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Trudeau seeks to right his campaign in Toronto

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Sep 20th, 2019

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is in Toronto on Friday, hoping to take back control of his re-election campaign after spending yesterday apologizing for donning blackface when he was younger.

He scrapped his plans on a visit to Winnipeg, instead using the time to call supporters and leaders in minority communities, after images came out of him as a dark-skinned Aladdin at a party when he was 29 and made up like Harry Belafonte at a talent show when he was a student.

Trudeau is finishing the first full week of the campaign with an announcement at a hotel in Toronto this morning.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is in Atlantic Canada, with plans to make an announcement at the University of New Brunswick and then make campaign stops with candidates there and in Nova Scotia.

The Greens’ Elizabeth May is spending her day in Calgary, starting with a transportation announcement at a CTrain station and then a visit to a climate-change demonstration at city hall.

People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier is trying to hold onto his own seat in Quebec and is spending today campaigning there, though he has a swing to Western Canada coming up next week.

#CityVote2019: the state of Toronto’s transit

MARK MCALLISTER AND DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Friday, Sep 20th, 2019

Party leaders and candidates hit the campaign trail over a week ago and from minor infractions to bombshell revelations, the field is littered with strategies aimed at grabbing or swaying your vote.

But while party politics reaches a fever pitch over the next few weeks, there are still some core issues that will likely be top of mind for voters as they go to the polls — and in Toronto, transit is a big one.

By most accounts the city is under served by transit and the system is at capacity.

Transit expert Raktim Mitra from the Ryerson School of Urban and Regional Planning says overall, the system in Toronto is at a “choking point.”

“In downtown, our subway lines are at or above capacity during morning peak. A third of our bus and streetcar lines are over congested. So overall, it doesn’t look good.” he tells CityNews.

From David Miller’s Transit City initiative to the late Rob Ford’s call for “subways, subways subways” to SmartTrack and Metrolinx’s Regional Express Rail plans under current mayor John Tory, Mitra says there has been a lot of talk, but not enough action.

“At the rate at which we are going, we see developments at almost 15-year increments — so every 15 years we get a big project. So at [this rate], we are just trying to resolve the problems that we already have. We’re not really thinking in a futuristic way,” says Mitra.

The city’s east end, arguably the most under served by transit, has been the centre of transit planning and political debate for years. Discussions have been ongoing regarding building a one-stop, three-stop or four-stop subway line and other ideas about a possible LRT line were also in play at one point.

“Scarborough is interesting because the decisions or promises around big transit projects have been more political,” says Mitra, adding that those promises are not always driven by data.

He says there have been studies that show that a third of the total number of trips that originate in Scarborough area actually stay within Scarborough and only about 15 per cent go downtown.

“This discussion about a one-stop subway — they are all targeted toward bringing people from Scarborough to downtown. We have to think about local, non-commuter trips as well and then we’d probably be looking at a different type of solution for our transportation problems in that area.”

And even when it comes to commuter trips, Statistics Canada shows an average of more than 24 per cent of commuters in all five Scarborough ridings have more than an hour-long trip to work, putting them among the top 20 ridings in the entire country for people spending the most time commuting.

“When it comes to the bigger projects, unfortunately we’re still stuck into promises by various governments and various levels of government instead of actually trying to plan and build,” says Mitra.

Recent years have seen some movement on extending service to more areas, with the Spadina subway extension now in service and the Eglinton Crosstown LRT set to open in 2021. But the much needed Relief Line, which has now morphed into the Ontario Line is still in the planning stages.

“If we think about the bigger picture, a transit network is like a tree. And we can enrich the branches as much as we want but unless the core is strong, the system will not be efficient,” says Mitra.

“So we need more transit lines in the downtown core such as the Relief Line that has been in discussion for a long time. We that now because otherwise, five to seven years from now, we will be in a situation where nothing that we have been doing so far would really work.”

Shots fired outside Eaton Centre

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Sep 20th, 2019

Toronto police are investigating after there was a report of gunfire outside the Eaton Centre Thursday night.

Police said a man fired several shots at a car at around 11 p.m.

Investigators said they have recovered several bullets that had struck the H & M sign at the corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets.

No injuries are reported.

Police said the car fled the scene and they do not have a suspect description.

Scheer’s same sex marriage comments return to the fore amid Trudeau scandal

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Sep 20th, 2019

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s own past comments returned to the fore Thursday as his main rival for the country’s top political office admitted to repeatedly donning racist costumes and makeup.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau asked the country to forgive him Wednesday after two images of him wearing brownface or blackface, one from high school and one when he was a teacher at a posh Vancouver private school, came out through various media outlets. A third video from the early 1990s then emerged Thursday morning.

