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- 09/27/17--09:10: _NAFTA talks wrap in...
- 09/26/17--16:52: _Toronto man charged...
- 09/26/17--15:57: _Bombardier hit with...
- 09/26/17--18:31: _Prince Harry went t...
- 09/27/17--08:09: _Trump, Republicans ...
- 09/27/17--07:02: _Business groups urg...
- 09/26/17--18:02: _Stouffville mayor o...
- 09/27/17--03:00: _Ontario bill will r...
- 09/27/17--03:00: _Sober since July, t...
- 09/27/17--11:45: _‘She’s still alive’...
- 09/27/17--14:08: _‘I’m anti-Muslim to...
- 09/27/17--16:53: _Alleged killers of ...
- 09/28/17--10:45: _Trump administratio...
- 09/28/17--10:28: _No bailout for aili...
- 09/28/17--10:16: _Province tries to a...
- 09/28/17--05:12: _’This is a disaster...
- 09/27/17--19:00: _Mother and child, 5...
- 09/28/17--09:58: _City on hook for $1...
- 09/28/17--03:00: _Refugee judge's dec...
- 09/28/17--03:00: _Why care about gett...
- 09/27/17--09:10: NAFTA talks wrap in Ottawa but contentious issues still lie ahead
- 09/26/17--16:52: Toronto man charged in travel agent scam
- 09/26/17--15:57: Bombardier hit with 219% duty on sale of jets to Delta Air Lines
- 09/26/17--18:31: Prince Harry went to the CN Tower on Tuesday and the crowd went wild
- 09/27/17--07:02: Business groups urge slowdown on Ontario’s $15 minimum wage hike
- 09/26/17--18:02: Stouffville mayor ordered to apologize for ‘disturbing’ behaviour
- 09/27/17--03:00: Ontario bill will reveal drug company payments to doctors
- 09/28/17--10:28: No bailout for ailing media outlets, Ottawa says
- 09/28/17--10:16: Province tries to allay business fears over minimum wage hike
- 09/28/17--05:12: ’This is a disaster’: Money starts to run out in Puerto Rico
- 09/28/17--09:58: City on hook for $1.6 billion to fix crumbling public housing
OTTAWA—Top trade ministers from Mexico, Canada and the United States met Wednesday to close out the latest round of NAFTA talks while stakeholders warned it will take a “Hail Mary” to complete negotiations by year’s end.
On Wednesday, the final day of the third round of negotiations, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative.
The three were scheduled to speak to reporters Wednesday afternoon on the progress of the talks so far.
But stakeholders — business leaders, unions and organizations with a stake in trade — cautioned that with three rounds of talks complete, much work — and the most contentious issues still lie ahead.
And some warned that the U.S. decision Tuesday to slap a hefty duty on Bombardier commercial jets — sparking a trade war in aerospace — could chill goodwill at the NAFTA negotiating table.
“This is very disappointing for Canada,” said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
“Inevitably any of these side issues runs the risk of contaminating the negotiations. That’s not good,” Beatty said.
Moises Kalach, head of trade for the Mexican national business council which is in close consultation with Mexico’s negotiating team, said he would be watching closely on how the arrival of the three ministers in charge of the NAFTA file would prod things at the negotiating table.
“A lot of things can really advance when the ministers join. I do think some issues have to go to the ministers.”
Rules of origin for made-in-North America content, dispute settlement and labour standards are big bones of contention right now.
Kalach said on the “technical side, the (negotiating) tables are advancing” especially since more specific proposals were laid out in certain areas. “Those are signs the process is moving forward.”
Canada’s Chrystia Freeland told reporters Monday that negotiators made progress “on a number of bread-and-butter trade issues which matter to Canadian businesses” such as electronic forms at the border, simplified origin declarations and regulatory harmonization.
The U.S. drive to change the rules of origin — requiring more U.S. content in goods — has sparked broad concern among business leaders who fear it could upset established supply chains across North America.
“A stand-alone U.S. domestic content rule is a concern . . . Given the amount of commerce that flows over both borders, any disruption to that would be problematic,” said Alex Russ, of U.S.-based Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which represents 950 companies worldwide that manufacture heavy off-road equipment for the construction, agricultural, forestry and mining industries.
There were concerns expressed too, that on many substantive positions, the U.S. government has yet to table its position.
“This is bit of hurry up and wait,” said Eric Miller, of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group.
“From everything we’re hearing, on very significant areas, we’re not seeing the text. It’s as if you have partners lined up on the dance floor but the music hasn’t started yet,” said Miller, a Washington-based consultant that represents Canadian entities.
He attributed that delay to the fact that U.S. negotiators are trying to “work through” how President Donald Trump’s protectionist campaign talk “translates into actual language in the negotiation.”
“What we are watching here in fact is a fundamental shaping of the Trump-era policy,” Miller said.
Dan Ujczo, a lawyer with the Detroit firm Dickinson Wright and advisor to companies on border issues said much work lies ahead.
“I think we’re getting to the point where it’s going to take a Hail Mary to get this done before the end of the year,” Ujczo said.
One clear sign of movement was a signal by Mexico’s negotiating team, in its consultations with Mexican business leaders as well as Canadian union leaders, that it was prepared to agree to inclusion of a enforceable chapter on labour standards in the main text of a re-negotiated NAFTA.
As the Star reported Tuesday night, Kalach said Mexico’s view is that it signed onto “modern labour standards” in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. has ditched.
He said if the American proposal is similar to what Mexico worked on within the TPP deal, “we feel that’s something we agree on.” That agreement required countries to comply with their own laws, he said, and “it also has its own dispute settlements for labour and environmental (standards) that we also agreed to when we were looking at TPP.”
Canadian unions say that doesn’t go far enough.
Mexico’s move aligns it more closely with American interests on labour standards, and pits it against a proposal by the Canadian team.
Canada, according to Unifor president Jerry Dias, wants tougher language that would take aim at so-called “right to work” laws in the United States, where states have passed laws that have effectively starved unions of money, by requiring the benefits of collective bargaining to be shared by workers who refuse to pay union fees.
NAFTA talks wrap in Ottawa but contentious issues still lie ahead
A 22-year-old Toronto man is facing charges after police alleged he posed as a travel agent and scammed several travellers into buying fraudulent tickets from him last summer.
Police said in a release on Tuesday that the travellers bought airline tickets ranging in price from $400 to $3,000, by Interac e-transfer from a travel agent between June and August.
These travellers were able to check the airline website and confirm their bookings. But, police said, the fraudulent bookings would be cancelled days later because of issues with a credit card used to book them.
Police said the fraudulent travel agent, who allegedly used several aliases, including Jack Chen and Jason Wang, was able to deposit the e-transfers for the tickets into his own bank account.
Police said they’re concerned that there are other victims.
Hangfeng Zhang, 22, was charged on Tuesday with two counts each of fraud under $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000.
He is due in court on November 9.
Toronto man charged in travel agent scam
OTTAWA—Bombardier’s hopes for breaking into the U.S. commercial aviation market took a massive blow on Tuesday, as the U.S. Department of Commerce proposed a hefty 219 per cent duty on its CSeries jets.
The department ruled in a preliminary decision that Bombardier benefited from improper government subsidies, which gave the Montreal-based company an unfair advantage when selling south of the border.
The investigation was sparked by a complaint from U.S. aerospace giant Boeing, after Bombardier secured a deal for up to 125 of its CS100s with Delta Air Lines in April 2016.
The list price for the planes is around $6 billion, but the actual amount of money involved in the deal has not been made public and Boeing alleges Bombardier offered them for much less.
The financial penalties aren’t officially due until Bombardier delivers the first CS100 to Delta, which is expected in the spring. They could also still be dropped or refunded.
The key will be whether the U.S. International Trade Commissions finds that Bombardier-Delta deal actually hurt Boeing’s business, a decision that’s not expected until the spring.
But the ruling gives Boeing momentum as the dispute drags on, and more leverage in any future talks between the Trudeau government and the Chicago-based company to reach a negotiated settlement.
Boeing wasted no time in declaring victory on Tuesday.
