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Online voting begins today for new Ontario Progressive Conservative leader

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Mar 2nd, 2018

Online voting begins today in the race to pick a leader to guide Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party through the June 7 election.

The leadership campaign began after Patrick Brown resigned from his post last month amid sexual misconduct allegations.

Brown vehemently denies the allegations and even briefly entered the contest to reclaim his old job, but pulled out earlier this week, saying the race was taking a toll on his friends and family.

The four candidates vying for the top job are former Tory legislator Christine Elliott, Toronto lawyer and businesswomen Caroline Mulroney, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, and parental rights activist Tanya Granic Allen.

Tories who wish to cast a vote originally had until today to register, but the party now says it has extended the deadline to 11:59 p.m. on Monday.

Voting is set to take place until Thursday, with the results announced on March 10.

Tory says city hall will remain open to the public despite security incident Thursday

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Mar 2nd, 2018

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Mayor John Tory says Toronto City Hall will remain open to the public despite a disturbing incident on Thursday where a distressed woman began screaming outside the mayor’s protocol lounge, demanding to speak to him about the state of Toronto Community Housing.

The woman’s violent shrieks interrupted a news conference where Mayor Tory and Premier Kathleen Wynne were discussing Toronto transit.

The mayor, premier, and several journalists were holed up inside the conference room while security staff tried to calm the woman down.

Mayor Tory later addressed the incident, saying he didn’t want city hall to turn into a fortress closed off to the public.

“The premier and I were talking about this as we walked in the building this morning,” Tory said. “She (Wynne) was saying how refreshing it is to see people in the rotunda at city hall doing business with the city government.”

“People can come to my office and come to the offices of the councillors with the problems they have…and I think that’s a good thing about the building.”

When asked about obvious safety concerns, Tory said he was hopeful a reasonable balance could be found.

“When you’re in a job like this … I think you’d be not telling the truth if you were utterly unconcerned about it. But I’m confident that the measures that we’ve discussed and the things that we’ve done…both respect my strongest desire, and that of city council, to keep this building an open place for the people, but at the same time make sure that there are reasonable measures.”

“It comes with having a very open building,” he added. “Where people can come right to the office of their elected representatives, including the mayor, and tell us about some of the challenges they face.”

 

Winter weather returns to the GTA overnight

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Mar 2nd, 2018

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The month of March appears to be coming in like a lion.

A special weather statement was in effect for Toronto and most of the GTA overnight as another blast of winter swept through the area. A winter storm warning remains in place for areas west of Toronto including Niagara and Hamilton.

A rain and wet snow mix moved into the area Thursday night with snowfall amounts of between 5 to 10 cm expected by Friday morning.

“There remains uncertainty as to the exact track and intensity of the low pressure area,” says Environment Canada. “This will affect how much snow falls across the area.”

Snowfall accumulations for areas west of Oakville into Hamilton and the Niagara region are projected to be between 15 to 30 cm.

CityNews meteorologist Adam Stiles said some of the heaviest snow was expected to be seen around 2:30 a.m.

The snow is expected to taper off early Friday morning, which may mean the morning commute may not be as bad as initially anticipated.

 

Hedley frontman to take indefinite leave following sexual assault allegations

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Mar 1st, 2018

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Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard is planning an indefinite leave following the latest accusations of sexual misconduct against him and the band.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday night, Hoggard acknowledged that over the last 13 years he has behaved in a way that “objectified women.”

The band issued a similar statement, saying they have some “soul-searching to do” and that following the current tour they would take an “indefinite hiatus to work on our personal relationships and who we are as individuals.”

The announcement comes after anonymous sexual misconduct allegations against the Vancouver band began emerging online earlier this month.

A radio host in Calgary and a woman in Ottawa have also come forward alleging sexual misconduct and assault by Hoggard.

The group has also been dropped by its management team, blacklisted by scores of radio stations and abandoned by bands booked as tour openers.

While saying he had never engaged in non-consensual sexual behaviour, Hoggard admitted that the way he had treated women “was reckless and dismissive of their feelings.”

“I understand the significant harm that is caused not only to the women I interacted with, but to all women who are degraded by this type of behaviour. I have been careless and indifferent and I have no excuse. For this I am truly sorry.”

“To my many female fans, I want you to know that you deserve nothing but dignity and respect from every man in your life.”

“I was given a position of leadership and power and I mishandled it. I will regret this for the rest of my life.”

Hoggard concluded his statement by saying he and the band will honour their commitments to the rest of the tour before “taking a serious step back in order to make real changes in my life.”

The band is scheduled to play in Brampton on March 1 before concluding their ‘Cageless’ tour in Kelowna, B.C. on March 23.