At a campaign stop in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., just east of Montreal Thursday morning, Scheer’s attempt to proceed with the campaign as normal and announce a tax credit for seniors was knocked off the rails by the emerging Liberal crisis.

Scheer said the video was given to Global News by the Conservative campaign team, but said he himself had only seen it for the first time Thursday morning.

A handful of local supporters outside a bakery watched as reporters asked Scheer whether he had ever dressed in a way that stereotyped or mocked anyone’s race or culture.

“No,” he said firmly.

But he also said he is not perfect.

“I’ve never claimed to have handled every situation properly and obviously I continue to reflect on that and try to improve myself as a human being,” he said. “In conducting myself do I regret anything in my life? Not a specific instance. I’m not pretending to be a perfect human being in every way, but nothing like this at all. No, no, nothing like that at all, nothing that would rise to this level.”

Scheer continued to face questions about why he has not expressed any regret that during the debate on same-sex marriage in Parliament in 2005, he compared the idea of two people of the same sex getting married to considering a dog’s tail to be one of its legs.

When the Liberals drew attention to that speech via a tweet from cabinet minister Ralph Goodale in August, Scheer did not apologize, rather he said only that the question of same-sex marriage was legally closed in Canada and a Conservative government would not bring it back up.

As a practising Catholic, Scheer has not said whether his own views on same-sex marriage have changed or whether he still considers allowing people of the same sex to marry to be wrong.

When asked if his comments on same-sex marriage are among the things he regrets, he did not directly answer the question.

“I have addressed the speech I gave in 2005,” he said. “What we’re talking about today is Justin Trudeau’s behaviours and his inability to be truthful and honest about it, and we saw that last night when he was asked directly if there were other examples out there of this and he failed to be honest.”

The first picture to emerge Wednesday depicted Trudeau in 2001, when he was a Vancouver private-school teacher, at an “Arabian Nights”-themed event, clad in an elaborate turban and robe, his face, hands and neck covered in dark makeup.

When asked whether it was the only instance of its kind, Trudeau said that during a high-school talent show, he wore makeup while performing a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O).” A photo of Trudeau in that outfit, apparently from a yearbook, came out within a few hours.

Scheer said people running for prime minister must be held to a higher standard.

Over the first several days of the campaign, the Liberals continually issued tweets with evidence of Conservative candidates saying or posting racist, homophobic or other offensive things. Scheer said last weekend that as long as a Conservative candidate apologizes and expresses a commitment to treat all people with respect, he would accept such an apology.

The only candidate the Conservatives dropped was one who had, they said, lied about the existence of social-media accounts on which he made offensive statements.

Scheer said he can’t accept Trudeau’s apology because he lied about how many times he had put on dark makeup. Trudeau said Thursday he wasn’t going to put a number on how often he had done so because he hadn’t remembered the incident in the video – so it was possible there were other instances, as well.

In and around the market where Scheer campaigned Thursday, most people shrugged off Trudeau’s previous behaviour. One woman said in French she was tired of the mudslinging and wanted the election to be about where the parties intend to take the country.

Resident Brian Denes did say he thought Trudeau’s behaviour was “deplorable” and that his vote was leaning towards the Conservatives.

Scheer was campaigning in three Quebec ridings southeast of Montreal – two held by the NDP and one by the Liberals – where his party finished a distant fourth in 2015. In at least two of them, the local prominence of the Conservative candidates is giving the party some hope it can win this time.

In a 2018 byelection, the Conservatives nabbed a seat in Quebec’s Saguenay region north of Quebec City, which they hadn’t won since 1997, when they ran a prominent local candidate.

Scheer’s day began with an unexpected delay when the floor of the bakery hosting Scheer’s announcement began to buckle, forcing the event outside. He ended the day beside the Magog River in Sherbrooke for a small campaign event. Scheer is to end the first full week of the campaign Friday with campaign stops in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Man accused of swimming naked in Toronto shark tank expected to plead guilty

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Sep 19th, 2019

A British Columbia man accused of skinny dipping in a shark tank at a Toronto aquarium is expected to plead guilty to mischief in that incident on Thursday.

David Weaver, of Nelson, B.C., was arrested and charged in October of last year, four days after the alleged incident.

Police allege he went to Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto on Oct. 12, bought a ticket, then stripped naked and jumped into the facility’s shark tank.

A large crowd was at the aquarium that night and some in attendance took videos of the alleged incident.

The videos, which attracted international attention after surfacing on social media, show a naked man swimming in the tank with sand tiger sharks, sawfish and moray eels.

