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Average family to pay $400 more for groceries next year: report

ALEKSANDRA SAGAN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 5th, 2018

The average Canadian family will pay about $400 more for groceries and roughly $150 more for dining out next year, an annual food price report predicts.

Food prices will rise between 1.5 to 3.5 per cent in 2019, according to the report from researchers at the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University. That means the average family of four will spend $12,157 next year — up $411 from 2018.

Vegetables will see the biggest price jumps — between four and six per cent for the category, according to the report.

Meanwhile, meat and seafood prices are expected to fall, with the meat category to decline by one to three per cent and seafood costs to remain the same or fall up to two per cent.

Since 2015, the team has predicted prices in those two categories would rise as high as six per cent each year.

“This is a bit of a risk for us … We’ve never done that,” said Sylvain Charlebois, one of the lead researchers and a professor at Dalhousie University, referring to anticipating a decline.

But the team is confident in its prediction.

They believe there’s an oversupply of meat, he said, and Canadians are eating less animal protein. Instead, they’re showing more interest in alternative proteins, like quinoa and lentils.

“You look at our national demand for beef — it’s 94 million kilos less than in 2010,” Charlebois said. “So, we are clearly eating less beef.”

 Source: Canada Food Price Report 2019

The plant-based protein trend is evident in recent manufacturer and restaurant moves as well.

Meat processors Maple Leaf Foods Inc., for example, acquired two companies in this niche in recent years, Lightlife Foods and Field Roast GrainMeat Co.

At the same time, fast food chains have started adding vegan and vegetarian options to their menus. A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. even temporarily sold out of its Beyond Meat patties shortly after adding them to its menu.

Industry watchers have attributed the demand for plant-based protein to millennials, health-conscious baby boomers and concerns around antibiotic use in agriculture.

A turning point for animal protein, though, was 2014 when beef prices started to rise dramatically, said Charlebois.

Between December 2013 and December 2014 the monthly average retail price for one kilogram of ground beef rose more than 26 per cent, according to Statistics Canada data. For comparison, the price advanced about 3.5 per cent from December 2012-13. It reached a record high of $13.23 in October 2015.

“It really spooked consumers,” said Charlebois, adding they started substituting plant-based protein into their diet.

Butchers and grocers will likely take it easy on beef prices next year in an effort to bring people back to the red meat, he said.

Consumers’ embrace of plant proteins will help push vegetable prices higher next year, as will the weather, according to the report.

“Fruit and vegetables are some of the most perishable, fragile food products that are on the grocery shelf,” said Simon Somogyi, a lead researcher on the report and a University of Guelph professor.

They’re particularly influenced by climactic events, like the El Nino expected to occur this winter, he said, which can result in warmer and drier conditions, and create shortages in the supply chain.

As far as which vegetables may see the biggest increases, it’s difficult to know what produce item will become the next cauliflower, Charlebois said. The cruciferous vegetable saw soaring prices per head in 2016.

Charlebois points to lettuce and tomatoes as possible candidates for big price fluctuations. Meanwhile, Somogyi said produce imported into Canada is more susceptible to weather events and the corresponding price changes.

The report predicts more modest increases for bakery (one to three per cent), dairy (zero to two per cent), fruit (one to three per cent) and other food items, such as non-perishables, not covered by the other categories (zero to two per cent).

Restaurant prices will rise between two and four per cent, according to the report, mainly because operators’ labour costs increased as several provinces and territories boosted their mandated minimum hourly wage recently.

“If you want to save in 2019 you need to do two things: Don’t go out as much and visit that freezer aisle once in a while to get those veggies,” Charlebois said. “They don’t taste the same as the fresh stuff, but at least you’ll get the same amount of nutrients.”

The researchers’ predictions for 2018 were fairly accurate. Fruit prices, which they estimated would rise between one to three per cent, stayed stagnant — the only category where they missed the mark.

With files from News Staff

Art Gallery of Ontario says it has funds to buy a permanent Infinity Mirror room

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 5th, 2018

The Art Gallery of Ontario says it now has the money it needs to buy a $2-million Infinity Mirror room.

The Toronto gallery says its online crowdfunding campaign raised $651,183 from more than 4,700 donors. That’s about half of the $1.3-million target it had set for the month-long campaign.

The rest of the money comes from the David Yuile & Mary Elizabeth Hodgson Fund, held in the AGO Foundation.

Before the campaign, the fund provided $1 million for the piece. After the campaign, the same fund covered the balance remaining, which included an extra $300,000 to cover publicity and installation costs.