“Subsidies enabled Bombardier to dump its product into the U.S. market, harming aerospace workers in the United States and throughout Boeing’s global supply chain,” the company said in a statement.
The dispute is not about limiting innovation or competition, it continued. “Rather, it has everything to do with maintaining a level playing field and ensuring that aerospace companies abide by trade agreements.”
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in his own statement that while the United States values its relationship with Canada, “even our closest allies must play by the rules.”
Meanwhile, Bombardier and the Trudeau government appeared to be reeling. Most had expected the Commerce Department to rule against Bombardier, but the size of the proposed duty was surprising.
Boeing had been asking for an 80 per cent duty.
“The magnitude of the proposed duty is absurd and divorced from the reality about the financing of multibillion-dollar aircraft programs,” Bombardier said in a statement.
“Boeing is seeking to use a skewed process to stifle competition and prevent U.S. airlines and their passengers from benefiting from the CSeries.”
In Europe, meanwhile, Bombardier’s rail business, Bombardier Transportation, faces a substantially larger rival after railway manufacturers Siemens Mobility and Alstom announced a merger.
The memorandum of understanding announced Tuesday is described as a merger of equals with each owning half the shares of the new company, to be headquartered in Paris. The Mobility Solutions business will be run out of Berlin.
The combined company to be called Siemens Alstom will have $18 billion (U.S.) in revenues and $1.4 billion in adjusted EBIT. Annual cost savings of $554.2 million are expected four years after closing.
Alstom and Siemens said the two businesses are largely complementary in terms of activities and geographies.
“We put the European idea to work and together with our friends at Alstom, we are creating a new European champion in the rail industry for the long-term,” Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said.
However, analyst Cameron Doerksen of National Bank Financial said Bombardier Transportation can still succeed as a stand-alone company.
In fact, John Zechner, chair of Toronto-based investment management firm J. Zechner Associates, said the emergence of a new rail partnership gobbling up rail and light transit contracts across Europe could heighten the importance of the Toronto and other North American deals for Bombardier.
Bombardier Transportation would be the world’s third-largest railway company with a strong presence in France, Germany and Britain. It has a four-year backlog of orders and is moving toward an 8-per-cent EBIT margin.
While a trade war with Boeing and a bulked up Siemens/Alstom partnership creates new headwinds for Bombardier, the company has not indicated any further delays in its delivery schedule for low-floor Toronto Transit Commission streetcars as a result, said Stuart Green, a TTC spokesperson.
Bombardier Transportation communications head Marc-André Lefebvre reiterated that the company is on track to deliver the entire fleet of streetcars by a deadline of the end of 2019, citing the deployment of extraordinary resources to the effort.
“As we stated in July, in all transparency we’ve informed the TTC months ahead that there is a potential challenge to meeting the full target of 70 streetcars for 2017,” he said in an email.
After delivery delays, the current contract between the TTC and Bombardier calls for delivery of 204 low-floor cars first ordered in 2009 to arrive by 2019, including 70 by the end of this year. The deal offers up an option to purchase another 60 cars at the same price per car as the original contract.
Union representatives of Bombardier workers said the Boeing case highlights flaws in Canada’s trade agreements and the ability of big companies to use trade rules and the complaint processes to control the market.
“Who pays the price for these corporate fights? We do, the workers,” said Unifor Local 112 president Scott McIlmoyle during a rally last week at the Bombardier aerospace plant in Downsview.
With files from Michael Lewis
Bombardier hit with 219% duty on sale of jets to Delta Air Lines
A mass of adoring fans greeted Prince Harry on Tuesday night as he visited the CN Tower for a reception connected with the Invictus Games.
More than an hour before his scheduled arrival, people lined up on either side of metal barriers to get a look at the prince. Some photographers anticipated him at the doors of the tower, while others packed in near the “Canada 150” sign to snap him walking by.
People stood on concrete blocks and nearly fell over each other trying to get a selfie with him, or simply capture an image of the man who is fifth in line to the British throne.
“I got two pictures of him, but my phone died,” one woman told her friends. “I need one more!”
The prince took his time walking down the path, engaging with fans who called his name endlessly until he disappeared into the Toronto landmark for a reception for the Invictus Games Foundation. The prince is the foundation’s patron.
After he entered the building, people squealed with excitement as they compared photos and videos of the prince.
Harry has visited the CN Tower before. In 1991, 7-year-old Harry and his older brother, William, enjoyed a day looking through telescopes, initially undetected by photographers and fans of the Royal Family.
“Oooh, it’s so high,” Harry said on that occasion. (No word on what he thought of it Tuesday.) Harry and William also enjoyed the space shuttle simulator.
The royal rascals each wore Canadian tuxedos — a denim jacket with jeans — while they waited for their parents to arrive from London. Before long, reporters and photographers took notice, and the boys assumed a more buttoned-up disposition.
On Tuesday, Harry was much more welcoming of the attention.
The reception Tuesday brought together athletes and other people involved in the Games. They received polite applause from the crowd, but nothing compared to that of the founder of the Games.
Prince Harry went to the CN Tower on Tuesday and the crowd went wild
WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are proposing a far-reaching, $5 trillion plan Wednesday that would cut taxes for corporations and potentially for individuals, simplify the tax system and nearly double the standard deduction used by most Americans.
The plan is sweeping in scope but omits critical, controversial details that are likely to take months to work out in a bitterly divided, GOP-led Congress. The political stakes are high for Republicans and for Trump, whose agenda has largely stalled as the GOP abandoned efforts to repeal the Obama-era health law. Republicans see tax overhaul as a once-in-a-generation opportunity that could produce a large political payoff, though some polls show the public is skeptical that average Americans will benefit much.
“Too many in our country are shut out of the dynamism of the U.S. economy, which has led to the justifiable feeling that the system is rigged against hardworking Americans,” says the blueprint, obtained by The Associated Press. “With significant and meaningful tax reform and relief, we will create a fairer system that levels the playing field and extends economic opportunities to American workers, small businesses and middle-income families.”
There are no details on how much it would cost, though back-of-the-envelope estimates by outside experts put the tax cuts in the range of $5 trillion over the next 10 years. The net cost to the federal debt would be far less — probably in the range of $1.5 trillion under deal put together by Senate Budget Committee Republicans — and the real battles will come as lawmakers quarrel over which tax breaks might be eliminated to help pay the balance.
The plan would collapse the number of personal tax brackets from seven to three.
The individual tax rates would be 12 per cent, 25 per cent and 35 per cent — and the plan recommends a surcharge for the very wealthy. But it doesn’t set the income levels at which the rates would apply, so it’s unclear just how much of a tax change there might be for a typical family, and whether its taxes would be reduced.
“This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally rethink our tax code. We can unleash the economy — promoting growth, attracting jobs, and improving American competitiveness in the global market,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
But Democrats swiftly condemned the plan.
“Each of these proposals would result in a massive windfall for the wealthiest Americans and provide almost no relief to middle-class taxpayers who need it most,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the Capitol. “It seems that President Trump and Republicans have designed their plan to be cheered in the country clubs and the corporate boardrooms.”
The plan would nearly double the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families. This basically would increase the amount of personal income that is tax-free.
Deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving would remain, but the plan seeks to end most other itemized deductions that can reduce how much affluent families pay.
But a battle is already brewing among Republicans over a move to eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes, which is especially valuable to people in high-tax states such as New York New Jersey and California. Republicans from those states are vowing to fight it.
The plan would retain existing tax benefits for college and retirement savings such as 401(k) contribution plans.
It would seek to help families by calling for an increased child tax credit and opening it to families with higher incomes. The credit currently is $1,000 per child.
Also proposed is a new tax credit of $500 to help pay for the care of the elderly and the sick who are claimed as dependants by the taxpayer.
The estate tax — which is paid by those with multimillion-inheritances — would be eliminated, a boon for wealthy individuals who inherit businesses, investments and real estate. Also slated for elimination is the alternative minimum tax, a supplemental tax for certain individuals, corporations and estates that enjoy exemptions lowering their income tax bills.
Companies would find themselves paying substantially lower tax rates, part of an effort to make U.S. businesses more competitive globally. The plan would impose a new, lower tax on corporate profits stashed overseas, and create a new tax structure for overseas business operations of U.S. companies.
