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#CityVote2019: bringing out the youth vote

DILSHAD BURMAN AND MARK MCALLISTER | posted Friday, Oct 18th, 2019

In the last federal election in 2015, voter turnout was up for all age groups compared to 2011, but the largest increase was seen in first time voters and those aged between 18 to 24.

Voter turnout for that age group went up by just over 18 per cent, with 57 per cent of younger voters participating in the process.

Elections Canada says it is the largest increase for this age group since they began reporting demographic data on turnout in 2004.

Peter Loewen, professor of political science at the University of Toronto, believes Justin Trudeau had a lot to do with motivating the youth to vote, but a simpler voting process also contributed to bringing out 18 to 24 year old voters.

“I think young people realized how easy it is to vote,” he tells CityNews. “It isn’t that difficult to find a polling station, whether it’s in advance or on the day of the vote. The ID requirements are not onerous, so people can turn up to vote and it’s pretty easy.”

Making young people aware of the ease of voting is part of the strategy student groups on college and university campuses are using to encourage young people to take part.

At the University of Toronto, campaign posters and voting pop-ups can be found mimicking an actual election. However the messaging isn’t in favour of a particular party, but aimed simply at encouraging young people to participate in the voting process.

The pop-ups have students fill out ballots in which they rank the top issues that matter to them, instead of the candidates.

Napas Thein, co-founder of Participation and Advancement of Youth Civic Engagement (PAYCE) at U of T, says the goal is to help youth understand why it is important to have their voices heard and why they make a difference.

“The thing that matters is that we talk to many students and encourage them to go out and do the research and understand why voting is important,” Thein says.  “And if we can just change even 10 per cent of the students’ minds who weren’t going to vote in the election then we have done our job and helped voter turn out among youth.”

A similar campaign is underway at Ryerson University, where student leaders are trying to make the voting process less intimidating for young voters.

“It scares them to get involved, they don’t know who to vote for,” says Taylor Deasley, co-lead of the Ryerson Votes Campaign. “They don’t know where to go to ask questions and we’re trying to create the sort of environment that’s more compassionate and cooperative with students … and so it becomes a much more approachable, fun process, rather than something that they should be scared of.”

Meanwhile, which way the youth vote is swinging has seen a significant switch in recent weeks. While Trudeau may have helped bring them out in the previous election, a new poll is suggesting younger voters are leaning more toward Jagmeet Singh’s NDP in this election.

In September, 39 per cent of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 indicated their intention to vote Liberal with 22 per cent throwing their support behind the NDP.

But after the blackface controversy and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s strong showing following the English language debate, the NDP now hold 39 per cent of the intended youth vote according to the latest poll conducted by DART & Maru/Blue Voice Canada.

“The doubled edged sword is that he brought in all these youth to help him win the last election. If they move against him this time, then he’s in a position where he’s kind of sowed the seeds of his own demise,” says professor Loewen, which speaks to the power of the youth vote and the impact it can have.

How young people will vote will also be determined by how each federal party is addressing the issues that matter most to them.

“In our vote pop-ups we found that youth cared most about the issue of climate change followed by housing and the economy,” says Thein.

“What this represented to us was the youth perspective on climate change and housing is something that needs to be addressed by politicians.”

All four major parties have included climate change initiatives in their party platforms and are looking to tackle the issue with a combination of taxes, emissions control, research and funding.

Premier Ford says he won’t be drawn into federal election campaign

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 17th, 2019

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he won’t be drawn into the federal election despite being the subject of frequent attacks from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

Ford made the comments during only his second media availability since the campaign began in September.

Ford says he’s been too busy governing to campaign on behalf of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who has rarely mentioned the Premier’s name during his own events.

Ford’s comments came in Kenora, Ont. where he made a local infrastructure announcement on Wednesday evening.

The provincial legislature was initially meant to return from its summer break early last month, but Ford extended the recess until after the Oct. 21 vote.

His name has nonetheless come up frequently throughout the campaign, with Trudeau trying to paint Ford and Scheer as cut from the same cloth.

“I know you want to see me scrap it out with the feds,” Ford told reporters. “I’m just not going to do it.”

Ford, whose Progressive Conservatives won a majority last year, has seen his popularity plummet since then.

