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Ford government to consult on gender wage gap law

ALLISON JONES, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Mar 4th, 2019

Ontario is gathering feedback on legislation aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap, including asking businesses how onerous pay transparency reporting would be.

The Progressive Conservative government paused implementation last year of a law from the previous Liberal government that would require all publicly advertised job postings to include a salary rate or range, bar employers from asking about past compensation, prohibit reprisal against employees who discuss compensation and require large employers to track and report compensation gaps.

Based on the most recent data from Statistics Canada, the gender wage gap accounting for the annual earnings of all workers is 29.3 per cent, meaning that women earn about 71 cents for every dollar that men earn. The gap for annual earnings of full-year, full-time workers is 22.6 per cent, as more women than men are in part-time work. And when using hourly wage rates, the gap is 11.3 per cent.

Labour Minister Laurie Scott said the Liberals passed the legislation right before the election without any consultations, and she said people affected by the law wanted an opportunity to be heard.

“We’re committed to closing the gender wage gap,” she said in an interview. “I think taking the time and listening to the many stakeholders about how to do it properly – and how to have, in some cases, interesting ideas that we haven’t heard of on how to address the gender wage gap – is valuable.”

Under the law, employers with 100 or more employees would have to calculate their wage gaps and report that information.

The consultation questions ask the best way to calculate the wage gap, including if bonuses, overtime pay and commissions should be involved, what the reporting periods should be, and how much time and money it would take to meet reporting requirements.

“If you are an employer with 100 or more employees, how much do you estimate the cost of pay transparency reporting will be,” such as IT, software and personnel costs, the consultation paper asks.

“How many hours do you anticipate pay transparency reporting will take in total?”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she is insulted by the questions, and all women should be, too.

“What the message is with that kind of a survey and that kind of a question is that I guess this government believes that pay equity for women is red tape and there’s no need to ensure that women have pay equity,” she said.

“If we’re ever going to get to a place where we have pay equity we need to know what the numbers are.”

Scott defended the questions, saying she wants companies to be able to report their wage gap numbers.

“I don’t want it to be onerous, but we want as much participation as we can get,” she said.

Ashley Challinor, the vice-president of policy at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, said the organization recognizes the gender wage gap as a challenge and is looking forward to giving feedback.

“Our concern is that this legislation does not interact with the Pay Equity Act, the existing legislation that seeks to address the pay gap,” she said in a statement. “This is, unfortunately, an example of layering on of regulation instead of modernizing and streamlining it – which negatively impacts compliance and the effectiveness of the regulation.”

Comments on the public consultation are open until April 5.

Liberals seek to change channel from SNC-Lavalin, focus on climate plan

JOAN BRYDEN , THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Mar 4th, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will try to shift the focus from the SNC-Lavalin affair to his preferred campaign battleground — climate change — with the release this week of the Liberal party’s first election-year ads.

Radio ads will air in the four provinces where the federal government is imposing a carbon tax after their conservative provincial governments refused to levy their own price on carbon: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.

The ads stress that the money raised from the tax will be rebated directly to residents in those provinces.

Trudeau will set the stage for the ad campaign with a “climate action” rally in Toronto on Monday night.

The ads will then begin airing Tuesday morning, aimed at commuters.

The message, delivered by Trudeau, is identical for the four provinces — aside from the amount of money to be rebated to residents, which varies depending on the amount of carbon emissions to be taxed in each province.

According to the ads, an average family of four will receive more than $600 this year in Saskatchewan, more than $300 in Ontario and Manitoba and more than $250 in New Brunswick.

“Climate change is a real and serious problem,” Trudeau says in the ads.

“We have a strong plan to fight it, one that leading scientists and economists support. It makes polluters pay and gives the money back to people.”

In a jab at the federal Conservatives and their provincial cousins, Trudeau concludes: “Now, some politicians want to go back to the Harper years when pollution was free. We have to do better than that. Our kids are counting on us.”