Corporations would see their top tax rate cut from 35 per cent to 20 per cent. For a period of five years, companies could further reduce how much they pay by immediately writing off their investments.
New benefits would be given to firms in which the profits double as the owners’ personal income. They would pay at a 25 per cent rate, down 39.6 per cent. This creates a possible loophole for rich investors, lawyers, doctors and others, but administration officials say they will design measures to prevent any abuses.
The administration says the tax plan is focused on helping middle class families. But — despite six months of talks with congressional leaders — the outline still lacks vital details about how middle class families would fare. There are also signs that the wealthiest sliver of Americans could still reap tremendous benefits from the proposed changes, even though Trump has suggested that rich will not be better off.
Trump, Republicans propose $5-trillion tax plan, cuts to individual and corporate rates
Another day, another doom and gloom report about the impact of hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis says the number of jobs at risk would decrease by almost three-quarters if the $11.40 hourly rate is gradually increased over five years instead of the next 15 months.
“While the proposed changes will see $11 billion in wage stimulus flow into the economy in the next two years, a remaining $12 billion problem exists which will lead to jobs lost, added costs, and general damage to the Ontario economy,” the report warned Wednesday.
It was commissioned by the fledgling Keep Ontario Working coalition, which includes the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Restaurants Canada, the Retail Council of Canada, and other business lobby groups.
Karl Baldauf, the chamber’s vice president of policy and government, said the rapid rise in the wage “poses great risk to our economy and cannot be resolved through offsets alone.”
The report came one day after TD Bank estimated that raising the wage to $14 in January and $15 in 2019 could cost the province up to 90,000 jobs.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn emphasized that “Ontario’s economy is strong right now” and can absorb higher wage costs.
“We’re experiencing strong economic growth, manufacturing exports are up, and businesses are hiring as a result. Despite this growth, we know that not everyone is sharing in the benefits,” said Flynn.
“This is why our government — after extensive consultations with businesses, organized labour and workers’ advocates — decided to take the bold steps needed to support workers and their families, and create more fairness and opportunity for all hard-working Ontarians,” he said.
“Our economy created more than 30,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate is sitting at 5.7 per cent, the lowest level in more than a decade. Thanks to our strong economy, we’re now in a position to move forward with positive changes for workers in Ontario.”
Flynn noted that studies by the OECD, the U.S. Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives contradict such grim prognoses about the impact of higher wages.
But the province’s independent Financial Accountability Office has claimed 50,000 jobs could be lost because businesses will have to lay off workers to cope with a rising payroll.
Business groups urge slowdown on Ontario’s $15 minimum wage hike
Whitchurch-Stouffville Mayor Justin Altmann will have to apologize, respect staff, and lose a month’s pay, after fellow councillors accepted the penalties put forward in a damning ethics report that found his CSI-style wall constituted “workplace harassment.”
Councillors came to the decision Tuesday evening, despite a lengthy statement from Altmann’s lawyer, Hermie Abraham, suggesting the probe was biased and lacked natural justice and that the entire investigation be reviewed.
In a memo submitted to council, Altmann defended his decision to create his “mind-map” — made up of photos of staff, colleagues and members of the public connected by black lines — and responded to a number of allegations made by staff about his behaviour over the past few years.
Details of Altmann’s behaviour were presented to council Tuesday by integrity commissioner Suzanne Craig, who had been investigating the wall since staff filed a complaint in March.
In her 30-page report published Friday, she concluded that Altmann’s extensive CSI-wall was “vexatious” and “disturbing to staff” and amounted to a “serious incident of workplace harassment.”
In her report, Craig asked council to consider such penalties as asking Altmann for a formal apology, imploring him to interact respectfully with staff and suspending his pay for 30 days. The maximum penalty under the Municipal Act is to dock an elected official three months’ pay.
The mayor’s salary was about $105,000 in 2015, which also included pay he received for sitting on regional council.
On Tuesday, in a packed council room that included security guards and a police presence, some councillors suggested the presentation of the report was “punitive enough.”
“I believe the mayor should apologize for how he made staff feel for putting up the wall, and he should commit to creating a better work environment with staff,” said Ward 5 councillor Iain Lovatt, adding docking Altmann’s pay seems “unnecessarily punitive.”
“I believe the fact that we are here today and have faced national scrutiny for months, and have had to listen to this report is punitive enough.”
But after a lengthy in-camera meeting, councillors decided to accept all of the integrity commissioner’s recommendations.
“We have to show support for our staff,” said Ward 3 councillor Hugo Kroon.
The memo submitted by Altmann’s lawyer tries to explain why the mayor created the wall display in the first place, saying it was his attempt to conduct a “mini-investigation” into anonymous packages he believes were sent out to the public to “discredit, threaten and harass the mayor.”
According to the document, the mayor began to create the wall on Jan. 4 in his private office washroom, and included members of the public and council related to an ongoing lawsuit in the town.
“The wall was simply a mind-mapping exercise to ‘connect the dots’ between breached town policies, the anonymous packages, and matter with (the lawsuit),” the memo says. “It is our submission that by creating the diagram on the wall in his private bathroom, the mayor would have not anticipated, known or believed that various staff members would be entering his private bathroom for the purpose of viewing the wall.”
In the memo, Altmann takes exception to additional complaints made by staff but not investigated by Craig, as they came before the code of conduct was implemented in the town.
“The very inclusion of these supplementary allegations creates a prejudice to the mayor in the minds of the reader of the final report,” said Abraham.
The mayor refuted many of those allegations, including that he told a staffer he was “going to blow up this place.” What he actually meant, the memo said, was that “it was time to expose the corporation” and not blow up the place with a violent meaning.
It was also alleged he told certain staff he was “their king” and they were supposed to defend him. The memo explained that the mayor used an analogy that corporations were like monarchies and lords and armies protect the interest of the king, and that “staff should ensure that council members and the mayor are protected.”
It was also alleged that the mayor replaced furniture in the councillor boardroom with his own dining room furniture and when he was confronted by staff, he told them “you need to learn your place because I am the CEO of the corporation and I am your boss.” His response in the memo was that there was no furniture policy in place and he was given authority and approval to do so. He admitted to yelling at the staff member and later apologized.
The mayor also took issue with a complaint that he allowed a blind therapy dog named Smiley to wear the mayoral chain of office when the dog and its owner were being honoured during the town’s strawberry festival. In response, Altmann explained that Smiley had been recognized internationally and that placing the chain of office on the dog was not a show of disrespect for the mayor’s office. Further, the memo said, there were no rules in place that prohibited the use of the chain of office in this manner.
When questioned about the mayor’s concerns around fairness, Craig says the mayor had “reasonable opportunities to respond” and she went “beyond” her obligation in the code protocol.”
Stouffville mayor ordered to apologize for ‘disturbing’ behaviour
Ontarians may soon know whether their doctor, dentist or pharmacist is getting money from Big Pharma.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins is introducing new legislation Wednesday that will require drug companies and medical device makers to publicly report cash payments, free dinners and other benefits they’ve given to health-care professionals.
“I know that Ontarians want and deserve more access to information that can help them make better decisions about their own health care,” Hoskins said.
The payment information will be posted online in a searchable database and will be broken down by the name of the health-care professional who received it. Hoskins said the payment details will be for all 26 regulated health-care professions, from nurses to psychologists, as well as hospitals and other health-care organizations.
Hoskins said he anticipates the data collection for public reporting will begin in 2019.
If passed, the legislation will make Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to shine a light on the financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and medical professionals.
Critics of the payments say they raise the potential for conflicts of interest as they can influence doctors’ decisions on what drugs to prescribe.
Right now, there is little known on how much money or gifts actually pass hands from drug companies to Ontario’s health professionals. These payments, known as “transfers of value,” can include grants for research, fees for speeches or participation on advisory committees and travel costs to attend far-flung conferences.
“When these transfers of value take place they can have unintended consequences,” Hoskins said. “This isn’t suggesting at all the transfers are inappropriate. It’s important that the value and nature of those transfers . . . be made transparent.”
News of the proposed law was met with broad approval, from a major pharma firm to a medical device industry group to nurses and doctors expressing their support.
