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Loblaw store expansion to create 20,000 jobs this year

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 12th, 2016

A women carts out their groceries from Loblaws in Toronto on May 1, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Loblaw is planning to build about 50 new stores and renovate 150 existing ones this year.

The stores will include both grocery stores and Shoppers Drug Mart locations, creating about 20,000 new jobs.

Catherine Thomas, Loblaw’s director of external communication, said in an email that the jobs will be approximately 5,000 new store employees and roughly 15,000 construction jobs.

The new store jobs will increase Loblaw’s employee base by 2.6 per cent. Loblaw employs about 192,000 full- and part-time workers, according to its most recent annual information form.

Loblaw will invest $1 billion in the expansion, while Choice Properties REIT, a real estate investment trust, will contribute $300 million.

Letters addressed to Santa 12 years ago turn up in Toronto man’s closet

CRISTINA HOWORUN | posted Tuesday, Apr 12th, 2016

It was buried at the back of David Asquino’s closet – a box filled with childhood dreams and Christmas wishes that didn’t make it to the North Pole. When Asquino opened the box he was “surprised and disappointed” to find about 100 sealed envelopes destined for Santa Claus.

“When a kid opens a letter from Santa, it is one of the greatest things, so to deprive them of that is kind of disgusting,” the Toronto man says. The box was left behind by his ex-girlfriend, a Canada Post employee who was supposed to help Santa respond to those letters a decade ago.

The Santa writing program was launched 35 years ago, and since then, Canada Post employees and retirees have helped to deliver 25 million letters to the North Pole. Volunteer elves help Santa respond to each of those letters, but it doesn’t always work out. In 2007, for example, several Ottawa-area families were shocked to find inappropriate comments and remarks in Santa’s responses. Canada Post cracked down and instituted a more vigorous tracking procedure for North Pole-bound mail, but that was several years after this batch was lost.

“I just want to make sure that something is sent back to the families,” Asquino explains. “Something that says ‘sorry, the elves misplaced it, here he is,’” he says, referring to a response from Santa Claus.

“Santa didn’t get any of these letters at all.”

He called Canada Post to report the box of mail and an investigator picked it up and launched an investigation. “Canada Post takes this matter seriously and is investigating,” says Jon Hamilton, a spokesperson for the Crown corporation.

“Santa requested the letters be sent to the North Pole as soon as he heard. The weekend winter weather helped us complete that special delivery. Postal elves are awaiting Santa’s instructions.”

Which means 12 years and four months after they wrote to St. Nick, several teenagers and young adults could finally get the response they’ve been waiting for.

Back from sore back, Marco Estrada throws seven scoreless innings in Jays win

NEIL DAVIDSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Apr 11th, 2016

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada goes into his windup against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning of a spring training baseball game Friday, March 25, 2016, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TORONTO – Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada, making his season debut after a sore back, threw seven shutout innings to halt the Blue Jays’ four-game losing streak with a 3-0 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.

Josh Donaldson provided some late excitement with a booming home run, his fourth of the season, to the second deck in left-centre field off Boston reliever Noe Ramirez to open the eighth.

Estrada, in his 100th career start, struck out eight while limiting the Red Sox to five hits and two walks in an economical 91-pitch outing that featured 62 strikes. He exited on a strong note, retiring nine of the 10 last batters he faced before a Rogers Centre sellout of 46,158.

Estrada (1-0) outduelled Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright, who blanked the Jays for 5 2/3 innings after giving up two runs in the first.

After three blown save opportunities by the bullpen and a difficult outing for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Toronto (3-4) needed some shutdown pitching. Estrada obliged, carrying on from where he left off last season.

The 32-year-old went 13-8 with a 3.13 ERA in 2015 with opposition batters hitting an AL-low .203 against him. He was rewarded with a two-year contract worth US$26 million.

Boston (3-2) could not make it three come-from-behind wins in a row as the Toronto bullpen, in the person of Drew Storen and Roberto Osuna, did its job. Osuna gave up a single but struck out three in the ninth for his third save.

