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Metrolinx looking at paid parking as the future for GO train stations

Simone Gavros | posted Tuesday, Jan 14th, 2020

GO Train commuters know it’s hard enough as it is to find parking at the GO Train station. Now, Metrolinx has proposed the possibility of changing a percentage of its free parking spots into paid parking spots within the next months.

The amount hasn’t been confirmed as of yet, but about 50% of the 70,000 GO Train spots will be turned into reserved parking in the next few years, starting with the conversion of thousands of spots right off the bat. Reserved parking spots currently cost GO Train commuters $98 per month and commuters need to rent a parking space for a minimum of six months.

The plan is still very much in the studying phase as talks of the exact percentage of paid parking spots per station is still up in the air.

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said in a statement, “We are just studying at this point. Nothing happening immediately. We are studying solutions as we know many GO customers have a challenge finding parking. We also want to keep their transit costs affordable both for the customer and taxpayers.”

Many GO Train commuters drive to the station in hopes of finding a spot. With this proposed paid parking, commuters may turn to alternate means to get to the station to avoid the price increase.


Queen agrees to let Harry and Meghan move part-time to Canada

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 14th, 2020

Queen Elizabeth II said Monday that she has agreed to grant Prince Harry and Meghan their wish for a more independent life that will see them move part-time to Canada.

The British monarch said in a statement that “today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family.”

She said it had been “agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK.” Harry and Meghan are also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days,” the queen said.

In a six-sentence statement that mentioned the word “family” six times, the Queen said that “though we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”

Monday’s meeting involved the Queen, her heir Prince Charles and his sons William and Harry, with Meghan expected to join by phone from Canada. Meghan arrived back in Canada last week to be with the couple’s baby son Archie. The family spent the holidays in British Columbia.

The meeting reflects the Queen’s desire to contain the fallout from Harry and Meghan’s decision to “step back” as senior royals, work to become financially independent and split their time between Britain and North America. The couple, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, made the announcement Wednesday without telling the queen or other senior royals first.

The meeting at the monarch’s private Sandringham estate in eastern England was also set to include Harry’s father Prince Charles and his brother Prince William. It came after days of intense news coverage, in which supporters of the royal family’s feuding factions used the British media to paint conflicting pictures of who was to blame for the rift.

One of the more fraught questions that needs to be worked out is precisely what it means for a royal to be financially independent and what activities can be undertaken to make money. Other royals who have ventured into the world of commerce have found it complicated.

Prince Andrew, for example, has faced heated questions about his relationship with the late convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew, the queen’s second son, has relinquished royal duties and patronages after being accused by a woman who says she was an Epstein trafficking victim who slept with the prince.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also face questions on paying for taxpayer-funded security. Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to comment, but said safety was a priority.

“I’m not going to provide any detailed information on the security arrangements for either them or any members of the royal family or for any protected individuals — that’s thoroughly inappropriate for me to do so,” she told the BBC. “At this moment in time, right now, the royal family themselves need some time and space for them to work through the current issues that they’re dealing with.”

Earlier Monday, Princes William and Harry slammed a newspaper report describing a severe strain in their relationship, calling the story offensive and potentially harmful as they embark on talks regarding the future of the British monarchy.

The two brothers issued the unusual statement even as Queen Elizabeth II was set to hold face-to-face talks with Prince Harry for the first time since he and his wife, Meghan, unveiled their controversial plan to walk away from royal roles. The dramatic family summit is meant to chart a future course for the couple.

Though the statement did not name the newspaper, the Times of London has a front page story about the crisis in which a source alleged that Harry and Meghan had been pushed away by the “bullying attitude from” William. The joint statement insisted that the story was “false.”

“For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful,” the statement said.

English Catholic teachers to launch one-day, province-wide strike on Jan. 21

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jan 14th, 2020

Teachers in Ontario’s English Catholic system have announced a one-day strike on Jan. 21.

The president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) says the government appears to only “do the right thing” when under pressure, so teachers have little choice but to take the next step in the bargaining process. The strike will impact elementary and high schools.

