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Great Scott! It’s time for ‘Back to the Future’ Day

Derrik J. Lang, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2015

The future is today – if Back to the Future is to be believed.

The celebration of the so-called “Back to the Future Day” on Wednesday marks the date – Oct. 21, 2015 – that the characters Marty McFly, Emmett “Doc” Brown and Jennifer Parker famously journeyed from 1985 to 2015 in the sci-fi film trilogy’s second installment in 1989.

Back to The Future Part II envisioned a colorful 2015 with flying cars, hoverboards and self-tying shoelaces. While those doodads are hardly prevalent today, the film did accurately tease the rise of such technology as flatscreen televisions, biometric scanning and hands-free gaming. It also predicted the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series – an actual possibility with the Cubs contenders in the real-world playoffs, although maybe not for long.

“Back to the Future Day” is being celebrated Wednesday with an appearance by the original cast at a Lincoln Center screening in New York, as well as several fan-centric events and more than 1,700 theatres hosting screenings across the country.

Back to the Future filmmaker Robert Zemeckis’ trilogy has left a lasting impression on pop culture in the 30 years since the original film debuted, spawning a theme park attraction, video game and animated series.

Beginning on Wednesday, the town of Reston, Va., is ceremoniously changing its name to Hill Valley, McFly’s fictional hometown. The Washington West Film Festival will feature a marathon screening of the trilogy Wednesday and a Sunday screening of the original film, with appearances by stars Christopher Lloyd and Claudia Wells, as well as screenwriter-producer Bob Gale.

“Back to the Future Day will be celebrated in Southern California during the four-day “We’re Going Back” fan event. The festivities will occur at locations featured in the film series, including a tour of the Hill Valley town square on the Universal Studios lot, an “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance at the Hollywood United Methodist Church and a screening in the parking lot of the Puente Hills Mall, where McFly famously blasted off in Doc Brown’s time-travelling DeLorean.

The “We’re Going Back” fan event will also host the premiere of “Back in Time,” a documentary about the franchises’ legacy featuring interviews with such notables as Michael J. Fox and Steven Spielberg. The documentary will also be released digitally Wednesday.

Other celebrations include a re-creation of Hill Valley on Thursday in Fillmore, Calif., where part of the franchise was filmed, and Million McFly March, a gathering of fans dressed as McFly that will begin at the Burbank, Calif., location of Burger King depicted in Back to the Future.

For those who don’t want to leave home, the trilogy is exclusively streaming on Amazon Prime, and Universal is releasing a special edition trilogy box set in light-up packaging resembling Doc Brown’s flux capacitor.

Royals put Blue Jays on the brink of elimination

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2015

The Kansas City Royals hammered R.A. Dickey early then feasted on Toronto’s depleted bullpen, pushing the Blue Jays to the brink of playoff elimination with a 14-2 victory in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

The Royals now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can move on to the World Series with a win tomorrow afternoon at Rogers Centre.

Game 5 goes Wednesday with Toronto’s Marco Estrada facing Edinson Volquez in a rematch of Game 1 at Kauffman Stadium.

“We’ll be fine (Wednesday) if we get a good outing by Marco. We expect to,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said hopefully. “And it was ugly today, no doubt about that. That’s all I can say.”

Dickey was saddled with the loss in the shortest start in Jays post-season history after being shelled for five runs, four earned, over 1 2/3 innings.

The veteran knuckleballer gave up a pair of home runs among his four hits — a two-run homer to Ben Zobrist in Kansas City’s four-run first and a solo shot to former Jay Alex Rios in the second.

After Toronto’s Liam Hendriks pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, the Royals started beating up the Jays again in the seventh.

LaTroy Hawkins loaded the bases with none out, and reliever Ryan Tepera couldn’t get out the jam as Kansas City scored four runs to go up 9-2.

Tepera was tagged for three more runs in the eighth as fans at Rogers Centre made their way en masse toward the exits.

Game 5 on Wednesday is at 4 p.m. in Toronto.

Red tide: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals cruise to majority government

Michael Talbot | posted Tuesday, Oct 20th, 2015

The Conservatives said he’s “just not ready” but a nation vehemently declared otherwise on Monday night, vaulting Justin Trudeau’s Liberals from third party status to a majority government — the first time such a dramatic leap has been seen in Canadian politics.