“I think there’s been a big blind spot in our health system for a long time. This helps address that,” said Dr. Andrew Boozary, who spearheaded a national Open Pharma campaign that called on the provincial and federal governments to require disclosure of payments from drug companies to doctors.
“It allows us to gain insight into some of the interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and health-care professionals that we previously had no idea about.”
Earlier this year, 10 major drug companies voluntarily released data showing they paid nearly $50 million to Canadian health-care professionals and organizations in 2016.
The disclosure did not reveal who received the payments, and several leading drug companies chose to not release any information at all.
For the health minister, voluntary disclosure by the companies wasn’t sufficient.
“We needed to go further to really, truly serve the needs of Ontarians in a responsible way,” Hoskins said.
This proposed legislation brings Ontario in line with countries such as Australia, Japan, France and the United States, which have mandatory disclosures on financial relationships between industry and doctors.
In the U.S., which began publicly releasing the payment details in September 2014, any cash or gift worth more than $10 must be disclosed.
The newly proposed legislation is deliberately silent on a threshold dollar amount that would require public disclosure.
“We want something that is meaningful and fair and not overly onerous. There are a lot of differing opinions in terms of what that threshold should be,” said Hoskins, adding that the issue would be addressed in further consultations.
Dr. Joel Lexchin, a long-time advocate of transparency, said he hopes the government sets “a pretty low threshold,” noting that studies out of the United States show that meals worth less than $20 can have an impact on doctor’s prescribing practices.
“The legislation in my view needs to be quite aggressive,” he said.
There have been numerous controversies in Canada over perceived conflicts of interest because of payment relationships.
In recent years, Toronto Star investigations have exposed a number of questionable relationships between big pharma and doctors.
The Star found drug companies routinely host and bankroll dinners at upscale restaurants as training for family doctors. Critics of the dinners say they are just marketing tools under the guise of education.
And there have been other controversies over perceived conflicts of interest because of drug company involvement, including alleged altering or ghostwriting of medical studies and physician endorsements of drugs.
Toronto’s Dr. Nav Persaud supports the new legislation, adding that there was never a good reason to keep payment information secret.
“A patient should know if the company selling a medication paid the doctor writing the prescription. Patients ultimately pay for this marketing so they have a right to know where the money is going,” he said.
Theresa Agnew, head of the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario, said the group also supports Hoskins’ bill.
“We think that the increased transparency will help to promote more evidence-based care getting through to not just clinicians but to patients as well,” she said.
Hoskins said he will be encouraging the federal minister of health, as well as his provincial and territorial counterparts, to follow Ontario’s lead and pursue similar legislation.
“I’m proud Ontario has demonstrated that leadership, but just as Ontarians want and deserve this information and greater transparency and accountability, Canadians deserve and want that, as well.”
Ontario bill will reveal drug company payments to doctors
The case of an Ontario man dying of liver disease will go to court Friday to challenge a rule that has kept him off the province’s list of potential transplant recipients.
Cary Gallant argues that his constitutional rights are being violated by the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which bars alcoholics from the liver transplant list until they have been sober for six months.
Gallant, 45, said he hasn’t had a drink since the beginning of July. Documents filed with the court say he has a 75 per cent chance of dying from liver failure before he reaches the half-year of sobriety demanded by the organ and tissue donation agency.
“We are asking to have him assessed for transplant and, if he is otherwise a suitable candidate, that the six-month sobriety rule be suspended and he be listed like other people on the list,” said his lawyer, Michael Fenrick.
Trillium has said it will launch a $3-million, three-year pilot program next August that will make almost 100 patients with alcohol disorders eligible for liver transplants without having to be sober for six months.
But that could be too late for Gallant.
“August is a long time away,” Gallant said from his home in Sault Ste. Marie. He’s exhausted and weak, and speaking takes effort.
Gallant said after years of drinking regularly, he had “no idea” what alcohol was doing to his liver until he suddenly got sick.
“As soon as I found out what my scenario was, I was done with drinking,” he said.
“I just don’t know why it takes so long (to get on the transplant list). I’ve heard stories. A lot of people don’t even make it to get on the wait-list.”
In the pilot program document, Trillium itself states there is insufficient evidence for the six-month sobriety policy as it stands.
“There were no survival differences between problem drinking and non-drinkers,” said the document, referring to a Canadian study from 2009. “There is also no clear evidence that mandating a brief, arbitrary specific duration of sobriety is effective.”
About 80 per cent of Canadian patients were still alive five years after a liver transplant, reported the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which analyzed data from 2004 to 2013. In 2014, more than 500 Canadians received livers, making it the most common organ transplant after kidneys.
Debra Selkirk has been a vocal advocate for changing the six-month rule. In 2010 her husband, Mark, was told he’d die if he didn’t have a liver transplant — but was not eligible because he’d been sober for only a few weeks. He died three weeks later.
In 2015, Selkirk filed a constitutional challenge against Trillium’s policy. This past summer, she reached a settlement that led to Trillium launching the pilot program.
“The loss of Mark was devastating,” Selkirk said. “But I spent five years studying the law, researching and finding out that his death was unjust . . . needless and unfair. It’s brutal.”
Gallant is bedridden and too weak to attend Friday’s hearing in Toronto.
“I’m worried right now — his appetite isn’t great,” said his mother, Joanne. “I worry this problem with the liver is going to affect his other organs.
“People should be on a list according to their needs.”
Almost 1,500 Canadians — two-thirds of them men — die of alcoholism-related liver disease each year, according to Statistics Canada.
In an email, spokesperson Jennifer Long said Trillium’s “research on liver listing criteria points to a six-month abstinence from alcohol . . . as the most commonly used protocol across Canada, the U.S. and other international jurisdictions.”
A similar rule applies in Ontario to lung and heart transplants, for which patients must not smoke tobacco or other substances for six months before being listed.
However, the six-month rule for liver transplants has come under scrutiny in recent years, with critics calling it discriminatory and arbitrary.
Three studies between 2008 and 2016 that reviewed liver transplant patients with alcohol disorders in the U.S. and Europe concluded that patients being sober for more than six months and staying sober afterward had only a minor effect on transplant success.
A European study found that patients with alcohol-related liver disease had a “significantly higher” success rate than those with other causes of liver failure. Of the one-third of patients who relapsed, 64 per cent consumed alcohol on occasion, the rest consumed alcohol heavily.
A University of Pittsburgh study recommended three months of sobriety “may be more ideal than six months.”
“The real issue has never been allowing alcoholics to jump to the top of the wait-list, but to have a level playing field not based on discriminatory attitudes,” Fenrick said.
Meanwhile, the wait until the Ontario wait-list changes is frustrating to Selkirk.
“There’s already success in liver transplant patients (with alcohol disorders) and others shouldn’t have to wait,” she said. “Why are people left dying between now and next summer?”
Sober since July, this man must wait before he can join the list for a new liver
A Brampton couple are fighting to keep their daughter on life support, even after her attending physician issued a death certificate declaring her brain dead last week.
“She’s still alive,” said Stanley Stewart of his daughter Taquisha McKitty, 27, who is the mother of a 9-year-old girl. “She’s still in there.”
Stewart and Taquisha’s mother, Alyson McKitty, believe Brampton Civic Hospital acted too quickly in declaring their daughter dead, and that doctors are ignoring what the family believes are Taquisha’s responses to “stimulus,” including squeezing their hands and moving her thumb when asked to do so.
On Wednesday, friends of Taquisha stood outside the hospital, holding signs that read “She has a heartbeat,” “Save Taquisha McKitty” and “Keep Taquisha Alive.”
Many in attendance sang “Made a Way,” a gospel song, asking for a miracle.
The family went to court on Sept. 21 and won an emergency injunction temporarily preventing the hospital from removing the respirator that is keeping McKitty alive.
That injunction expires on Thursday, when the matter will be back before Superior Court Justice M.J. Lucille Shaw in Brampton.
The injunction arrived at the last minute, said Bishop Wendell Brereton, who is helping the family and hoping to find a “legal team” willing to join their fight.
“The injunction showed up 30 minutes before (the respirator was to be disconnected),” Brereton said. “It was like something out of a television show.”