The man then starts to climb out of the tank before performing a back dive into the water.

Officials have said the man then got out and got dressed but left behind a T-shirt and his jacket.

Police have said by the time they arrived at the aquarium, the man had fled.

Weaver was arrested near Thunder Bay, Ont., — hundreds of kilometres away — during a vehicle stop.

Police have also alleged that earlier on Oct. 12, Weaver assaulted a man outside Medieval Times, a jousting-themed dinner theatre. A window was also allegedly broken.

Weaver was charged with assault and mischief in that earlier incident, which is now being dealt with separately by the court, and will face trial on those charges in late October.

Fallout from Trudeau’s brownface photo bombshell to dominate campaign

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Sep 19th, 2019

It won’t be campaigning as usual for Justin Trudeau on Thursday as the Liberal leader grapples with the fallout from a bombshell that landed on the campaign trail.

An 18-year-old photo surfaced Wednesday of him dressed elaborately as Aladdin, with his face and hands blackened by makeup.

Trudeau apologized profusely for having indulged in what he acknowledged to be a racist act during an “Arabian Nights”-themed party at the Vancouver private school where he once taught.

He conceded it will take some doing to restore his image as a champion of diversity and tolerance.

“I’m asking Canadians to forgive me for what I did,” he said during an emergency news conference aboard the Liberal campaign plane before taking off from Nova Scotia for Winnipeg, where he is scheduled to have events today.

“I shouldn’t have done that. It was a dumb thing to do. I’m disappointed in myself. I’m pissed off at myself for having done it. I apologize for it.”

He added that he didn’t consider it a racist action at the time, “but now we know better.”

“This is something unacceptable and it is racist.”

Trudeau also confessed to having worn makeup during a high school talent show, while performing a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O).”

He said he’ll spend this morning talking to his three kids about “taking responsibility for mistakes we make, about living every day to try to be a better person.” And he said he’ll be spending time talking to visible minority Liberal MPs and candidates, some of whom he spoke with Wednesday evening.

Trudeau’s foes will no doubt also be grappling with the fallout while they go about their more routine campaigning. They all responded Wednesday night, but now have to weigh whether to pile on Trudeau or adhere to the political maxim of never interfering when an opponent is the process of destroying themselves.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, the first federal party leader from a visible minority, is scheduled to be in Hamilton on Thursday. On Wednesday night, he responded more personally than politically, choking up as he talked about how people who have faced discrimination because of their skin colour will be hurt by the revelation about Trudeau’s past activities.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer spoke only briefly after landing in Quebec, where he has events today in Saint-Hyacinthe, Granby and Sherbrooke, but signalled that he intends to give no quarter.

“Wearing brown face is an act of open mockery and racism,” Scheer said. “It was just as racist in 2001 as it is in 2019. And what Canadians saw this evening is someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who is not fit to govern this country.”

Throughout the first week of the campaign, the Liberal war room has made hay with past comments and social media posts from Scheer and Conservative candidates, exposing what Liberals deem examples of intolerance toward minorities. Trudeau himself has called out Scheer for his refusal to march in gay Pride parades.

On Twitter late Wednesday, People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier said he won’t accuse Trudeau of being a racist.

“He’s the master of identity politics and the Libs just spent months accusing everyone of being white supremacists,” he tweeted. “He definitely is the biggest hypocrite in the country.”

Green Leader Elizabeth May, who is to speak to the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations in Vancouver on on Thursday, said Trudeau “must apologize for the harm done and commit to learning and appreciating the requirement to model social justice leadership at all levels of government. In this matter he has failed.”

Ontario’s Doug Ford approval rating still sinking; Quebec Premier most popular leader: poll

SPENCER GALLICHAN-LOWE | posted Thursday, Sep 19th, 2019

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s approval rating continues to slide while Quebec Premier Francois Legault remains the most popular provincial leader among those surveyed, a new poll released Thursday said.

The DARTMaru BluePoll is conducted every quarter to gauge Canadians’ approval or disapproval of their provincial leaders.

The polling firm said about 5,273 randomly selected Canadian adults were asked if they approve or disapprove of the performance of their premier.

  • Quebec Premier Francois Legault: unchanged at 59 per cent
  • Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe: 58 per cent, down 2 per cent
  • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney: unchanged at 55 per cent
  • British Columbia Premier John Horgan: 47 per cent, up 3 per cent
  • New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs: 43 per cent, down 2 per cent
  • Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister: 40 per cent, up 3 per cent
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball: 40 per cent, up 9 per cent
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford: 26 per cent, down 3 per cent
  • Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil: 19 per cent, up 5 per cent

 

“Because of extremely small sample sizes, approval ratings cannot be provided for Prince Edward Island, Nunavut and both the Yukon and Northwest Territories,” the firm said.