Trudeau, seizing on those sinking figures, has repeatedly invoked Ford’s name and policy decisions when predicting the outcome of a Conservative election win.

Ford declined to respond to Trudeau’s specific attacks, making a quip instead about the notoriously antagonistic relationship between the two leaders. Ford’s government has launched several attacks against Trudeau and taken the federal government to court over its national carbon tax plan.

“I think the guy loves me or something, because he constantly mentions my name,” Ford said of Trudeau. “But that’s politics.”

For his part, Scheer has not appeared with Ford – or mentioned the premier’s name – during the campaign. He has said that he is ready to run against Trudeau, but the Liberal leader is desperate to run against anyone other than him.

Leaders make for hotly contested seats in Quebec, Ontario, N.S. as clock ticks

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 17th, 2019

OTTAWA — After spending Wednesday wooing voters in Quebec, the leaders of the three biggest parties are separating, only Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau staying behind.

He started in Montreal yesterday before road-tripping to a rally in Sherbrooke and today he’s going the other way, beginning in hotly contested Trois-Rivieres and making several stops as he heads back west to Montreal again.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is hitting the Toronto suburb of Brampton and then making a stop in the city before flying east to a rally in Pictou County, N.S.

And New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh is starting in Welland, Ont., near Niagara Falls, where former MP Malcolm Allen is trying to take back his old seat.

They’ll have help from Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who’ll campaign with Singh, her own party’s former deputy leader.

Singh then moves on to appearances in Toronto and Brampton, including a rally billed as an Upri-Singh.

Green Leader Elizabeth May is on Vancouver Island, making numerous stops along the highway from Campbell River to Ladysmith, where the Greens see their best chances to add to their two seats.

UK and EU reach Brexit deal; still needs ratification

RAF CASERT AND JILL LAWLESS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 17th, 2019

Britain and the European Union said Thursday that they have struck an outline Brexit deal after days of intense see-saw negotiations — though it must still be formally approved by the bloc and ratified by the European and U.K. Parliaments.

Hours before a summit of all 28 EU national leaders, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted: “We have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that the two sides had struck a “great new deal” and urged U.K. lawmakers to ratify it in a special session on Saturday

The breakthrough came just hours after Johnson’s Northern Irish government allies threw a spanner in the works by saying they couldn’t support the draft agreement because of provisions for the Irish border.

The prime minister needs all the support he can get to push any deal past a deeply divided Parliament.

It only added to the high anxiety that reigned on Thursday morning, as the last outstanding issues of the divorce papers were hammered out.

Technical negotiators again went into the night Wednesday to fine-tune customs and sales tax regulations that will have to regulate trade in goods between the Northern Ireland and Ireland, where the U.K. and the EU share their only land border.

After months of gloom over the stalled Brexit process, European leaders have sounded upbeat this week. French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that “I want to believe that a deal is being finalized,” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said negotiations were “in the final stretch.”

Johnson — who took office in July vowing Britain would finally leave the EU on Oct. 31, come what may — was slightly more cautious. He likened Brexit to climbing Mount Everest, saying the summit was in sight, though still shrouded in cloud.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party added to those clouds early Thursday. DUP leader Arlene Foster and the party’s parliamentary chief Nigel Dodds said they “could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues,” referring to a say the Northern Irish authorities might have in future developments.

Both the customs and consent arrangements are key to guaranteeing an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — the main obstacle to a Brexit deal.

Foster and Dodds said they would continue to work with the U.K. government to get a “sensible” deal. The problem is that the closer Johnson aligns himself with the DUP, the further he removes himself from the EU, leaving him walking a political tightrope.

Brexit negotiations have been here before — seemingly closing in on a deal that is dashed at the last moment. But hopes have risen that this time may be different.

‘Sky didn’t fall:’ Police, lawyers still adjusting after pot legalization

LAUREN KRUGEL, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 17th, 2019

Police, lawyers and advocates say that one year into cannabis legalization, Canada has a long way to go toward stamping out the black market and pot-impaired driving.

“We can’t call it a success at this point,” Chief Const. Mike Serr of the Abbotsford, B.C., police department said of the law change a year ago Thursday.

He said organized crime’s market share and youth consumption have not yet fallen, and tools to detect stoned drivers are still lacking.

But Serr, who also co-chairs the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police drug advisory committee, said resources and workloads have not changed much.