“This is what positive politics can do,” a beaming Trudeau said during a spirited victory speech. “This is what a hopeful vision and a platform and a team together can make happen.

“Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight — it’s time for a change…a real change.”

The Tories will form the official Opposition, but Stephen Harper won’t be at the helm. The Canadian Press is reporting that Harper will step down as party leader, but will stay on as an MP for Calgary Heritage.

“We gave everything we have to give and we have no regrets whatsoever,” Harper told his disappointed supporters in Calgary.

“The people are never wrong. The people of Canada have elected a Liberal government, a result we accept without hesitation.”

The tone was set early Monday when the Liberals tore through Atlantic Canada, unceremoniously unseating several Conservative incumbents.

The red tide then began creeping across the country, with the Liberals gaining significant ground in Ontario and Quebec.

Trudeau’s victory brought a merciful close to a grueling and costly 78-day election that gave party leaders and hopeful MPs plenty of time to alienate or appeal to voters.

For weeks the airwaves were peppered with attack ads and party leaders squared off in five debates that touched on a range of topics, from the niqab and Syrian refugees, to pensions and public infrastructure.

The NDP watched a promising start fizzle. They were in the lead when the election began on August 2, but Thomas Mulcair failed to build on the early momentum and as summer faded, so did hopes for an orange crush.

Mulcair, who was re-elected in his riding of Outremont, was the first party leader to address his supporters after the results were in.

“I could not be prouder of the work that was accomplished,” he said. “We ran in this election with the most women and the most indigenous candidates…in the history of Canada. This is something that makes me immensely proud.”

“Tonight we have shown that the roots of the NDP continue to develop…The next chapter begins in our effort to build a better Canada.”

Late opinion polls had the NDP falling into a distant third and that’s where they remained while Trudeau soared.

His lead proved insurmountable and decades after his famous father, Pierre, stepped down as Prime Minister in 1984, a Trudeau would once again call 24 Sussex Drive home.

Campaign Roller Coaster:

Harper’s quest to become the first Prime Minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier to win four consecutive mandates got off to a rocky start and ended in ignominious fashion.

Ten days after the election began, his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, took the stand at the criminal trial of Sen. Mike Duffy.

The Senate expense scandal dogged the Conservative leader, who was inundated with questions about the ongoing drama that roused the public’s anger and provided plenty of ammunition for his opponents.

As the trial got underway, Trudeau seized the opportunity to further bludgeon his rival, saying Harper “turned Ottawa into a partisan swamp.”

“He has led the most secretive, divisive and hyper-partisan government in Canada’s history,” he said.

But the Liberal leader would soon be on the receiving end after his campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, resigned in light of a report that said he sent lobbying advice about a controversial pipeline to officials at TransCanada Corp.

Just days before voters headed to the polls, Trudeau addressed the sudden controversy.

“He acted in an inappropriate way a few days ago and when we found out about it, we sat down with him and he chose to do the responsible thing and step down from our campaign…”

Both Harper and Mulcair pounced.

“You can’t trust the Liberals. It’s the same old Liberal party,” Mulcair said.

Harper added: “I think we should all understand that the culture of the Liberal party that gave us the sponsorship scandal has not changed and it will not change.”

According to the final opinion polls, Gagnier’s resignation didn’t affect Trudeau’s burgeoning run for Prime Minister, and he was widening his lead.

In a move that many felt reeked of desperation, a reeling Harper hosted the controversial Ford brothers, Rob and Doug, at a Conservative rally in Etobicoke, with Doug taking to the podium.

“God help this country,” he said. “It would be an absolute disaster if Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne were running this country.”

Trudeau, smelling blood, said Harper “should be embarrassed…to count on the support of Rob Ford for his re-election,” and on the last day of the election the Liberal leader confidently strolled into Harper’s turf to woo voters in Alberta.

The Liberals haven’t had an MP in Alberta since Anne McLellan lost her seat in 2006, but with the drastic decline in the once-thriving energy sector, Trudeau sensed a changing tide and made a spirited appeal.

“You deserve a government that doesn’t take your votes for granted, or that assumes it will have your votes because of where you live, and a government that understands that the time to invest in Alberta is now, when people need help.”

