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City councillor pushes to make drinking legal at parks, beaches

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Apr 13th, 2021

Cracking open a cold one while enjoying one of the city’s many parks could soon become a legal reality if one Toronto city councillor gets his way.

Josh Matlow, representative for Ward 12 Toronto-St. Paul’s, will present a motion at this month’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting, calling on the City to launch a pilot project to allow for the consumption of alcohol in public parks and beaches with washroom facilities.

If successful, the pilot would run from the Victoria Day long weekend until Halloween. The alcohol content of the drinks cannot be more than 15 per cent — making beer and wine an option but not hard alcohol. As well, drinking hours would be limited from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

“As we approach the second summer of the pandemic, public health officials recognize the reality that, especially after a year in isolation, people need to socialize,” his motion reads.

“It is up to us as policy makers to create environments where those connections with friends and family can be made in the safest way possible.”

He said many residents don’t have outdoor spaces and should not be left with unsafe options such as gathering indoors or, like many over the past year, choosing to drink illegally in parks.

To read his complete motion and recommendations, click here.

The committee meeting is scheduled for April 28.

Kingston police cracking down on park hangouts, Toronto has no such plans

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Tuesday, Apr 13th, 2021

Ontario’s stay-at-home order allows citizens to leave the house for just a handful of reasons and while outdoor exercise is included among them, simply “hanging out” in a park is not.

Kingston Police issued a release on Friday saying parks should be treated as “a walk-through or a thoroughfare rather than a destination” and that they “will not be treating sedentary activities, such as sitting or sunbathing while in parks and other recreational amenities, as exercise,” and hence they are not exempt from the stay-at-home order.

The release came in response to that city’s decision to close down Breakwater Park where hundreds of people gathered on April 8.

Police said people were generally not congregating in groups larger than five, but they were also moving, “sometimes dependent on the known presence of authorities,” and officers were unable to “form evidence of possible infractions.”

As such, the force decided on “refining its approach” and is asking people not to hang out in parks.

In the City of Toronto’s daily COVID-19 briefing, Mayor John Tory said the city would not be taking the same approach.

“Of course people are supposed to go outside and engage in safe, healthy activity,” he said. “Some of this comes down to a question of interpretation, which is sometimes in the hands of enforcement people and other times just in the hands of people looking at what the rules are.”

Tory said the city is considering repainting physical distancing circles in parks as they did last summer, to ensure people stay at a safe distance. Enforcement officers will be out and about, but the approach is to encourage people to spend time outside, safely.

“We’re not saying they should not use parks. I think what we said was – go for a walk in your own neighbourhood, don’t travel to a ‘destination park,’ … try to stay within your own local area and of course try to stay with your own family, the people that you live with,” he added.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg added that enforcement continues to take place and teams were very active over the past weekend, “proactively inspecting and engaging with folks” as well as “reactively” responding to complaints.

He said 10 charges were laid and six notices were issued under the Reopening Ontario Act in relation to businesses and illegal gatherings, including in parks.

“The strategy for our coordinated enforcement action has not changed,” said Pegg.”Our teams are directly connected, working both proactively and working together to receive complaints, to prioritize them and triage them and to respond to them on the basis of the highest risk complaints first.”

The current outdoor gathering limit in Toronto is five people or less with physical distancing between individuals.

Earlier Monday, councillor Josh Matlow revealed he will present a motion at this month’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting, calling on the City to launch a pilot project to allow for the consumption of alcohol in public parks and beaches with washroom facilities.

If successful, the pilot would run from the Victoria Day long weekend until Halloween.

With files from Maleeha Sheikh

Air Canada, Ottawa agree on $5.9 billion aid package

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 13th, 2021

OTTAWA — Air Canada and the federal government have agreed to loans and equity financing that would allow the airline to access as much as $5.9 billion.

WATCH: https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/04/12/air-canada-ottawa-agree-on-5-9-billion-aid-package/

As part of the package, Air Canada has agreed to a number of commitments, including refunds for some customers who did not travel due to COVID-19 and a promise to resume service at regional airports.

