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Middle finger or thumbs up? Conflicting views on King Street pilot project

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jan 23rd, 2018

Opposing social media campaigns over the King Street pilot project are ramping up about whether the controversial initiative should continue, and where patrons should spend their money.

 

Al Carbone, owner of the Kit Kat Italian Bar and Grill, held a news conference Monday morning across the street from his restaurant, calling on Mayor John Tory to end the pilot immediately.

“We’d like the mayor to reverse it immediately,” Carbone said. “It’s hurting too many businesses all at once.”

Carbone says some businesses along the busy stretch of King Street between Jarvis and Bathurst have experienced as much as 50 per cent declines since the pilot came into effect in mid-November.

His latest campaign, #EndKingCarBan, comes after his own controversial ice sculpture initiative, which saw large ice sculptures in the shape of a raised middle finger erected outside of businesses along King Street.

 

The icy cold finger raised the ire of some of the more than 70,000 transit users who use the King streetcar daily, many of whom saw it is a slight against them.

“You’ve been giving the middle finger to everyone passing by your restaurants,” said Trevor Dunseith, who heckled Carbone at the end of the press conference.

 

“I’m just angry,” he told reporters afterwards. “Angry every time I pass by this place and see the finger, I feel like they’re giving it directly to me.”

Other commuters used the ice sculpture campaign to create their own counter movement, #KingEatsPilot, where they encourage commuters to eat at locations in support of the pilot project, or transit users in general.

“We’re here to give a thumbs up to the King Street pilot, in response to another finger we’re seeing down the street,” said Norman Dipasquale.

 

The city launched the King Street Pilot project back in November — giving streetcars priority between Jarvis and Bathurst. Early city data shows it has sped up commutes by an average of 2.6 minutes.

Marketing expert Marc Gordon says any time a restaurant gets political, there’s the potential to leave a bad taste in the mouths of patrons.

“Any time businesses get political, they risk alienating their customers,” Gordon said. “Rule number one is customers hate conflict.”

The King Street pilot project is slated to run until November 2018.

City investigating after man taken to hospital from Moss Park Armoury shelter

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jan 23rd, 2018

The city is now investigating after a homeless man was sent to hospital from the Moss Park Armoury shelter on Sunday.

 

Initial reports indicated the man had died in hospital, although paramedics did not confirm the death, saying only that one person was transported to hospital from the armoury and he was alive at the time.

City shelter staff were also unable to provide clarification and told CityNews they had no information about the man’s condition after he was taken to hospital.

Witnesses at the shelter tell CityNews it took three days of complaining before the man was eventually rushed to hospital on Sunday and thereafter no one was able to confirm if he had survived.

Late Monday afternoon, activist and street nurse Cathy Crowe told CityNews that “multiple sources” now tell her the man is in fact alive.

Crowe said witnesses told her the man had been writhing in pain, struggling in his cot and even foaming at the mouth, but no one saw staff members intervene or help. One witness even told Crowe they heard a staff member say “he’s faking it.”

Witnesses said it wasn’t until someone from the Overdose Prevention Site asked a member of the military to check on the man, that 911 was called. A shelter resident says even at that point, it was another resident and not shelter staff who contacted emergency services.

Questions are now being raised about the way city staff dealt with the situation.

Activists and shelter residents are raising concerns about what they say are deplorable conditions and a lack of assistance at the armoury shelter. A woman who was in the bed next to the man in distress also claimed there are no medical staff inside the armoury.

Councillor for Ward 21 Joe Mihevc said the investigation is in its early stages and the city has not yet received a report from either hospital or shelter staff. He added the city wants to ensure that the shelter system is up to the “best standards possible.”

“We certainly feel as a city that every shelter where there are vulnerable people should have medical personnel,” he said. “This certainly has to be part of the investigation. I’m not sure what the shelter staff had at Moss Park, but that has to be looked at very closely as well.”

Crowe said the incident has shaken many people at the armoury and has them worried for their safety if there’s an emergency.

