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    After preparing to be buyers or sellers with their season in limbo, the Blue Jays know which way they’re going a week before baseball’s trade deadline.

    The 3-7 road trip through Detroit, Boston and Cleveland that wrapped up Sunday made the decision clear, general manager Ross Atkins said before Monday night’s 4-2 win over the Oakland A’s, in the opener of a four-game series at the Rogers Centre.

    Improving next year’s team is the focus.

    “A month ago we were talking about the need for our team to play well and to get hot . . . we haven’t gotten hot,” Atkins told reporters the Blue Jays dugout. “We haven’t gotten on a streak, and now we’re in a position where it’s a lot more difficult to add to a team like this (for a run at the playoffs) … The scale of deciding whether we add or subtract has definitely changed.”

    They’re looking to deal, if the return is young players who can help next year and beyond.

    “Any way you can do that, we’ll look to do that,” said Atkins, who added he fields up to 15 calls a day about potential moves at this time of year. “We feel like we have underperformed and underachieved offensively and defensively. Our relief pitching’s been pretty strong. Our starting pitching’s been OK until the last couple of weeks. It’s not position specific right now. It’s more about controllable young talent.”

    Atkins says the club doesn’t have to go into full-blown rebuild mode, with a solid core plus young talent such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Anthony Alford already on the fast track to the majors.

    “Our ideal is (adding a controllable player who can) slide right into the ’18 team, but that’s a hard thing for another team to give up,” he said. “. . . We have a very good feel for what’s available to us.”

    Questions about the future started when the Jays opened the season 2-11. After a strong May, though, hopes for a post-season return resurfaced. Now, with the club nine games below .500, it’s all about next year.

    Who’s available off the current roster? Atkins wouldn’t go there, but players in the final year of their contracts — such as Monday night’s starter Francisco Liriano — have been mentioned often in reports around the league. Struggling right-hander Marco Estrada is also in the final year of his deal. Reliever Joe Smith is working on a one-year contract and could attract interest.

    If the Jays want a bigger return, they could entertain offers for top starters Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ, closer Roberto Osuna, or star regulars such as Josh Donaldson.

    Atkins says teams tend to look beyond a player’s short-term struggles when assessing trade options.

    “I think more and more teams are focused on the bulk of information and not outing to outing or five innings of work or two innings of work,” he says. “(Recent poor performance) doesn’t impact things in a big way, but it can change emotions for sure, so we’ll see. We’ll see as this week progresses.”

    In the meantime?

    “The odds of (contending for the wild card) decreased dramatically, but we still feel confident that we can put a quality team on the field,” he says.

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    Ground crew for 30 airlines at Pearson International Airport could be walking a picket line Thursday, potentially delaying flights.

    The union representing 700 Swissport workers at Pearson filed a 72-hour strike notice on Monday and will ask its members to shoot down the company's final offer.

    "We are suggesting that our members reject this offer," said Christopher Monette, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 419.

    Read more:

    Region and travellers best served if airport a public asset: Opinion

    Expect a longer wait at Pearson Airport as enhanced security begins for U.S.-bound flights

    If this happens, the workers — including baggage and cargo handlers and cabin cleaners — will be able to walk off the job on Thursday night.

    The Greater Toronto Airports Authority said Tuesday it has an contingency plan in place in the event of a strike or labour disruption by the Swissport workers, who service 30 of the 74 airlines using the airport.

    Monette didn't give specifics on why the union wants its members to reject Swissport's final offer, because the union hadn't yet presented it to its membership.

    But the Teamsters recently raised issues with the company's decision to hire 250 temporary workers last May.

    A statement issued by the Teamsters last week claimed the temporary workers only receive three to four days of training, rather than the three to four weeks afforded to their union counterparts.

    "We don't think Swissport can basically do their jobs with workers that have no experience and poor training," Monette said, adding that the temp. workers themselves aren't to blame.

    "It's not their fault. They're being placed in an impossible situation," he said.

    Swissport said that its workers all receive a minimum of 10 days of classroom training, as well as on-the-job instruction.

    The union also claims that Swissport hired the 250 workers as a way of putting leverage on workers during the current round of contract talks.

    "We're concerned that Swissport is willing to sacrifice airport safety to gain an upper hand at the bargaining table," Harjinder Badial, vice-president of Teamsters Local 419, said in a statement issued last week.

    Swissport responded that it hired the temporary workers to help handle the summer travel rush, which it said it is allowed to do under the collective agreement.

    "We are confident that protocols are being followed," Pierre Payette, Swissport Canada's vice-president of operation, said in a statement.

    The Teamsters have filed aformal complaint with the Canadian Industrial Relations Board over the matter.

    Among its claims are that there hasn't been a significant change in their members' workload and that Swissport gave the union a day's warning before it began hiring the 250 temporary workers.

    Swissport said it wouldn't comment on the specifics of the union's allegations, citing the upcoming CIRB case.

    Payette has said Swissport "categorically denies" the union's allegations.

    "Swissport is fully confident, however, that the CIRB will dismiss these allegations as unsubstantiated and without merit," he said.

    Swissport called its final offer to the union fair and competitive, and expressed disappointment that the union may strike.

    "Regardless of this outcome, we remain open to ongoing negotiations and optimistic that an agreement will be reached with the union," the company said.

    Monette says the union's members don't want to strike.

    "Our members are hardworking folks — they want to keep working," Monette said. "But they're not going to allow themselves to be bullied by Swissport."

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    WASHINGTON—Prodded by President Donald Trump, a bitterly divided Senate voted at last Tuesday to move forward with the Republicans’ long-promised legislation to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” There was high drama as Sen. John McCain returned to the Capitol for the first time after being diagnosed with brain cancer to cast a decisive “yes” vote.

    The final tally was 51-50, with Vice-President Mike Pence breaking the tie after two Republicans joined all 48 Democrats in voting “no.”

    With all senators in their seats and protesters agitating outside and briefly inside the chamber, the vote was held open at length before McCain, 80, entered the chamber. Greeted by cheers, he smiled and dispensed hugs — but with the scars from recent surgery starkly visible on the left side of his face.

    Despite voting “aye,” he took a lecturing tone afterward and hardly saw success assured for the legislation after weeks of misfires, even after Tuesday’s victory for Trump and Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

    Read more: Trump pushes his fellow Republicans to support health-care overhaul

    “If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then let’s return to regular order,” McCain said as he chided Republican leaders for devising the legislation in secret along with the administration and “springing it on skeptical members.”

    “Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio, TV and internet. To hell with them!” McCain said, raising his voice as he urged senators to reach for the comity of earlier times.

    At the White House, though, Trump wasted no time in declaring a win and slamming the Democrats anew.

    “I’m very happy to announce that, with zero of the Democrats’ votes, the motion to proceed on health care has just passed. And now we move forward toward truly great health care for the American people,” Trump said. “This was a big step. I want to thank Senator John McCain — very brave man.”

    Trump continued to celebrate the vote at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio that doubled as a victory lap.

    “We’re now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care for the American people,” he said.

    At its most basic, the Republican legislation is aimed at undoing Obamacare’s unpopular mandates for most people to carry insurance and businesses to offer it. The GOP would repeal Obamacare taxes and unwind an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor, the disabled and nursing home residents The result would be 20 million to 30 million people losing insurance over a decade, depending on the version of the bill.

    The GOP legislation has polled abysmally, while former president Barack Obama’s health care law itself has grown steadily more popular. Yet most Republicans argue that failing to deliver on their promises to pass repeal-and-replace legislation would be worse than passing an unpopular bill, because it would expose the GOP as unable to govern despite controlling majorities in the House, Senate and White House.

    Tuesday’s vote amounted to a procedural hurdle for legislation whose final form is impossible to predict under the Senate’s Byzantine amendment process, which will unfold over the next several days.

    Indeed senators had no clear idea of what they would ultimately be voting on, and in an indication of the uncertainty ahead, McConnell said the Senate will “let the voting take us where it will.” The expectation is that he will bring up a series of amendments, including a straight-up repeal and fuller replacement legislation, to see where consensus may lie.

    Yet after seven years of empty promises, and weeks of hand-wringing and false starts on Capitol Hill, it was the Senate’s first concrete step toward delivering on innumerable pledges to undo the Obama-era law. It came after several near-death experiences for earlier versions of the legislation, and only after Trump summoned senators to the White House last week to order them to try again after McConnell had essentially conceded defeat.

    “The people who sent us here expect us to begin this debate, to have the courage to tackle the tough issues,” McConnell said ahead of the vote.

