95 respirators each year.

The company turned a warehouse in Montreal into a mask factory in a little over two months. It has already started producing and supplying surgical masks to Ottawa. N95 production is to begin this month with the first deliveries expected in the fall.

Health Canada regulations require approval of the masks and each shipment must be inspected by the Public Health Agency of Canada for quality control.

Canada has contracts for 154.5 million N95 and KN95 masks, and thus far all have been imported from outside the country. As of Aug. 3, more than 54 million N95 and KN95 respirators have been delivered.

KN95 masks are the Chinese equivalent of the N95 respirators that are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the United States.

With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa


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‘Because I am Black’: Raptors president Ujiri speaks out after altercation video released

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Aug 21st, 2020

When Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri needed help, star guard Kyle Lowry was there.

Shortly after Toronto had clinched its first NBA title last June in Oakland, Calif., Ujiri became involved in an altercation with Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Alan Strickland while trying to reach the court. Earlier this week, video emerged showing the altercation, which was followed by Lowry pulling Ujiri on to the court and then hugging the Raptors executive.

On Tuesday, Ujiri filed a countersuit in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., after the officer filed a lawsuit.

“It (the video) shows why we’re supportive of the social injustices that are going on right now,” Lowry told reporters Thursday during a videoconference. “It shows why we’re supporting of the Black Lives Matter.”

“It shows why we need to get out there and vote. It shows why we need to get those guys to arrest the murderers of Breonna Taylor because there’s police officers like that officer out there who are scumbags, basically.”

Ujiri released a statement Thursday, giving his first thoughts on the video.

After what he called an exhilerating triumph, Ujiri said, “I was reminded in that moment that despite all of my hard work and success, there are some people, including those who are supposed to protect us, who will always and only see me as something that is unworthy of respectful engagement. And there’s only one indisputable reason why that is the case – because I am Black.”

“What saddens me the most about this ordeal is that the only reason I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success. Because I’m the president of an NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice. So many of my brothers and sisters haven’t had, don’t have, and won’t have the same access to resources that assured my justice. And that’s why Black Lives Matter.”

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka feels the incident shouldn’t have happened.

“It’s kind of sad because honestly, I don’t think anybody believed in Masai when he said he was innocent,” Ibaka said. “Things should never be like this . . . no matter where you come from, no matter your colour, things should never be like that.”

“Thank God now everyone can see what happened that day. This connected us to understand this fight is far from being over. We have to stick together and we have to fight this fight together.”

Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, said Wednesday that the office stands by everything it has said in regards to the investigation.

He added that the video released is “a snippet of all the video that is out there.”


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Conservative leadership race nears finish line with final day of voting

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Aug 21st, 2020

The Conservative leadership race nears the finish line today with a 5 p.m. eastern deadline for ballots to be returned to the party.

Upwards of 150,000 ballots have been received so far and a winner from among the four candidates will be announced on Sunday night.

Leslyn Lewis, Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan are all in the running for the top job, left open when current leader Andrew Scheer announced last December that he would resign once his successor was chosen.

The leadership race saw several more people try to make the cut, but the $300,000 entry fee and 3,000 signatures needed was too high a barrier for them to overcome.

That was especially true once the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, forcing candidates to abandon in-person meet and greets and pivot to entirely virtual campaigns.

But as restrictions have loosened, the four candidates have been back on the road, and so are the volunteers — some driving as far as two hours to pick up just a single ballot, as every vote will count in the race.


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Man killed in North York shooting

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Aug 21st, 2020

A man is dead following a shooting in North York.

Police say they were called to an underground parking garage of a building on Harrison Garden Boulevard near Yonge Street and Highway 401 just before 7:30 p.m.

When they arrived, they found a man suffering from gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead on scene.

Police do not have any suspect information but are hoping to find something through surveillance cameras located at the building.

The incident comes in the wake of a spate of shootings Wednesday night that sent a total of six people to hospital.