The survey was conducted among 5,273 randomly selected Canadian adults who are members of MARU/Blue’s online panel between Sept. 5 – 11, 2019. The poll is accurate to within plus or minus 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Yearbook photo surfaces of Trudeau wearing ‘brownface’ costume in 2001

The Canadian Press and News Staff | posted Thursday, Sep 19th, 2019

A 2001 yearbook photo of a costumed Justin Trudeau, his face and hands darkened by makeup, detonated Wednesday on the federal campaign trail, instantly tarnishing the Liberal leader’s bona fides as a champion of tolerance and stopping the party’s re-election momentum squarely in its tracks.

The jarring black-and-white photo, posted online by Time magazine, originally appeared in the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in Vancouver, B.C., where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics.

It depicts Trudeau at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala event, clad in an elaborate turban and robe, his face, hands and neck covered in dark makeup — a breathtaking contradiction to Trudeau’s carefully cultivated image as a standard-bearer for Canadian diversity.

“It was a dumb thing to do,” he said during an emergency news conference on board the Liberal campaign plane before taking off for Winnipeg.

“I’m disappointed in myself, I’m pissed off at myself for having done it. I wish I hadn’t done it, but I did it, and I apologize for it.”

Asked whether it was the only instance of its kind, Trudeau admitted that during a high school talent show, he wore makeup while performing a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” although he didn’t explicitly say the makeup was dark.

He also said he’s been calling friends and colleagues to apologize personally for the photo, adding that he expects to be making more such calls on Thursday.

“It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do, and I’m deeply sorry,” he said.

“I have worked all my life to try and create opportunities for people, to fight against racism and intolerance, and I can just stand here and say that I made a mistake when I was younger, and I wish I hadn’t.”

The picture depicts the now-Liberal leader alongside four young women — his hands draped over one of them — in what appear to be cocktail dresses, none dressed as elaborately as Trudeau. The Time report describes the photo as having been the subject of gossip within the West Point Grey community.

Word of the photo ripped through the Liberal campaign bus like wildfire when the story broke, instantly changing what had been a convivial end-of-day mood. Staff members suddenly began talking frantically on their cellphones as reporters urgently called their newsrooms before snapping open their laptops.

One of the people Trudeau called Wednesday was Liberal candidate Omar Alghabra, who was born in Saudi Arabia to a Syrian family. In an interview Wednesday night, Alghabra said Trudeau apologized and asked for his advice.

“I told him to be upfront and to own the mistake,” said Alghabra, who admitted to being upset and concerned by the photo, but also ready to forgive.

“As disappointing as it is, it’s not that hard for me to get over it, because I’ve seen him act in public and in private and I’ve seen what he’s done for many people who are marginalized or being victimized by stereotypes or racism.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, however, was giving no quarter, calling Trudeau “someone who’s not fit to govern this country.”

“It was racist in 2001 and it’s racist in 2019,” Scheer said in a brief statement

So-called “blackface” images have been a frequent source of controversy in recent years, predominantly in the United States, where last year a number of prominent state politicians were forced to apologize for similar yearbook images that surfaced publicly.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was taking part in a town hall meeting when the news broke, said it’s becoming clear that Trudeau’s public persona may not be an accurate reflection of who he is.

Later, in a powerful statement on live television, Singh — the first non-Caucasian leader of a federal political party — made an emotional appeal to Canadians hurt by the image.

“Seeing this image is going to be hard for a lot of people; it’s going to bring up a lot of pain, it’s going to bring up a lot of hurt,” he said.

“Please reach out to your loved ones, please reach out to people who are suffering in silence right now. Please let them know that they are loved, and they are celebrated for who they are.”

Green Leader Elizabeth May described herself as “deeply shocked” by the “racism” on display in the photo.

“He must apologize for the harm done and commit to learning and appreciating the requirement to model social justice leadership at all levels of government,” May tweeted.

“In this matter he has failed.”

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier described Trudeau on Twitter as a “master of identity politics” whose party has been accusing others of being “white supremacists.”

“He definitely is the biggest hypocrite in the country.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims wasted little time calling on Trudeau to explain the “deeply saddening” photo.

“The wearing of blackface/brownface is reprehensible, and hearkens back to a history of racism, slavery, and an Orientalist mythology that is unacceptable,” said executive director Mustafa Farooq, who later issued a statement thanking the prime minister for apologizing so quickly.

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