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Woman confronted for parking in handicap spot flips out

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 22nd, 2016

A man confronted a woman who parked her vehicle in an wheelchair-accessible parking spot outside of a Toronto Tim Hortons on Monday and in exchange she threw all of her drinks at him.

The whole interaction was caught on video and you can see the man, Ryan Favro, waiting for the woman to return to her vehicle.

“So … why do you park in handicap spots?” asks Favro to the woman. “Are you handicapped?”

The woman responds with a quick “no” and turns to get into her Jeep.

“Well what makes you so special that you can park in a handicap spot?” Favro asks.

The rest of the interaction can be seen in the video below, including when she hurls two cups of coffee at the Favro.

When Internet naming contests go wrong

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 22nd, 2016

It always sounds like a great idea.

According to the Independent, England’s National Environment Research Council decided to let the Internet name its new, £ 200 million research vessel.

Currently in second place? Henry Worsley, the British explorer who died in January near the end of his attempt to become the first person to cross the Antarctic unaided.

And if first place? Why, Boaty McBoatface, of course.

Apparently James Hand, a former BBC presenter, suggested the name. As things on the Internet tend to do, the idea took off.

Before the site crashed Sunday, the name had over 30,000 votes, 8,000 more than Worsley.

“I have apologized profusely,” Hands said. “The storm that’s been created – it’s got legs of its own.”

Truth is, it’s not the first time allowing the Internet to name something has gone wrong.

Back in 2007, Greenpeace held a contest to name a whale they were trying to prevent the Japanese from poaching. The winner? Mr. Splashy Pants.

In 2011, the City of Austin held a contest for a new name for its Solid Waste Services Department. The response was overwhelming, and the winner, by a large margin, was the “Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts.” Needless to say, the city stuck with the original moniker.

In 2012, Mountain Dew held a “Dub the Dew” contest for a new, green apple-flavoured drink. Names like Diabeetus, Fapple and Gushing Granny were among those suggested, and “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong” was in the lead when Pepsi Co shut down the contest.

And closer to home, in 2015, BC Ferries launched a social media campaign to name its new ferries. The organization subsequently had their high-paid management mocked in names like HMS Cantafford, The Queen of Poor Management, Coastal Extortion, Spirit of Lack of Oversight and Queen of the Overfunded. In the end, they went with Salish Orca, Salish Eagle and Salish Raven. Far less interesting than the Queen of the Overfunded.

Toronto police won’t respond to minor crashes starting Tuesday

Carl Hanstke | posted Tuesday, Mar 22nd, 2016

Toronto police are changing the way they respond to minor crashes, including those that result in injuries.

Starting Tuesday, police will no longer respond to minor collisions that have minor injuries or no injuries at all.

Last year, police responded to almost 64,000 collisions and almost 70 per cent of them were minor fender-benders.

Police say this move will allow officers to focus on more serious calls.

“We can’t keep up with the current rate of collisions that are increasing year over year, with the sheer number of vehicles that are coming into the city, and the sheer number of pedestrians that are using our roadways,” Const. Clint Stibbe told 680 NEWS on Tuesday.

Drivers involved in minor crashes will have to go to a collision reporting centre.

However, officers will still respond if the minor collision involved involves criminal offences, drugs or alcohol, or pedestrians and cyclists.

Black Lives Matter demonstration continues at Toronto police HQ

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 22nd, 2016

A Black Lives Matter demonstration, calling for more police transparency, is continuing at Toronto police headquarters on Tuesday morning.

“This is a positive and peaceful action that we’re hosting,” organizer Yusra Khogali said on Tuesday. About 40 demonstrators remained outside police headquarters around 5:30 a.m.

“Yet yesterday they raided us as if we were criminals … the police are interacting with the Black community as they always do.”

The initially peaceful protest began at Nathan Phillips Square on Sunday, with demonstrators camping out in tents.

The protest moved to police headquarters on College Street on Monday. That’s when Toronto police officers moved to break up the demonstration, taking down tents and putting out a fire around 9 p.m.

One demonstrator, Loveleen Kang, said Toronto Fire had allowed them to have a small fire.

The actions of Toronto police have drawn criticism, especially because Monday was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. During the protest, Police Chief Mark Saunders was speaking at an event about the elimination of racism. He was not at the demonstration.

Demonstrators said the police actions were violent and posted photos and video on Twitter. Toronto police also tweeted about the demonstration, saying they had to remove the tents and fire for safety reasons.

In a written statement, police told CityNews that they facilitate “peaceful disputes and protests. The law however, prohibits open fires and tents. Officers removed the tents and facilitated the extinguishing of the fire after repeated requests were refused.”

As for video showing officers dragging protesters, police said they were obstructing police.

“To enforce the law, we had to move those who were obstructing police,” a police spokesperson said.