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Mayor John Tory considers TikTok to reach younger generation with COVID-19 messaging

Talia Knezic | posted Thursday, Aug 20th, 2020

The City of Toronto may communicate warnings about coronavirus to the younger generation via TikTok.
Mayor John Tory said he is considering the use of TikTok as COVID-19 case numbers in younger demographics continue to rise.
An update released Wednesday from the City of Toronto says the average age of cases for the last two weeks is 39 years old. It has been 52 years overall for the entire pandemic.
“Young people are of the view that they are invincible from the virus,” Tory said in an interview with Breakfast Television’s Melanie Ng on Thursday. “The fact is, they do suffer less cases of hospitalizations and deaths.”
He noted that young people often carry the virus home to multi-generational family members who suffer greater consequences than they do.
“Right now, I’m not sure they’re watching all-news programs and they have to be reached in a different way,” Tory said about young people and reaching them via TikTok. “We’re going to do everything we can to get the message across that they have to follow the same health protocols as everyone else.”
This comes on the heels of the impending return to school, which leaves many parents, staff and students concerned about the potential of future outbreaks.
According to a Hootsuite report published in May 2020, TikTok hosts 800-million monthly users, with 69 per cent being in the 13-24-year-old demographic.

Kamala Harris seizes historic moment in accepting VP nomination


Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic nomination for vice-president on Wednesday, cementing her place in history as the first Black and Asian-American woman on a major party ticket and promising she and Joe Biden will rejuvenate a country ravaged by a pandemic and riven by racial and partisan divides.

In an address capping the third night of the virtual Democratic National Convention, the California senator evoked the lessons of her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a biologist and Indian immigrant, saying she instilled in her a vision of “our nation as a beloved community — where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from or who we love.”

“In this election, we have a chance to change the course of history,” Harris said. “We’re all in this fight.”

Mixing a former prosecutor’s polish with the deeply personal, Harris also spoke of her Jamaican father and getting a “stroller’s eye view” of the civil rights movement as her parents protested in the streets in the 1960s.

“There is no vaccine for racism,” Harris said. “We have got to do the work.”

Harris addressed a party that has staked its future on bringing together a racially diverse coalition of voters. She was preceded in the convention program by Barack Obama, meaning the nation’s first Black president introduced the woman trying to be the first Black person to hold the vice presidency. Obama said Harris was an “ideal partner” for Biden and was “more than prepared for the job.”

Harris is a former district attorney and California state attorney general. She promised to speak “truths” to the American public. She said she and Biden, who tapped her as his running mate last week, believe in a country where “we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect.”

Democrats hope Harris can galvanize their party’s faithful — who are divided between progressive and moderate wings — and win over swing voters still deciding between Biden and Trump. But she also was introducing herself to a national audience that may not have been paying close attention to the race until now.

“For somebody with her wealth of background and experience, she’s still fresh. She’s still new,” said Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who endorsed Harris’ 2020 presidential primary run before throwing her support behind Biden in March.

Harris spoke at a convention centre in Biden’s home state of Delaware that was empty except for socially distanced reporters and a few campaign staffers. She was introduced by her sister, Maya, her niece Meena and Ella Emhoff, her stepdaughter who calls her “Momala.” At the end of her speech, Biden walked out to join her from a distance and both were soon joined by their spouses.

In sweeping remarks that touched on the legacy of Black women who paved the way for this moment, Harris noted that this week marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Except that right, Harris said, came much later for most Black women, who helped secure that victory yet were still prohibited from voting.

“Without fanfare or recognition, they organized, testified, rallied, marched, and fought — not just for their vote, but for a seat at the table,” Harris said. “We’re not often taught their stories. But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”

Harris also blistered Trump, something she’s expected to do frequently as she campaigns with Biden in the coming months — though in-person events may remain impossible as the coronavirus rages. She recalled her days in the courtroom when she would declare “Kamala Harris for the people,” reviving a slogan from her presidential campaign, while noting, “I know a predator when I see one.” She didn’t mention the president by name then but didn’t spare him later.

“Donald Trump’s failure has cost lives and livelihoods,” Harris said. She later added, “Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons. Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose.”