    Read more: Trump lashes out at GOP, says party does ‘very little to protect their President’

    Democrats stood implacably opposed, and in an unusual manoeuvr they sat in their seats refusing to vote until it was clear Republicans would be able to reach the 50-vote margin needed to get them over the top with Pence’s help.

    “Turn back,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York implored his GOP colleagues before the vote. “Turn back now, before it’s too late and millions and millions and millions of Americans are hurt so badly.”

    Schumer’s pleas fell on deaf ears, as several GOP senators who’d announced they would oppose moving forward with the legislation reversed themselves to vote “aye.” Among them were Dean Heller of Nevada, the most vulnerable Republican senator in next year’s midterm elections, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

    Johnson has recently accused McConnell of operating in bad faith on the bill and stood in intense conversation with him on the Senate floor before finally becoming the 50th Republican senator to vote affirmatively, immediately following McCain.

    Democratic campaign groups immediately announced they would be targeting Heller and others with ads. The two Republicans voting “no” were Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

    The vote drew protesters to the Senate visitors’ gallery who chanted “Kill the bill, don’t kill us.” Capitol Police said 31 of them were charged with disrupting Congress, and 64 others were charged with illegally demonstrating in a nearby Senate office building.

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    Ontario’s legal regulator has been stymied for months in trying to investigate high-profile personal injury lawyer Jeremy Diamond, the Law Society Tribunal has been told.

    Documents filed as part of a disciplinary hearing for Diamond on Monday reveal that since October, the lawyer has been under investigation by the Law Society of Upper Canada for allegedly “failing to adequately inform clients” about referral fees, “charging unreasonable referral fees,” “engaging in improper/misleading advertising” and “failing to properly supervise” his staff.

    But for months, Diamond failed to hand over documents showing the amounts of referral fees coming into his firm, in addition to numerous other financial documents requested by the law society, according to affidavits filed by a society investigator and forensic auditor.

    Lawyers are self-regulated in Ontario and must turn over financial details about their practices to the law society when requested.

    That brought Diamond to a hearing Monday at the tribunal on University Ave. to face allegations that he didn’t co-operate with a law society investigation that began in October and is ongoing.

    In May, the law society said that in addition to not co-operating with its investigation, Diamond failed to maintain required financial records — an allegation that was withdrawn after the lawyer provided the requested information.

    The law society alleges that it took 10 months and considerable effort — including four separate letters — to compel Diamond to provide it with documents detailing his referral fee operation since October 2013, including a complete listing of all referral fees received and paid, dates of payments and where the money was coming from.

    A Star investigation published in December found that the Diamond & Diamond firm had for many years been attracting thousands of would-be clients and then referring cases out to other lawyers in return for sometimes hefty fees. The Star found that clients were often unaware of the referrals and associated fees. Diamond & Diamond has told the Star that it has a growing roster of lawyers who handle cases in house.

    Diamond & Diamond’s marketing, which has included women in tight T-shirts and ads above urinals at the Air Canada Centre, has raised the ire of the law society, clients and some lawyers.

    At Monday’s hearing, law society lawyer Nisha Dhanoa argued that the society’s October 2016 request for information was “abundantly clear” and if any confusion existed, it was resolved by early 2017 when the society explained in more detail the records it required. She told the hearing that it wasn’t until June, after the law society alleged professional misconduct, that Diamond handed over financial information that got to the “heart” of what the society wanted.

    “It was no mystery what the law society was looking for,” Dhanoa said.

    She told the hearing that Diamond initially told the law society he did not keep the kinds of records it was seeking. However, she said that changed in the spring when Diamond said he kept a form of the required information. She said that Diamond’s “contradiction” in answers demonstrates that he wasn’t “acting in good faith.”

    Read more:

    Jeremy Diamond is the face of personal injury law but he's never tried a case

    Jeremy Diamond faces professional misconduct probe

    Dhanoa also pointed out that Diamond had a professional obligation to keep books and records in a format dictated by the law society and should have been able to provide them when asked.

    Diamond’s lawyers, Robert Centa and Kris Borg-Olivier, told the hearing their client didn’t try to hide anything, and didn’t fully understand what the law society was asking for until early April. Once Diamond understood, he complied with the law society’s request and turned over the requested information and documents, the lawyers argued.

    His lawyers said the investigation was “complex,” “unique” and interconnected with other investigations into two other lawyers at the firm — Jeremy Diamond’s wife, Sandra Zisckind, and her brother, Isaac Zisckind. (The law society is keeping details of these investigations confidential.) The lawyers argued that the investigation into Diamond was constantly evolving, as were the demands of the law society.

    “There may have been a failure to communicate. There was not a failure to co-operate,” Centa told the hearing. “This was a complicated investigation and it may have taken more time than the law society wanted.”

    “There was no attempt to hide anything. All of the information was put forward,” he said.

    At the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, Law Society Tribunal adjudicator Raj Anand said “you’ve given me lots to think about” and reserved his decision. The law society could not say when a decision would be made.

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    Premier Kathleen Wynne will waive parliamentary privilege and testify in the Sudbury byelection bribery trial that begins in six weeks.

    Wynne’s former deputy chief of staff Patricia Sorbara and Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed are on trial for alleged Elections Act violations stemming from a February 2015 byelection.

    In a stunning development that breaks with precedent, the premier said Tuesday that she has been asked to testify and will do so.

    “I could (claim parliamentary privilege), but I’m not. I will testify and I will go along with the process and do what I can to clarify as I have in the legislature many, many times,” Wynne told reporters in Toronto.

    “I’ve been very clear that I was going to work with the process and I’ve done that and I will continue to do that,” she said.

    The premier will be called by Crown prosecutor Vern Brewer, who declined comment.

    Wynne insisted that she did not believe anything untoward happened in the run-up to the Sudbury byelection and emphasized that Sorbara would be welcomed back into the Liberal fold if she is exonerated.

    “I have the deepest of respect for Pat Sorbara and I look forward to the opportunity to work with her again,” the premier said.

    Sorbara and Lougheed are accused of offering a defeated former Liberal candidate, Andrew Olivier, jobs or political appointments to drop out of the party’s nomination race to make way for Wynne’s preferred candidate, Glenn Thibeault.

    Thibeault, a former New Democrat MP, won the byelection for the provincial Liberals and has been energy minister for the last 13 months in Wynne’s cabinet. Olivier, who ran as an independent, finished third.

    The Sudbury mortgage broker recorded conversations with both Sorbara and Lougheed and made them public on Facebook. A quadriplegic, Olivier tapes important calls for note-taking purposes. But a call with Wynne was not recorded because he was in an elevator at the time.

    The case will be heard starting Sept. 7 in Sudbury, four days before a separate criminal trial for two other Liberals involving allegations of deleted documents in the gas-plants scandal. Both proceedings are slated to continue into October.

    Wynne’s press secretary, Jennifer Beaudry, noted all MPPs are eligible to claim parliamentary privilege, which “exempts a member from the normal obligation to attend court if summoned as a witness from 40 days before a session of the House begins until 40 days after it ends.

    “The premier has said, all along, that she would be open and transparent throughout this process and that is exactly what she will continue to do,” said Beaudry.

    Wynne’s decision to testify for the Crown did not come as a surprise to the defence.

    “We had already been advised by the Crown they anticipated parliamentary immunity would be waived,” said Sorbara lawyer Brian Greenspan of Toronto.

    No date has been set for Wynne’s testimony. Lawyers for Sorbara and Lougheed, a prominent Sudbury funeral home owner, are awaiting a final witness list.

    “We look forward to all of the facts fully and completely coming to the trial,” said Greenspan.

    “We believe the facts will dictate that Pat Sorbara was not involved in any misconduct.”

    Sorbara was a key architect of Wynne’s 2014 majority election victory and one of her most trusted advisors.

    Toronto lawyer Michael Lacy, who is representing Lougheed, has also insisted his client has done nothing wrong.

    Elections Act charges fall within a lower, non-criminal category of violations, known as provincial offences. Penalties include fines of up to $25,000 and maximum jail sentences of two years less a day.

    Last year, prosecutors withdrew more serious Criminal Code charges against Lougheed. Sorbara was never charged criminally.

    She stepped down as chief executive and director of the 2018 Liberal re-election campaign when the Elections Act charges were laid last fall.

    Progressive Conservative Deputy Leader Steve Clark, who has been calling for Wynne to take the stand, said “this is a sad day for Ontario.”

    “Ontarians are tired of Liberal scandals and a premier who only acts in her own self-interest,” said Clark.

    “After 14 years of scandals, Ontarians deserve a government that doesn’t only answer questions on their day in court.”

    NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said Ontarians are “frustrated that the Wynne government’s time and energy is being spent defending its actions in court.