The gallery says it is buying a mirrored room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama called “Let’s Survive Forever.” It features mirrored orbs suspended from the ceiling and arranged on the ground.

Kusama’s Instagram-friendly contemporary art drew more than 169,000 visitors to an AGO exhibition last spring.

OSPCA will no longer euthanize dogs involved in attacks or enforce pit bull ban

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 5th, 2018

Ontario’s animal welfare agency has told its frontline officers it will no longer euthanize dogs involved in attacks as required by law.

In an internal memo obtained by The Canadian Press, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says inspectors and agents should hand off to police all cases in which courts have ordered the destruction of animals, including pit bulls, which are banned in the province.

The document, dated Oct. 9, 2018, says euthanizing dogs would violate the agency’s mission, which is to provide “province-wide leadership on matters relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals and the promotion of animal welfare.”

“Where legislation conflicts with the mission of the charity, the Ontario SPCA declines to enforce such legislation,” the order reads.

The only exception will be cases when the euthanization is ordered by a veterinarian and is “the most humane course of action for the animal,” says the order, which was handed over to enforcement officers at two meetings held in late October at the agency’s headquarters in Stouffville, Ont., north of Toronto.

In cases involving pit bulls that do not have behavioural issues, the animals will be moved out of province where it’s legal to own them, rather than destroyed.

A spokeswoman for the OSPCA confirmed the policy change, saying the agency’s role was to protect animals’ well-being.

“If it conflicts with our mission, we’ll hand it to another agency to address,” Alison Cross said in an interview.

The OSPCA has also ordered its officers to defy a Criminal Code law that states birds found in a cockfighting ring shall be destroyed on order from a judge. That, too, will be passed off to police, the agency said.

Those changes were news to the provincial government, which pays the charity $5.75 million each year for enforcing cruelty laws.

“The laws of Ontario and Canada provide that in certain circumstances a court may order that an animal be euthanized,” said Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which is responsible for the OSPCA.

Ross said the ministry expects the OSPCA to comply with a court order that requires an animal be euthanized, adding that the agency had the right to defer to police in potentially criminal matters.

The orders to defy the provincial laws have made some of the OSPCA frontline inspectors uneasy, given that they are peace officers sworn to uphold the law.

“We have to choose between doing our jobs or following management orders,” said a frontline officer who attended the October meetings.

The officer, who did not want his name used for fear of retribution, said the agency leaders have also ordered all cases of “blood sports” be handed over to police.

“We are not to deal with it, we would only go in a supporting role. That’s what we were told.”

The latest changes, including a decision to pull back from investigating cruelty cases involving livestock and horses, are part of what the OSPCA calls a restructuring effort to deal with years-long funding shortage. The policy changes, however, have received rebuke from both the province and animal activists.

Insiders say part of the reason for the latest move is the bad publicity the agency received for its handling of a notorious dogfighting case in southwestern Ontario.

The OSPCA, along with Chatham-Kent police, raided a compound in Tilbury, Ont., in the fall of 2015. During that raid, officials seized 31 pit bulls, dogfighting paraphernalia including “rape stands” that are used in breeding, fighting records, guns, knives, ammunition and about a kilogram of marijuana, according to court documents. Inspectors also found anabolic steroids on site and dogfighting contracts.

The case triggered an international outcry, including harsh words from hockey personality and animal rights activist Don Cherry, after the OSPCA applied to the courts, as is it required by law, to euthanize 21 of the seized pit bulls that were deemed a menace to society and could not be rehabilitated.

The case fell apart because it took too long to get to trial, with the judge staying charges against the accused. After a second behavioural evaluation, 18 of the 21 pit bulls were sent to Florida for rehabilitation.

Insiders said the case hurt donations to the charity.

Packaged kale salad recalled due to possible Listeria contamination

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 5th, 2018

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says one of Eat Smart’s packaged salads has been recalled due to possible Listeria contamination.

The agency says the 156-gram packages of Salad Shake Ups — Sweet Kale, with best before date of Dec. 3, should be thrown out or returned to the store where it was purchased.

The CFIA says the recalled product has been distributed nationally, but there have been no reported illnesses associated with consuming it.

It adds that it is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products.

Food contaminated with Listeria may not look or smell spoiled, but can cause death in severe cases of illness.

The CFIA says symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness.

It says infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, but the infection can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth

Click here for more information on the recall.