Thousands of would-be passengers who paid for tickets remained in the lurch at the end of 2020. Air Canada reported it held $2.3 billion in advance ticket sales during the fourth quarter.

Other restrictions imposed as part of the deal with Ottawa include a $1 million cap on executive compensation and maintaining a minimum number of staff.

Asked whether the Air Canada agreement could provide a framework for a deal with WestJet, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland emphasized the importance of two national carriers and characterized negotiations with the Calgary-based No. 2 airline as “constructive.”

She said ticket refunds, executive compensation and other requirements would be a factor but any deal would be based on the individual needs of the airline in question.

Travel restrictions introduced through the beginning of the pandemic have been catastrophic for the airline industry.

Air Canada’s passenger numbers declined 73 per cent in 2020 following several years of record growth for the airline. During 2020, it reduced staff by more than 20,000, more than half of the pre-COVID total, then cut another 1,700 employees in January.

The company collected $554 million from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy in 2020 and said it would continue to access the program in 2021.

When the airline released its 2020 financial results in February, then-CEO Calin Rovinescu described the period as the “bleakest year in the history of commercial aviation.”

The company lost $4.6-billion in 2020, compared with a profit of $1.5 billion the year before.

Government support for Air Canada “has gone from a nice-to-have, almost to a need-to-have” said RBC analyst Walter Spracklin in a Feb. 12 note analyzing the financial results.

He added that government support would be necessary for Air Canada to provide passenger refunds because the company has been so weakened by travel restrictions it no longer has the means.

“Importantly, government assistance is required in our view to lessen the burden the Canadian airline industry will have incurred by the time the pandemic is over in order to make a viable airline industry in Canada going forward,” Spracklin said.

In early April, Air Canada pulled the plug on its planned $190-million takeover of Montreal-based tour operator Transat AT, citing Europe’s unwillingness to approve the deal, thus triggering a $12.5-million termination fee.

Organizations supporting Air Canada’s calls for a bailout have included unions such as Unifor and the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, as well as the National Airlines Council of Canada industry group.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

Ontario closing schools, moving to online learning after April break

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Apr 13th, 2021

Ontario is keeping all schools in the province closed for in-person learning following the current school break, Ontario Premier Doug Ford says.

WATCH: https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/04/12/ontario-cabinet-considering-keeping-all-schools-closed-for-in-person-learning-after-april-break/

This move comes one day after Education Minister Stephen Lecce appeared to be standing firm on his plan to have in-person learning resume next week.

In a letter issued to parents on Sunday, Lecce wrote all publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools will be open for in-person learning despite the province’s stay-at-home order.

Lecce also stood up in the legislature Monday and continued to contend schools are safe but noted rising case counts were a concern. He also said he was working with the chief medical officer of health to keep families across Ontario safe.

Students across Ontario began April break on Monday after the regular scheduled March Break was pushed back as COVID-19 cases began to climb.

The province reported a test positivity rate of 9.5 per cent on Monday, up from 7.7 per cent a day ago and 7.8 percent last week. It is the second-highest positivity rate the province has recorded since the start of the pandemic.

There was a rate of 9.7 per cent on Dec. 29 and Jan. 4 during the peak of the second wave.

Last week, Lecce said that enhanced safety measures would be put in place to protect students and staff once they were supposed to return from the April break.

“We’re going to be encouraging outdoor education. More outdoor learning where it is possible this Spring and Summer. We know it has helped us in the Fall,” said Lecce at the time.

“We’re going to be strongly urging as much education, experiential outside in our parks, in our playgrounds to make this learning experience possible but safe.”

Ford made the announcement during a press conference on Monday.

More to come

Andrew: Philip’s death has left ‘huge void’ in queen’s life

JILL LAWLESS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Apr 12th, 2021

The death of Prince Philip has left a “huge void” in Queen Elizabeth II’s life, their son Prince Andrew said Sunday, as well-wishers continued to leave floral tributes outside the gates of royal residences in memory of the monarch’s husband.

Andrew, the third of the couple’s four children, attended church at the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor along with other members of the royal family, two days after the 99-year-old Philip died at Windsor Castle.

Andrew said his mother “described it as having left a huge void in her life.”