    “People need a government that’s focused on what matter to us: our hydro bills, hospitals and seniors care homes and our children’s classrooms. Instead, the Liberal government is mired in scandal and self-defense, focused on its party and its friends.”

    0 0

    New construction home sales, especially condos, are rising even as the re-sale property market continues to slump in the Toronto region.

    The gains in the newly-built home market are almost entirely due to apartments and stacked townhouses, which accounted for 91 per cent of the 6,046 homes sold in June, according to the latest numbers from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) on Tuesday.

    New condo sales were up 89 per cent year over year, compared to a 72 per cent year-over-year drop in the sale of single family homes.

    The strong condo performance was due in part to the large number of new projects that hit the market in May and June, said Patricia Arsenault, of Altus Group, which tracks new home statistics.

    But their more affordable entry-point prices appealed to many consumers, who might have otherwise preferred a ground-level home and to investors who have noted the escalating price of condos, she said.

    "With condo prices continuing to escalate, this segment of the market is becoming out of reach for many consumers," warned BILD CEO Bryan Tuckey in a press release.

    The price of new apartments rose $22,000 to $627,000 in June, compared to May — a 34 per cent year-over-year increase.

    The price per square foot, considered one of the most accurate gauges to compare condos, rose to $742, compared to $587 a year ago.

    The cost of a newly built single-family home, including detached, semi-detached and traditional town houses, has risen 40 per cent in the last year to $1.25 million from $887,543.

    A new detached home averaged $1.72 million last month, up 9 per cent since May.

    But the supply of new-build homes is an ongoing problem, said Tuckey, who appealed to the government to help builders make more new homes, particularly low-rise housing, available.

    BILD statistics show there were only about 11,000 new homes on the market in June, compared to about 18,000 in the same month last year. Ten years ago, about half of the 30,300 new homes available were single-family dwellings.

    "The challenges builders face, including the lack of serviced and permit-ready developable land and out of date zoning bylaws continue to impact the supply of housing," said Tuckey in a press release.

    As new home sales surged in June, the number of re-sale transactions declined 37 per cent year-over-year, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

    Although it reported a 6.3 per cent year-over-year increase in the average re-sale home price that month, the cost of a re-sale home actually dropped about 8 per cent or $70,000 between May and June this year as listings increased for the third month.

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    Canada Post vehicles will stop parking in Toronto bike lanes, the Crown corporation announced after a Star story highlighted cyclist safety concerns.

    Canada Post understands the concerns raised regarding safety and bike lanes in Toronto,” the postal service said in a statement Tuesday.

    “As a result, we are instructing our employees to not park in bike lanes in the City of Toronto. For pickups or deliveries, they are expected to find a safe location to park their vehicle. If a safe parking location is not available, our employees are expected to avoid the stop, continue on their route and return any undelivered items to the depot.”

    Canada Post drivers are told to report any problem areas to a supervisor so a safety assessment can be done to find the best alternative to serve the area.

    “We are also asking the city to work with Canada Post and others to find long-term solutions to address this issue,” concludes the statement sent by Jon Hamilton, a senior Canada Post spokesman based in Ottawa.

    That is a different message than last week, when Hamilton told the Star that drivers are expected to follow the law and Canada Post is working on changes but “it’s a balance, and there are a lot of people who depend on Canada Post and the work we do so we can’t just make instant changes that have a huge impact on the small businesses that rely on us or the people that have ordered stuff,” online.

    The Star on Monday published a story in which Toronto parking enforcement officer Kyle Ashley, who has garnered praise for his work ticketing bike lane invaders and preaching safety on social media, singled out Canada Post as a repeat offender.

    “Of all the ones who are still holding out from engaging in the positive behaviours that we’ve started seeing from Beck Taxi, Mister Produce and others, the one that I’m still seeing the most infractions coming from would be Canada Post,” Ashley said in an interview last week.

    “The flagrant disregard for the bike lanes is strongest from them. I don’t know if they think they have impunity because the trucks say Canada Post, or if they just don’t care about the public image or the public safety.”

    Also last week, Mayor John Tory said a senior Toronto-based Canada Post manager told him that, as a result of Star inquiries, drivers had been reminded to park legally while doing drop-offs. Ashley said he noticed better behaviour for a day or two, but by week’s end Canada Post vehicles were routinely blocking bike lanes and forcing cyclists into traffic.

    Other couriers including Purolator and FedEx also block bike lanes, he said, but those companies seem willing to talk to him about alternatives including briefly blocking a lane of vehicle traffic, rather than a bike lane, if vehicles can safely go around it in another lane.

    Tory, after an announcement Tuesday about a planned accessible baseball diamond, said he had that morning again called the Canada Post manager in charge of Toronto to request that the postal service “do more.”

    “I indicated this is conduct — recognizing they have their job to do — that it is not acceptable to the City of Toronto, and to us as people who are trying to live together and to learn how to share the roads,” Tory told reporters.

    “When we create bike lanes it is not with the intention that any vehicles will park there ... It isn’t just a matter of disrespect for the law, it’s a public safety issue because when a cyclist then goes around a truck into traffic and then goes back into the bike lane that is a moment of great vulnerability for the cyclist in particular but also for a (driver) who might not be expecting this.”

    Tory added that he will this fall invite representatives of Canada Post and the private courier companies to meet in his office and reinforce the need to keep out of bike lanes but also what else the city can do, such as more designated courier parking spots, to help them.

    After Canada Post announced hours later that it will stay out of bike lanes, the mayor praised the postal agency’s decision.

    “When I took office, Canada Post was one of the first organizations to demonstrate its commitment to help keep this city moving,” Tory said.

    “By adjusting deliveries and drop-off locations, Canada Post showed the impact that an effective partnership can make when it comes to fighting congestion. Once again, today, Canada Post has shown it is prepared to do the right thing.”

    0 0

    The Blue Jays’ front office has officially shifted its focus heading into the upcoming trade deadline, with general manager Ross Atkins saying Monday the club is concerned with strengthening its 2018 squad more so than bringing in any immediate upgrades to its current, ailing team.

    That effectively closes the book on one of the biggest questions surrounding Toronto this year: Is the club a buyer or a seller? But it opens the door for a slew of new conundrums that this aging team will have to answer if it is to contend soon.

    • Who do you build around?

    Starting pitchers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, closer Roberto Osuna and second baseman Devon Travis are the players that fit Atkins’ desire for young, controllable talent. None of the four will reach free agency until 2021.

    Whether Travis can get through a season without injury remains to be seen. He hasn’t played more than half a year in his first three seasons. And Sanchez, last year’s American League leading ERA leader, has become the wild card of the pitching trio this season, spending much of it on the disabled list with blister issues.

    • Surely Josh Donaldson belongs in that group.

    If the 2015 AL MVP is still on Toronto’s 25-man roster come April, he’ll be an obvious focal point. But the third baseman is also scheduled to be a free agent in 2018, and would probably bring the most in return if the Jays were to trade him. Many believe the 2018 free-agent class will be baseball’s best ever, potentially affecting Donaldson’s value. If Toronto does stick with its biggest star, the third baseman could be a step slower in his 33rd year.

    • What about Justin Smoak?

    The first baseman is having a breakout year for the Blue Jays, pairing the strong defence he has long been known for with the offence teams expected when he was selected in the first round of the 2008 draft.

    Smoak reached a career-high for home runs before his first all-star game appearance. He set another career best, this time for RBIs, within weeks. And the four homers he had in his first 11 games after the break bode well for the second half.

    But a year ago, outfielder Michael Saunders played his way to the all-star game, hitting .298 with 16 homers before the break. He hit .178 the rest of the way and, after a miserable start in Philadelphia this season, is trying to rediscover in Triple-A Buffalo.

    A half-season doesn’t make a building block.

    • Where do Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki fit?

    Neither the catcher not the shortstop are going anywhere soon, unless a team wants to saddle itself with a contract worth about $20 million dollars a year, for multiple years, for either Martin, 34, or Tulowitzki, 32. That means the Blue Jays will have to build around the veterans, who are no longer the players they once were.

    Martin remains Toronto’s No. 1 catcher, but his offensive numbers have been declining and, after driving in 151 runs his first two seasons in Toronto, he has just 21 RBIs this season. Tulowitzki, who had an OPS of .916 or better in five of his last six full seasons in Colorado, has a .677 mark this year. And he has already committed eight errors this season, three away from a career high.

    • Who are the farm prospects and when are they coming?

