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Ontario high schools re-open as teachers return to class after one-day strike

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Dec 5th, 2019

Ontario’s public high school teachers are expected to be back in class on Thursday following a one-day strike.

But the union representing them says Wednesday’s walkout could be the first of many if the government doesn’t change course in contract talks.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which represents about 60,000 public high school teachers and support workers, says it is pushing back against government plans to increase class sizes and introduce mandatory e-learning courses.

The teachers are already conducting a work-to-rule campaign and say they would give five days’ notice before any further labour action.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce called the one-day strike unacceptable and urged the union to take part in private mediation.

Lecce has also said the union must bring new proposals to the bargaining table, not just reject the government’s offer.

City’s new $23.4B housing plan aims to help more than 340,000 households

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Dec 4th, 2019

Mayor John Tory is making big promises for the city’s housing plan.

On Tuesday, Tory unveiled the City of Toronto’s 10-year action plan on affordable housing.

The plan includes approving 40,000 new affordable rental homes, 18,000 new supportive housing units for vulnerable residents and 10,000 new affordable rental and supportive homes for women and girls.

Tory calls the plan a “comprehensive blueprint” that will help more than 340,000 households when it’s fully implemented.

However, in order to meet the project’s timeline, the mayor said it’s essential for all three levels of government to lock in their investments.

“The City of Toronto, under existing arrangements with respect to how we’re able to tax and invest, is simply not able to deal with these challenges on its own,” Tory explained.

The project is estimated to cost $23.4 billion.

The City’s commitment through current and future investments is proposed to be $8.5 billion over 10 years (including operating, capital investment and other financial tools).

Tory said he is “less certain at this stage” how much the city can count on the assistance from the provincial and federal governments.

“What we need to have is a definite commitment from the other governments that they too are going to participate over the 10 year plan to the extent of sharing the balance of the cost of these programs,” Tory said.

“I am going to be as determined an advocate in getting the funding for this series of initiatives as I was in getting the money from the federal government for the repair of Toronto Community Housing. But we need them to commit. We need them to commit sooner than later.”

On top of new affordable homes, the plan also includes ways to keep people in the homes in which they are already living. These include enhanced measures to prevent evictions, preserve the rental homes that currently exist, and adopting a new program definition of affordable housing based on income.

The plan would offer up more land — both existing and acquired. Only 11 sites are available at this point.

The blueprint goes to the Planning and Housing Committee next week.

Son of Soufi’s owner faces new charges connected to anti-Maxime Bernier protest

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 4th, 2019

Police in Hamilton have laid more charges and made an additional arrest in connection with a protest outside an event featuring People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier during the fall election campaign.

Investigators say a fourth suspect, 27-year-old Michael Lickers, has been arrested and charged with assault and intimidation, and is due in court on Christmas Eve.

One of the suspects previously arrested in the Sept. 29 incident, Alaa Al Soufi, is now also facing additional charges of assault, theft under $5,000, intimidation and disguise with intent.

Al Soufi, whose family temporarily shut down their Toronto restaurant amid backlash over his participation in the protest, was charged last month with two counts of intimidation, two of disguise with intent and one of causing a disturbance.

Police say the new charges against Al Soufi were laid after additional witnesses came forward and officers reviewed more video footage of the rally.

They have said about 100 protesters were outside the building at Mohawk College that night as people entered the venue.

Video showing Trudeau seemingly talking candidly about Trump goes viral

LEE BERTHIAUME AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 4th, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other foreign leaders have been caught on camera apparently talking candidly about U.S. President Donald Trump, with the footage now going viral and stoking fears of a backlash.

The video was shot during a reception at Buckingham Palace held Tuesday night in London, where leaders from NATO’s 29 countries are marking the 70th anniversary of the military alliance with two days of meetings and discussions.

In it, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson can be heard asking French President Emmanuel Macron why he was late, to which Trudeau says: “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.”

The leaders do not use Trump’s name, but the U.S. president took dozens of questions from journalists on Tuesday during impromptu news conferences at the start of his individual meetings with Macron, Trudeau and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Trump’s impromptu news conference with Trudeau lasted more than half an hour, which included questions about China, the impeachment process and also saw the Canadian prime minister deflecting questions from the U.S. president about Canada’s defence spending.

The reception footage also shows Trudeau talking about “his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” though the subject isn’t clear.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trudeau is scheduled to hold a news conference at the end of the NATO summit on Wednesday.

The footage, shot by the British host’s pool camera, has since spread across the internet and been broadcast by international media such as Fox News and the New York Times, with observers suggesting Trudeau and the other leaders were mocking Trump.

That has prompted questions and concerns about how the mercurial U.S. president will react.

“By this point in his tenure, the prime minister should realize that events with pool cameras need to be approached and managed as on-the-record events,” Andrew MacDougall, former director of communications for prime minister Stephen Harper, wrote on Twitter.

“Hopefully this gaffe doesn’t wind the president up at a sensitive time for NAFTA and the Meng (Wanzhou)/Huawei file.”

Trump had not replied before the start of Wednesday’s closed-door meeting of NATO leaders, tweeting only about having enjoyed his meeting with Johnson during the previous night’s reception.

Trudeau was seen approaching the U.S. president prior to the meeting, where the two shook hands and exchanged a few words before going their separate ways.

While Trudeau has spent much of the past three years trying to establish a good relationship with Trump, the U.S. president has not shied away from lashing out any perceived slight from fellow world leaders.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump slammed Macron for having suggested the NATO alliance was suffering from “brain death” because of a lack of communication and co-ordination, particularly with regards to U.S. and Turkish actions in northeastern Syria.