 

PC leadership debate exposes troubles plaguing Tories

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Mar 1st, 2018

Ontario PC leadership candidate Christine Elliott speaks as candidates Tanya Granic Allen, left, Caroline Mulroney and Doug Ford participate in a debate in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives’ efforts to leave behind weeks of unprecedented chaos took a hit Wednesday as the controversies splintering their ranks came into the spotlight at the last debate of the party’s leadership race.

The four candidates vying to seize the reins of Ontario’s Opposition each painted themselves as the only one equipped to clean up the mess left by former leader Patrick Brown as well as take on Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne in the province’s spring election.

Brown’s abrupt resignation amid allegations of sexual misconduct in January fuelled tensions within the Tories and brought scrutiny upon the party’s structure, vetting practices and nomination process, which led party brass to overturn nominations in two ridings and declare there were fewer party members than initially believed.

Those issues re-emerged in Wednesday’s debate, with all four candidates – former Tory legislator Christine Elliott, Toronto lawyer and businesswoman Caroline Mulroney, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and social conservative advocate Tanya Granic Allen – vowing to tighten and enforce rules regarding sexual harassment and party nominations.

Granic Allen in particular repeatedly asked her competitors if they would reopen nomination contests where there had been allegations of interference, candidate bullying and corruption.

“We have to address the corruption in our party,” she said. “The three of you have stood idly by as the party was run into the ground by Patrick Brown and his corruptive practices.”

Ford said he would reopen problematic races and recounted a story of being at nominations where he had heard accounts of ballot stuffing.

“When I’m leader I’m going to make sure they’re transparent, people are held accountable and there’s going to be integrity here,” he said.

Elliott said she would ensure party rules were followed for races to be conducted properly, while Mulroney said she had a plan to ensure party processes were as fair as possible

“We need to make sure our nomination process is as fair and open and transparent as possible,” Mulroney said. “We need to make sure we’re as strong as we can be.”

Brown, who has repeatedly denied the allegations against him, was himself a topic of debate as those competing to succeed him were asked whether they would allow the Barrie, Ont., politician to run under their banner.

Elliott and Mulroney said they would let Brown back into the fold if he cleared his name of the sexual misconduct and financial impropriety allegations against him before the campaign.

Though Brown has declared that his name has already been cleared, both Elliott and Mulroney said it would be up to others to make that call.

“Saying you’ve cleared your name and clearing your name are two different things,” Mulroney said.

Ford said only that Brown “has to take care of a few things,” and said he was focusing his attention on Wynne instead.

Granic Allen has so far been the only one to say unequivocally that Brown would not be welcome in the party under her leadership, though she stressed her opposition stems from his management practices rather than the sexual misconduct allegations.

Brown – who launched a bid to reclaim his old job a day after the first leadership debate earlier this month – was expected to join the four candidates for the Ottawa event being hosted by Althia Raj of HuffPost Canada.

But he backed out of the race Monday, saying his candidacy had caused hardship for his friends and family, and had drawn focus away from the party’s goal of defeating the governing Liberals in the spring election.

His departure in late January set off what the party’s interim leader, Vic Fedeli, has called a period of “unprecedented” tumult.

With Brown out of the leadership race, Fedeli – who weeks earlier vowed to clear the “rot” from the party – said the Tories are ready to close the door on what has been a difficult chapter in their history.

He said the party has emerged from its ordeal stronger and with more momentum than before, citing a boost in membership numbers and fundraising. Some experts, however, have said it may not be that easy for the Tories to turn the page.

Voting for the new leader is set to begin online on Friday, although Tory members have until 11:59 p.m. on March 5 to sign up to cast their ballots. The party’s leadership election committee said Brown’s name has been removed from the ballot.

The winner will be announced on March 10.

Body found on Hwy. 401, WB express lanes closed at Markham Road

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 1st, 2018

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All westbound express lanes of Highway 401 are closed at Markham Road after a woman was found dead on the highway.

OPP were called to the scene around 4:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Paramedics say the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

There has been no word on if the woman was struck by a vehicle or if she fell.

The highway closure is expected to be in place until at least 10 a.m., according to the Ministry of Transportation.

Collector lanes remain open.

 

‘Don’t do it, it was a drunken moment:’ Subway joyrider

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 28th, 2018

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The man who filmed himself hitching a reckless ride on the back of a TTC subway has a message for potential copycats: “Don’t do it.”

“I don’t want people seeing the video and thinking it’s OK to do what I did,” he told CityNews in a phone interview Tuesday. “It was a drunken moment.”

The 20-year-old York University student told CityNews he shot the video about a year ago and got the idea after seeing someone pull a similar stunt on the New York City subway system.

A brief video clip shows him clinging to the back of a speeding subway while shouting “on the back of a train!” into his camera.