“People we spoke with were severely traumatized by what they had seen. Many were sobbing and upset and angry at what they witnessed which they describe as staff neglect to a man in deteriorating health leading to a health crisis and the indignities he experienced,” Crowe said in a statement.

“Many identified their own health vulnerabilities and felt insecure, wondering if they too would be neglected, not cared for in an emergency,” she said.

Amusement park train at Woodbine Mall collides with woman and child; both appear to be OK

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jan 23rd, 2018

A frightening moment was caught on camera at the Woodbine Centre’s indoor amusement park with surveillance video showing a woman with a stroller carrying an infant getting knocked over by a small-scale train and pushed a short distance.

The unverified video, submitted to CityNews, shows a woman attempting to cross the tracks at the Fantasy Fair inside Woodbine Shopping Centre.

 

As she begins to walk across the tracks, the crossing arms begin to fall and the stroller appears to get stuck.

The woman tries to frantically force the stroller free as the slow-moving train approaches, but she is unable to, and the train collides with the woman, knocking her over then thrusting her and the stroller several metres.

Security personnel and passersby rush to the scene and assist the woman and child.

It’s unclear if they suffered any injuries but the woman and child appear to be responsive after the incident.

CityNews has contacted Woodbine Mall for more information but we have not received a response.

The video has not been verified and it is unclear when the incident took place.

Ontario landlords call for right to immediately ban pot in rentals despite tenant laws

Peter Goffin The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 23rd, 2018

TORONTO — Ontario landlords want the right to immediately ban the use of pot in rental properties when recreational weed is legalized this summer, arguing they should be allowed to change tenants’ existing leases to stop the drug from being consumed in their units.

Some marijuana users say, however, that the situation would leave renters with few places to legally use weed, given the province’s already restrictive rules around the drug.

Under rules announced in the fall, the province plans a ban on recreational pot consumption in public spaces and workplaces, allowing it only in private residences. Medical marijuana use will be permitted anywhere that cigarette smoking is allowed, the legislation says.

Landlords will be able to spell out a ban on smoking marijuana in rental units for new leases post-legalization — the same as they do for tobacco use — but the province’s tenancy laws make it illegal to change a lease before it ends.

That means in some cases, until an existing lease runs out, landlords would be unable to regulate marijuana use in their properties, said John Dickie, president of the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations, adding that landlords are concerned about the impact a spike in pot smoking will have on other tenants in rental properties.

“(The province is) not going to allow marijuana to be smoked in public areas, so where the heck are people going to smoke marijuana? Well they’re going to do it in their apartments,” he said. “The problem is, just like when they smoke tobacco, the smell goes to neighbouring apartments. Buildings are not hermetically sealed.”

It can cost $5,000-6,000 to get the smell of marijuana smoke out of apartment walls and floors, said Dan Henderson, president of DelSuites and Del Condominium Rentals property management companies.

“It’s not the stigma (of marijuana use), it’s just the number of expenses to maintain the unit and the complaints landlords receive from the neighbours,” said Henderson, whose company manages rental units for approximately 2,000 landlords in the Greater Toronto Area.

Dickie and Henderson both argue Ontario landlords should be allowed to immediately prohibit tenants from smoking marijuana in their units, even if the tenants are mid-lease.

“As it stands (before) legalization, tenants are banned from smoking marijuana in a building and you don’t have to write it in the lease because it’s the law,” Dickie said.”It would be ideal if the province automatically (made it part) of leases, unless the landlord and tenant agree to take it out of the lease, because that would continue the status quo.”

The Ontario government says its Residential Tenancy Act does not include explicit rules about smoking substances of any kind in a rental property, and the new pot laws do not contain any rules for renters engaging in recreational use.

Landlords have the right to include stipulations banning tobacco smoke when drafting a lease but if they do not, a tenant can smoke in their own unit. Those rules will likely apply to marijuana when it is legalized, the government says.

The province is also currently seeking public feedback on a proposal to allow designated outdoor smoking or vaping areas in multi-unit residences, an idea welcomed by some marijuana users who argue some tenants may otherwise have few places they can consume pot.