Members of Black Lives Matter were calling not only for more police transparency but also for the city to reverse changes to Afrofest. The two-day festival was recently reduced to one day.

Demonstrators want to know the name, or names, of the officer or officers who killed Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby, and charges against the officers involved in Loku’s death. Earlier this month, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) ruled that the officer used “justifiable force” in the July 2015 shooting.

Loku, 45, was holding a hammer when he was killed.

They are also protesting the recent police shooting of Alex Wettlaufer. The SIU told CityNews three officers are believed to have discharged their firearms in the fatal shooting of a 21-year-old man in a North York park on March 13.

Black Lives Matter is also asking for a full review of the SIU.

Federal budget 2016: Building the case for cash

John Geddes | posted Monday, Mar 21st, 2016

Justin Trudeau operates a crane while touring a crane operator training facility on August 27, 2015 in Oakville, Ont. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Many Canadian political junkies think they know the moment most worth remembering from Canada 2020’s policy conference in Ottawa back in 2014. It was at the Liberal-linked think tank’s confab that fall that Justin Trudeau made news by dismissing Canada’s contribution of fighter jets to the combat mission in Iraq as a case of Conservatives “trying to whip out our CF-18s and show how big they are.” But only in the wonkiest of policy-wonk circles does anyone remember how, later that same day from the same stage, David Dodge made the case for governments fearlessly plunging into debt to pay for public infrastructure.

Yet it’s the former Bank of Canada governor’s dry remarks, not the future prime minister’s highly quotable crack, that echo now. As Trudeau’s government prepares to table its first budget on March 22, Dodge’s case for borrowing to build stuff has long since taken on the status of conventional wisdom. After all, his distinctive rasp is as close to the voice of God as exists in Canadian public policy debates. Along with once running the central bank, he was a key Finance Department official behind the last Liberal government’s celebrated elimination of deficits back in the 1990s.

So Dodge, who these days advises clients of the law firm Bennett Jones, made spilling red ink to fund public works sound to Liberals not just respectable, but shrewdly strategic. Rock-bottom interest rates, he said, make this “a very opportune time” for governments to borrow, particularly to pay for assets like new highways and faster telecommunications networks, which promise “a durable improvement in the standard of living.” Leap ahead to the 2015 election, and Trudeau followed that advice with his surprise promise—arguably the single most successful part of his platform—to run big deficits mainly to fund infrastructure.

That pledge remains central to Liberal planning as Finance Minister Bill Morneau puts the finishing touches on his first fiscal blueprint. Exactly how the infrastructure splurge will be greeted next week, however, is a subject of deep concern among Liberal advisers. They worry the multi-billion-dollar program will be seen as merely a reprise of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s 2009 response to recession—a quick, politically expedient and costly injection of stimulus. The Liberals contend that their version will be the start of a far more momentous project: a long-term retooling of the Canadian economy for sustained growth that will deliver rising middle-class incomes.

Their preferred framing continues the marketing of the Liberal government as ambitious and forward-thinking. Taking the focus off what’s ailing the Canadian economy right now also has the advantage of easing pressure on Morneau to somehow deliver a short-term cure. It’s not at all clear what that prescription would be. In a way, Harper’s challenge in early 2009 was far more straightforward. That winter, the recession brought on by the U.S. financial market collapse was hitting Canada hard. The Conference Board of Canada’s 2009 winter forecast had the economies of Canada’s four biggest provinces—Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia—all shrinking. Big spending seemed obvious.

The board’s 2016 winter forecast presents a more complicated outlook. It sees only Alberta’s economy shrinking this year. Even Saskatchewan and Newfoundand and Labrador, the two other provinces slammed directly by the oil price plunge, are projected to grow a bit. Marie-Christine Bernard, the economist in charge of the board’s provincial forecasts, points to Ontario’s expected gross domestic product growth of 2.4 per cent for 2016 as “a good result,” and B.C.’s country-leading 2.7 per cent as “solid growth.” In Manitoba, Bernard notes, hydro development is keeping the economy expanding, while Nova Scotia benefits from new shipbuilding projects.

Beyond those significant province-by-province differences, there’s been a subtle relaxing, in recent weeks, of the wider sense of urgency about Canada’s economy. In early January, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz painted a grim picture, predicting it might take three to five years for Canada to recover from the oil price shock, an adjustment he warned would be “difficult and painful for individuals.” By early this month, though, Poloz decided to leave interest rates unchanged, and the central bank said financial market volatility “appears to be abating.” Also in the first week of March, Statistics Canada reported a stronger-than-expected bounce in exports for January, as Canadian firms finally seemed to be taking advantage of the low loonie to boost sales into a fairly healthy U.S. market.