The Trudeau government is requiring provinces to impose a price on carbon emissions, starting at $20 per tonne this year and rising by $10 per tonne annually until it hits $50 in 2022. It is imposing its own tax on those provinces that have refused to meet the federal threshold.

The first payments will be visible to residents in the four provinces when they file their taxes this spring — in plenty of time to register with voters before they head to the polls in October.

Trudeau is also scheduled to visit Monday with a Mississauga family to “highlight the climate action incentive payment.”

Liberal party spokesman Braeden Caley says the rally and the radio ads have been planned for months — long before the SNC-Lavalin affair engulfed Trudeau’s government this month with allegations of political interference in the justice system. But the timing is felicitous as the Liberals seek to change the channel from the controversy.

In bombshell testimony before the House of Commons justice committee last week, former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould said she was improperly pressured last fall by the Prime Minister’s Office, the finance minister’s office and the country’s top public servant to prevent a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Trudeau has insisted that he and others only wanted Wilson-Raybould to consider the impact of a prosecution on the viability of the Montreal engineering giant and its 9,000 Canadian employees, but they were always clear that it was up to her alone, as attorney general, to decide whether to intervene.

The director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, decided last September not to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, a legal option that would force the company to pay stiff penalties without the risk of a criminal conviction that could cripple it financially.

It is legally permissible for the attorney general to override the director of public prosecutions. Wilson-Raybould has said she considered the pressure on her to do so “inappropriate,” although she concedes it was not illegal.

Until the SNC-Lavalin affair exploded last month, climate change was anticipated to be the pivotal issue in the looming federal election campaign.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has warned that the carbon tax will drive up the cost of everything for consumers. He has yet to unveil his own plan for battling climate change — a fact which Liberals have ridiculed on a party-sponsored website that professes to be about the Conservative leader’s climate plan.

Anyone visiting the website gets an error message — “No plan found” — and an updated count of the number of days that have gone by since Scheer promised a plan (308 as of Sunday).

Frigid temperatures for first week of March

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Mar 4th, 2019

Winter’s icy grip won’t let go, as well below seasonal temperatures are expected this week in the GTA.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said the high on Monday is forecast to reach -6 C but it will feel more like -14 with the wind.

“The average high is 2 C — we’ll be below that for the highs this week,” Taylor said.

Environment Canada’s senior meteorologist Mark Schuster said the cold can be blamed on a dome of Arctic Air that’s been lingering over Ontario and it is not expected to go away anytime soon.

“Normally at this time of year we expect a daytime high of 3 C and a low of -6 C. We are going to 10-15 C colder than that — so considerably below normal but by no means record breaking,” he said.

Schuster said the record for early March are in the -20 C range.

On Sunday, Toronto’s medical officer of health issued an extreme cold weather alert ahead of the temperature plunge.

Extreme cold weather alerts are issued when temperatures are estimated to reach -15 C or colder or when the windchill is forecast to hit -20 or colder.

The extreme cold weather alert also activates a number of local services, such as opening up warming centres and assisting in getting some of the city’s most vulnerable people off the street.

Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario loses sex-ed court challenge

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Mar 1st, 2019

An Ontario court has dismissed a legal challenge from elementary teachers and a civil liberties group over the province’s sex-ed curriculum.

The challenge from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association argued that changes made by the Progressive Conservative government infringed teachers’ freedom of expression and put students at risk by failing to be inclusive.

The Tories repealed a 2015 curriculum from the previous Liberal government that included lessons warning about online bullying and sexting, as well as parts addressing same-sex relationships and gender identity.

Instead, elementary teachers were directed to teach the previous 2010 curriculum, which ETFO argued hampered teachers’ ability to teach in a way “that is positive, inclusive, and respectful of diversity.”

A Divisional Court ruling released today notes that government lawyers said teachers were allowed to go beyond what is in the new curriculum, and there was no evidence of a teacher being disciplined for doing that.

“Nothing in the 2010 curriculum prohibits a teacher from teaching any of the topics in question, which include: consent, use of proper names to describe body parts, gender identity and sexual orientation, online behaviour and cyberbullying, sexually transmitted diseases and infections,” the ruling stated.