This is the first time in 20 years that the OECTA will completely withdraw services.

Catholic teachers began a work-to-rule campaign Monday that includes not participating in standardized testing, preparing report card comments or participating in Ministry of Education initiatives.

OECTA president Liz Stuart says the government negotiating team has said it has no authority to reach an agreement that doesn’t include “significant, permanent cuts.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce released a statement Monday afternoon saying he was “disappointed in the teacher union’s continued focus on escalation.”

“Following five hours of a work-to-rule campaign, OECTA has decided to escalate to a one-day province-wide strike that negatively impacts their students,” he said in the statement.

Meanwhile, public elementary teachers stepped up their work-to-rule campaign and are planning for rotating strikes starting next week, while public high school teachers are set to stage the latest in a series of one-day, rotating strikes on Wednesday.

Lecce is urging teachers’ unions to stop further escalation.

Numerous safeguards in place to prevent erroneous emergency alerts, software company says

MICHAEL TALBOT | posted Tuesday, Jan 14th, 2020

The company that runs the software the province uses to send out emergency alerts says there are numerous safeguards in place to prevent erroneous alerts from reaching the public.

Martin Belanger is the Director of Public Alerting for Pelmorex, which runs Ontario’s Alert Ready system. He told CityNews on Monday that the software is armed with several safety measures, including a separate testing platform, aimed at preventing panic-inducing mistakes.

The province has blamed human error for an alert issued on Sunday morning that vaguely and ominously warned of an “incident” at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.

About two hours later, a second alert was issued stating there was no active situation taking place, and that the previous alert was “issued in error.”

Belanger explained how difficult it would actually be to commit such a ghastly gaffe.

“There are multiple mechanisms or steps in place to make sure that when a government user that has access to the system goes in … we validate or verify that it’s actually a user that has access to the system. And then there’s different steps to validate that indeed they have an intent of issuing the alert to the public,” he explained.

“And there’s other steps to also confirm at the very end that this is indeed an alert that would be broadcast on TV, radio and on the wireless devices. There’s different mechanisms and measures in place to make sure that a user will validate the alert before it goes out.”

Exactly how the error took place hasn’t been disclosed, but Belanger says there’s a separate platform for testing.

“There’s two separate software platforms,” he stressed. “There’s the training component of the system, which the alerts don’t go out because that’s the whole point of training and testing things. And there’s the live system for real life emergency situations.

“So those alerts on the training platform don’t go out. As far as the live system is concerned, there are steps in place to make sure that the user, when they log in, they confirm their intent of sending an alert.”

How the alert system works

Belanger explained how government agencies have ultimate control over the alert system.

“It first starts with the authorized government agencies that may need to send an alert out to the public. So when there’s a situation that warrants an alert to go out, they will actually access the technology or software that we provide to them and they will go and create an alert.”

Despite numerous complaints from the public about receiving alerts that aren’t relevant to them geographically, Belanger says it’s up to the government to determine who receives the alerts.

“From a system perspective the technology allows the authorized government agencies to determine the area. It can be province-wide, it can be as small as one or two city blocks. From a system perspective they can determine the target area and that’s their choosing. It’s their responsibility to select the area that the alert will be sent out.”

In instances like Sunday’s alert, which was apparently the result of human error, Belanger says there are timely measures that can minimize the impact.

“(There are) different tools to address (errors),” he maintained. “They can either update or amend the alert, if maybe the content has changed or the situation has evolved, or they can also cancel the alert and end the event if the threat is over or maybe the alert was sent in error.”

NDP Energy Critic Peter Tabuns is among those seeking answers as to why it took the government nearly two hours to send out a second alert.

Tabuns is calling for an independent probe into the matter, saying the public’s confidence in the alert system has been compromised.

Iran announces arrests over downing of Ukrainian plane

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 14th, 2020

Iran’s judiciary says arrests have been made over the shootdown of a Ukrainian plane that killed all 176 people on board.

“Extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested,” the judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, said on Tuesday. He was quoted by Iranian state media, but did not say how many individuals have been detained or name them.

Iran’s president on Tuesday called for a special court to be set up to probe the downing last week of a Ukrainian passenger by Iranian forces just after takeoff from Tehran.

Iran, which initially dismissed allegations that a missile had brought down the jetliner, acknowledged — three days after Wednesday’s downing and in the face of mounting evidence — that its Revolutionary Guard had shot down the Ukrainian plane by mistake.

“The judiciary should form a special court with a ranking judge and dozens of experts,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech televised in Iran on Tuesday. “This is not an ordinary case. The entire the world will be watching this court.”

Rouhani called the incident “a painful and unforgivable” mistake and promised that his administration would pursue the case “by all means.”

“The responsibility falls on more than just one person,” he said, adding that those found culpable “should be punished.”

“There are others, too, and I want that this issue is expressed honestly,” he said, without elaborating.

Rouhani called the government’s admission that Iranian forces shot down the plane the “first good step.”

The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians — including many Iranians with dual citizenship — and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. There were several children among the passengers, including an infant.

Iran shot down the plane when it was bracing for possible U.S. retaliation for a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq. No one was hurt in that attack, which was carried out to avenge the stunning killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad.

The shootdown and the lack of transparency around it has reignited anger in Iran at the country’s leadership, with protesters taking to the streets in past days. Online videos appeared to show security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protests in the streets.

2 dead in Oakville house fire

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jan 13th, 2020

Halton Police say a man and a woman are dead after a fire broke out at a home in Oakville on Sunday night.

Emergency crews were called to the home on Princess Anne Drive around 8:40 p.m. after a passerby noticed smoke coming from the home.

On arrival, firefighters were faced with heavy smoke on the second floors.

“When they made entry to the home they went to the second floor to conduct a primary search. Smoke conditions and heat conditions were heavy,” deputy fire chief Andy Glynn explained.

“They were beating back the fire as they entered the second floor. They were able to get the fire under control and then subsequently found the two patients and removed them to the ambulance.”

A man and a woman were removed from the home and the man was pronounced dead shortly after. The woman was taken to hospital in serious condition, where she later died.

The fire was extinguished about two hours later and no other people were found inside the house.

The cause of the fire is not known at this time.

Glynn said it appears that the fire may have started in a bedroom on the second floor but that won’t be confirmed until the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office attends and conducts its investigation.

Roads in the area are partially blocked and anyone travelling through is asked to be mindful of emergency personnel working at the home.

Trudeau says meetings with families of plane crash victims gut wrenching

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 13th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s been “gut-wrenching” to listen to stories from the families of 57 Canadians who perished in the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner in Iran last week.

Speaking at a memorial for 13 victims in Edmonton, Trudeau says he’s learned about who they were, what they loved doing and what their hopes were for the future.

He says many came to Canada in search of new opportunities for their families, but those families are now consumed by grief and outrage.

While the tragedy has hit the Iranian-Canadian community hard, Trudeau says it’s a Canadian tragedy and all Canadians are in mourning.

The aircraft was shot down accidentally by an Iranian missile moments after taking off from Tehran airport Wednesday; all 176 on board were killed, including 138 who were headed for Canada.

Iran has admitted the plane was mistaken for a hostile target amid soaring tensions with the United States.

Durham District School Board among several to be hit by 1-day strike this week: OSSTF

NEWS STAFF, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 13th, 2020

Schools in several boards across the province, including Durham District School Board, will be closed on Wednesday, as the union representing high school teachers stages another one-day strike.

It’s the latest in the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation’s (OSSTF) series of rotating strikes during a contentious round of bargaining with the province.

High schools will be closed in Durham District School Board, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, and Wellington Catholic District School Board, among others. (Full list below)

Union president Harvey Bischof says he’ll call off the job action if the government takes class size increases off the table.

“It’s time for the Ford government to come to the table with meaningful responses to our proposals so that we can work toward a deal that protects the quality of education in Ontario,” Bischof said in a statement.

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