“We’ve lost, almost, the grandfather of the nation,” he said. “And I feel very sorry and supportive of my mother, who’s feeling it probably more than everybody else.”

His younger brother, Prince Edward, called Philip’s death a “dreadful shock” but said the 94-year-old queen was “bearing up.”

Edward’s wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex said the monarch was “thinking of others before herself.”

She said Philip’s death at Windsor Castle, which came three weeks after he was discharged from a month-long hospital stay, was “peaceful.”

“It was right for him and it was so gentle. It was just like someone took him by the hand and off he went,” Sophie told well-wishers. “It was very, very peaceful and that’s all you want for somebody, isn’t it?”

Both palace and government officials urged people not to come in person to pay their respects because of coronavirus restrictions on social mixing. But hundreds of people on Sunday brought notes, cards and flowers to the gates of Windsor Castle, located 20 miles (32 kilometres) west of London, while others laid tributes outside Buckingham Palace in the British capital.

Neil Loughton, founder of the Penny Farthing Club, rode his antique bicycle to the palace gates to pay tribute.

“I think that there are some things that are just important and need to be done . Ninety-nine years of life and more than 70 years of service deserves some recognition,” he said.

Philip’s funeral is set to take place April 17 at Windsor Castle. Only 30 people will be able to attend under the current coronavirus restrictions in England, but the slimmed-down service is scheduled to be broadcast live on television..

Philip’s grandson Prince Harry, who stepped away from royal duties last year and now lives in California, will attend the service along with other members of the royal family, palace officials have said.. His wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is pregnant and has been advised by her doctor not to make the journey.

Royal family members said they appreciated the outpouring of tributes and good wishes from people across Britain and around the world to Philip, who was the queen’s consort and support through more than seven decades of marriage.

Prince Edward, 57, said the “extraordinary” tributes meant a lot to the royal family.

“It just goes to show, he might have been our father, grandfather, father-in-law, but he meant so much to so many other people,” he said.

Andrew, 61, who has largely kept out of the public eye since 2019 amid controversy over his friendship with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, also praised the “absolutely amazing tributes.”

3 more COVID-19 immunization sites opening in Toronto on Monday

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Monday, Apr 12th, 2021

The City of Toronto is opening three more COVID-19 mass immunization sites on Monday.

The new sites are located at Cloverdale Mall in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore area, North Toronto Memorial Community Centre in the Eglinton-Lawrence area and Carmine Stefano Community Centre in the Humber River-Black Creek area.

The sites will vaccinate residents 60 and older as well as those 50 and older living in hotspot communities. As with all other locations, an appointment is required.

The three new sites are the last of the nine sites the city committed to and all together, the city-run clinics are expected to have a weekly capacity of delivering over 10,000 shots a day, based on anticipated vaccine supply.

Mayor John Tory toured the Cloverdale Mall location Sunday, which he said would alone will be able to vaccinate 11,340 people per week.

“I encourage eligible residents to get vaccinated at one of the nine City-run vaccine clinics up and running. These clinics are operating seven days a week to get people vaccinated as quickly as we can, subject to vaccine supply. The sooner we are vaccinated, the sooner we can bring this pandemic to an end. So, please get your shot when it is your turn,” said Tory.

Tory, who got his first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Saturday, added that he felt fine apart from a restless sleep and a sore arm.

“Nothing serious, you’d hardly notice it if you didn’t remember you’d had the shot,” he said.

He also addressed safety concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of blood clots after vaccination.

“I feel entirely confident that the AstraZeneca vaccine that I was given was safe because they wouldn’t let me or anybody else get it,” he said. “Millions of people around the world have had the AstraZeneca vaccine safely and it is beginning to provide protection for them. I think that’s why people can go confidently to any of these clinics … and get any of these vaccines and begin the process of protecting themselves.”

Appointments are available at all nine of the City-operated immunization clinics across Toronto:

  • Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 277 Front St. W.
  • Toronto Congress Centre, 650 Dixon Rd.
  • Scarborough Town Centre, 300 Borough Dr. (in the old Sears store)
  • Malvern Community Recreation Centre, 30 Sewells Rd.
  • Mitchell Field Arena, 89 Church Ave. (west side of the complex)
  • The Hangar, 75 Carl Hall Rd.
  • Cloverdale Mall, 250 The East Mall
  • North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, 200 Eglinton Ave. W.
  • Carmine Stefano Community Centre, 3100 Weston Rd.