ETFO’s lawyer had said there might not have been a legal challenge if Premier Doug Ford hadn’t also issued a warning to teachers who said they would continue to use the now-scrapped version of the curriculum.

The court said some of the public statements made were “ill-considered,” but did not constitute an infringement of the charter.

“Finally, we note that it is the role of legislators as elected officials, not the court, to enact legislation and make policy decisions,” the court ruled.

“Courts should not interfere with the exercise of a discretion by a statutory authority simply because the court might have acted differently or finds that a decision may be ill-advised.”

The court also found that objections to the use of the term “sexually transmitted disease” in the 2010 curriculum weren’t enough to warrant the court’s intervention, arguing that the term is widely used.

“While the applicants and interveners object to the use of the “outdated” term “sexually transmitted disease” (STD) in the 2010 curriculum and prefer the words “sexually transmitted infection” STD is the term used by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Planned Parenthood, and is the title of the International Journal of STD and AIDS that ETFO’s expert, Dr. Logie, published in May 2018.”

The court also noted that STD is the term used in elementary schools in many other provinces and territories.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson said after getting feedback from public consultations on the health and physical education curriculum, a new one will be ready for the fall.

“I think it’s going to be safe to say that there were opportunities to introduce even more realities in terms of what students face today,” Thompson said. “Cyberbullying, consent, human trafficking – those are all issues that we have heard through our consultation that parents want to be addressed.”

The Liberal curriculum included lessons on cyberbulling and consent.

Thompson would not say specifically if gender identity would be part of the new curriculum.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association called it “a crummy day for equality” and said they intend to appeal.

YouTube suspends comments on videos of kids

RACHEL LERMAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Mar 1st, 2019

YouTube said Thursday it will turn off comments on nearly all videos featuring kids – potentially affecting millions of posts on the site – after reports last week that pedophiles were leaving inappropriate comments on innocuous videos of children.

The change comes as YouTube grapples with moderating content across its platform as concerns about hate speech, violence and conspiracy theories continue to plague it.

It will take YouTube several months to disable comments on all videos featuring minors, the company said. It already started the process last week when it turned off comments from tens of millions of videos.

Advertisers including Nestle, AT&T and Fortnite-maker Epic Games pulled ads from YouTube last week after the inappropriate comments about children were unearthed by a popular YouTuber and media reports. At least one company, Nestle, was satisfied with YouTube’s response and reinstated ads late last week.

A small number of channels which have videos featuring kids will be allowed to keep comments turned on. But they must be known to YouTube and must actively monitor the comments beyond the standard monitoring tools YouTube provides.

Turning off comments on such a large number of videos seems an “extreme reaction,” said eMarketer analyst Paul Verna. But the issue involves the safety of children, so it makes sense YouTube would want to act quickly, he said.

Comments aren’t the main focus of the video-publishing site, but turning them off will likely diminish the experience for many users and video creators, he said.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged the concerns Thursday, tweeting, “Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the safety of young people on the platform.”

The company said it has also released an updated version of its automated moderating system that it expects will identify and delete two times as many inappropriate comments.

YouTube, like Facebook, Twitter and other sites that allow user publishing, have faced increasing calls to monitor what appears on their sites and get rid of unsuitable content. The companies all say they have taken action to protect users. But issues keep popping up.

Concerns about YouTube comments weren’t even a top priority for advertisers and viewers a couple weeks ago, Verna said.

“It just makes you wonder, what’s the next thing that going to happen?”

First weekend of March comes marching in with fun

CHRISTINE CHUBB AND PATRICIA D'CUNHA | posted Friday, Mar 1st, 2019

The arrival of March means that St. Patrick’s Day and spring are just around the corner! As you await for their arrival, below are some events to enjoy right now in the city. Just because it is winter that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Have a great weekend.