Dr. Omar Hayani had already signed a death certificate declaring Taquisha died the day before — at 12:55 p.m. on Sept. 20, six days after she suffered a drug overdose.
Taquisha’s parents say they just want to give her a chance to live.
“The goal for us was to have some time and to be able to get an independent second opinion,” Stewart said.
But they can’t transfer her to another hospital or have another doctor examine her without getting the death certificate cancelled.
“It’s been crazy,” Stewart said. “You get a call that your daughter, her heart has stopped, so you think you’re going to lose her. Then, you come to the hospital, and they have resuscitated her.”
Doctors used ice to treat the swelling on McKitty’s brain, and she was breathing on her own and moving, though unconscious, in the intensive care unit. But after 72 hours of observation, her breathing stopped, although her heart is still beating.
“You sit there for three days and hope that the doctors are doing something to make her better,” Stewart said.
But the family said doctors told them there was no treatment for McKitty.
She has never regained consciousness and remains in a coma.
Justice Shaw ordered life support to remain connected until a decision is made by the province’s Consent and Capacity Board, as per the Health Care Consent Act.
A spokesperson for William Osler Health System, which includes Brampton Civic Hospital, could not speak to McKitty’s case due to privacy issues.
But in an email to the Brampton Guardian, Alineh Haidery said that “before health-care decisions are made, there are a number of processes that physicians and care teams must follow in order to ensure decisions are made appropriately and that they are in the best interest of the patient.”
The hospital, she wrote, follows a “recognized standard of practice” and criteria for neurological determination of death.
“At Osler, all neurological death determinations are determined by two experienced physicians in this field,” Haidery wrote.
Stewart will hold a press conference outside the Brampton courthouse at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday.
With files from Jaren Kerr
‘She’s still alive’: Brampton family goes to court to keep daughter on life support
WASHINGTON—The man very likely to be the next United States senator is so anti-gay that he thinks homosexuality should be made illegal, so anti-Muslim that he thinks believers should be banned from Congress, so hostile to the rule of law that he was twice kicked off Alabama’s Supreme Court for defying the rulings of other courts.
How the heck did Roy Moore, the nationally notorious “Ten Commandments Judge,” win a statewide Republican primary on Tuesday even though the beloved-by-Republicans president endorsed his opponent?
Lots of factors were at play. Above all, though, there is this: a whole lot of Republicans agree with him.
“I don’t know anything he stands for that I’m not for. I’m anti-Muslim too,” casually said Gary Head, 65, a real estate broker and the Republican chairman in Russell County. As for Moore’s desire to prohibit homosexuality, Head said, “My old saying is God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
“He is very effective, very down to earth, and he is very religious. And I’d like to feel I’m the same way,” said Bob Baccus, 69, a member of the Republican committee in Madison County. He insisted that devout Muslims “want you and me dead,” and said that, in his church, “we don’t have any kind of creed, man-made laws or anything else other than what’s in the Bible.”
Such sentiments helped Moore easily defeat interim senator and former Alabama attorney general Luther Strange, 55 per cent to 45 per cent, despite Trump’s pleas on behalf of the man he nicknamed “Big Luther.”
The preferredmediaeuphemism for Moore is “evangelical firebrand.” Extremist, bigot and theocrat are more accurate. If Moore prevails in the December general election against Democratic former U.S. attorney Doug Jones, he will become by far the most fanatical member of a caucus that has already shifted markedly to the right in the last eight years — well farther out than even hard-right Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the former senator whose vacancy they are vying to fill.
Moore’s primary victory is another indication of the prevalence of bigotry in a Trump-era Republican party whose voters and leaders are comfortable with hostility toward racial and religious minority groups, Muslims perhaps above all others.
Senior party officials who preferred Strange, including Vice-President Mike Pence, rushed to embrace Moore on Tuesday night, showing none of the hesitancy that has marked the public approach to other controversial candidates over the past decade.
“Congratulations Roy Moore! We are thrilled you ran on the #MAGA (Make America Great Again) agenda & we are for you!” Pence wrote on Twitter.
Alabama’s gay and Muslim communities were long prepared for a Moore triumph. They watched him get elected as the state’s chief justice in 2013 even though he had been kicked out of the same job a decade earlier for defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the court building.
“There is a movement in this country, hopefully a minority, that is going on to make this a Christian theological state. I call them American Talibans,” said Ashfaq Taufique, 67, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society. “They continue to challenge the secularity of this country and impose their moral values on the rest of the system, in the legislative branch and also the judicial branch.”
Taufique continued: “Mr. Moore has said in the past that Islam is a ‘fake religion,’ and he has talked about sharia law. I have no idea what he is talking about. But he wants to implement his own sharia.”
Moore, indeed, has declared that God’s law should prevail over American law. In 2006, he urged Congress to impose an unconstitutional religious test for office, saying Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim, should be barred from taking his seat. In 2016, after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, Moore was again turfed from the bench for ordering state judges not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
His popularity among conservatives does not even appear to have been affected by his repeated insistence that the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, among various other disasters and social problems, was divine punishment for America’s growing godlessness.
“There’s kind of a hopelessness around the issue of Roy Moore, especially with progressives and LGBT people,” said Brit Blalock, 31, a gay activist and copywriter in Birmingham. “We’re hoping that the extremeness of Roy Moore will potentially give us a shot at a progressive victory. Although we live very realistically down here. It’s a constant struggle of one step forward, two steps back.”
It is possible that Moore’s victory in one of America’s most conservative states says little about the rest of the country. But party figures of all stripes saw the outcome as another warning shot from a frustrated party base to the party establishment, a discontent that could prompt a wave of far-right primary challenges to Republican incumbents and depress party turnout in the 2018 general election.
Strange was the clear choice of the party elite, backed by wads of cash from allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Like Trump himself, many Republican voters have grown frustrated with congressional Republicans, McConnell above all others, for their failure to keep their legislative promises like repealing Obamacare.
Though Strange has been in Washington less than a year, he was successfully branded as an insider. There was widespread disenchantment with the way he got the seat in the first place: an appointment from scandal-plagued now-former governor Roy Bentley, whom Strange’s office was tasked with investigating.
“I think Alabamians just preferred Judge Moore because they thought he was not part of the Washington crowd,” said Cherokee County Republican chairman Josh Summerford, 36, who works in law enforcement. “Most Alabamians know Judge Moore. And most Alabamians do not believe that Judge Moore is a racist or any of those things. Most Alabamians believe that he’s a good man.”
Moore was backed by former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, a fellow Islamophobe and rabble-rouser who turned his Breitbart News website into a de facto organ of Moore’s campaign.
Bannon has threatened to wage a national campaign to oust Republicans insufficiently committed to Trump’s agenda. He warned McConnell and elite Republican operatives at a Moore rally the day before the vote, saying: “All the instruments that tried to destroy Judge Moore and his family, your day of reckoning is coming.”
Moore emphasized his outsider status with some of his trademark stunts. As usual, he rode a horse to go vote. And the night before, at his last rally, he pulled a handgun out of his pocket.
‘I’m anti-Muslim too’: Alabama Republicans align with anti-gay Islamophobe Roy Moore
The alleged killers of a father, mother and adult son who were all found dead in the same Mississauga home years apart have pleaded not guilty to murder, despite a video confession that shows one accused admitting to two of the killings, a jury heard Wednesday.
Melissa Merritt, 37, and her common-law partner, Christopher Fattore, 39, rose from their seats in a Brampton courtroom to answer to joint charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Merritt’s estranged husband in 2013 and his mother in 2010.
Fattore alone is charged with second-degree murder in the death of the estranged husband’s father in 2009.
Merritt, wearing a dark pantsuit hanging loose on her small frame, blinked back tears as she whispered her plea to both charges: “Not guilty.”
Fattore, tall and broad with a shaved head and thick-framed glasses, pleaded not guilty to the murder charges, but guilty to manslaughter in the death of Caleb Harrison, Merritt’s estranged spouse. The crown did not accept his manslaughter plea.