It was a rare baseball weekend at the Rogers Centre with knuckleballers throwing both days — Dickey on Saturday and Wright on Sunday

Wright, whom the Jays faced in Montreal at the end of the pre-season, was roughed up in a 32-pitch first inning that saw two passed balls by catcher Blake Swihart. Two singles, a passed ball and a walk loaded the bases. Kevin Pillar scored on an Edwin Encarnacion groundout and Donaldson followed him when second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s throw to first missed the target.

Estrada, meanwhile, needed just nine for a 1-2-3 first.

The Jays snuffed out a threat in the third when Jose Bautista and Ryan Goins combined to throw out Pedroia at the plate as he tried to score from first on Xander Bogaerts’ double. Goins, positioned on the foul line midway between first base and the outfield wall, nailed home plate with a perfect throw after Bautista retrieved the ball in the right-field corner.

Wright (0-1) settled down after the first and began to befuddle batters, including striking out Donaldson with a 64 m.p.h. curve ball in the third.

But after facing the minimum batters in the second and third, Wright loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth. A Darwin Barney groundout rescued the Red Sox.

Wright exited with two outs in the seventh. He gave up two runs (one unearned) on six hits with five strikeouts and three walks.

Boston was helped with three double plays on the day.

Coming into the game, Toronto had outscored the opposition 20-7 in the first five innings and been outscored 15-2 in the last three innings. Jays hitters had also struck out 66 times in the first six games, including at least 10 times in five of those outings.

Boston added five strikeouts to that Toronto total Sunday.

Prior to the game, the Jays placed reliever Frankin Morales on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 7, with left-shoulder fatigue. The move allowed Toronto to activate Estrada but left the Jays with just Brett Cecil as a left-handed option in the bullpen.

The Jays have an off day Monday before hosting the New York Yankees. The three-game series is the start of a 16-day stretch that also includes series against Boston and Baltimore away and Oakland and the White Sox at home.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Bryan Adams cancels Mississippi show over anti-gay law

CNN and News staff | posted Monday, Apr 11th, 2016

Bryan Adams has canceled a show in Mississippi over that state’s so-called religious freedom law, which is seen as deliberately anti-gay.

In a statement on his website, Adams said “I cannot in good conscience perform in a state where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation.”

He posted a similar message against Bill 1523 on his Facebook page.

Bryan Adams posted a statement on Facebook on April 10, 2016, explaining his decision to cancel a concert in Mississippi.
Bryan Adams posted a statement on Facebook on April 10, 2016, explaining his decision to cancel a concert in Mississippi.

Advocates of the new law say it protects people who follow their religious faith.

Opponents say it gives a license to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Adams’ concert was scheduled for the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi on April 14.

Bruce Springsteen recently canceled a show in North Carolina over a similar law.

Guitarist Steven Van Zandt told The Associated Press they decided not to perform Sunday in Greensboro because of the law, which requires transgender people to use bathrooms based on their biological sex and bans state lawsuits for any type of workplace discrimination.

NDP MPs to get back to work in Ottawa after leadership vote

CityNews | posted Monday, Apr 11th, 2016

New Democrat MPs will return to the House of Commons today after an emotional and divisive weekend that ended up costing Tom Mulcair his job as leader.

Not only does the federal party now have to contend with a potentially divisive leadership race within the next 24 months, it also has to contend with a now very-apparent rift with the governing Alberta NDP.

The two sides did battle over the policy proposals of the “Leap Manifesto,” a left-wing pivot that calls for a number of dramatic measures to ease climate change, including an end to pipeline development and fossil-fuel dependency — ideas not popular in oil-rich but job-starved Alberta.

Related stories:

NDP rejects Mulcair as leader, votes in support of holding leadership race

A leadership battle isn’t likely to make matters easier.

Nor will the fact Mulcair plans to remain as leader of the party until a successor is chosen, a decision that could be two years away.

After he failed to garner even a simple plurality in Sunday’s leadership vote, Mulcair says he plans to continue to work on issues in Parliament for as long as necessary.