Funeral being held Wednesday for George H.W. Bush

CALVIN WOODWARD, LAURIE KELLMAN AND ASHRAF KHALIL, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 5th, 2018

The nation’s capital bids its final farewell to the late president, George H.W. Bush, in a service of prayer and praise that is drawing together world envoys, Americans of high office and a guy from Maine who used to fix things in Bush’s house on the water.

The ceremony Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral, the nexus of state funerals, will cap three days of remembrance by dignitaries and ordinary citizens as they honoured the Republican president who oversaw the post-Cold War transition and led a successful Gulf War, only to lose re-election in a generational shift to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.

The four living ex-presidents are coming — among them, George W. Bush will eulogize his father — and President Donald Trump will attend but is not scheduled to speak. Also attending: one king (Jordan), one queen (Jordan), two princes (Britain, Bahrain), Germany’s chancellor and Poland’s president, among representatives of more than a dozen countries.

Liberal cabinet minister Scott Brison and ambassador David MacNaughton will join former prime minister Brian Mulroney in representing Canada at the state funeral. Mulroney, a close friend of Bush, is scheduled to deliver one of the eulogies.

Also expected in the invitation-only crowd: Mike Lovejoy, a Kennebunkport electrician and fix-it man who has worked at Bush’s Maine summer estate since 1990 and says he was shocked and heartened to be asked to come.

On Tuesday, soldiers, citizens in wheelchairs and long lines of others on foot wound through the hushed Capitol Rotunda to view Bush’s casket and honour a president whose legacy included World War military service and a landmark law affirming the rights of the disabled. Former Sen. Bob Dole, a compatriot in war, peace and political struggle, steadied himself out of his wheelchair and saluted his old friend and one-time rival.

After the national funeral service at the cathedral, Bush’s remains will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church before burial Thursday at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station. His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953 at age 3.

Trump ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.

As at notable moments in his life, Bush brought together Republicans and Democrats in his death, and not only the VIPs.

Members of the public who never voted for the man waited in the same long lines Tuesday as the rest, attesting that Bush possessed the dignity and grace that deserved to be remembered by their presence on a cold overcast day in the capital.

“I’m just here to pay my respects,” said Jane Hernandez, a retired physician in the heavily Democratic city and suburbs. “I wasn’t the biggest fan of his presidency, but all in all he was a good, sincere guy doing a really hard job as best he could.”

Bush’s service dog, Sully, was brought to the viewing, too — his main service these last months since Barbara Bush’s death in April being to rest his head on her husband’s lap. Service dogs are trained to do that.

The CIA also honoured Bush, the only spy chief to become president, as three agency directors past and present joined the public in the viewing.

In the midst of the period of mourning, first lady Melania Trump gave Laura Bush, one of her predecessors, a tour of holiday decorations at the White House, a “sweet visit during this sombre week,” as Mrs. Bush’s Instagram account put it. And the Trumps visited members of the Bush family at the Blair House presidential guesthouse, where they are staying. Former President George W. Bush and his wife greeted the Trumps outside before everyone went in for the private, 20-minute visit.

Although Trump will attend Bush’s service, he is not among the eulogists. They are, in addition to Bush’s eldest son, Alan Simpson, the former senator and acerbic wit from Wyoming; Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister who also gave a eulogy for Ronald Reagan; and presidential historian Jon Meacham.

People lined up before dawn to pay respects to the 41st president, a son and father of privilege now celebrated by everyday citizens for his common courtesies and depth of experience.

“He was so qualified, and I think he was just a decent man,” said Sharon Terry, touring Washington with friends from an Indianapolis garden club. Said her friend Sue Miller, also in line for the viewing: “I actually think I underestimated him when he was in office. My opinion of him went up seeing how he conducted himself as a statesman afterward.”

Fred Curry, one of the few African-Americans in line, is a registered Democrat from Hyattsville, Maryland, who voted for Bush in 1988, the election won by the one-term president. “Honestly I just liked him,” he said. “He seemed like a sincere and decent man and you couldn’t argue with his qualifications.”

Inside the Capitol, Sully, the two-year-old Labrador retriever assigned to Bush, sat by the casket in the company of people who came to commemorate Bush’s signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1990 law that, among its many provisions, required businesses that prohibit pets to give access to service dogs.

“After Mrs. Bush’s death, general companionship was a big part of Sully’s job,” John Miller, president and CEO of America’s VetDogs, said in a phone interview. “One of the things that I think was important to the president was the rest command, where Sully would rest his head on the president’s lap.”

The law was just one point of intersection for Bush and Dole, now 95, who was one of its leading advocates in the Senate.