 

More than 710,852 doses of vaccines have been administered in Toronto via city clinics, hospitals, healthcare teams and pharmacies.

Matsuyama becomes first Japanese in Masters green jacket

DOUG FERGUSON, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Apr 12th, 2021

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Hideki Matsuyama delivered golf-mad Japan the grandest and greenest prize of all.

Ten years after Matsuyama made a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, he claimed the ultimate trophy Sunday with a victory in the Masters to become the first Japanese winner of the green jacket.

Matsuyama closed with a 1-over 73 and a one-shot victory that was only close at the end, and never seriously in doubt after Xander Schauffele’s late charge ended with a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.

Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”

So masterful was this performance that Matsuyama stretched his lead to six shots on the back nine until a few moments of drama. With a four-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the par-5 15th and it bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.

Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth straight birdie, the lead was down to two shots with three to play.

The next swing all but ended it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the par-3 16th bounced off the hill left of the green and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area went into the gallery. It added to a triple bogey, and his third close call in a major.

Never mind that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes, the first Masters champion with a final round over par since Trevor Immelman shot 75 in 2008.

All that mattered was that uphill walk to the 18th green, needing only to blast out of the bunker and take two putts for the victory.

And that’s what he did, soaking in the moment with a few thousand spectators on their feat to celebrate a career-changing moment — for the 29-year-old Matsuyama, and he hopes for an entire country.

“Hopefully, I’ll be a pioneer and many other Japanese will follow,” Matsuyama said.

Will Zalatoris, the 24-year-ld Masters rookie, holed an 18-foot par putt on the last hole for a 70 and was runner-up. It was the best performance by a first-timer to the Masters since another Dallas kid, Jordan Spieth, was runner-up in 2014 to Bubba Watson.

Spieth had a few fleeting thoughts of coming from six shots behind except for too many missed putts early and missed opportunities late. He bogeyed his last hole for a 70 and tied for third with Schauffele, who shot a 72 with a triple bogey and a double bogey on his card.

Matsuyama finished at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his sixth on the PGA Tour.

He becomes the second man from an Asian country to win a major. Y.E. Yang of South Korea won the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine over Tiger Woods.

Canadian Corey Conners finished six strokes back of Matsuyama, tied for eighth with American Patrick Reed. The top-10 finish clinched his sport at next year’s Masters. Conners also finished in the top 10 at last year’s event.

There were moments, though, the native of Listowel, Ont., seemed poised to challenge for the green jacket.

Conners had a hole-in-one Saturday and sat in sixth after the third round. He climbed the leaderboard Sunday with a birdie on the second hole, but collapsed through the middle of the round with three bogeys and a double bogey before ending the day with a 2-over 74.

Fellow Canadian Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., finished in a six-way tie for 40th spot.

Returning to the 18th green for the trophy presentation, Matsuyama again put on the green jacket and raised both arms in triumph. Augusta National allowed limited spectators, believed to be about 8,000 a day, and most might have remembered him from a decade ago.

He won the Asia-Pacific Amateur to earn an invitation to the Masters, and he was low amateur — tied with defending champion Phil Mickelson that year — to earn a trip into famed Butler Cabin. He won in Japan as an amateur, and four times after he graduated college and turned pro. His first PGA Tour victory was at the Memorial in 2014, prompting tournament host Jack Nicklaus to say, “I think you’ve just seen the start of what’s going to be truly one of your world’s great players over the next 10 to 15 years.”

That moment came Sunday.

Matsuyama is not big on emotion, and he speaks even less even when cornered after every round by the large contingent of Japanese media.

Most of the media was absent this year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and Matsuyama had said on the eve of the final round that it has been a lot less stress.

There was plenty on the golf course, right from the start.

Matsuyama sent his opening tee shot into the trees right of the first fairway. He punched it under the trees from the pine straw, hit a soft pitch that rolled down the slope away from the pin and was happy to leave with bogey. Two groups ahead of him, Zalatoris opened with two straight birdies.