Still, private sector forecasters are not declaring an end to anxiety. CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes says Morneau will deliver his rookie budget into an economy hungry for government spending. “Yes, we’ve seen some better data. Yes, the Bank of Canada seemed to suggest the risks are kind of balanced,” Mendes says. “Yes, there have been some upside surprises recently, but they were set against very low expectations.” He says the 2016 outlook remains “weak to modest.”

That’s assuming sizable stimulus from Ottawa, spending built into the CIBC’s projections. Back in the fall election campaign, the Liberals promised to hold annual deficits to no more than $10 billion. They abandoned that ceiling as the economy stayed sluggish. Last month, Morneau said the government was on track to post an $18.4-billion deficit in 2016-17, but that didn’t include any of the fresh spending he’ll announce on budget day. Mendes expects a $35-billion federal deficit for the coming year, and doesn’t regard that as remotely troubling. He points to Canada’s low level of government debt by international standards. “We’re starting from a very favourable point compared to countries like the U.S., Japan,” he says, “and they have no trouble coming to debt markets and still borrowing.”

Still, polls show many Canadians remain uneasy about deficits, and the Liberals will have to justify much bigger ones than they proposed in the campaign, even though most of the country isn’t in recession. So they are stressing long-term goals like more social housing, green infrastructure like public transit, and clean energy. But where will money flow first and fastest? Mendes says the basic choices are creating jobs where the oil sector has shed them, especially Alberta and Saskatchewan, and investing where export-driven growth potential is most promising, notably Ontario and Quebec. Leaning decisively either way would invite a political firestorm around regional favouritism. “You may see it evenly distributed,” says Mendes.

While Morneau will want credit for the infrastructure plan, he’ll also try not to let it hog the budget spotlight. The Liberals’ promised new Canada Child Benefit (CCB)could vie for top billing. The CCB will replace a raft of existing payments to parents, including the Tories’ signature monthly Universal Child Care Benefit and the income-tested Canada Child Tax Benefit. In his election platform, Trudeau promised nine out of 10 families will get more than they do now under the streamlined, tax-free CCB—an average of $2,500 extra a year from Ottawa for the typical family of four. That’s enough to pretty much guarantee a positive reception from voices on the left, like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which says the CCB will “drive down poverty among children and their parents.”

In fact, the CCB might well end up looking more impressively thought-out as social policy reform than anything about the infrastructure spending will as economic policy. Morneau has already signalled that the Liberal plan needs more work. He only recently named Dominic Barton, global managing director of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., to head a new advisory council on economic growth. If Dodge helped create the climate for the Trudeau government’s first budget, Barton has a chance to be the deep thinker who influences their next one.


Obama arrives in Cuba for what he calls a “historic visit”

Julie Pace and Michael Weissenstein, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 21st, 2016

Stepping into history, President Barack Obama opened an extraordinary visit to Cuba on Sunday, eager to push decades of acrimony deeper into the past and forge irreversible ties with America’s former adversary. “It is wonderful to be here,” he said.

Obama’s whirlwind trip is a crowning moment in his and Cuban President Raul Castro’s ambitious effort to restore normal relations between their countries. While deep differences persist, the economic and political relationship has changed rapidly in the 15 months since the leaders vowed a new beginning.

Wielding an umbrella on a rainy Havana afternoon, the president stepped off of Air Force One and was greeted by top Cuban officials – but not Raul Castro. The Cuban leader frequently greets major world figures upon their arrival at Jose Marti International Airport, but was absent on the tarmac. Instead, he planned to greet Obama on Monday at Palace of the Revolution.

Obama’s first stop was a Havana hotel, where he greeted U.S. Embassy staff and their families and noted the momentous nature of his visit – the first by a sitting U.S. president since 1928, when Calvin Coolidge arrived in a battleship.

“This is a historic visit, and it’s an historic opportunity to engage with the Cuban people,” said Obama, joined by first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha. Dozens of U.S. lawmakers and business leaders arrived separately for Obama’s visit.

After greeting embassy staff, Obama and his family toured Old Havana by foot, including the Havana Cathedral. They walked gingerly on the slippery wet stones in the square in front of the cathedral. A few hundred people gathered in the square erupted in applause and shouted Obama’s name as the first family stepped forward.

For more than 50 years, Cuba was an unimaginable destination for a U.S. president, as well as most American citizens. The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro’s revolution sparked fears of communism spreading to the Western Hemisphere. Domestic politics in both countries contributed to the continued estrangement well after the Cold War ended.

“He wanted to come to Cuba with all his heart,” 79-year-old Odilia Collazo said in Spanish as she watched Obama’s arrival live on state television. “Let God will that this is good for all Cubans. It seems to me that Obama wants to do something good before he leaves.”

Ahead of Obama’s arrival, counter-protesters and police broke up an anti-government demonstration by the Ladies in White group, whose members were taken into custody by female police officers in a scene that plays out in Havana each Sunday. They’re typically detained briefly and then released.

