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Loblaw parent company alerted competition watchdog to bread price-fixing

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

Bakery owner George Weston Ltd. says it and grocer Loblaw Companies Ltd. alerted the Competition Bureau immediately after discovering a more than decade-long bread price-fixing arrangement in March 2015.

The companies say in a joint statement that they became aware of an arrangement involving the co-ordination of retail and wholesale prices of some packaged breads from late 2001 to March 2015.

They say the participants regularly increased prices on a co-ordinated basis, and participants included both companies, as well as other major grocery retailers and another bread wholesaler.

The statement says the employees responsible for Weston Bakeries and Loblaw’s role in the arrangement are no longer employed by the companies and that they have beefed up compliance programs.

Loblaw is offering eligible customers who register online at LoblawCard.ca before May a $25 gift card that can be used at its grocery stores across Canada.

The added disclosure came after sealed court filings into the matter were made available to the companies and other affected parties for review.

Record holiday travellers could cause delays at Canadian airports

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

Canadian holiday travellers should brace for crowds and delays as a record number of passengers are expected to pass through the country’s largest airports and highways are filled with Christmas commuters.

With Air Canada and rival WestJet Airlines carrying 7.9 and 9.7 per cent more passengers for the first nine months of the year, the 2017 Christmas season should break travel records, said airline analyst Robert Kokonis of AirTrav Inc.

“This bodes well for the rest of the year and, I believe, into Christmas and Winter 2018 periods,” he wrote in an email.

Toronto Pearson International Airport expects that nearly 2.7 million passengers will travel through the country’s largest airport between Dec. 17 and Jan. 7, up from 1.9 million last year when there were fewer days of elevated traffic.

The busiest travel day leading into the holiday will be Thursday when more than 130,000 people are expected to use the airport.

On average, 50,000 to 60,000 passengers are expected to depart and arrive at Trudeau International Airport in Montreal and more than one million over the season.

Traffic this year is up about 10 per cent on the year as carriers have added new direct flights, particularly to international destinations.

“We will have a growth this year in passenger traffic for the holiday period and we will welcome our 18 millionth passenger,” said airport spokeswoman Anne-Sophie Hamel.

Forecast for heavy snow in the days leading up to Christmas could cause some delays but Montreal Trudeau is used to facing Quebec winters, she said.

“Our snow clearing teams are active to ensure that when there is more difficult weather, these impacts are limited for passengers.”

Vancouver and Calgary airports are forecasting the 2017 will be another record season.

“We anticipate our busiest days to be when school gets out and the week after Christmas,” said airport spokeswoman Andrea Pham.

Canadian Airports Council president Daniel-Robert Gooch said he expects a strong end to a booming year since airport traffic is outpacing economic growth.

“It’s a very good news story for the air transport business and local economies and tourism,” he said in an interview.

Air Canada and WestJet Airlines said they are both expecting higher passenger volumes during the peak travel period but refused to provide forecasts. WestJet said it expects to beat the record 74,000 passengers it carried one day before Christmas last year.

The airlines offered advice such as checking in online or through an app, paying for any baggage fees in advance, verifying flight status for any delays, arriving early at the airport and carrying the appropriate identification.

Roads will also be busy this holiday as extra vehicles and snow cause delays while longer wait times are expected to cross the U.S. border.

“The best advice is to simply realize that things are going to be moving more slowly and they’re going to be busier than they usually are and so leave extra time,” said CAA spokesman Ian Jack.

Travelling through the United States could also take more time since the American Automobile Association expects a record 107.3 million holiday road and air travellers.

The Canadian agency overseeing airport screening said it will add more workers to help meet heightened demand over the holiday, especially for peak travel days.

“When it’s really busy, passengers should be there ahead of time because the lineups can be longer,” said Mathieu Larocque, spokesman for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.

He said travellers can shorten security inspections by ensuring they know what can be carried on board the plane, especially in carry-on luggage.

Passengers can ask questions of CATSA on Twitter or Facebook and send pictures of items to avoid surprises at the airport.

Gifts should remain unwrapped for easier inspection if required. Some airports offer post-security wrapping services.

Province launches sweeping review of Ontario Energy Board

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

Ontario is launching a sweeping review of the province’s energy regulator as it hopes to adapt to a rapidly changing market.

The Liberal government has tapped Richard Dicerni, a former head of Ontario Power Generation, to lead a year-long review of the Ontario Energy Board.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault says it will look at how the O-E-B should keep up with new technology and new consumer demands.