    Three of the Blue Jays’ up-and-comers were in the top 50 of’s mid-season rankings: third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (sixth), middle infielder Bo Bichette (30th) and outfielder Anthony Alford (49th). Bichette and Guerrero are still teenagers and likely a couple of years away from being big-league regulars. Alford, who made his Jays debut in May before breaking his left hamate bone, could fight for a role next spring, especially if Jose Bautista’s time in Toronto comes to a close after this year, but Alford has played more than 100 games in a season just once in the minors.

    0 0

    Let’s cast back a few years, to a long-forgotten episode in the life of the last Stephen Harper government.

    Tom Mulcair, then the country’s Opposition leader, landed in Washington for meetings, and in the course of his visit he outlined the NDP view of the Keystone XL pipeline.

    He told an American audience that his priority for Canadian energy was an east-west pipeline, that Keystone would export Canadian jobs and the NDP would do a better job than Harper in building support for pipelines.

    The Conservative government of the day reacted as if Mulcair should be shipped back north of the border in leg irons and shackles.

    A senior minister of the day, John Baird, accused Mulcair of “trash talking” and “badmouthing” Canada. Another former minister, Joe Oliver, marched to the microphones in the Commons foyer to denounce Mulcair for not leaving politics at the border. He also took to the keyboard for the Globe and Mail to tell the country “a responsible politician would not travel to a foreign capital to score cheap political points.”

    Baird and Oliver are gone, but Michelle Rempel and Peter Kent were part of that government. It appears they missed Oliver’s op-ed.

    The Conservatives under Andrew Scheer are certainly entitled to oppose the Justin Trudeau government’s $10.5 million payout to Omar Khadr.

    The party believes it has a wedge issue here, something that will bring lasting damage to the Trudeau government. Much of their outrage is probably real.

    So they will milk it for everything it is worth. That’s how politics is played.

    But Rempel didn’t need to fly to the U.S. to tell Tucker Carlson on Fox that Canadians were outraged. Kent didn’t need to write an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal to be, as he said, “honest” with our allies and inform them.

    Yes, this is the same Kent who, as Harper’s environment minister, attacked two NDP MPs, Megan Leslie and Claude Gravelle, for speaking about Keystone in Washington — yes, that issue again.

    According to Kent, they were taking “the treacherous course of leaving the domestic debate and heading abroad to attack a legitimate Canadian resource which is being responsibly developed and regulated.”

    Maybe the duo was just trying to be “honest” with our allies and trying to inform them.

    Both Kent and Rempel have ignored an old, time-honoured dictum which has now been repeatedly discredited — you stash your partisan politics on this side of the border.

    For years, Canadian prime ministers did not take partisan shots at opponents back home while travelling abroad because they were representing Canada, not the Liberals or the Conservatives.

    This is even more cherished in the U.S., where presidents do not travel abroad as Republicans or Democrats, but as representatives of the United States of America.

    It was Harper who most aggressively moved away from this tradition.

    As leader of the Canadian Alliance, he and Stockwell Day took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal in 2003 to assure Americans Jean Chrétien had made a mistake in staying out of George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” invading Iraq, and to tell them Canadians stood with them. (They didn’t.)

    When he represented Canada at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, Harper couldn’t wait until his plane landed in Canada to take a poke at Trudeau over the then squeaky new Liberal leader’s comments about “root causes” of terrorism in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

    No one in the press pack asked him about Trudeau’s comments. Harper raised them unsolicited.

    In 2009, Harper had to apologize to then Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff after he went after him at a G8 wrap-up press conference in Italy. He misquoted his adversary.

    The fact of the matter is the Trudeau government gave a heads-up on the Khadr payout to the relevant departments in the Donald Trump government, and Trump never raised the matter with Trudeau at the G20.

    Rempel and Kent got a temporary spike in U.S. attention, particularly in the conservative media, after their interventions. But they sure got a lot of publicity at home over the past week, and that may have been a large part of their calculation.

    One can disagree with the Conservative message on Khadr, but they certainly have the right to express it. At home.

    Much more troubling than the message is the hypocrisy of a party which, while in government, all but accused opponents of high treason for doing just what they did last week.

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs. , Twitter: @nutgraf1

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—At the end of a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday morning, Republican Chairman Susan Collins didn’t switch off her microphone. Apparently speaking to Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat of the committee, Collins discussed the federal budget — and U.S. President Donald Trump’s lack of familiarity with the details of governing.

    After Reed praises Collins’ handling of the hearing, held by the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she laments the administration’s handling of spending.

    “I swear, (the Office of Management and Budget) just went through and whenever there was ‘grant,’ they just X it out,” Collins says. “With no measurement, no thinking about it, no metrics, no nothing. It’s just incredibly irresponsible.”

    “Yes,” Reed replies. “I think — I think he’s crazy,” apparently referring to the president. “I mean, I don’t say that lightly and as a kind of a goofy guy.”

    “I’m worried,” Collins replies.

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    “Oof,” Reed continues. “You know, this thing — if we don’t get a budget deal, we’re going to be paralyzed.”

    “I know,” Collins replies.

    “(Department of Defense) is going to be paralyzed, everybody is going to be paralyzed,” Reed says.

    “I don’t think he knows there is a (Budget Control Act) or anything,” Collins says, referring to a 2011 law that defines the budget process.

    “He was down at the Ford commissioning,” Reed says, referring to President Trump’s weekend event launching a new aircraft carrier, “saying, ‘I want them to pass my budget.’ OK, so we give him $54 billion (U.S.) and then we take it away across the board which would cause chaos.”

    “Right,” Collins replies.

    “It’s just — and he hasn’t — not one word about the budget. Not one word about the debt ceiling,” Reed says.

    “Good point,” Collins replies.

    “You’ve got (Budget Director Mick) Mulvaney saying we’re going to put in all sorts of stuff like a border wall. Then you’ve got (Treasury Secretary Steve) Mnuchin saying it’s got to be clean,” Reed continues. “We’re going to be back in September, and, you know, you’re going to have crazy people in the House.”

    In a more salacious part of what was recorded, Collins then addressed a radio interview in which Rep. Blake Farenthold suggested that if Collins were a man, he’d have challenged her to a duel for opposing the Senate Republicans’ Obamacare overhaul bill.

    “Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?” Collins asks.

    “I know,” Reed replies. “Trust me. Do you know why he challenged you to a duel? ‘Cause you could beat the s--- out of him.”

    “Well, he’s huge,” Collins replies. “And he — I don’t mean to be unkind, but he’s so unattractive it’s unbelievable.”

    “Did you see the picture of him in his pyjamas next to this Playboy bunny?” she continues, referring to an infamous photo of Farenthold.

    At that point, the mic went dead.

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    Steven Sokolowski has paid back $400,000 he took from a charity that raises funds for children with cancer, but the entrepreneur was visibly shaken Wednesday when a judge sentenced him to 14 months in jail, rather than the house arrest he hoped for.

    “It is not just (the charity) that has suffered from Mr. Sokolowski’s crime but every child that might otherwise have been the beneficiary of the large sum of money diverted,” said Ontario Court Justice Katrina Mulligan in her sentencing decision.

    The impact on charitable donors who will now be even more wary is also significant, she said.

    “Every charity loses because of his actions,” Mulligan said, adding that this was a well-planned deception that relied on Sokolowski’s inside knowledge and position of trust in the charity, she said.

    Sokolowski, 67, pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 in January.

    He was one of the founders of Coast to Coast Against Cancer in 2002, a registered Toronto foundation that has raised tens of millions of dollars to support childhood cancer charities and hosts several cycling and other activities every year. The fraud began when he took on additional responsibilities for day-to-day operations as a director of the foundation.

    Between January 2012 and August 2014, he took $400,000 from the charity by filing fraudulent invoices for services never provided or expenses for personal matters, Mulligan found. The fraud was uncovered through a routine audit.

    In a separate, civil case before Superior Court Justice James Diamond in 2015, Sokolowski was ordered to repay about $700,000 to Coast to Coast. The judge in that case — which has no bearing on the criminal matter — found Sokolowski spent the money on girlfriends, expensive wine, and hosting a gathering at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, among other expenses.

    One of those girlfriends was Philippa “Pip” Herrington. Diamond made no findings against her.

    Herrington was charged criminally with fraud along with Sokolowski. Her charges were withdrawn once Sokolowski was sentenced.

    Diamond also ordered Sokolowski to pay a further $50,000 in punitive damages, and $150,000 in court costs.

    As part of the criminal sentencing hearing, a lawyer for Coast to Coast filed a letter outlining Sokolowski’s “tremendous co-operation” so far in the collection of the civil judgment and his apparent recognition of the harm he has caused to the charity.