The battles and dramas that marked the long trail seemed to inspire voters to action.

More than three and a half million ballots were cast over four days of advanced polling, marking a 71 per cent increase over 2011 when advance polls were open for just three days.

With files from the Canadian Press

Harper’s legacy: smaller government, unified party, targeted benefits

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 20th, 2015

On election night 2006, Stephen Harper walked out in front of a room full of supporters and smiled at the country that had just voted for change.

The incoming prime minister told the crowd that the party would clean up Ottawa with the Accountability Act. They would cut the GST to five per cent. And the Conservatives would scrap the Liberal child care program and give money directly to parents.

He spoke of the big picture, saying the Canadian identity was not forged by government policy, nor did it flow from any one party or leader.

“The result tonight signals a change of government, not a change of country,” Harper said in his victory speech.

Yet after nine years in office, much has changed.

The federal government, in particular, has shrunk.

Taxes, such as the GST, have gone down and the tax code is sprinkled with tax credits.

The federal government has become less active in the daily lives of Canadians, with direct benefits replacing big government programs, for instance.

On the benefit front, the Conservative approach has become convention. Today’s Liberals promised a new child benefit of their own to replace the existing universal program. And the other parties have started to understand how to target pocketbook issues during elections that Harper used so effectively – and that voters are now acutely aware of.

“You can take it as a recognition of clarity of leadership and purpose when the other parties call for similar policies or small incremental change,” said Tim Hudak, the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

There is also one clear change that Harper has left on the political map:a unified Conservative party with a track record that spans a decade.

Observers say his efforts have inched federal politics to the right – although not as radically as some think, said Richard Nimijean, who teaches Canadian studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. Harper, he said, continued a path of slashing federal spending and tax cuts that started in the 1990s under the Liberal government of Jean Chretien.

The provinces have become bigger spenders, with provinces like Ontario still running deficits as the tax burden has shifted.

Moving the federal government back into a more activist role won’t be easy because the money to pay for new programs has to come from somewhere, said David McGrane, an associate professor of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

Cutting the GST by two points eliminated about $14 billion in annual government revenues. No government will want to increase the GST to pad the bottom line, McGrane said.

“That’s the largest thing that Stephen Harper has changed in Canada: just shrinking the size of government and doing so by reducing the tax base,” McGrane said.

(The Liberals instead have vowed to run deficits and raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians; they still plan to lower taxes on small businesses as the Conservatives planned, and cut employment insurance rates, but not as much as Harper proposed.)

His crime agenda, embedded in legislation, won’t be easily undone, even as the courts acted as a check on government power. Calls for Senate reform, which Harper once championed, grew louder as the upper chamber was engulfed in a spending scandal sparked by Harper appointees.

He recognized Quebec as a distinct society – looking to eliminate separatist sentiment in the province – and apologized to the survivors of residential schools, even though his government’s relationship with First Nations was problematic.

The residential school apology and the Truth and Reconciliation commission, combined with general prudence on spending and heavily investing to stabilize the economy during the recession six years ago will “all stand the recollection of this government well,” said Hugh Segal, a former Conservative senator.

There were also mistakes during Harper’s time in office, Segal said, pointing to anti-labour legislation and the cancellation of the long-form census.

“But governing for 10 years is a rare privilege, and Conservatives have no reason to be bitter,” Segal said. “Conservatives need to be thankful, respectful of the voters’ choice and reflect on how to regain the broad moderate centre clearly deserted in this campaign.”

Goins finds redemption with ‘perfect game’ for Blue Jays

Sportsnet | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2015

TORONTO — You mess up. You stand up. You do the right thing and then you find yourself in the middle of a very public drama involving one of your team’s star players, at a time when all the eyes of the game are on you.

Ryan Goins found redemption Monday night at Rogers Centre, blessed by one of the few sops offered you by this frustrating, failure-filled game. Blessed by tomorrow; blessed by the next game.

“Ryan’s probably my best friend on the team,” Kevin Pillar said following theToronto Blue Jays‘ 11-8 win over the Kansas City Royals. “He’s been with me a lot in the minors. We came up together. And that play … that’s not how he was going to go down. That’s not how he was going to be remembered.”