There will be other challenges as well, like the financial burdens of an upcoming leadership race as ambitious candidates divide the party’s fundraising sources for their own individual campaigns. Some New Democrats also privately worry the party won’t be able to raise money with Mulcair as leader.

At the convention, the party signalled it has yet to receive all of its filings from Elections Canada, but it is projecting a debtload of as much as $5 million, a legacy of last year’s 78-day election campaign.

The NDP’s executive council, its key decision-making team, met on Sunday to initiate a process to determine next steps that will eventually set the wheels in motion for a leadership race.

“The membership’s desire for change and renewal has been heard,” the party’s national director Karl Belanger said in a letter to supporters.

“In the months ahead, we will work tirelessly with you to renew, rebuild, and strengthen this great party of ours. This convention has shown that New Democrats are dynamic, energized, and strongly invested in renewal.”

On Wednesday, the caucus is expected to meet as per usual, but they will have a lot more than usual to discuss.

Some members of caucus have already quietly questioned whether it’s in the best interests of the party and the goal of moving forward to keep Mulcair at the helm until his successor is chosen.

There’s also the question of who will replace him and how soon hopefuls will organize their campaigns.

No one openly challenged Mulcair in the weeks before Sunday’s vote, but some of his leadership rivals from 2012, including Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, were pointed in their refusal to endorse his leadership.

Former MP Peggy Nash, another leadership contender four years ago, penned a scathing critique of the NDP’s election campaign ahead of the convention.

B.C.’s Nathan Cullen, who finished third in the 2012 leadership race, endorsed Mulcair and said he’s no longer interested in leading the party.

Then there’s the matter of the Leap Manifesto, which highlighted the ongoing tug of war between those who wish to see the party return to its left-wing socialist roots and others who favour Mulcair’s centrist approach as the more likely path to forming a government — last year’s experience notwithstanding.

Peter Julian, a veteran B.C. MP, said Sunday the party is resilient and has already faced adversity including after October’s election result and the death of Jack Layton.

“Remember, this is a caucus and a party that lost our leader Jack Layton,” he said.

“I came into politics because of Jack Layton. We have gone through what, in many other parties, would be extraordinarily difficult situations. In our party, we have a resilience so we get back to work.”

Car slams into bus shelter near Lawrence and Morningside

CityNews | posted Monday, Apr 11th, 2016

No one was injured and weather may have been a factor as a car slammed into a bus shelter late on Sunday night.

It happened on Lawrence Avenue at Flerimac Road, east of Morningside Avenue, around 11 p.m.

The driver took out a garbage bin before hitting the shelter, sending shards of glass into the snow.

No charges will be laid, police tell CityNews.

No one was injured as a car slammed into a bus shelter on Lawrence Avenue late on April 10, 2016. CITYNEWS.
No one was injured as a car slammed into a bus shelter on Lawrence Avenue late on April 10, 2016. CITYNEWS.

Toronto under special weather statement with more snow on the way

CityNews | posted Monday, Apr 11th, 2016

Up to 5 centimetres of snow is expected overnight in the city and into the morning drive tomorrow.

Some areas stretching from Muskoka to the western end of Lake Ontario could see up to 10 cm.

There is also a freezing rain warning in place for dozens of areas outside of the GTA, calling for two to four hours of freezing rain on Sunday evening before it turns over rain by about midnight.

The entire system should be out of the city by 10 a.m. tomorrow morning with much warmer weather and rain in the forecast.

#ComeTogether for Blue Jays but don’t forget Line 2 closure this weekend

PATRICIA D'CUNHA AND AMBER LEBLANC | posted Friday, Apr 8th, 2016

Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Rangers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Chris Young.

Can you feel it? Blue Jays fever hits Toronto this weekend as the boys in blue make their home opener debut on Friday.

Whether you are one of the lucky ones who will be at the games, or watching them at home or a bar, the city will be buzzing and cheering for the home team.


The Toronto Blue Jays catcher celebrate after Russell Martin hits a three-run home run against the New York Yankees in Toronto on Sept. 23, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

If you don’t live Blue Jays 24-7, there are several events taking place this weekend, such as the Race Roster Spring Run-Off at High Park and the Food and Drink Market.