    Mulligan said the $400,000 that was part of the criminal proceeding has been repaid following the sale of Sokolowski’s matrimonial home. His expensive wine collection was also auctioned off, court heard during a previous court appearance.

    Crown attorney Michael Lockner sought a sentence of two years less a day in jail.

    “I trusted him implicitly,” said foundation chair Jeff Rushton in a victim impact statement read by Lockner. “I never questioned his ethics or moral compass.”

    Rushton said the foundation spent well over $400,000 in legal and accounting costs related to the fraud and recouping the funds, meaning there was less money available to be shared with charities.

    “This is the perverse and sickening reality of what Sokolowski’s actions have meant to the brand and reputation of Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation,” Rushton said.

    Sokolowski, who represented himself in the criminal matter, asked the court for a conditional sentence.

    “I have to say, I feel like I’m fighting for my life here. This was a very difficult time for me,” Sokolowski said, at times getting emotional. “I was under financial distress, borrowing money from the foundation, putting it back. Then it crossed the line. At one point I wanted to be caught. I felt guilty.”

    Sokolowski described the criminal charges as “a bit of a blessing,” because he stopped drinking and started making other improvements in his life.

    “It is a period of my life that I don’t even recognize myself,” he said. “I really, really want to make good.”

    On the issue of deterrence, he said he and his partner Herrington, “have been in a prison already,” given their bail conditions and the level of harassment he said they’ve faced since newspaper reports of the civil case involving Coast to Coast were published in 2015.

    “That then sparked all the crazies coming out, all the stalkers,” he said. “Websites have gone up with crazy accusations, there have been threats, harassment, physical violence.”

    A person allegedly involved with the harassment is now before the courts, Mulligan said.

    Mulligan said Sokolowski’s remorse was genuine and applauded him liquidating his own assets to repay the funds.

    She also noted that at the time the fraud took place Sokolowski said he was reeling from the deaths of his stepfather and his mother, the breakdown of his marriage, depression and chronic pain caused by sciatica resulting in self-medication through alcohol and prescription drugs.

    “Unfortunately the death of parents, the breakup of a relationship and chronic pain are facts of life in almost every citizen’s existence at some point or another,” she said. “It appears he had the resources to . . . manage and cope with the stress.”

    In addition to his jail sentence, Sokolowski faces 16 months of probation and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

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    Mayor John Tory says a secret report to the police services board on the beating of Dafonte Miller, in which an off-duty police officer and his brother are charged, is cause for concern and called the incident “deeply troubling.”

    “I am concerned at some of what I’ve read,” Tory told reporters Tuesday of a report provided to members of the police services board. “There are a number of unanswered questions which remain with respect to the process that was or was not followed here in terms of the notification of the SIU.”

    The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), a police oversight agency, has charged Michael Theriault, a Toronto police officer, and his brother Christian Theriault in the assault of the 19-year-old man with a metal pipe in December.

    Read more: Alleged victim’s family speaks out after Toronto cop charged with assault

    Miller’s injuries are so severe his eye will need to be surgically removed, his family’s lawyer Julian Falconer said earlier.

    Michael Theriault was off duty when the assault occurred in Whitby.

    Durham Region Police, who responded to the scene in the early morning hours of Dec. 28, charged Miller with weapon and drug charges. Court officials earlier told the Star the alleged weapon was a “pole.”

    It was Falconer, not Durham or Toronto police, who alerted the SIU to Miller’s injuries in April. All charges against Miller were dropped in May.

    Following an SIU investigation, both Theriaults have been charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief. The allegations have not yet been tested in court.

    Their father, John Theriault, is a detective who has served more than 30 years with Toronto Police and currently works in the professional standards unit, which deals with officer misconduct, Falconer told the Star.

    The provincial Police Services Act dictates that a police service must notify the SIU immediately of any incident that falls under their mandate, including cases of serious injuries involving officers.

    Tory told reporters there is a “short” report before the police board outlining what has occurred to date. The board meets Thursday, when Tory said the report is expected to be discussed behind closed doors.

    There is no mention of the case on the public agenda, and it is unclear if it will be addressed during the public session of the meeting.

    Falconer told the Star he can understand why the service has to be able to debrief its board in private.

    “But then one hopes that that process becomes less opaque and that they understand the importance of answering serious questions,” he said. “At its heart, the board has a responsibility to do proper oversight . . . This is a policy question: Is this a police service run amok when one of their own — a son of one of their own, two sons of one of their own — does wrong or is this a situation where they’re going to be accountable?”

    Much of the information concerning SIU investigations is kept secret.

    But reporting by the Star’s Wendy Gillis found a dozen recent cases where the SIU director says the Toronto Police appear to have failed to co-operate with investigators, including delays in reporting serious injuries to the watchdog.

    Following a Star campaign for transparency and public pressure, some internal reports, though at times heavily redacted, were released in the high-profile police shooting death of Toronto man Andrew Loku in which no one was charged.

    That included a report required by law from the police chief to the police board on matters arising from an SIU investigation. The board promised to consider releasing future internal reports.

    The contents and author of the report before the board Thursday are unknown.

    Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash said he couldn’t discuss confidential board matters. The question remains if Chief Mark Saunders will address Miller’s case publicly at the board. Pugash said, if asked to do so by the board, “I dare say he will.”

    Acting police board chair Councillor Chin Lee told the Star that because it concerns a “personnel” issue, he couldn’t discuss the report or provide any details about it. Lee said he was “kind of surprised” the mayor mentioned it at all.

    Tory said he couldn’t speak to specifics of the case as it now makes its way through the legal system.

    “Toronto police officers, all of them, are expected — as most of them do all of the time — to adhere to a very high standard of conduct. Whether they’re on duty or off duty, they’re representatives of Toronto and of the Toronto Police Service.”

    He said he remains concerned about anti-Black racism in the city, adding the facts of the assault on Miller are still unclear.

    “I don’t really understand how any of this cannot be labelled as anti-Blackness. I don’t know if the mayor is paying attention,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Pascale Diverlus. “This is the person that was attacked, obviously attacked, right? And they are the person that is charged.”

    How the assault on Miller was reported, Diverlus said, shows promises made about greater accountability surrounding police-involved incidents have not resulted in meaningful change.

    “What other incidents have been brushed aside?” she asked. “How many more people do we not know about?”

    0 0

    Canada’s practice of indefinitely jailing immigration detainees does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a Federal Court judge ruled Tuesday.

    “The question of when detention for immigration purposes is no longer reasonable does not have a single, simple answer,” Justice Simon Fothergill wrote in his 58-page judgment. “It depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.”

    Lawyers representing former immigration detainee Alvin Brown — who spent five years in a maximum-security jail before the government was able to deport him to Jamaica last September — had argued that Canada’s entire immigration detention regime was unfair and unconstitutional. They called upon the court to set a maximum length of time the government could detain non-citizens while trying to deport them, as is the case in some other countries.

    Read more: Caged by Canada – Part 1

    Fothergill dismissed their application, writing that the system’s “shortcomings” were due to the misapplication of the law, not the law itself. When “properly interpreted and applied,” he wrote, existing regulations comply with the charter.

    Jared Will, Brown’s lawyer, said the fact the law can be misapplied and does not protect detainees against its misapplication is the problem. Existing laws put “too much confidence and too much power” in the hands of immigration officials, he said. “What we’re looking for is a resolution that will provide the adequate, necessary protection.”

    Will said he intends to appeal the judgment, and a key part of the court ruling allows that to proceed, as Fothergill certified a question specifically about establishing a time limit on immigration detention.

    “The Federal Court of Appeal and maybe one day the Supreme Court will hear and decide these issues,” Will said.

    In addition to Brown’s case, the court also heard evidence from five other former immigration detainees and their families. Their stories were shared by the End Immigration Detention Network, which was granted third-party standing in the case.

    Every year, Canada’s border police detain thousands of people who have been deemed inadmissible to the country and classified as a danger to the public — usually because of past criminal charges or convictions — or unlikely to show up for their deportation. The average length of detention is about three weeks, but many cases drag on for months or years.

    Although the detainees have not been charged with a crime, many are sent to maximum-security provincial jails, where they are treated the same as those serving criminal sentences or awaiting trial.

    A Star investigation earlier this year into immigration detention in Canada found a system in which hundreds of unwanted immigrants were languishing indefinitely in conditions meant for a criminal population. The Star found that detainees are also poorly served by the quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board, which reviews their detentions every 30 days.

    The relative fairness of the detention reviews was a key part of the Federal Court case, with Will and lawyers representing the End Immigration Detention Network arguing that the hearings were inherently unfair.