Just like that, the lead was down to one.

No one got any closer until the final hour. Matsuyama made birdie from the front bunker on the par-5 second hole. He didn’t make another birdie until the par-5 eighth, and it didn’t matter because no one could put any pressure on him.

Zalatoris misjudged the speed on No. 3 and three-putted for bogey from just off the back of the green. Schauffele was within three of the lead going to the third hole, only to go bogey-bogey-double bogey on the toughest three-hole stretch on the course.

Matsuyama delivered what appeared to be a knockout punch with a nifty up-and-down from right of the green on the eighth for a tap-in birdie, and a lob wedge to the dangerous left pin on the ninth that rolled out to 3 feet. That sent him to the back nine with a five-shot lead.

For the longest time, it looked as though Matsuyama couldn’t wait to get to Butler Cabin and see how he looked in green.

Schauffele, however, rammed in a 20-foot birdie putt from behind the 12th green. He two-putted from 10 feet for birdie on No. 13. He nearly holed out from the fairway for a tap-in birdie on the 14th. And with he nearly holed his greenside bunker shot on the par-5 15th for a fourth straight birdie.

And then all that that worked ended when his ball disappeared below the surface of the pond.

Matsuyama could afford a few bogeys, and all that affected was the final margin. He is the Masters champion, a major that defines his elite status in the game and gives Japan the biggest week it has ever had in April. The week started a week ago Saturday when Tsubasa Kajitani won the second Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Matsuyama wasn’t around to see it, but he was well aware of it. All he wanted was to follow her path and made Japan proud. His play spoke volumes.

Ontario sets new all-time high in daily COVID-19 cases, 21 additional deaths

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Apr 12th, 2021

Ontario has set a single-day high when it comes to COVID-19 cases, confirming 4,456 new infections on Sunday as the number of patients in intensive care surpasses 600.

The total eclipses the previous high set back on January 8 of 4,249, however that number included 450 backlogged cases not previously recorded.

It’s the second time in the past three days more than 4,000 new cases have been recorded, pushing the seven-day rolling average to 3,572. A week ago, it was 2,637 and two weeks ago the average daily count was just over 2,000.

Since the Ford government applied the ’emergency brake’ back on April 3, the province has added just over 31,000 new cases to its COVID-19 tally – more than half of those new infections coming since stay-at-home orders were issued last Thursday.

Almost 60 per cent of the new cases are in the GTA with Toronto confirming 1,353 new infections – just shy of their single-day high set back in early January. Peel Region reported a single-day record of 860 new cases while York confirmed 444 cases.

Of the new cases reported Sunday, 1,176 are variants of concern – the majority of which is the variant first confirmed in the UK. Over the past five days, almost half of all new cases are variants of concern.

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs across the province now sits at 605. One week ago, there were 476 people in ICU. The Ontario Hospital Association said there had been 61 new admissions on Saturday and that 50 per cent of ICU beds in the Central Region are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients. According to provincial health officials, there are 1,513 COVID-19 patients in hospital however, as is the case on weekends, many hospitals do not report their case totals.

WATCH: https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/04/11/ontario-sets-new-all-time-high-in-covid-19-cases-21-additional-deaths/

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says intensive care admissions across the country increased by 23 per cent over the last seven days compared to the week before, which is putting strain on the health system.

She says COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are increasingly impacting younger people and says there’s been a jump in the number of hospitalizations among those 40 to 59 years old.

On Friday, the province issued emergency orders enabling hospitals to transfer patients without their consent to other facilities across Ontario in order to deal with the surge in ICU cases.

Another 21 people have died as a result of the virus – the first time more than 20 new deaths have been reported since April 2. It brings the provincial tally up to 7,552.

The province says it administered almost 95,000 COVID-19 vaccines on Saturday, the first time in five days doses fell below 100,000. Health officials say more than 3.1 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to date with 333,150 having been fully vaccinated.

Provincial officials say 56,378 tests were processed over the last 24 hours, with the positivity rate climbing to 7.7 per cent.

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