“It (would be) really leaving people with nowhere to go,” Natasha Grimshaw, a manager at a Toronto marijuana dispensary, said of landlords banning pot in units. “You have more freedom (to smoke) now when it’s illegal than you will when you’re supposed to be free to smoke it.”

Having a dedicated marijuana space for a rental property could provide a suitable compromise, Grimshaw said.

“Condos have theatre rooms, party rooms, so why not have marijuana rooms?” she said. “They could even make restrictions that you need to use vaporizers (instead) of smoking a joint so it’s not a smoke and you’re not going to necessarily be upsetting too many people in the building.”

Designated marijuana lounges would be “a great idea” if landlords could then also ban smoking in rental units, Dickie added.

“People haven’t rushed to do that with tobacco in part because it’s not inexpensive to set up a separate ventilation system, but in a bigger building it would make sense,” he added. “We’ll just all have to weigh out the demand for it with the cost of doing it.”

Powerful earthquake triggers tsunami warning in B.C. and Alaska

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 23rd, 2018

A tsunami warning has been posted for the coast of British Columbia and Alaska following a powerful earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially said the quake had a preliminary reading of 8.2 and struck 278 kilometres southeast of Kodiak, Alaska at a depth of about 10 kilometres.

Emergency Info BC says the tsunami warning covers the Juan de Fuca Strait coast, the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, the central coast and northeast Vancouver Island, and the north coast and Haida Gwaii

The agency says anyone in a tsunami warning area should evacuate inland or to higher ground or move to an upper floor of a multi-story building depending on your situation.

People should move out of the water, off the beach, and away from harbours, marinas, breakwaters, bays and inlets. Boat operators should move their boat out to sea to a depth of at least 180 feet.

The the remainder of the U.S. West Coast was under a tsunami watch.

Ontario seeks public feedback on cannabis lounges as legalization looms

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jan 22nd, 2018

Ontario is considering allowing licensed cannabis consumption lounges in the province once recreational marijuana is legalized this summer, and is asking the public to weigh in on the idea.

The proposal is being met with optimism by some cannabis activists and municipal politicians who say the provincial government’s approach on where legal weed can be consumed has been too restrictive so far.

Under rules outlined in the fall, the province intends to sell marijuana in up to 150 stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to people 19 and older, with a ban on pot’s consumption in public spaces or workplaces.

On Thursday, the province issued a request for public feedback on a slew of regulatory changes proposed to clarify where recreational and medical cannabis can be consumed. Among them is the possibility of permitting “licensed and regulated cannabis consumption lounges and venues” sometime after legalization in July.

That’s exactly what Abi Roach, the owner of Hotbox Cafe, a private Toronto cannabis lounge open since 2003, said she’s been asking the province to do for six years.

Roach appeared before a legislative committee examining the provincial government’s pot laws in November and at the time urged politicians to ease their rules around where the drug could be consumed. She said she wanted the government to shift from what she sees as building policy based on “90 years of prohibitionist mentality” to something that is “functional and realistic to the needs of the consumer.”

Current rules that intend to restrict consumption of marijuana to private residences will push people who can’t use cannabis in their own homes to places where it would create a problem, like public parks or their cars, Roach argued.

“In an urban setting you have to take into consideration your neighbours,” she said. “Maybe your neighbour has children. Maybe they’re not really into it. Maybe your neighbour has respiratory issues. There’s no real consideration there for your community.”

Roach said private cannabis lounges like Hotbox, which is among seven such establishments in Toronto, see thousands of customers a month and check IDs to make sure all customers are over the age of 19. The lounges do not sell marijuana but may offer equipment for customers as they consume in a communal setting.

Roach said a major part of the government move to legalize cannabis is to cut down on criminal activity. Including private businesses, like lounge owners, in that regulatory environment will help achieve that goal, she said.

“People who are in the cannabis business do not want to be criminals,” she said. “Cannabis consumers don’t want to do business with criminals. In reality, we all want to be licensed.”

Roach also said that the government should not attempt to open its own government-run cannabis lounges, like it intends to do with standalone pot shops.