“When you talk to chiefs all across the country, the sky didn’t fall.”

Statistics Canada says 541 people were charged under the federal Cannabis Act between Oct. 17, 2018, and the end of the year. That includes 190 people charged with various selling offences and 95 people charged with possessing illicit cannabis or more than 30 grams.

In the past year, Alberta and Manitoba have each issued more than 2,000 tickets under provincial laws, while in Ontario there have been more than 7,000 provincial charges.

Toronto cannabis lawyer Jack Lloyd said he’s been busy.

“We’re still criminalizing behaviour that is supposed to be legalized,” said Lloyd, adding most of his cases are for selling offences.

“We’ve got a long ways to go to make sure that we’ve got fair and sensible regulations, but cannabis is legal and we should be very proud of that,” said Lloyd.

“There’s some things that need to be cleaned up and improved. Sometimes you go to court for that. Sometimes you talk to government about that.”

Statistics Canada says just over four in 10 consumers reported purchasing at least some of their pot illegally.

“The cost of legal cannabis is still too high. Barriers for medical access are still too high. And access to high-quality cannabis is also being stymied,” said lawyer Harrison Jordan, who advises individuals and businesses on cannabis law.

Jordan said there’s no rhyme or reason to whether police will charge someone under provincial or federal legislation.

“Where a charging officer wants to send a message they’ll go with the federal criminal charges, as they carry more of a stigma and more of a weight.”

But Serr said officers are generally aiming to change behaviour with the less onerous provincial charges.

Jordan said he’s heard from a lot of people slapped with $200 tickets for having cannabis readily available in a vehicle when they had it in a closed bag, which is allowed under Ontario’s law.

When they learn how much a lawyer will cost, they typically opt to pay the fine, he said.

Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, said cannabis-impaired driving was a problem long before legalization and it’s unclear whether it has improved or worsened.

He said he’s glad federal impaired driving laws have been updated, but the rollout of saliva testing devices has been too slow.

“Police officers have been out there saying they’ve seen no problems since legalization. Well, they haven’t had the tools. They haven’t had the training,” said Murie.

“I think it’s there. They’re just not seeing it.”

Serr said there are more than 1,100 drug recognition experts now working across Canada, up more than 300 from a year ago.

Vancouver impaired driving lawyer Kyla Lee said fears that legal cannabis would lead to a surge in impaired driving do not seem to have materialized.

There was an uptick in some U.S. states after they legalized pot, but Lee said that was likely due to the fact that edibles — with their stronger, longer high — came on the market there right away. In Canada, there has been a year-long wait, with edibles and other cannabis derivitives becoming legal Thursday.

Lee said Canada’s amended impaired driving law is problematic because the presence of cannabis in someone’s system is not a valid measure of impairment.

“I think there was really a bogeyman of cannabis-impaired driving that was sold to pass these laws.”

Lee said there have been few cannabis-impaired driving charges and she suspects the tests aren’t more widely used because police and prosecutors are still skeptical of the science and wary of going to court.

“They don’t want to engage in a course of conduct … that might lead to a finding that the law’s unconstitutional and jeopardize the ability to use those laws in more significant circumstances.”

Health concerns over vaping cast haze over cannabis market expansion

KELLY GERALDINE MALONE, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Oct 16th, 2019

Public health concerns over vaping have cast a haze over expansion excitement in the cannabis market.

The production and sale of cannabis derivatives — edibles, extracts, topicals and vape products — become legal Thursday on the one-year anniversary of the legalization of recreational cannabis.

Licence holders need to give 60 days notice to Health Canada that they intend to sell the products, so they won’t land on store shelves until mid-December.

Some cannabis companies in Canada are anticipating a substantial increase in sales, but Christopher Carlsten said he would have liked to see legalization of cannabis vaping products postponed, or at the very least have significantly more public education about it.

“These products get out there and then we chase our tails trying to figure out what’s going on, why we are seeing the toxicity, and then try to regulate retrospectively, which is a dangerous way to do things,” said Carlsten, head of respiratory medicine at University of British Columbia.

More than 1,000 people in the United States, and a handful in Canada, have developed a lung ailment apparently linked to vaping.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that the number of confirmed and probable cases of the severe pulmonary illness jumped to 1,299 across 49 states, including 26 deaths.