Obama’s visit was highly anticipated in Cuba, where workers furiously cleaned up the streets in Old Havana and gave buildings a fresh coat of paint. American flags were raised alongside the Cuban colours in parts of the capital, an improbable image for those who have lived through a half-century of bitterness between the two countries.

Many Cubans were staying home in order to avoid extensive closures of main boulevards. The city’s seaside Malecon promenade was largely deserted Sunday morning except for a few cars, joggers, fishermen and pelicans.

The president’s schedule in Cuba is jam-packed, including an event with U.S. and Cuban entrepreneurs. But much of Obama’s visit was about appealing directly to the Cuban people and celebrating the island’s vibrant culture.

“I don’t think that the Cuban people are going to be bewitched by North American culture,” Gustavo Machin, Cuba’s deputy director of U.S. affairs, told The Associated Press. “We don’t fear ties with the United States.”

A highlight of Obama’s visit comes Tuesday when he joins Castro and a crowd of baseball-crazed Cubans for a game between the beloved national team and Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. The president also planned a speech at the Grand Theater of Havana laying out his vision for greater freedoms and more economic opportunity in Cuba.

Two years after taking power in 2008, Castro launched economic and social reforms that appear slow-moving to many Cubans and foreigners, but are lasting and widespread within Cuban society. The changes have allowed hundreds of thousands of people to work in the private sector and have relaxed limits on cellphones, Internet and Cubans’ comfort with discussing their country’s problems in public, for example.

The Cuban government has been unyielding, however, on making changes to its single-party political system and to the strict limits on media, public speech, assembly and dissent.

Obama will spend some time talking with Cuban dissidents. The White House said such a meeting was a prerequisite for the visit. But there were no expectations that he would leave Cuba with significant pledges from the government to address Washington’s human rights concerns.

A major focus for Obama was pushing his Cuba policy to the point it will be all but impossible for the next president to reverse it. That includes highlighting new business deals by American companies, including hotel chains Starwood and Marriott and online lodging service Airbnb.

AP writers Josh Lederman, Andrea Rodriguez and E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report.

Spring is here but Mother Nature ignoring calendar

News staff and The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 21st, 2016

Spring arrived over the weekend, but the remnants of winter are still lingering around.

Chilly temperatures greeted elementary and high school students heading back to class after March Break. And before the first official week of spring is over, the GTA could get some significant snow.

There is a chance of flurries or showers on Monday with a high near 4 C. The low Monday night will be a chilly -2 C. Showers are expected to continue on Tuesday but the temperature will be a warmer 8 C.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said things could get really interesting Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

“At this point, the confidence is pretty high with this second system moving through, this Colorado low, that could bring us 10-plus centimetres of snow as we head through Thursday,” Taylor said.

Snow is also a possibility in April, she said. So, don’t put away your winter boots once March is done.

“This time of year [is] very transitional. Winter is battling it out with spring. Winter doesn’t want to leave us, so it’s not out of the ordinary to have accumulating snow at this time of year.”

As for right now, Thursday is expected to be a windy day with periods of snow and a high near 1 C.

The Easter weekend forecast doesn’t look too bad. It will be mainly cloudy on Good Friday with a high hear 2 C. Partly cloudy conditions continue on Saturday and Easter Sunday with highs near 4-7 C.

Mother Nature seems to be ignoring the calendar across Eastern Canada too.

The Maritimes are bracing for another blast of winter, with Environment Canada warning that parts of New Brunswick, northern Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island can expect up 20 centimetres of snow Monday.

The storm system will head to Newfoundland Monday night with a mix of snow, rain, ice pellets and freezing rain, along with winds gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour.

With files from Jaime Pulfer

Car theft involving 3-month old ends without incident

CityNews | posted Monday, Mar 21st, 2016

A frantic search for a 3-month old, which sparked a provincial-wide Amber Alert after he disappeared in a stolen car, has ended without incident.

Police say the infant was discovered, along with the car, more than three hours after he was taken by a male suspect from a parking lot of a Rexdale flea market. An employee of a hotel in the nearby Dixon and Martin Grove area saw the gray/silver 1997 Toyota Camry, which had been the subject of an intense manhunt Sunday afternoon. The employee called police who discovered no keys in the car but the infant was safe and sound.

“A father (who) had been at the flea market had got out of his vehicle to go inside for whatever reason and had left his three-month-old infant in the back seat,” said Toronto Police Const. Craig Brister. As the father came out of the market, an unknown man was driving away with his car.

“I just left the baby in the car and walk away, somebody came and grab it,” said father Vakil Yosufi. “By the time I try to get it, it was gone.”

Police say the suspect is described as a white male, between 40 and 45 years of age, 5’11”, short blonde hair and medium build. They will be dusting the car for fingerprints and checking for any surveillance footage from the hotel parking lot in hopes of tracking down the thief.

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