A video confession to be entered as evidence will show that Fattore admitted to two of the killings after he was arrested in 2014, saying, “I killed Bridget and Caleb Harrison,” Crown prosecutor Eric Taylor said in his opening address.
Caleb Harrison, 40, was found dead on Aug. 23, 2013. His death was the third to occur in the home at 3635 Pitch Pine Cres. His mother, Bridget Harrison, 63, died there on April 21, 2010. Her body was found at the bottom of a staircase on the main floor, steps away from the powder room where she had discovered the body of her husband, Bill Harrison, 65, one year earlier.
An abnormal heart rhythm was listed as the most likely cause of Bill Harrison’s 2009 death. Bridget’s death was considered suspicious, but, with no leads, the police investigation “stalled, and then eventually stopped altogether,” Taylor said.
It was only after Caleb was killed three years later that investigators took a closer look at the earlier deaths.
In his overview of evidence, including forensic and pathology reports, police surveillance, wiretapped phone calls and court records, Taylor explained that Merritt was involved in a years-long custody dispute with the Harrisons over the two children she and Caleb had together.
Merritt and Caleb were married in 2001 and separated in 2005 after he was charged with assaulting her and later convicted, the jury heard. Not long after, Caleb drove drunk and killed a man. “No one will suggest to you that Caleb Harrison didn’t have his own issues,” the prosecutor said.
Caleb moved in with his parents after the couple separated and the children lived with them part time while he and Merritt shared custody, the prosecutor said.
Merritt and Fattore met in 2006 and have four children together. In March 2009, Bridget and Bill sought and were awarded Caleb’s share of custody while he served a jail sentence for the impaired driving death. Not long after, Merritt and Fattore packed up their bags and left Ontario with the children, in contravention of the custody order.
Taylor said evidence will show that Bill learned of their impending departure from a mutual friend; the prosecution believes he was killed after confronting Fattore about it.
Bill’s body was cremated. However, Taylor said evidence will show that a medical examiner who reviewed the case after Caleb died believes Bill Harrison was assaulted shortly before or at the time of his death.
In November 2009, Merritt was arrested in Nova Scotia on abduction charges and Bridget got custody of the two children. Bridget was killed the day before Merritt was supposed to plead guilty to the abduction charge, Taylor said.
Fattore told police in his video confession that he forced his way into the Harrison home, hit Bridget a couple of times and then squeezed her neck until she stopped breathing, the prosecutor said.
Caleb got full custody of the children in 2010. By the summer of 2013, he agreed to alternate weeks with Merritt. She wanted to continue that arrangement permanently, but Caleb would not agree to it unless she paid more child support, Taylor said. Caleb was killed just as the children were to return to him after the final summer week with their mother.
Fattore told police that he entered Caleb’s bedroom while he was asleep and hit him in the chest, knocked him to the ground after he sprung up, and choked him, Taylor said.
When officers who arrested Merritt and Fattore in Nova Scotia in 2014 left them alone in a room under surveillance, Fattore told Merritt that he had confessed and that “there’s nothing tying you to it,” Taylor said.
The prosecutor said evidence will show that is not true. “She was not just an accessory after the fact,” Taylor said. “They were both responsible for the deaths of Bridget and Caleb.”
Also tying Fattore to Caleb’s death is a pair of Walmart shoes police discovered in his and Merritt’s trash, which contained animal fur linked by DNA evidence to Caleb’s dog, the prosecutor said.
In one wiretap recording obtained by police, Merritt and Fattore are discussing “the shoes” and Merritt asks how he paid for them, Taylor said.
“I don’t know, probably cash,” Fattore says in the video, according to the crown. “I don’t think I was stupid enough to use debit.”
The shoes were purchased with a debit card, Taylor said.
The trial continues.
Alleged killers of father, mother and adult son plead not guilty to murder
SAN DIEGO—The federal government gave the media a first peek Wednesday at construction of prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
Crews working on two of the eight prototypes moved dirt, with one of the crews also installing steel reinforcing bars before concrete is poured.
Each crew gets only 60 square feet to work on their prototype, prompting some to do assembly work elsewhere before moving the structure to their designated position.
Contractors have 30 days to finish.
The rectangular construction zone is fenced off from public viewing in a remote area of San Diego along the Mexico border.
The models will be tested for the ability to withstand sustained drilling with power tools and to deter crossers with anti-climbing features. They also must be esthetically pleasing from the north side.
The government will consider the models to guide the proposed construction on the nearly 3,200-kilometre border with Mexico. Trump says he wants them to be see-through.
Funding is a big question. The administration has requested an initial $1.6 billion (U.S.) next year to replace 22 kilometres of fencing in San Diego and build 95 kilometres in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.
Democrats have balked at providing the money.
Trump administration gives glimpse of Mexico border wall prototype workTrump administration gives glimpse of Mexico border wall prototype workTrump administration gives glimpse of Mexico border wall prototype work
OTTAWA—Good journalism is “critical” to democracy but Ottawa says it won’t bail out media models “that are no longer viable.”
Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly took the wraps off the Liberal government’s vision for culture in Canada, laying out in broad strokes a road map for everything from onscreen productions, poetry and books and the fate of small-town newspapers.
In laying out the vision during a noon-hour speech Thursday, Joly looked at the challenges facing local media in Canada, which have been battered by sharp declines in revenue.
Joly said she’s heard first-hand about the “importance” of local news and the different ways it can be delivered, by radio, television, local newspaper and online outlets.
“There are no easy solutions to the challenges facing this sector,” Joly said, according to a prepared text of her remarks.
“We start from the premise that this is a shared responsibility between government at all levels, the private sector and civil society,” she said.
She said that “reliable” journalism is “critical” to a health democracy and that any government measures must respect journalistic independence.
“Our approach will not be to bail out industry models that are no longer viable. Rather, we will focus our efforts on supporting innovation, experimentation and transition to digital,” Joly said.
A report earlier this year painted a grim picture of shrinking media landscape in Canada that has cost journalists their jobs and communities their newspapers.
Those cuts threaten traditional news outlets, which would imperil the health of Canadian democracy, warned the report, titled “The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age.”
Written by veteran journalist Edward Greenspon and published by the Public Policy Forum, it urged changes to tax legislation. Currently, advertisements bought on foreign-owned websites like Google, Facebook and the New York Times are tax-deductible.
It would also introduce HST and GST for digital news subscriptions and advertising on digital media that don’t meet the recommended Canadian content rules, and rebate the HST/GST on those that do.
Revenue from these taxes, which the report estimates could reach $400 million per year, would finance a new, arm’s-length organization called the Future of Journalism and Democracy Fund, which would support digital innovation, civic journalism, local news media and Indigenous reporting.
In laying out her vision Thursday, Joly made no mention of those proposed remedies.
Instead, she floated the possibility of assistance through the Canada Periodical Fund, which provides financial support to print magazines, non-daily newspapers and digital periodicals.
However, a heritage department official told a reporter at a Thursday briefing that any further details would have to wait until next year.
In the meantime, Joly highlighted a decision by Facebook to work with Ryerson University to create a digital news incubator.
No bailout for ailing media outlets, Ottawa says
Queen’s Park is moving to allay businesses’ fears over the forthcoming increase to the minimum wage.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said the government will soon unveil a package of measures to offset the impact of the $11.40 hourly wage rising to $14 in January and $15 in 2019.
“We know this is challenging for small business — we don’t underestimate that challenge,” Flynn told reporters Thursday at Snakes and Lattes, a College Street café.
“If government and business can work together, we can get this right,” he said.
“You look at things like taxes, you look at things like regulations, you look at things like the employer health tax — you look at those types of things. So I think if there was going to be any sort of relief it would be amongst the existing channels between government and business.”
His comments came the same week as TD Bank warned that the wage hike could cost the province up to 90,000 jobs and the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis recommended slowing down the phase-in of the increase to protect employment.
The province’s independent Financial Accountability Office estimates 50,000 jobs could be lost because businesses will have to reduce staff to handle soaring payroll costs.
“They’re a forecast, they’re a guess, and you see the guesses are all over the place. They’re all over the map to be blunt,” said Flynn, noting research by OECD, the Center for Economic and Policy Research in the U.S., and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that urge a higher minimum wage.