    Citing many of the same complaints that more than a dozen immigration lawyers raised in interviews with the Star, Will argued that the detention reviews are stacked against detainees because, among other reasons, the government’s submissions are taken as fact, disclosure is not provided to detainees and there is, practically speaking, a “reverse onus” on the detainee to justify release rather than on the government to justify continued detention.

    But Fothergill found these problems do not mean the system itself is broken.

    “If the (Immigration and Refugee Board) does not respect these standards in practice, this is a problem of maladministration, not an indication that the statutory scheme is itself unconstitutional,” he wrote.

    Unlike some other countries, Canada has no maximum length of immigration detention, an aspect of the system that has been widely criticized. Two years ago, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called on Canada to set a “reasonable” time limit for such detention.

    In the European Union, most countries have set an 18-month limit on immigration detention, while several countries have set even lower thresholds.

    Courts in the U.S., meanwhile, have ruled that if after six months deportation is not likely in the “reasonably foreseeable future,” the detainee should be released.

    Will had asked the court to declare immigration detention unconstitutional when it extended beyond six months, and that detainees be immediately released after 18 months. Lawyers for the End Immigration Detention Network sought a 90-day limit.

    Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for the federal Public Safety Ministry, which oversees immigration detention, said the government is currently reviewing Fothergill’s decision. He reiterated the government’s previous commitment to create a “better” and “fairer” immigration detention system by expanding alternatives to detention, improving conditions at federal immigration detention facilities and reducing the use of provincial jails.

    Bardsley pointed out that under the Liberals the number of immigration detentions has decreased and that the government “continues to work on real improvements to our system.”

    0 0

    WATERLOO—Canada has once again stripped Helmut Oberlander, 93, of his citizenship for serving in a Nazi death squad and lying about it to enter Canada.

    It’s the fourth time the government has taken this step after Oberlander defeated the government in court three times to restore his citizenship.

    For the fourth time Oberlander is going to court to overturn the political decision, made this time by the federal cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    Read more:

    Helmut Oberlander, ex Nazi death squad member, once again wins chance to keep Canadian citizenship

    Father was never charged with war crime, family says

    “We are determined to deny safe haven in Canada to war criminals and persons believed to have committed or been complicit in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide,” Pierre Deveau, spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said in a statement.

    Liberal and Conservative governments have been pursuing the retired Waterloo developer since 1995 in a case that’s into its third decade and fourth prime minister.

    Oberlander’s lawyers suspected the government was poised to announce its decision when two RCMP officers surprised Oberlander last month by appearing at his door and asking to speak with him.

    “I suppose they were trying to determine if he was still of sound mind and health and could receive the decision,” said Ron Poulton, Oberlander’s lawyer.

    Poulton said Oberlander felt intimidated and called his daughter to his home. The pair asked police why they came. “They were kind of cagey about it and we couldn’t really get any answers on it, but we knew something was coming,” he said. The police left.

    In 1995, the government announced its prosecution days after two RCMP officers surprised Oberlander by visiting him at home to talk about the Second World War.

    Oberlander is an ethnic German born and raised in Ukraine under Soviet rule. He served as a decorated, low-level interpreter in a mobile death squad that murdered at least 23,000 civilians, mostly Jews, between 1941 and 1943.

    He says he was conscripted by invading Germans the month he turned 18 in 1942. He denies participating in war crimes and denies lying about it to immigrate in 1954.

    Oberlander was made a German citizen in 1944 to honour his service. Canada made him a citizen in 1960.

    No evidence was presented to a court that Oberlander personally participated in war crimes. In 2000, a court found that he lied about his membership in the death squad before entering Canada, where he pursued a successful career as a developer.

    “We thank and applaud the Government of Canada,” Shimon Koffler Fogel, chief executive of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said in a statement.

    Fogel said Oberlander has “been exploiting our judicial process to avoid prosecution in Germany. There is no statute of limitations for such heinous crimes, and the government deserves credit for its tireless efforts in this case.

    “This latest development is an important milestone in bringing a measure of justice to his many victims and their families.”

    The decision distressed Ernst Friedel, a director with the German-Canadian Congress, who said Oberlander is being unfairly prosecuted for translations he provided as a young man without a choice.

    “This has nothing to do with justice,” Friedel said. “I compare it to the Middle Ages, to declare someone something bad, and to go after that person relentlessly.”

    Trudeau said in 2016 that his government is committed to prosecuting immigrants such as Oberlander who lie about their past to become citizens.

    “There is one condition in which citizenship can be revoked, and that is when it was acquired based on fraud, misinformation and not representing clearly who one was,” Trudeau said while visiting Waterloo.

    “And that is at the core of this case I’m sure . . . Canadians are rightly proud, not just of our citizenship, but of the values that are articulated by that citizenship, and we have to make sure that we’re doing everything to defend the principles and values that it mean to be Canadian.”

    Poulton said it’s remarkable the government is still pursuing Oberlander after he defeated them in court three times.

    “Given his age and the number of times they’ve lost, I’ve never seen the government pursue someone like this to such a degree,” he said.

    While the federal cabinet argues it has the right to strip Oberlander’s citizenship because he lied to get it, courts have repeatedly told cabinet it must also weigh other factors, such as Oberlander’s level of complicity in the death squad.

    Poulton said the government’s latest decision “ignores and misstates evidence. They really stretched this time to try to find him complicit.”

    Last fall, the government gave Oberlander 90 days to respond to a government report and to explain why his citizenship should not be revoked. He did this and cabinet chose to revoke his citizenship again, on June 20.

    “We also know the value of Canadian citizenship and cannot allow anyone to defraud the system or diminish its integrity,” said Deveau, spokesperson for the government. “We don’t take citizenship revocation lightly, but it is necessary in cases of fraud and serious misrepresentation.”

    Oberlander is seeking a judicial review of cabinet’s decision, as he has done previously. A court hearing is expected in the fall or early 2018.

    Bernie Farber, former chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, blames Federal Court of Appeal rulings rather than government failures for a case that’s dragged on for decades. He’s heartened that governments have not given up, but expects Oberlander may die before the prosecution concludes.

    “The government sends a strong message in this day and age to would-be war criminals and would-be alleged war criminals that they will be hunted ’til their dying days,” he said.

    Farber argues against seeing Oberlander as 93. “We ought not to think of him as he is today. We ought to remember him and those others who participated in the murder of tens of thousands of people as they were: young, vibrant bullies and alleged murderers,” he said.

    “To think about them in their old age denies really the sweet lives of those that were caught up in the web of mass murder that the Nazis perpetrated. They never got to live. He did.”

    0 0

    An anatomy scan is routine for pregnant women at 20 weeks. That was when Kristine Barry learned her baby had a heart defect that would require what’s believed to be the world’s first use of in utero surgery to treat this condition.

    Doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children and Mount Sinai Hospital were quick to assure Barry, 25, and her husband, Christopher Havill, 27, that they could fix the problem.

    They diagnosed the couple’s first child, Sebastian Havill, now 9 weeks old, with severe complete transposition of the great arteries (TGA). It’s a congenital heart defect that occurs when the pulmonary artery and aorta are switched, and the heart can’t adequately circulate blood through the body.

    Barry said her first thoughts were “Why me, why my baby?”

    To fix the problem, surgeons normally perform open-heart surgery on the infant to switch the arteries within a week of birth. But there was a complication in this case.

    All the walls in Sebastian’s heart were closed shut, meaning his blood wouldn’t get oxygen after his birth, which could have led to severe brain damage or death within minutes.

    “Previously, doctors had the baby born by C-section and then rushed it over to Sick Kids for a balloon procedure,” Barry said. “If he was born over at Mount Sinai, he wouldn’t have enough time to be moved to Sick Kids. He likely wasn’t going to make it.”

    So the doctors — Edgar Jaeggi, Rajiv Chaturvedi and Greg Ryan — devised a different plan to save her baby.

    On May 18, Barry went into the operating room, and Sebastian had what’s believed to be the world’s first balloon atrial septoplasty surgery in utero to treat TGA.

    With ultrasound guidance, the doctors inserted a needle into Barry’s uterus and into Sebastian’s heart to blow up a tiny ballon, making a hole about 3.5 millimetres wide in his atrial septum. This allowed the blood and oxygen to circulate properly, a temporary fix until they could perform surgery after birth.

    About 30 medical staff were there to assist in the procedure, including surgeons, cardiologists, a person with an incubator and a doctor to do a caesarean section in the likely case that Barry had to give birth early.

    “I was weirdly calm. I put all my belief in that it was going to work, but I went in with the mindset that I was having a baby that day,” Barry said. “The way they described our options for that day, I had a two-out-of-three chance for having a baby, so I went in thinking, ‘I could be meeting my son today.’”