No, it won’t be. Two tomorrows after Goins took the blame for a bloop single into right field that fell in front of Jose Bautista and started a Royals resurgence in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, the Blue Jays second baseman cobbled together a 2-for-4 performance with a pair of runs scored, a home run and three RBIs. That’s at the plate. In the field, he made three putouts and had eight assists, one of them to start the seventh inning when he slid to his right, whirled and jumped to his feet to throw out the speedy Lorenzo Cain. As the Royals would show with their ninth-inning rally, any ground ball is a potential game-changer.

The Blue Jays have written their offensive story for most of the season with the middle of their order, but Pillar and Goins emerged as a useful bottom of the order as the season went on. “We’re two guys used to being at the top of the order in the minors,” Pillar said Monday, reiterating a statement he’s made often.

Pillar also scored two runs and had a run-scoring double and it was his head-first, left-hand swipe of home plate that brought in the second run on Goins’ double. Television replays appeared to show Johnny Cueto, the Royals starter, raising his knee on the play. Pillar, who has hit safely in 25 of his last 26 games and is hitting .376 over that time, said he was going to take a look at the videotape before commenting.

It was quite a night for the bottom of the order, with Pillar signalling their intentions in the first inning when he crashed into the centre-field wall making a catch off a Cain liner. Pillar also stole second base uncontested just ahead of Goins’ double; indeed, you can make the case that it was the Blue Jays’ eighth and ninth hitters that really put the screws to Cueto.

Pillar was terse in his defence of Goins’ play in Game 2, which resulted in Bautista and Joe Magrane of the MLB Network getting into a back and forth on social media. Never mind that there were plenty of former players who believed Bautista had to make the catch in Game 2 — even more thought he missed an opportunity to stand up for a teammate. Pillar wouldn’t go down that road after Monday’s game, but he did take a shot at “people outside the clubhouse,” who implied that Goins’ mistake cost the team Game 2. “He didn’t deserve that … not from where he started from,” Pillar said.

Goins’ glove has been major-league ready for a couple of seasons. It was his bat that lagged and even now there are people in the organization who will tell you he is destined for utility duty. At least the Blue Jays can see a role for him; two years ago, that wasn’t certain. He is easy to lose in this clubhouse of big personalities and big numbers, because he doesn’t have an ounce of self-promotion in him. (Asked about the at-bat that resulted in the double, he said: “Got down 0-2. And then it was a battle.”)

Bautista took Goins shopping for a Canada Goose winter jacket on Monday. “A makeup gift,” Goins said. “I know he (Jose) has my back every day. I don’t read anything from the outside sources. He came up to me on the plane and told me he had my back, and we moved past it, and that’s what we did today.”

Goins’ manager, John Gibbons, said that his second baseman “has been carrying that load around a little bit. But he stepped up, really got us on the board with that great at-bat.

“It was,” Gibbons added, “the perfect game for him.”

And who knows what the next tomorrow holds?

Spectators torn between Jays game and federal election in Toronto

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2015

Baseball fans and political junkies alike have gathered at a west-end Toronto bar to take in the blue moon of a Blue Jays playoff game alongside a federal election.

The owners of The Longest Yard have been broadcasting election nights — federal, provincial and municipal — since 2000.

But the bar owned by Debra DeMonte and Gwyn Williams is among only a few in the city showing both the baseball game and the results of the election tonight.

Williams says they’ve long embraced sports and politics, part of the trifecta of subjects mainly discussed at bars — the third being sex.

He says baseball is similar to politics in that there is a winner and a loser and the result is usually due to someone capitalizing on another’s mistakes.

Mike O’Connor says he came down to the bar because it’s the only place he knows that will show both the game and the election, which he calls the perfect combination for a Monday night.

Atlantic Canada gives Liberals early boost as polls close on east coast

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2015

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals got an early boost from voters in Atlantic Canada as polls closed across the country’s easternmost time zones Monday, signalling the beginning of the end for the longest election in modern Canadian history.

The campaign, which began on a sweltering August long weekend, ended under a threat of October frost.

A red tide began in Newfoundland and Labrador — where Liberals were on track to sweep all seven seats — and also spread into Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. in the early going.

The governing Conservatives held 13 of Atlantic Canada’s 32 seats and the NDP held six when the election was called, but Liberals were leading in all 32 of the region’s ridings in early vote counting, and were picking up almost two out of every three votes cast.