“I haven’t seen anything that would steer me away from the current course that we’re on. I want to make sure that everybody who works a week’s work in Ontario is able to raise a family, is able to afford the basics,” he said.
Ben Castanie, owner of the three Snakes and Lattes board game cafés, said his 100 workers, who are already paid more than the current minimum wage, will be getting a well-deserved raise.
“We have a little bit of catching up to do,” said Castanie, adding he does “not necessarily” think he will need to raise his prices to afford the higher wages.
“It could be a great thing for us if everyone makes more money and has a little bit more disposable income. It’s definitely beneficial to us,” he said.
Not all businesses are embracing the changes.
Peter Gossmann — co-owner of Plasticap, a plastics injection molding company in Richmond Hill — said he worries about the effect on the overall labour force, not just minimum wage earners.
His firm’s 35 unionized employees are members of Unifor and earn at least $15.80 an hour.
“It will inflate all of the wages. It seems to me that . . . the government wants to increase . . . wages to increase their taxes,” said Gossmann, noting the provincial treasury stands to benefit most from higher salaries.
“So it’s a windfall for the government. It’s going to contribute to inflation. Inflation contributes to higher interest rates and that stifles growth.”
Province tries to allay business fears over minimum wage hike
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—First, Hurricane Maria knocked out power and water to Puerto Rico. Then diesel fuel, gas and water became scarce. Now, it’s money.
The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory’s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island.
There are long lines at the banks that are open with reduced hours or the scattered ATMs that are operational amid an islandwide power outage and near total loss of telecommunications. Many people are unable to work or run their businesses because diesel to run generators is in short supply or they can’t spend all day waiting for gas to fill their car.
Engineer Octavio Cortes predicts it will only get worse because so many of the problems are interconnected and cannot be easily resolved.
“I don’t know how much worse it’s going to get,” Cortes said as he joined other motorists stopping on a bridge over a river in northern Puerto Rico to catch a faint cellphone signal. “Right now it’s manageable, but I don’t know about next week or after that.”
The father of six typically works from home or travels around the world for his job, but neither approach is possible now because the power is still out for nearly all 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico and flights off the island are down to only a few each day.
While Cortes is OK for the moment, others don’t have nearly the same resources.
Cruzita Mojica is an employee of the Puerto Rico Treasury Department in San Juan. While she, like many public sector workers, has been called back to work she can’t go because she has to care for her elderly mother in the aftermath of the storm. She got up at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and went to four ATM machines only to find each one empty.
“Of course I took out money before the hurricane, but it’s gone already,” she said. “We’re without gasoline. Without money. Without food. This is a disaster.”
Surgical technician Dilma Gonzalez said she had only $40 left and her job hasn’t called people back to work yet in the capital. “Until they let us know otherwise, I’m not supposed to go back,” she said with a shrug as she pressure washed the street in front of her house, sending muddy debris flying.
All are struggling with the overwhelming devastation of Hurricane Maria, which began tearing across the island early in the morning of Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm with winds of 249 km/h. It destroyed the entire electricity grid while grinding up homes, businesses, roads and farms. At least 16 people were killed. There still is no exact tally of the cost and full extent of the damage, but Gov. Ricardo Rossello says it will bring a complete halt to the economy for at least a month.
“This is the single biggest, major catastrophe in the history of Puerto Rico, bar none, and it is probably the biggest hurricane catastrophe in the United States,” Rossello said Wednesday as he delivered aid to the southern town of Salinas, whose mayor says 100 per cent of the agriculture there was wiped out when the wind tore up plantain, corn, vegetables and other crops.
On Thursday the Trump administration announced it was waiving the Jones Act, a little-known federal law that prohibits foreign-flagged ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports, for Puerto Rico. Republicans and Democrats have pushed for the move, saying it could help get desperately needed supplies to the island more quickly and at less cost.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter that U.S. President Donald Trump had “authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico” in response to a request from Rossello and that it “will go into effect immediately.”
Antonia Garcia, a retiree who lives in the city of Bayamon, said she was down to her last $4. She spent a day using precious gas to look for an ATM that was in operation because she couldn’t get into her credit union, which was taking only 200 customers a day. “This has become chaotic,” she said.
Puerto Rico was already struggling before the storm. The island has been in a recession for more than a decade, the poverty rate was 45 per cent and unemployment was around 10 per cent, higher than any U.S. state. Manufacturers of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, which are the most important segment of the economy, have been shedding jobs for years. Now everything from multinational companies to small businesses and ranches are scrambling to get enough fuel to run generators while their employees struggle to even get to work.
Before the storm, the island’s government was in the midst of bitter negotiations with creditors to restructure a portion of its $73 billion in debt, which the previous governor declared unpayable. Rossello appeared to warn the bondholders that the storm had made things worse. “Puerto Rico practically will have no income for the next month,” he told reporters.
Making matters worse for many consumers is the fact that those food stores that are open, typically on reduced hours, are unable to process credit or bank cards or the local system of welfare payments. The businesses are insisting on cash, even though that is technically illegal.
Still, as in any economic crisis, there are people who find the upside. Christian Mendoza said the car wash where he works hasn’t reopened so he has been selling bottled water, even without refrigeration. “The water hot and it still went like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
Another relative success story is Elpidio Fernandez, a 78-year-old who sells coconut and passion fruit ice cream from a pushcart on the streets of San Juan and has a supplier with a generator. He has made up to $500 on some days since the storm.
“Business has multiplied by a thousand,” he said, but he quickly added: “Even though I’m doing well, I don’t feel good because I know other people are suffering.”
’This is a disaster’: Money starts to run out in Puerto Rico
A mother and her 5-year-old daughter have died after they were struck by a vehicle Wednesday night.
Toronto police said they were hit just before 9:30 p.m. at Warden Ave. and Continental Pl. near Ellesmere Rd. while crossing the street. Police confirmed there was no crosswalk in the area where they crossed.
The 34-year-old woman and her daughter were taken to hospital by emergency run in life-threatening condition, and they were later pronounced dead.
Police at the scene said a family of four was crossing the street after eating dinner at a nearby restaurant. The father and another child, 2, crossed the street safely while the mother and daughter were struck.
The initial car that struck them remained at the scene, and while the child was hit once, the mother was then struck by a second vehicle in the southbound lane and the driver fled the scene, said Toronto Police Const. Joe McDougall.
Police are looking for the vehicle which is described as a 2006 or 2011 black Honda Civic.
Warden Ave. was closed in both directions between Lupin Dr. and Ellesmere Rd. for several hours but reopened early Thursday morning.
Mother and child, 5, dead after being hit by a vehicle in Scarborough
The city is being put on the hook to close the budget gap for repairs to crumbling public housing — a bill totalling $1.6 billion.
The bulk of the remaining repairs backlog, long known and left unaddressed, is now to be the direct responsibility of the city, outlined in a 2018 budget tabled by Toronto Community Housing at the board Thursday.
The new plan, approved Thursday, means city council is now solely responsible for $160 million annually for the next 10 years. An additional $810 million is required to fund a total $2.4 billion over the next 10 years — what is expected from other levels of government.
It is a plan that both acknowledges the lack of investment from other governments to date and one that would ensure no more public housing units close.
“At the end of the day all levels of government have a responsibility to invest in Toronto Community Housing, but our TCH budget calls on the city to be our line of last defence always,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, a member of the TCH board, after the vote.
He said it’s significant that the city will now have a dedicated capital budget line item for Toronto Community Housing. On meeting that need to prevent more units being boarded up, Cressy said: “I’m optimistic the political will is there.”
The revised plans follow a council direction moved by Cressy and passed in July that Toronto Community Housing “ensure that no additional housing units are permanently closed in 2018 and 2019.”
The original 10-year capital repairs plan requested the city, province and federal governments split a $2.6 billion bill three ways.
Though the city, largely through mortgage and other refinancing, has contributed nearly $1 billion, the other governments have never committed to that plan.
There remain few additional opportunities to refinance mortgages, the TCH board heard Thursday.
Sheila Penny, vice-president of facilities management, confirmed Thursday that a re-forecasted plan would ensure no more units are shuttered.