    Just 20 minutes later, the surgery was over and the room erupted in applause, said Barry, who cried when she realized that her baby could be born healthy.

    Five days after the surgery, Barry was induced into labour and gave birth to Sebastian only 10 minutes in.

    “He came out pink and screaming, and I was just in shock. I didn’t believe that was what was going to happen,” she said.

    A week after his birth, Sebastian successfully underwent the open-heart surgery that babies with congenital TGA must have, and he was sent home the week after.

    About three babies a year in Ontario have the same extreme case of congenial heart defect that Sebastian has.

    His parents will take him to a neuro-development program at Sick Kids to make sure he’s hitting all his milestones at 6, 12, 18, 24 and 36 months old.

    Barry and Havill have been told that Sebastian may run into issues at any stage in his development, but in general he is expected to lead a normal life.

    If Sebastian has any development problems, Barry said, the doctors at Sick Kids can help by teaching them exercises to do at home, or sending a support worker to help with speech or physiotherapy.

    “They want us to let him be a kid and run around and get his blood pumping and his heart working really well. They don’t want us bubble-wrapping him and being too protective,” Barry said. “They want him to live a normal life as much as possible.”

    0 0

    Toronto’s east end “Beach” neighbourhood is home to more than a few yoga studios, but this doesn’t mean its residents are particularly flexible.

    For proof, look no further than the paddleboard-kiosk dispute plaguing the boardwalk at Balsam Ave. and Hubbard Blvd.

    It’s here that a small group of residents who live directly across from the lake are upset about the present location of iPaddle Adventures, a new business that rents paddleboards and kayaks to beachgoers, a business the residents say is obstructing their view of the water.

    “Paddleboard kiosk dispute” may sound like the lowest stakes event in human history, but I assure you, it’s of great consequence to anyone who believes a city’s main attractions should serve all of its inhabitants, as opposed to a lucky few.

    Among those who hold this view is Brian Quinn, the CEO of iPaddle Adventures. The city recently granted Quinn permission to park his kiosk on the grass behind the boardwalk. Today, that business is thriving. He says he rents paddleboard and kayak equipment to a minimum of 40 people everyday, beachgoers from all over the city and several tourists as well. (I looked at the binder in his office and it was jam-packed with rental slips.)

    But, says Quinn, some residents continue to complain that their view of the lake has suffered as a result of his being there. One resident in particular, a woman named Viola Bracegirdle, a beach resident with a formerly unobstructed view, described the situation to the CBC like this: “It’s terrible. He (Quinn) should have been down someplace else. They can go down further. Why are they picking on us? We are the most expensive houses here and the taxes are the highest here. I’m fed up.”

    Quinn alleges that some residents are so fed up they’ve “screamed profanities” at him and frightened his customers; he even called the non-emergency police service, and told the complaining residents to expect a letter from his lawyer if they continue to interfere with his business.

    I took the streetcar to the Beach this week, so I could see for myself the alleged blight that is iPaddle Adventures, but here’s what I saw instead: Quinn sitting on a bench eating a sandwich, a Bluetooth radio of some kind humming quietly beside him. And behind him, the kiosk itself, modestly sized, decorated with Canadian flags and upright kayak paddles. It was hard to believe this was the blemish on the horizon that beach residents are so incensed about.

    But then I remembered I was in Toronto, possibly the NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) capital of the world. “(Residents) came out with a sign saying they wanted us removed from the beach and that I was an eyesore,” Quinn told me.

    An eyesore! God forbid anyone should have to abide an eyesore from his or her porch, so that families from all over the city and, presumably, all over the world can enjoy a boat ride on a public beach. NIMBYism of this order makes me think Torontonians are so averse to so-called “eyesores” we’d probably reject a city proposal for a giant ray gun if an asteroid were hurtling toward the downtown core, because the thing might obstruct somebody’s view of the CN Tower.

    In other words, in Toronto, we seem to love nothing more than cutting off our nose to spite our face.

    It doesn’t help that in addition to NIMBYism we have an obsession with so-called “villages.” In his book Frontier City, urbanist and Toronto Star columnist Shawn Micallef writes, “Toronto has what might be called a village fetish, where neighbourhoods insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that they are indeed a village.”

    You could argue that one of Toronto’s most attractive features — its network of distinct neighbourhoods — is also the very thing that stalls its progress. If you have a village mentality in a big city, as some residents in the picturesque Beach evidently do, you forget that your “village” belongs to a sprawling metropolis and the populace at large is entitled to the attractions and resources therein.

    You forget that your view of the lake is not in fact, your view. It’s everybody’s view. The Beach is a neighbourhood in Toronto, it’s not Muskoka.

    “They don’t own this boardwalk,” Quinn says about the residents who want him to move his kiosk out of their line of sight. “The city owns this boardwalk. This is for people. This is to get people out doing things.”

    Amen. Let the people paddleboard.

    Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.

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    Premier Kathleen Wynne is pledging to minimize the impact on small business of the looming increase to the minimum wage.

    “We’re going to work with small businesses and in the fall, we’ll bring forward some initiatives that will help business to get through this transition,” Wynne told Newstalk 1010 on Wednesday.

    “There are some other things that we can do to support small businesses through the transition,” the premier said without offering specifics.

    As part of the government’s sweeping labour reforms, the $11.40-an-hour minimum wage will rise to $14 on Jan. 1 and to $15 in 2019.

    That hike has many business groups worried.

    “With a planned 32 per cent increase in the minimum wage over the next 18 months, business owners are predicting a struggle to quickly generate the revenue required to match rising labour costs,” warned the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s Ashley Challinor.

    “This means that a significant number of businesses fear they cannot keep their doors open,” Challinor told an all-party legislative committee studying the reforms last Friday.

    “The pending legislation will create winners and losers, job losses, increased costs of consumer goods, and economic hardship.”

    Loblaw chair and CEO Galen Weston Jr., whose company operates Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart, predicted Wednesday the company’s labour costs could jump by $190 million next year.

    “We are flagging a significant set of financial headwinds and the organization is mobilizing all of its resources to see whether or not it can close that gap,” he said.

    At Friday’s legislative hearing at Queen’s Park, veteran restaurateur Fred Luk said small businesses simply cannot afford such a rapid rise in labour costs.

    “My only concern is to survive past Jan. 1, 2018. How do I raise my menu prices to pay for this increase? I don’t know how to do it,” said Luk, owner of Fred’s Not Here on King St. West.

    “Out of the 25 employees that I have, two employees are less-skilled employees and are still paid above minimum wage. The rest are paid above the new proposed minimum wage already. I’m paying my employees $15, $16, $17 right now,” he told the committee.

    Even so, once the minimum wage rate jumps, Luk said his wage tab will jump.

    “This is what small business is all about. You can make money one year; the next year, you might not, because of the razor-thin margins you run on.”

    Small Business Minister Jeff Leal insisted the province is listening to such concerns and will act upon them as the legislation is fine-tuned this fall.

    “As we always do, we have been meeting with small businesses and stakeholders like the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to listen directly to their suggestions and ideas about how we can further grow Ontario’s economy and build strong local economies,” said Leal, who is also agriculture minister.

    “We were also actively monitoring the presentations being made to the standing committee on Bill 148 and will be undertaking a review of the submissions made for ideas on how we can better support small businesses,” he said.

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    The woman at the centre of an extraordinary case, in which a split-second decision left one man dead, says she would not be alive today if it weren’t for the “angel” who ran her alleged assailant down with his car.

    Alicia Aquino says that Anthony Kiss, the man who hit and killed Dario Romero in June, and who now faces charges of manslaughter in his death, was the only passerby to answer her calls for help.

    “I owe my life to him,” Aquino told the Star in an emotional interview Tuesday. “He has four children, and it’s not fair to charge this man.”

    Aquino, a hotel room attendant who was on her way to work in the early hours of June 7, said she decided to speak to the Star after hearing how the charges have negatively affected Kiss’s life.

    She felt compelled to tell her story, she said, because she could not imagine Kiss being sent to prison, away from his four children, for several years. She also wanted to add her perspective to a story that has been playing out, and debated, online.

    In a previous interview with the Star — details of which were corroborated by his girlfriend, who was in the car at the time — Kiss, 31, said he ran Romero down because he saw him wielding a knife and chasing a woman into the street. He did it, Kiss said, to save her life.

    Neither Kiss’s nor Aquino’s version of events have been tested in court.