“Do you want to hang out at Kathleen Wynne’s lounge?” she asked. “There has to be a level of innovation in this industry. There has to be a level of privatization.”

Toronto councillor Jim Karygiannis, who sits on the city’s licensing and standards committee, said the province should step in with clear regulations that would lead to better controls on where the lounges are established, ensure patrons are of legal age to consume cannabis and protect lounge employee safety.

The province should also require lounges to have appropriate set-backs from school zones, he said.

“A private lounge is a wonderful alternative as long as it’s legislated and regulated,” he said. “The municipality should have some form of … oversight. If they’re not regulated it will be the wild, wild west.”

Andrew Rudyk, spokesman for Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, said the province is taking a cautious approach to the federal legalization of cannabis.

“There are no immediate plans to make … these changes as we are just taking this opportunity to get early feedback on possible next steps after legalization,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to consult on the decisions still to come.”

The province is accepting feedback on its proposals until March 5. Comments can be submitted through the Ontario Regulatory Registry website.

Twitter says 700,000 Americans duped by Russian election trolls

The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jan 22nd, 2018

Twitter says it is emailing almost 700,000 people in the United States who followed accounts linked to Russian propagandists during the 2016 election.

In a blog post Friday, the social media site said it had found 1,062 new accounts associated with the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency.

Twitter says the 3,814 identified IRA-linked accounts posted 175,993 Tweets in the 10-week period preceding the 2016 election, approximately 8.4 per cent of which were election-related.

Twitter says it has since suspended those accounts.

Twitter also identified another 13,500 automated accounts – for a total of 50,258 – that were linked to Russia and tweeting out election-related material.

“We are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period,” the company said.

“Any such activity represents a challenge to democratic societies everywhere, and we’re committed to continuing to work on this important issue.”

Sen. Mark Warner, the Democratic U.S. Senator from Virginia who’s harshly criticized Twitter’s lacklustre investigation into Russian meddling, tweeted Friday that he was “encouraged to see the company beginning to take responsibility” in dealing with the issue.

Twitter released some examples of the election-related material that was linked to Russian propagandists

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New data shows Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jan 22nd, 2018

If it seems as if the weather’s getting weirder, you’re not wrong.

An index of extreme weather in Canada compiled by the insurance industry backs that up.

“Yes, we see definite trends that can’t be explained by normal variability,” said Caterina Lindman of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.

The institute compiles what it calls the Actuaries Climate Index, a joint effort by insurance organizations across North America. It recently released its latest quarterly update — up to spring 2017.

The index begins with a 30-year average taken from 1961 to 1990 of everyday weather conditions such as temperature, precipitation, wind speed and sea level. Thresholds are set for each of those based on the top 10 per cent of readings.

For an average month, for example, about three days would be in that 10 per cent.

Using data provided by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — one of the top American government science organizations — the index then counts how many days actually exceed that threshold. The index plots the results for every three-month period since 2016.

The method reveals a slow, gradual increase in extreme weather.

The overall Canadian index indicates that during the entire three decades between 1961 and 1990, extreme weather fell outside the range of normal variability only five times. In the last 10 years, however, that happened 12 times.

Temperatures have been climbing.

Across Canada, hot days have exceeded the normal number every quarter since the winter of 2015. The number of cold days hasn’t exceeded normal for nine years.

It’s getting wetter, too. Across Canada, the average number of days with heavy rain or snow has been outside the norm since spring 2013. In Ontario and Quebec, it’s been since winter 2008.

It’s harder to draw conclusions about wind for Canada as a whole. Likewise for sea level — unless you live in the Maritimes, where sea level has been higher than the normal range for the last 12 years.

The findings correspond with data from Environment Canada, which suggests average summer temperatures have climbed one degree since 1970 and precipitation has increased about five per cent.

Actuaries use the information in their calculation of risk as they insure lives and property, said Lindman. But they also do it to contribute to public debate.

“There’s a lot of political angst around the issue of global warming and we’re trying to be neutral sources,” she said. “We’re just adding our voice.

“We’re in it for the long haul, so we are concerned for the sustainability of our planet.”

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