Toronto Winter Brewfest
Warm up in more ways than one this weekend, while enjoying a local libation at Toronto Winter Brewfest. Sample more than 150 beers from across Ontario and Quebec while indulging in gourmet food from Toronto’s best food trucks at the Evergreen Brickworks. The festival is marked off in three different sessions — Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening. Click here for ticket availability. And if you’re wondering, why would I drink cold beer on a cold day? As the great Cliff Clavin would say, “it actually results in a more comfortable body temperature.”

Toronto Marlies ’90s Night!
Dust off your Doc Martens and grow out that mullet cause it’s a ’90s throwback at Coca-Cola Coliseum this Saturday. The Toronto Marlies will celebrate their first ever ’90s night with rad music and dope activities for the whole family! The first 3,500 fans through the gates will get a totally awesome Marlies fanny pack — what’s more ’90s than that??? Click here for tickets. It’s sure to be all that and a bag of chips!

Antique market and vintage clothing shows
If you are looking for antique and vintage finds, head down to the Toronto Antique & Vintage Market and the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show this weekend. Browse the various vendors selling antique furniture and textiles, architectural salvage, vinyl records, vintage clothing from the 1920s and antique jewelry. Admission to the clothing show is included with admission to the vintage market.

Toronto Zoo Polar Dip
Polar bears need your help, and this weekend, some people are doing their part to raise awareness for polar bear conservation by taking the plunge. On Saturday, the Toronto Zoo will be holding its Polar Dip where several brave souls will be taking a dip into icy-cold waters. Afterwards, a post-splash party will be held for those who took the plunge and others visiting the Zoo. Those taking part in the dip need to register, but the fundraising efforts will continue once the event is done.

Trudeau shuffles cabinet after Wilson-Raybould’s resignation

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Mar 1st, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making longtime MP Lawrence MacAulay his new veterans-affairs minister to fill the void left by the resignation of Jody Wilson-Raybould as part of a minor cabinet shuffle this morning.

Two other ministers already in cabinet are taking on new responsibilities: Marie-Claude Bibeau replaces MacAulay as agriculture minister and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef takes on the additional portfolio of international development.

Wilson-Raybould, who was moved from the justice portfolio to veterans affairs in the last federal cabinet shuffle in mid-January, resigned her post Feb. 12.

On Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould testified to the House of Commons justice committee that she was pressured by Trudeau, his senior staff and others to halt a criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

She said she believed she was shuffled out as attorney general and justice minister because she didn’t give in to the political arm-twisting.

Trudeau has denied the SNC-Lavalin affair had anything to do with Wilson-Raybould’s move, saying she would still be justice minister had former Treasury Board president Scott Brison not suddenly decided to leave politics.

Trump, Kim summit collapses amid failure to reach deal


The nuclear summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un collapsed Thursday after the two sides failed to reach a deal due to a standoff over U.S. sanctions on the reclusive nation, a dispiriting end to high-stakes meetings meant to disarm a global threat.

Trump, in a news conference after the summit abruptly shut down early, blamed the breakdown on North Korea’s insistence that all punishing sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on Pyongyang be lifted without the country committing to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump explained, adding that he had a proposed agreement that was “ready to be signed.”

“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” the president said. “We’re in position to do something very special.”

Mere hours after both nations seemed hopeful of a deal, Trump’s and Kim’s motorcades roared away from the downtown Hanoi summit site within minutes of each other, the leaders’ lunch cancelled and a signing ceremony scuttled. The president’s closing news conference was hurriedly moved up and he departed for Washington more than two hours ahead of schedule.

The disintegration of talks came after Trump and Kim had appeared to be ready to inch toward normalizing relations between their still technically-warring nations and as the American leader tamped down expectations that their negotiations would yield an agreement by North Korea to take concrete steps toward ending its nuclear program.

In something of a role reversal, Trump had deliberately ratcheted down some of the pressure on Pyongyang, abandoning his fiery rhetoric and declaring he wanted the “right deal” over a rushed agreement. For his part, Kim, when asked whether he was ready to denuclearize, said “If I’m not willing to do that I won’t be here right now.”