He says in the near future more people will be putting solar panels on their roof, storing excess power and perhaps using it to power their electric vehicle.

Thibeault says the last time the O-E-B looked at updating its regulations 10 years ago, when a lot of the new energy innovations didn’t exist.

The O-E-B sets rules for energy companies and establishes rates that consumers pay.

The government says that in the last eight years the O-E-B has reduced companies’ requested rate increases by an average of 40 per cent.

SIU investigating after man injured after being followed by police

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

The province’s police watchdog is investigating after a serious five-vehicle crash in Mississauga on Tuesday.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said shortly before 5 p.m., Toronto police officers started following a car near Hurontario Street and Central Parkway West.

The officers believed a man in the vehicle had been involved in a bank robbery.

The car then got into a crash with four other vehicles at Hurontario and Rathburn Road, about three kilometres away, near Square One Shopping Centre.

The man fled on foot, but was arrested soon after.

He was taken to hospital with a serious injury. It wasn’t clear if the injury happened during the crash or the arrest.

No one else was injured.

Police said they are not looking for any other suspects.

Canadian family affected by fatal bus crash in Mexico: Global Affairs

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

Global Affairs Canada says at least one Canadian family has been affected by a bus crash in eastern Mexico that has killed an estimated dozen people.

The department says it is providing consular assistance to the family, but could not provide further details about how many Canadians were in the bus and whether they were killed or injured.

Authorities in Mexico say of the 31 people on the bus, at least 12 people were killed and 18 were injured Tuesday.

The bus was carrying cruise ship passengers to Mayan ruins when it flipped over on a highway.

Quintana Roo state Civil Defence spokesman Vicente Martin says seven Americans and two Swedes were among the injured, but says authorities hadn’t yet established the nationalities of the dead.

Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises says in a statement that passengers from two of its ships, the Celebrity Equinox and Serenade of the Seas, were involved.

Video images from the scene show the bus on its side in vegetation off the two-lane highway, with some survivors lying on the pavement and others walking around.

Public Security of Quintana Roo state said in a statement that emergency responders took the injured to hospitals in Bacalar, Chetumal and Tulum.

The agency says Mexican officials have been in contact with consular offices to assist families of the victims and injured, including citizens of the U.S., Sweden and Brazil.

With files from The Associated Press

Marc and Jodie Emery plead guilty to drug-related charges

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 19th, 2017

Prominent pot activists Jodie and Marc Emery have pleaded guilty to a number of drug-related charges in a Toronto court.

Marc Emery, the self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot,” pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana for purpose of trafficking, trafficking marijuana and possession of proceeds of crime more than $5,000.

Jodie Emery pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana for purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime over $5,000.

The couple’s arrest at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in March was followed by co-ordinated raids in several cities of pot shops associated with them.

The Emerys own the Cannabis Culture brand, which was used by a chain of 19 marijuana dispensaries in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, but the number of stores has dwindled to eight.

Three other people arrested in March — 37-year-old Christopher Goodwin and 31-year-old Erin Goodwin, both of Toronto, and 29-year-old Britney Guerra of Stoney Creek — also pleaded guilty to drug-related counts.

Push towards presto raises concerns for low-income riders

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 19th, 2017

Fare collectors have begun disappearing from TTC stations, beginning with the permanent closure of collector booths at Wilson and Sheppard West (formerly Downsview) stations over the weekend.

And when the six new stations on the Line 1 subway extension on Dec 17 were opened, it was also without collectors sitting in booths. That’s a total of eight stations without fare booths or collectors.

While the transit agency says this will mean better customer service, some in the social service sector say they’re worried about what it means for low-income riders.

The move is part of the push to fully automate the system with Presto, but for those who only buy one fare at a time, it could prove to be a bigger barrier. One transit advocate says even the cost of buying a Presto card in the first place is a deterrent.

“The $6 upfront for a blank card, if you’re a parent with teenagers, that can be $18 or $24, just for the card, and without even getting on the TTC,” says Yvette Roberts, who works with the Young Parents No Fixed Address Network.

“People don’t realize that low-income people actually pay more for transit,” says Roberts. “They can’t afford that monthly upfront cost. It’s $147 upfront [for a Metropass] at the same time of the month that they’re paying their rent typically. So in the end, low-income or working-class people are paying on a daily or weekly pass basis and more for transit than higher-income people are.”

The TTC says the $6 is Presto’s administration fee. They’re currently working on a low-income pass that could be ready as early as spring 2018.