While making your weekend plans, a reminder that a portion of Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) is closed this weekend for TTC work.


Blue Jays home opening weekend

The echo of that legendary bat flip during Game 5 of last year’s magical American League East Division series still rings at the Rogers Centre.


After an eventful season last year, Jose Bautista and the boys in blue return home this weekend for their three-game home opener series, hosting the Boston Red Sox.

During opening weekend, not only do the first 45,000 fans get a 2016 schedule magnet, they’ll also receive a 2015 AL East Division Championship rally towel. On Sunday, the first 20,000 fans will get a 2015 AL East Division Championship pennant, the same day former Blue Jay David Price is set to make his Rogers Centre return, but this time as a member of the Red Sox.

Tickets for Saturday and Sunday are extremely scarce, and Friday’s home opener is sold out, but don’t worry: the season is 162-games long.

Race Roster Spring Run-Off at High Park
One of the first races of the year goes through High Park on Saturday. Runners can participate in either a 5K or 8K, with proceeds going towards the fight against prostate cancer.

After the race, runners can also feast on a pancake breakfast. Runners are encouraged to dress up, with a $100 gift certificate to Harry Rosen given to the best-dressed runner.

You can register on race day at the race help desk, which is located just south of the Bloor Street West entrance to High Park.

Toronto Food and Drink Market
With this lingering winter weather, you need something to warm your belly. Sure, you can cook up something at home, but why go through all that trouble when the Toronto Food and Drink Market awaits you this weekend?


‘Food truck alley’ at the Toronto Food and Drink Market in 2015. Photo via Facebook/TOfoodanddrinkmarket.

Head to the Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place and feast your way through various food and drink stalls, offering wine, beer and restaurant samples. Stroll down to the indoor food truck alley that houses several vendors including Tdots Naansense (Indian food) and Bake Three Fifty (cupcakes). And if that wasn’t enough food, discover Canadian cheese that you may not have tried before.

Click here for ticket information.

TIFF Kids Film Festival
There is no shortage of films to check out at movie theatres these days. But if you’re looking for something more engaging for your child, the TIFF Kids Film Festival offers a range of feature-length and short films that will spark their imagination and introduce them to new ideas and issues.

Some of the films include “Konigiri-Kun a Small Rice Ball” (from Japan), “Norma’s Story” (from Canada), “The Little Prince” (from France) and “Happy Mother’s Day” (from India).


Still from the short film “Konigiri-Kun a Small Rice Ball.” Photo via TIFF.net.

Kids and their parents can also check out Jump Cuts, short films created for young people by students from grades 4-8.

The film festival runs until April 6. Tickets for a regular screening are: $13 (adult), $9 (child), $10.50 (youth and senior).

Total Health Show
If you’re looking for a healthy spring boost, you’ll have hundreds of ideas in just one spot this weekend.

The Total Health Show takes over the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend. Among the 60 speakers: David Suzuki and Chef Michael Smith. Along with the over 200 exhibits, there will be a raw cafe and a spa oasis. Tickets are available at the door.

TTC and road closures

Line 2 closure
Subways won’t be running on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) between Jane and Christie stations this weekend due to track work.

Shuttle buses will be provided between Bathurst and Jane stations.

The subway closure is the latest in a series that started in March. The subway will be closed for at least a weekend every single month until December for TTC upgrades.

The next scheduled closure is on Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) between St. George to Lawrence West stations on April 16-17.



King and Charlotte closure
The intersection of King and Charlotte streets, east of Spadina Avenue, is closed until 5 a.m. on April 11 for TTC track replacement work and sidewalk repairs.

Eastbound traffic on King approaching Charlotte will detour to Spadina, while westbound traffic on King will divert to either University Avenue, John or Peter streets.

Pedestrian walkways and access to area businesses will be maintained.

During the closure, the 504 King streetcar will be on diversion with shuttle buses running on King Street between Church Street and Strachan Avenue. Click here for more information.

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