The breakdown denied Trump a much-needed victory amid growing domestic turmoil back home, including congressional testimony this week by his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who called Trump a “racist” and “conman” and claimed prior knowledge of foreign powers’ efforts to help Trump win in 2016.

Trump insisted his relations with Kim remained warm, but did not commit to having a third summit with the North Korean leader, saying a possible next meeting “may not be for a long time.” Though both he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said significant progress had been made in Hanoi, the two sides appeared to be galaxies apart on an agreement that would live up to the U.S.’ stated goals.

“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters. Kim, he explained, appeared willing to close his country’s main nuclear facility, the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, if the sanctions were lifted. But that would leave him with missiles, warheads and weapon systems, Pompeo said. There are also suspected hidden nuclear fuel production sites around the country.

“We couldn’t quite get there today,” Pompeo said, minimizing what seemed to be a chasm between the two sides.

Longstanding U.S. policy has insisted that U.S. sanctions on North Korea would not be lifted until that country committed to, if not concluded, complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. Trump declined to restate that goal Thursday, insisting he wanted flexibility in talks with Kim. “I don’t want to put myself in that position from the standpoint of negotiation,” he said.

White House aides stressed that Trump stood strong and some observers evoked the 1987 Reykjavik summit between Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev, a meeting over nuclear weapons that ended without a deal but laid the groundwork for a future agreement.

But the failure in Hanoi also laid bare a risk in Trump’s negotiating style: Preferring one-on-one meetings with his foreign counterparts, his administration often eschews the staff-level work done in advance to assure a deal and makes summits more of a victory lap than a hardline negotiation.

The collapse was a dramatic turnaround from the optimism that surrounded the talks after the leaders’ dinner Wednesday and that had prompted the White House to list a signing ceremony on Trump’s official schedule for Thursday.

The two leaders had seemed to find a point of agreement when Kim, who fielded questions from American journalists for the first time, was asked if the U.S. may open a liaison office in North Korea. Trump declared it “not a bad idea” and Kim called it “welcomable.” Such an office would mark the first U.S. presence in North Korea.

But questions persisted throughout the summit, including whether Kim was willing to make valuable concessions, what Trump would demand in the face of rising domestic turmoil and whether the meeting could yield far more concrete results than the leaders’ first summit, a meeting in Singapore less than a year ago that was long on dramatic imagery but short on tangible results.

There had long been skepticism that Kim would be willing to give away the weapons his nation had spent decades developing and Pyongyang felt ensured its survival. But even after the summit ended, Trump praised Kim’s commitment to continue a moratorium on missile testing.

Trump also said he believed the autocrat’s claim that he had nothing to do with the 2017 death of Otto Warmbier, a American college student who died after being held in a North Korean prison.

“I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen,” Trump said. “He felt badly about it.”

The declaration immediately called to mind other moments when Trump chose to believe autocrats over his own intelligence agencies, including siding with the Saudi royal family regarding the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and supporting Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s denials that he interfered with the 2016 election.

If the first Trump-Kim summit gave the reclusive nation’s leader entree onto the international stage, the second appeared to grant him the legitimacy his family has long desired.

Kim, for the first time, affably parried with the international press without having to account for his government’s long history of oppression. He secured Trump’s support for the opening of a liaison office in Pyongyang, without offering any concessions of his own. Even without an agreement, Trump’s backing for the step toward normalization provided the sort of recognition the international community has long denied Kim’s government.

Experts worried that the darker side of Kim’s leadership was being brushed aside in the rush to address the North’s nuclear weapons program: the charges of massive human rights abuses; the prison camps filled with dissidents; a near complete absence of media, religious and speech freedoms; the famine in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands; and the executions of a slew of government and military officials, including his uncle and the alleged assassination order of his half-brother in a Malaysian airport.

Trump also has a history of cutting short foreign trips and walking out of meetings when he feels no progress is being made. That includes a notable episode this year when he walked out of a White House meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer over a government shutdown, calling the negotiation “a total waste of time.”

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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