The Biden campaign is hoping Harris can excite young voters and people of colour, especially after months of protests over institutional racism and police brutality that swept the country. She’s known for her tough questioning in the Senate, particularly during confirmation hearings of two Trump nominees, Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court justice and William Barr for attorney general. She also caused a stir by broadsiding Biden during a primary debate last summer over his opposition to busing in the 1970s to integrate public schools.

But things didn’t always go smoothly. Harris launched her presidential bid with expectations that she would electrify the field, only to see her campaign struggle to find a consistent message and fizzle months before the first votes were cast.

Some voters are paying particularly close attention to Harris because she could be called upon to step into the role of party standard-bearer as soon as 2024, should Biden — who will be 81 by then — opt not to seek a second term. Biden hasn’t expressly said he’d serve just a single term, but he has talked about being a bridge to a new generation.

Harris said her mother instilled in her and her sister values that charted the course of their lives.

“She raised us to be proud, strong Black women,” Harris said. “And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage.”

The campaign is deeply personal for Harris in others ways, too. She spoke Wednesday of her friendship with the former vice-president’s son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015. He and Harris became close while both were state attorneys general.

“I knew Joe as vice-president. I knew Joe on the campaign trail,” she said. “But I first got to know Joe as the father of my friend.”

Weissert reported from Washington and Stafford from Detroit.


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Most students expected to return to school at Ottawa, Toronto boards

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Aug 20th, 2020

Parents at three of Ontario’s largest school boards will be keeping nearly a quarter of kids out of the classroom, but the boards warn the statistics are not final as they continue to tweak their back-to-school plans.

Boards in Ottawa, Toronto and Durham Region say parents have indicated that more than 70 per cent of students will return to in-class learning come September, but they note that parents are still able to change their minds as the boards – and the province – adjust their back-to-school plans.

“So much of the information has been coming in late, which I think has been frustrating for (parents) and frustrating for us as a board, because you’re having to basically design a whole new school system in a span of two, three, four weeks,” said Mark Fisher, a trustee with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

Ottawa-Carleton reports that 91 per cent of parents responded to their survey and said that 73 per cent of elementary students will return to class, while 27 per cent will learn from home. Meanwhile, 78.5 per cent of high schoolers will be back in class on an adapted model that will see them learn remotely half the time, while 21.5 per cent will stay at home full-time.

Fisher said the number of students opting to learn from home is higher than expected – the board was anticipating roughly 10 per cent – so staff members are still determining what that will mean for how classes are set up.

“We might see some schools where all students have chosen to go back, and we might see some schools where a greater number of students have chosen to learn remotely,” he said. “So we have to look at all those numbers and then see how things fall on a school-by-school basis. That will really determine how we organize for the fall.”

Fisher said Ottawa-Carleton’s numbers are in line with other school boards’ across the province. In the Durham District School Board, current numbers suggest roughly 19.5 per cent of students will learn from home.

In the Toronto District School Board, current numbers suggest 71 per cent of elementary students will return to school if class sizes are not reduced, compared to 78 per cent who would return if class sizes could be brought down to between 15 and 20 students.

The TDSB said 83 per cent of high school students will return to in-person lessons, also on the adapted model.

But the Toronto board plans to send out a second survey based on its new back-to-school plan, which trustees are expected to make a final decision on Thursday. The board’s previous proposal to cut all elementary school class sizes was rejected by the Ontario government last week because it also shortened the school day by 48 minutes.

TDSB Chair Alexander Brown said there’s been a lot of confusion and anxiety in his board stemming from a lack of clarity from the Ministry of Education.

“We’ve been following Toronto Public Health advice on this from the beginning … and we need guidance on it,” he said. “But we get conflicting messages from the provincial side. So, you know, that’s where confusion sets in.”

He said he worries that could undermine the province’s public education system in the long-term.

“Once you lose confidence in something like public education … it’s gone,” he said. “It’s so hard to build that back.”

Brown also said he knows some families are grouping together and hiring teachers to create a “pod” system to limit their risk of contracting COVID-19.

“You know who the teacher is, where the contacts are, and it’s a cohort,” he said. “So, we could see this moving us toward a private system.”

A spokesman for the TDSB said he didn’t have numbers on how many parents were opting for home schooling or to move their kids to the private system.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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