Toronto Community Housing was on track to close 400 units next year on top of 600 to be closed this year.
Today, in communities like Firgrove in North York, there are residents packing their belongings into boxes as more than 100 families are displaced from their townhomes because they are beyond repair and soon to be inhabitable.
The repairs required are not superficial. They include roof replacement, new furnaces, elevators and plumbing problems.
TCH data provided to the Star earlier this year showed more than 30 social housing properties are already in serious disrepair and 222 of 364 developments are ranked in “poor” condition.
The new plan would see $300 million in repairs spending next year and in 2019, with spending ramping up to $350 million through 2026.
City council could fulfil a request to pay the $1.6 billion through other governments, if they agreed to pay.
The federal government announced $11 billion for affordable housing over 11 years, including social housing, but it is not yet known how much might be available for TCH and when.
The province has not responded to repeated pleas to contribute a one-third share and has not outlined social housing spending beyond $343 million promised over three years for energy retrofits.
City on hook for $1.6 billion to fix crumbling public housing
In a rare decision an adjudicator has rejected the refugee claim of a Sudanese man, finding it not credible, but granted asylum to his wife and their three children.
Normally, the negative decision against Nasreldin Ali Akad Himad would not have mattered since he would be included in the permanent residence application with the immediate family members who were recognized as protected persons.
However, by law the 49-year-old Toronto man is considered “removable” by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). He is facing deportation Saturday and a lengthy separation from his family before he can return to Canada.
“The government is utilizing valuable and limited resources to enforce removal of an individual who has a strong chance of returning to Canada as a permanent resident,” said the family’s immigration lawyer Ashley Fisch. “This defies any sense of logic and accountability to taxpayers.”
Himad has already passed the criminal and medical screening, which means if he were to be deported to Sudan, it’s virtually certain he would ultimately be approved for permanent residence and return to Canada.
With exception of cases involving refugee parents with American-born children, who are U.S. citizens and ineligible, Fisch said she is only aware of one other case at the Immigration and Refugee Board that split the decision, on a recent family claim from Libya.
While a family often relies on the principal asylum-seeker’s risk and fear factors as the basis of a claim, sometimes each member also adds their individual unique circumstances that put their lives in danger to strengthen the collective claim.
Although immigration officials are in charge of processing permanent residence applications and place a strong emphasis on family reunification, border agents are the ones responsible for removals.
Himad and his wife married in Saudi Arabia, where they were both temporary residents, and sought asylum in Canada in January based on the husband’s claim that he was detained and beaten by the Sudanese National Security because of trumped up accusations of inciting unrest against the regime.
Himad’s wife Baraka Suleman Khalefa, an Eritrean national, claimed that if she was rejected and returned to Eritrea, she would face a serious possibility of persecution.
Their son, Ali, 18, said he feared the additional risk of forced conscription if returned to his father’s home country in Sudan, while the daughters, Rafif, 9, and Lamis, 4, claimed they would for certain be forced to undergo female genital mutilation if they stepped on Sudanese soil.
Refugee board adjudicator Vania Campana accepted everyone’s claim but Himad’s.
“With respect to the principal claimant . . . I do not find you to be a credible witness concerning material aspects of your claim,” Campana wrote in her decision delivered earlier this year, adding that Himad at times provided inconsistent information or was unable to recall details of the events in his claim.
“You sir are not a person of interest to the Sudanese government because of your political opinion and I therefore find that you do not face a serious risk of persecution in Sudan on this basis.”
The border agency said Himad is under an enforceable removal order as a failed refugee claimant.
“The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states that removal orders must be enforced as soon as possible. CBSA is committed to doing so,” said the agency, which denied a request by Himad’s lawyer to defer the deportation.
Himad, who speaks broken English, said he did not have access to interpreters when he and his family crossed the United States land border to file the asylum claim, and hence did not fully comprehend the border officer’s questions resulting in the inconsistent information at his asylum hearings.
“I have mixed feelings about the refugee decision. I’m happy my family is in a safe place now, but I’m disappointed that we would be torn apart,” said Himad, who has been working at an auto parts factory in Toronto to support his family.
In rejecting the plea to stay the deportation, the border agency said the children will have the love and support of their mother during the period of adjustment.
“The children can request additional support at their school which may help them excel in school faster,” said the border enforcement officer responsible for the file. “The children can remain in the care of their mother, I believe they will have every opportunity to become capable and caring individuals.”
Fisch said currently it takes 23 months for the Immigration Department to process permanent residence applications for protected persons. Once his family receives their permanent status, Himad’s application will then be processed overseas and he must apply for an authorization to return to Canada.
Refugee judge's decision to accept wife and reject husband 'defies logic,' lawyer saysRefugee judge's decision to accept wife and reject husband 'defies logic,' lawyer saysRefugee judge's decision to accept wife and reject husband 'defies logic,' lawyer says
Don’t get me wrong: Hyperloop, the Elon Musk-inspired transportation technology that could one day ferry people to and from distant cities in under an hour, is extremely cool. It’s also extremely cool that this means of science fiction transportation, which moves passengers via “electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube,” might get its real-world start right here in Toronto.
Last year, Hyperloop One, a company attempting to turn Musk’s vision into a profitable reality, launched an open call for proposals, asking scientists to develop their own hyper-speed travel routes. And just last week, the company announced the winning results, among them a proposal by a design team called HyperCan, for a route that could transport people from Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes.
Just imagine: No more five-and-a-half-hour road trips, no more red-eye bus rides and, most importantly, no more Tim Horton’s drive-through for dinner. If this kind of technology succeeds, it’s entirely possible that Torontonians could travel to Montreal to attend a Leafs away game against the Habs and make it home well before midnight. Thanks to Hyperloop, fair-weather Leafs fans that lose faith when their team is down a few goals after the second period may even be able to make it back to Toronto before the end of the third when (their loss) Auston Matthews turns things around for a win.
Like I said: extremely cool.
And yet, it’s also extremely infuriating. It’s infuriating because there’s something far cooler than Toronto’s very own hyper-speed travel tube. And that is a plain old-fashioned travel tube, a.k.a. a subway, the kind that can get a person from one end of the city to the other.
All this to say Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes, while extremely cool, doesn’t count for much in the eyes of a regular TTC streetcar rider when it’s hard enough getting from Toronto to Toronto in 39 minutes.
I’m not advocating that the city abstain from celebrating advancements in technology or embracing the future; it’s difficult to get excited about province-to-province hyperspeed travel when it takes me almost a full hour to get to work within my own city on a good day. (A good day in my definition is when my streetcar doesn’t short turn or derail, forcing the driver to leave his post and literally get us back on track. There’s nothing more pathetically Toronto than sitting on a derailed streetcar looking out the window as your driver takes a wrench to the tracks while a police officer on horseback trots by; 2018, here we come!)
Forgive me if I am not optimistic about the Hyperloop. It just seems as though we’re really jumping the gun by applauding Star Trek-level stuff, when our congested, increasingly unaffordable city doesn’t even boast a fully wheelchair accessible transit system (the TTC has said all stations will be accessible by 2025).
The desire for Toronto to blossom into a so-called world-class metropolis worthy of films not just shot here but actually set here is normal. I share these desires. I’m just as insecure as the next Torontonian. But none of these dreams, be they Toronto’s first Hyperloop or our very own Amazon headquarters, will come to fruition or enjoy lasting success if we don’t work on the basics.
And there is nothing more basic than a decent, accessible transit system — one in which you can get from one end of the city to the other in a reasonable amount of time; one in which a person on horseback doesn’t reach his destination before you do.
In the end, the biggest barrier to this basic reality is not big ideas like the Hyperloop, but politicians unwilling to take big risks in fear of losing support and, eventually, power. Digging into the earth, closing off roads, building transit where people will actually use it: These are actions that will inconvenience and anger millions in the short term.
Unfortunately, they’re also the actions required to effect positive change. Unless someone in charge is willing to risk their power to effect that change, we can look forward to a very strange future in this city — a future where we’ll be able to get to Montreal in less time than it takes us to get home from work.
Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.
Why care about getting to Montreal in 39 minutes when the TTC can't get a commuter across Toronto in that time?: Teitel