They were fellow World War II veterans, Republican Party leaders, fierce rivals for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination won by Bush (“Stop lying about my record,” Dole snapped at Bush) and skilled negotiators. Dole, an Army veteran hit by German machine-gunfire in Italy, has gone through life with a disabled right arm. Bush, a Navy pilot, survived a bail-out from his stricken aircraft over the Pacific and an earlier crash landing.

On Tuesday Dole was helped out of his wheelchair by an aide, slowly steadied himself and saluted Bush with his left hand, his chin quivering.

Dignitaries had come forward on Monday, too, to honour the Texan whose service to his country extended three quarters of a century, from World War II through his final years as an advocate for volunteerism and relief for people displaced by natural disaster. Bush, 94, died Friday.

Trump’s relationship with the Bush family has been tense. The current president has mocked the elder Bush for his “thousand points of light” call to volunteerism, challenged his son’s legacy as president and trounced “low-energy” Jeb Bush in the Republican presidential primaries en route to office. The late President Bush called Trump a “blowhard.”

Those insults have been set aside, but the list of funeral service speakers marked the first time since Lyndon Johnson’s death in 1973 that a sitting president was not tapped to eulogize a late president. (Clinton did so for Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush eulogized Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.)

Bush’s death reduces membership in the ex-presidents’ club to four: Jimmy Carter, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

Ottawa announces $50M to support survivors of gender-based violence

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 4th, 2018

HALIFAX — Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef has announced $50 million for programs across Canada that support survivors of gender-based violence, saying more people than ever are coming forward to seek support and tell their stories.

At an announcement in Halifax today, she said the funding — more than double the amount initially earmarked in the federal budget — comes in the wake of a global reckoning on the widespread nature of sexism, misogyny and gender-based violence.

Monsef says 60 projects across the country will receive up to $1 million each over five years to address gaps in support for underserved groups, including Indigenous women, LGBTQ communities, gender non-binary people and women in rural and remote areas.

In Nova Scotia, three organizations are set to receive funding: The Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax, the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association and the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

The council is also set to receive matching funds of up to $1 million from the provincial government.

Kelly Regan, the minister responsible for Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, says the province is also working with Mi’kmaw and African-Nova Scotian organizations to better support victims and reduce the impact of violence.

The Canadian Press

York regional police will now release the names of people charged with impaired driving

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Dec 4th, 2018

After another weekend of charging more than a dozen drivers with impaired, police in York Region are taking a drastic step in the hopes of curbing this illegal behaviour.

Chief Eric Jolliffe said they will now publish the names of drivers charged with impaired-related criminal driving offences.

“It’s clear that something has to change,” Jolliffe said in a statement released on Monday.

“Effective immediately, York Regional Police will name all of the drivers charged with impaired-related criminal driving offences, to further make impaired driving socially unacceptable and so that members of our community can assist with notifying police if these offenders choose to drive while under suspension. Innocent lives are put at risk every day by this irresponsible and criminal behaviour. We are not giving up.”

Going forward, police will post the names of these drivers on the York Regional Police website every Monday.

Over the weekend police in York Region laid impaired charges against 16 drivers. The drivers ranged from a 23-year-old Aurora man, who was charged with impaired driving – drug, while the oldest was a 55-year-old man from Newmarket charged with impaired driving – alcohol and over 80.

These latest arrests add to the more than 1,400 charges for impaired-related driving offences laid in the region so far this year.

Five people were killed in alcohol or drug impairment crashes this year in York Region, police said.

New security rules come into effect at Toronto City Hall on Wednesday

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Dec 4th, 2018

There will be new faces, and new security procedures, when a shrunken Toronto city council convenes for its first meeting of the new term.

As of Wednesday, visitors to city hall will have to pass through a metal detector to access the council chamber.

Metal detector screening will take place on the third floor, while baggage screening will continue to take place in the city hall rotunda.

“City staff, members of Council, and other building tenants with access cards will not need to pass through the metal detector or undergo baggage screening when wearing their access card,” the city of Toronto said in a release.

“The safety of all those who work, visit or do business at City facilities is a top priority of the City of Toronto. These security enhancements will help maintain an accessible, safe, and secure City Hall for staff, building tenants, and the public.”

Metal detection comes in addition to further security moves already undertaken in December 2017when council voted in favour of new vehicle-mitigation measures.

These included putting up perimeter posts around Nathan Phillips Square in order to prevent any vehicles from mounting a curb and plowing into a crowd of people.

A survey conducted by the city in March found 79 per cent of Toronto residents were in favour of security screening at public entrances, and that support jumps to 83 per cent when it comes to using metal detectors.

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