“I saw a video of some guys doing the same thing with a train in New York City. I was 11 out of 10 drunk and I remember thinking ‘hey, I want to do this, this is a like a bucket-list item type of thing.’ ”

After shooting the video he posted it to an Instagram group.

It has since gained the attention of thousands online, as well as angry TTC authorities and a perturbed Mayor John Tory.

Tory said he’s seen the video and he didn’t mince words when asked about it.

“You can’t legislate against stupidity,” the mayor said during a TTC media event in Scarborough on Tuesday.

“I hope that nobody will think that it’s funny,” he added. “It is dangerous and it imperils people’s lives and I just hope it isn’t repeated.”

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green was equally unimpressed. Green called it an “incredibly dumb thing” to do and said the TTC would be pursuing charges.

“We do have an investigation underway,” Green told CityNews on Monday. “We are taking it incredibly seriously.”

“This has to be one of the strangest and dumbest things we’ve seen on our property in a long time.”

The joyrider says he’s been in touch with the TTC and is meeting with transit officials on Thursday where he will present them with an apology letter.

“I totally understand their concerns and they have every right to be upset,” he said.

“I don’t want people to use this as an example and get hurt because of it, that’s the last thing I’d want.”

It’s not clear if the TTC will follow through on its vow to charge the man, but according to the TTC website, he could face a $235 fine for Travel on exterior of vehicle along with other possible charges, including Unauthorized use of transit system equipment, which carries an even steeper $425 fine.

Aside from the obvious risks to life and limb, TTC misbehaviour often leads to a significant amount of avoidable service delays.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers from 2017.

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Liberals promise extra leave time for two parent families after birth of child

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Feb 28th, 2018

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The Trudeau Liberals took baby steps in their bid to reshape the social safety net Tuesday with a new, “use-it-or-lose-it” leave option for new parents and a modest increase in the value of a rebranded tax benefit for low-income workers.

The government’s third budget – coming on the heels of two that created an income-tested child benefit and a long-term funding commitment to child care – promised new parents the ability to share either five or eight additional weeks of leave following the birth of a child, provided they also share the job of caring for the baby.

Measures proposed Tuesday would give parents five additional weeks if they’ve opted for the traditional 12-month parental leave, or eight weeks under the new 18-month option introduced late last year. The benefit would be also be available to couples that adopt.

There won’t be any boost in benefits for the extra weeks off, unlike the higher benefits provided under a similar program in Quebec. Nor will eligibility rules be changed to follow Quebec’s lead, as experts had urged the Liberals to do.

The government hopes the measures will push more non-birthing parents to take more time to care for a newborn, allowing mothers to get back into workforce sooner. The budget document notes that women accounted for 92 per cent of parental benefits paid through EI during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the most recent numbers available, suggesting a wide gender divide when it comes to caring for an infant.

How many non-birthing parents take the leave may be small given how the Liberals have set up the program, said Angella McEwen, an economist with the Canadian Labour Congress.

The option isn’t expected to come into effect until June 2019, just ahead of a federal election where parties will be currying political favour with middle-class families trying to foot the bill for raising children.

The budget also promises to allow new mothers and those on sick leave to keep more of their employment insurance benefits if they work just a few hours every month.

The government doesn’t expect the working-while-on-claim provisions – long a pilot project that the budget makes permanent – to change the number of Canadians working while on maternity leave. The budget document says the measure is targeted at low-income households facing a financial squeeze that requires them to work.

The Liberals are also targeting low-income workers with a rebranded benefit – dubbed the Canada Workers Benefit – that will enrich and expand eligibility at a cost of $1 billion. For workers earning at or below the poverty line, the changes will mean an extra $170 a year to a maximum of $1,355 for unattached workers, and $2,335 for couples or single parents.

The Liberals estimate that 300,000 more workers will take advantage of the benefit, but not until the 2019 tax year, meaning the refunds won’t actually arrive until 2020.

But the measure lacks real teeth to make a serious dent in poverty rates, said economist Armine Yalnizyan, who noted that the changes may affect how much families receive in provincial and housing benefits. The tax refund will also be delivered annually – a potential problem for low-income families that often budget month-to-month.

“It definitely doesn’t lift that many people above the poverty rate,” Yalnizyan said. “You definitely can’t call it an anti-poverty measure.”

Workers are targeted in other areas of the budget: Extra benefits to employees who lose out on pay, vacation and severance when an employer files for bankruptcy; a promise to review the rules around protecting pensions; $90 million over three years to speed up processing of EI claims; and an extra $127.7 million over three years to make sure Canadians with EI questions can get through to someone at a call centre.

Paying for all the new measures will mean a bump in EI premiums paid by both employers and employees. The increase will come into effect in the fiscal year beginning in April, and continue an upward trend after taking into account new measures in Tuesday’s budget.

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