High-profile Tories and New Democrats went down to defeat in the east, including Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, and NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie.

Liberals held just 36 seats across the entire country when the election was called Aug. 2.

For the 2015 election, there is no longer a blackout on transmitting voting results while polls are still open in other parts of the country — a ban that had become impossible to enforce in the age of the Internet.

While ballot counting starts in one end of the country, exhausted party workers in other provinces are still getting out their vote in what has been shaping up as an epic battle that’s as much about gut-level values as election platforms.

The hope is that by the end of the night, many questions will be answered.

Will the Liberals become the first third-place party in federal history to leap straight into government in a single election? Is Canada ready for another Trudeau as prime minister?

Or can Stephen Harper become the first prime minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1908 to win four consecutive mandates? And if he doesn’t win another majority — meaning 170 seats in the newly expanded House of Commons — will he survive as Conservative party leader?

Can NDP Leader Tom Mulcair maintain the party’s hard-won 2011 grip on official Opposition status?

Harper and wife Laureen appeared in good spirits as they arrived in the new riding of Calgary Heritage to cast ballots.

“It’s a nice blue sky,” said the Conservative leader. “That’s how I’m feeling.”

With his wife Sophie and children in tow, Trudeau marked a ballot at a polling station in an Italian-Canadian cultural centre in his Montreal riding of Papineau.

When Parliament was dissolved, the Conservatives held 159 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, the NDP had 95 and the Liberals 36, with another 18 seats either vacant, held by Independents or shared between the Green party (two seats) and the Bloc Quebecois and a splinter group.

Due to population growth, 30 new seats have been added this election, including 15 in Ontario, six each for Alberta and British Columbia and three more for Quebec.

But the new ridings mean most old riding boundaries also had to be redrawn, literally reconfiguring the electoral map and making seat projections all the more difficult. Combine that with some spectacular polling embarrassments in recent provincial elections and today’s outcome remains very much up in the air.

“There’s a whole pile of new (riding) configurations, 30 new seats,” pollster Frank Graves of Ekos Research said as the campaign wound down.

“There’s some complex vote-splitting that we don’t know how it will work in those new ridings. We certainly don’t know who’s going to turn out to vote. That’s always critical.”

Some 3.6 million Canadians cast ballots during the four-day advance polling period on the Thanksgiving long weekend — an increase of 71 per cent over the 2011 election, when only three days of advance polls were held.

Whether that increased voter turnout carries into the main event is another question that will be answered today. Just 61.4 per cent of eligible electors cast a ballot in 2011, up marginally from the 58.8 per cent in 2008 — the lowest ever in a federal election.

The Elections Canada website was briefly unavailable early today due to a high volume of web traffic.

Some polling stations in the hotly contested riding of Winnipeg Centre opened up to an hour late because Elections Canada workers cancelled at the last minute. The agency wouldn’t say exactly how many people didn’t show up as promised but said it was more than a dozen.

Overall though, there appeared to be only scattered voting glitches.

“There are sporadic accounts of longer lines, but that’s normal, especially during peak times,” said Elections Canada spokeswoman Natalie Babin Dufresne.

There were reports of voters with face coverings — including skeleton masks and even a pumpkin — at polling stations, an apparent reaction to the controversy over whether women should be permitted to wear a niqab at citizenship ceremonies.

A face covering is permitted at the polls if the voter swears an oath attesting to their status as an elector and shows the required identification, said Babin Dufresne.

Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde — who initially said he wouldn’t vote in order to maintain his neutrality, then changed his mind — tweeted about his trip to the polls.

The Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe cast his ballot and said he was happy with the reaction he received from voters who welcomed him back after a hiatus from the party leadership. “There’s always a phrase that stands out in a campaign and this time it was, ‘Thank you for coming back’ from beginning to end.”

Green Leader Elizabeth May, who voted in Sidney, B.C., took a polling-station selfie photo with her daughter and tweeted her prediction of a record high voter turnout. She planned to be in Victoria with fellow candidates to watch the results roll in.

Mulcair, who voted in an advance poll, checked out the NDP’s electoral machinery in his home riding of Outremont in Montreal and thanked volunteers.

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