It has said at this stage “no one device, product or substance has been linked to all cases.” But health authorities there are urging people to stop using electronic cigarettes, specifically for products containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, a compound found in cannabis.

Vaping is a new trend and is constantly changing, so Carlsten said experts are just beginning to understand its impacts. Studies are showing short-term effects include swelling and heat damage to the lungs. Long-term, Calsten said, it has also being linked to emphysema.

“Their variability is just too great, the uncertainty is just too great, and I haven’t seen any particular product that has clearly been shown to be safe,” he said.

Health Canada will not be delaying the legalization of nondried-flower pot products over the concerns. There are regulatory controls for products to lower risks and Health Canada said in an email it will be able to respond to emerging health issues in a timely manner.

Ingredients in inhalable cannabis extracts will be restricted, including vitamin E acetate, which is a focus of investigation in several U.S. cases

“I am hopeful that we don’t see any knee-jerk reactions here in Canada towards prohibiting the sale or preventing the sale of these products,” said John Arbuthnot, CEO of Delta 9 Cannabis.

Delta 9 — a cannabis producer, processor and wholesale distributor based out of Winnipeg — has already been focusing much of its resources on preparing to bring vape pens and cartridges to market.

Arbuthnot said he is “very bullish” or invested in vape oil and is confident Canadian regulations will ensure the product is safe.

“Clearly the industry is very concerned, or should be, that vape cartridges will be suspended,” said Chris Damas, author of the BCMI Cannabis Report, a cannabis stock newsletter.

He said there has been significant investment by major cannabis companies to produce vape cartridges that can process concentrated cannabis.

It’s expected to become a lucrative product for legal companies who are struggling to push out persistent producers in the black market.

The Cannabis Council of Canada has said illicit vape market in Canada is estimated to be worth roughly $1 billion.

British tobacco giant Imperial Brands signed a $123-million investment deal with Auxly Cannabis Group over the summer. The London-based company has increasingly focused on e-cigarettes and vaporizers and the infusion of capital will bring that technology to the Canadian cannabis company.

Pax Labs, the American vaping company that created the Juul e-cigarette, partnered with four companies — Aphria, Aurora, Organigram and Supreme Cannabis — to provide a pen-and-pod system for cannabis concentrates.

“We are excited about the coming changes in regulation that will allow us to cover new and novel products … This agreement is one of many steps Aurora is taking to be ready for the new market opportunities,” Darren Karasiuk, chief commercial officer of Aurora, said in a news release in June.

Companies are hopeful consumers will be reassured that by following regulations their products are safe, Damas added.

Health concerns may have put a wrench in rollout plans for Canadian cannabis producers, but Damas said the result may actually be users moving to the legal market for vaping cartridges en masse.

“It’s definitely been a negative for the stocks,” he said. “But in a six- to nine-month period this will be reconciled.”

Premier Ford to make announcement in Kenora, Ont.

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Oct 16th, 2019

KENORA, Ont. – Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to make an announcement related to infrastructure today in Kenora, Ont.

Ford is set to speak at a local electrical firm this afternoon alongside Greg Rickford, the minister of energy and northern development and mines.

The premier has been laying low for weeks, making himself available to answer journalists’ questions just once since the federal election campaign began in mid-September.

The provincial legislature was initially meant to return from its summer break early last month but Ford extended the break until after the Oct. 21 vote.

His name has nonetheless come up frequently throughout the campaign, with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau trying to paint Ford and federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer as cut from the same cloth.

Ford, whose Progressive Conservatives won a majority last year, has seen his popularity plummet since then, with recent polling showing his approval ratings in the 20s and 30s.

Man critically injured in Hwy. 401 crash involving transport truck

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Oct 16th, 2019

A man believed to be in his 30s remains in hospital after a crash involving a transport truck that closed a section of Highway 401 overnight.

Provincial police were called to the westbound collector lanes approaching Islington Avenue just after 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said a car hit the back of a transport truck.

The driver was taken to a trauma centre with life-threatening injuries. He was the sole occupant of the vehicle.

All the westbound collector lanes on the 401 were closed for more than seven hours while police investigated and the crash was cleaned up. The lanes reopened around 5:30 a.m. The express lanes remained open.

There’s no word on what caused the crash at this point.

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