Trump described Macron’s comments as “very nasty” before criticizing France’s economy and warning the European country needed NATO far more than the U.S. Other NATO leaders have been trying to bridge the divide and keep the alliance strong and united.

The U.S. president also previously attacked Trudeau following the G7 summit in Quebec City in June 2018, describing the latter as “so meek and mild” amid a trade row over Canadian dairy and American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Man seriously injured in stabbing at Sherbourne and Dundas

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Dec 4th, 2019

A man in his 20s is in hospital after an early-morning stabbing on Sherbourne Street.

Emergency crews were called to scene, just south of Dundas Street East, around 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Toronto police said there was some sort of fight that began in a restaurant and ended up on the street.

The victim suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

No suspect information has been released.

Toronto Public Health calls for tougher regulations on vape products

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Dec 3rd, 2019

Stricter regulations on vaping may be coming after a new report recommends the product be regulated like cigarettes.

In the report, which will be presented to the Board of Health on Dec. 9, Toronto’s medical officer of health recommends the provincial and federal government amend the Smoke-Free Ontario Act to bring vape products closer in line to the strict regulations facing tobacco products.

Some of the recommendations include prohibiting the sale of flavoured vapour products (other than tobacco flavour) in stores that are accessible to minors; and implementing advertising and promotion restrictions.

This comes after several reports of vape-related illnesses.

“While aerosolized products, also known as e-cigarettes, are considered by some health authorities to be less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes, Health Canada and other health authorities have concluded that the long-term health effects from the use of aerosolized products are not yet fully known,” the report reads.

The report also calls for the City of Toronto to create bylaws similar to tobacco use, which would restrict the locations of where e-cigarettes can be smoked.

Coun. Joe Cressy voiced his support for tougher regulations for e-cigarettes on Twitter Monday.

“The more we learn about the health consequences of vaping, the worse it gets,” he tweeted.

“Thankfully, when it comes to regulating e-cigarettes we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Decades of tobacco control has worked. Now, Governments must act to implement similar strict controls on vaping.”

One of the goals is to decrease the use of vape products by youth.

The report noted that from 2017-18, University of Waterloo researchers documented a 74 per cent increase in the proportion of Canadian youth reporting they had used aerosolized liquid products in the past month (from 8.4 per cent to 14.6 per cent).

Toronto Public Health isn’t the first organization to try to crack down on vape use this year.

Last month, New York City lawmakers voted to ban flavoured electronic cigarettes after a lawsuit halted a statewide ban.

Man charged with distracted driving 10 separate times

MARK DOUGLAS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Dec 3rd, 2019

A 57-year-old man is facing his 10th charge of distracted driving after being pulled over for driving with a cellphone to his ear Monday morning.

The man was stopped on the Fort Erie-bound QEW outside Hamilton shortly before 10 a.m.

Const. Kevin Westhead, who made the traffic stop, tells 680 NEWS the driver was doing about 100 km/h in terrible, slippery winter conditions and said he was talking to his mother.

The driver has nine previous distracted driving convictions and the last offense was in 2016. Westhead says the driver indicated he was in the snow removal industry and asked for a “break” since it had been a few years since the last one.

However, the man was issued the harshest ticket possible under the circumstances — a summons to go directly to court to explain himself to a justice of the peace. In this case the driver cannot simply pay the fine, but must present himself in court.

Because the previous nine distracted driving charges came years before the increase in fines and punishments that came into effect this year, Westhead says those nine offences would likely total about $1,500 in fines along with his insurance rates being “absolutely decimated.”

Further, while the justice can suspend the driver’s licence, they cannot revoke it entirely. Westhead says the driver told him he would fight it in court.

According to the Government of Ontario’s website the penalty for being convicted of distracted driving over three times drivers with A to G licences are:

a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
a fine of up to $3,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
six demerit points
30-day suspension

Infighting roils NATO as leaders gather in London

LORNE COOK AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 3rd, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump and his NATO counterparts were gathering in London Tuesday to mark the alliance’s 70th birthday amid deep tensions as spats between leaders expose a lack of unity that risks undermining the military organization’s credibility.

For the third summit in a row, Trump is expected to renew demands that European allies and Canada step up defence spending. Meanwhile, lamenting NATO’s “brain death” due to a lack of U.S. leadership, French President Emmanuel Macron says NATO needs “a wake-up call.”

Macron insists that strategic questions must be addressed, like improving ties with Russia and how to handle an unpredictable ally like Turkey.

In turn, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at Macron, and their very public argument bodes ill for a summit hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is deep into an electoral campaign and desperately wants to smooth things over.

Ankara raised the ire of its allies by invading northern Syria, and for buying Russian air defence systems with powerful computers aboard that suck up data and would compromise the military equipment of allies if they were stationed nearby.

Before heading to London, Erdogan suggested that Turkey might not back Poland and NATO’s Baltic allies — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — should they require defending unless the allies support Turkish concerns about Syrian Kurdish fighters, which Ankara sees as terrorists.

That threat raises new questions about NATO’s commitment to its collective defence clause — Article 5 — under which all allies vow to come to the aid of a member under attack. The clause has only ever been activated once, after the 9-11 attacks in the United States.

The two-day summit kicks off with receptions at Buckingham Palace and Downing Street later Tuesday. A short working session will be held at a golf resort in outer London on Wednesday. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and some leaders were taking part in a side event Tuesday morning

Trump is due to hold separate talks with Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte on the sidelines of the summit. Johnson is also set to host talks on Syria with Macron, Merkel and Erdogan later Tuesday.

AP Writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.

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