But Roberts, who is also part of the Fair Fare Coalition, says one of the other big concerns for low-income drop-in centres is what Presto – a digital pay system – will mean for programs that hand out tokens and tickets to their members.

The TTC says that’s part of the next phase of the Presto roll-out they are currently working on.

“Last fall, we put out a survey to our list of stakeholders who do bulk purchases,” says Heather Brown, a TTC spokeswoman. “We are working closely with them so that the transition is as smooth as possible.”

Social service agencies in Toronto can purchase tokens and tickets in bulk at a reduced cost. Under Presto, the plan is to replace those with a limited use paper card. Brown says the TTC plans to have that in place by the middle of next year.

As for the eight stations without fare collectors, the TTC says there are still customer service agents there to help riders and people can still pay with cash, tickets or tokens at those locations.

3 confirmed dead after Amtrak train derails near Seattle

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 19th, 2017

American authorities say there are three confirmed deaths in the Washington state train derailment and more than 100 people were transported to hospital.

An official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press that preliminary signs indicate that Train 501 may have struck something before going off the track about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Seattle. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A local official had raised concerns about the safety of the new bypass as recently as two weeks ago at a public meeting.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said several vehicles on Interstate 5 were struck by falling train cars and multiple motorists were injured. No fatalities of motorists were reported.

In a radio transmission immediately after the accident, the train’s conductor can be heard saying the train was coming around a corner and was crossing a bridge that passed over Interstate 5 when it derailed.

“I’m still figuring that out. We’ve got cars everywhere and down onto the highway,” he tells the dispatcher, who asks if everyone is OK.

Chris Karnes was on the train, three or four cars back from the front. He said the only part of the train remaining on the tracks was the rear locomotive. Several cars were hanging over the overpass.

Daniel Konzelman, 24, was driving parallel to the train on his way to work as an accountant in Olympia. He was about 30 seconds ahead of the train on the freeway when he saw it derail.

Konzelman, who was driving with a friend, said he pulled off the freeway and then ran down along the tracks and over the bridge to get to the scene. They saw three cars and a semi-truck on the freeway that had been damaged by the derailment. There were train cars with their roofs ripped off, or that were tipped upside down, on both sides of the track or turned sideways on the bridge.

They climbed into train cars and found people hurt — some pinned underneath the train, others who appeared to be dead, he said. If they were mobile and seemed stable, he helped them climb out. If they appeared seriously hurt, he tried to comfort them by talking to them.

“I just wanted to help people because I would want people to help me,” he said. “I’m an Eagle Scout. I have a lot of first-aid training and emergency response training.”

They stayed for nearly two hours before hitting the road again.

“I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. I saw a little bit of both,” he said.

President Donald Trump used the deadly derailment to call for more infrastructure spending in a tweet sent about three hours after the accident. He said the wreck, on a newly completed bypass, shows “more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly.”

The train was making the inaugural run on the new route as part of a $180.7 million project designed to speed up service by removing passenger trains from a route along Puget Sound that’s bogged down by curves, single-track tunnels and freight traffic.

The Amtrak Cascades train service is jointly owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Amtrak operates the service for the two states as a contractor and is responsible for day-to-day operations. Amtrak Cascades runs trains from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon.

The Amtrak schedule called for the train to leave Seattle around 6 a.m. and arrive in Portland about 3 1/2 hours later.

Monday marked the first public use of the new bypass built on an existing inland rail line that runs along Interstate 5 from Tacoma to DuPont, near where Train 501 derailed. Track testing was completed in January and February in advance of Monday’s launch, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The tracks, known as the Point Defiance Bypass, are owned by Sound Transit, the transit agency serving the Seattle area. They were previously owned by BNSF and were used for occasional freight and military transport.

The mayor of Lakewood, Washington, a city along the new route, predicted a deadly crash — but one involving a fast-moving train hitting a car or pedestrian at a grade-crossing, not a train tumbling off an overpass. At a recent public meeting, he called on state planners to build overpass-like rail structures instead of having trains cross busy streets.

The National Transportation Safety Board said a team of investigators was on its way to the scene from Washington, D.C.

The train was going 81.1 mph moments before the derailment, according to transitdocs.com, a website that maps Amtrak train locations and speeds using data from the railroad’s train tracker app.

The maximum speed along the stretch of track is 79 mph, according to information about the route posted online by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

All southbound lanes of I-5 were closed south of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and motorists were being warned to avoid the area.


Associated Press writers Sally Ho and Phuong Le in Seattle, Michael Sisak in Philadelphia, Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles and Gillian Flaccus in Portland contributed to this report.

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