    Kiss is charged with impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing death, over 80 mgs operation of a motor vehicle causing death and failure to stop at scene of accident causing death. Kiss told the Star he had a few beers at a concert that night, but wasn’t impaired.

    He said he blew just over the legal limit. He said he left the scene of the crash before he was arrested because he was in “straight shock” and panicked. He is out on bail and will return to court Aug. 3.

    In her telling of the story, 59-year-old Aquino did not provide granular details of what happened during the alleged attack out of respect for police requests to not compromise evidence in the case. She was advised by criminal lawyer, Daniel Brown, whom her family reached out to after seeing his comments on the case in a Star article.

    “She wanted a lawyer to help her tell the story within the boundaries of what she was allowed to share, but without compromising the integrity of the investigation,” said Brown, who is not being paid for his work.

    Romero’s brother-in-law, who didn’t want to be named citing the nature of his work with children, said the public can’t know the full story because Romero is dead.

    “People should remember that Dario isn’t here to give his account of the story,” he said. “These stories can influence potential jurors.”

    The alleged attack took place around 4:30 a.m. at the bus stop near Eglinton Ave W. and Black Creek Dr. Aquino said she was on her way to work at a downtown hotel, where she has been working for 27 years. She had been taking this particular route for seven years. At the time, she was standing by the bus stop texting with her girlfriend, who was asking her to pick up two coffees — one black, one double double.

    “Usually I will go and stay in the shelter, but this time something told me ‘no, stand at the bus stop don’t go to the shelter,’ ” she said.

    That’s when she noticed a man approaching. Initially, she thought nothing of it.

    “When I see this gentleman coming towards me, I don’t think (anything) because I meet all kinds of people in the morning,” she said.

    Romero, 37, spoke to Aquino, she said, but “he wasn’t making any sense.” Romero’s family has previously told the Star that he was a wonderful father to a young son, and that he had been diagnosed with extreme paranoia.

    He said two sentences to her, Aquino said, adding she did not respond to him. She had never seen him before.

    Aquino said that Romero then pulled out a knife and tried to slash at her. She says she ran away from him, but he knocked her to the ground on the street and kicked and stomped her.

    “I’m screaming and I see cars passing by, nobody stopped,” she said, through tears. “I was calling for help.”

    She fought with Romero on the ground and managed to get away. Romero continued to chase her and tripped her, and she fell down again, this time on the median, she said.

    “And I hear this thing, ‘boom!’ behind me,” she said. At that point, Aquino, a single mother of five and grandmother to seven, said she thought it was over.

    “I just crossed my arms, and I said ‘I’m dead, I’m not going to see my grandchildren and my kids,’ ” she said, adding that she had not yet seen her youngest granddaughter, who had just been born and was still in the hospital.

    “A few seconds later I open up my eyes and I can feel that I was in a lot of pain. I have no idea what had happened.”

    Aquino was not stabbed during the altercation. Her injuries to the lower half of her body were caused by the attacker kicking and tripping her, she said. The “boom” she heard, she now knows, she said, was Kiss driving into Romero.

    The next thing Aquino said she remembers were three men surrounding her, two of them construction workers.

    “It’s okay, you’re okay,” she remembers one of the men telling her. She asked them to call the police, and they told her they already had.

    Aquino said she then asked one of the men helping her to take her to the driver of the car, but he told her to wait for an ambulance instead. She says she yelled in the direction of where she believed Kiss was — but she doesn’t know for sure if it was him because her glasses were knocked off and she could only see shadows.

    “ ‘You’re my angel, you saved me!,’ ” Aquino said she remembered shouting. Of Kiss, she added, “he’s the only one who put his family on the side to save me, to do something for me.”

    An ambulance took Aquino to St. Joseph’s hospital, where she stayed for a couple of hours. She says that she has trouble walking and that her physical injuries have prevented her from returning to work — a job that requires physical exertion. The hotel where she works provided her sick leave at a portion of her salary for six weeks, but it has now expired and she is struggling to pay basic bills. She has had to give up her weekend jobs cleaning houses.

    The incident has also taken a drastic toll on her mental health, she said.

    She is not eating or sleeping properly and is afraid to leave the house alone.

    “I’m 59, I feel like 80 now,” she said. “I have sweats, I wake up sweating, I have to have someone around 24/7.”

    Adding to her stress is her knowing that Kiss is facing jail time for what he did, she said, adding she would be “devastated” if he was convicted: “It’s not fair when somebody stood up to the plate.”

    In response to online comments the public has made that Kiss should have just honked his horn, Aquino said she does not believe it would have made a difference.

    “I was the target, so no matter what other people did, I don’t think so,” she said.

    Brown, the lawyer who advised Aquino, said he believes that what Kiss did was “well within the boundaries of the law.”

    “In Canadian law, the use of deadly force is only permitted in very rare circumstances — for example, where it is necessary to protect someone from death or serious bodily harm,” Brown said in an email to the Star.

    “Some of the factors a judge will consider in assessing this defence include whether the use of force was imminent and whether there were other means available to respond to the potential use of force. In this case, Mr. Kiss could not have done anything less to stop this vicious attack. While tragic, the facts completely support Mr. Kiss’s response to this violent encounter.”

    Toronto police declined to comment on the case.

    Aquino said she has made it clear to the Toronto police officers investigating the case that she would like to meet Kiss. The police told her that would compromise the case.

    Said Aquino: “I feel this (interview) is the only way for now to get it out there so people can understand why he did what he did.”

    0 0

    Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus have been found on the Toronto Islands, but the city says that’s no reason to avoid the area as it gets set to reopen next week following extensive flooding.

    An email from a Toronto Public Health official sent Tuesday informed an Island residents’ group of the latest development in a summer that has left attractions rained out, parks underwater and businesses without customers.

    “For your information, mosquitoes collected from our traps on the Toronto Islands tested positive for West Nile virus this week,” stated the email from associate medical officer of health Christine Navarro.

    Navarro said two mosquito samples taken on the island, each containing mosquitoes collected in traps over the course of one week, tested positive for the virus. Samples can contain anywhere from “a few” to about 100 mosquitoes, she said.

    “Mosquito breeding areas tend to be places where there’s standing water,” she told the Star. “When they had flooding on the islands and areas where there’s some standing water, those were some areas where mosquitoes could breed.”

    Navarro said the risk of acquiring West Nile virus from a mosquito bite is low throughout the islands and the rest of Toronto. But she said Toronto Public Health has been working with the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department to remove standing water areas on the islands.

    Her email also included a fact sheet about measures islanders can take to steer clear of the virus.

    The city recommends wearing light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors and applying bug spray. Residents should also make sure their homes have tight-fitting screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside.

    “I think people should go out and enjoy the island,” Navarro said.

    The finding comes less than a week before the islands could reopen to the public, as the city has been working towards a July 31 target.

    Toronto Island Park has been closed to the general public since May and ferry service to the Ward’s Island Dock has been restricted to residents.

    “This is the third flood that I’ve lived through, and this was by far the worst, absolutely,” said island resident Lynn Jenkins, who has lived there for close to 50 years. “Some of the ground is so soggy that the people walking on it, the trucks have done a lot of damage.”

    City spokesperson Wynna Brown said the plan is to have all ferry docks back open on Monday.

    “We’re hoping to get as much of the island open and accessible to the public as possible,” Brown said. “We expect there will still be some areas that will be out of bounds or off limits due to conditions.”

    Many walking paths that had previously been underwater are now dry, yet some puddles remain along with muddy areas. Sandbags are still scattered throughout the island to prevent high water levels from spilling onto dry land.

    “It’s still wet and there’s still areas that are going to be cordoned off,” Brown said.

    Areas such as the Franklin Children’s Garden, the highest point on the island, is in good shape, Brown said, while others closer to water, such as the grandstand, remain unusable.

    Some parts of the islands will remain closed past Monday but could reopen later on during the summer, according to Brown.

    But one attraction that won’t open this year is the Far Enough Farm petting zoo. Extensive damage to the farm and pens, as well as remaining water in the area, will keep animals on a farm in Schomberg, Ont. for the foreseeable future.

    Centreville’s swan ride and the bumper boat ride, which make use of Lake Ontario, also won’t reopen this year due to high water levels, according to spokesperson Shawnda Walker. The train ride will remain shut for the season because of damage to the tracks.

    Walker said Centreville is otherwise set to reopen Monday, with the launch of its new sky ride that has been down for the past couple of years.

    “The park is ready to go,” she said. “As far as the enjoyment of the park and just walking around, you won’t encounter any water.”

    0 0

    The White House wants America to know that U.S. President Donald Trump has the support of a 9-year-old named Dylan.

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was last week named Trump’s new press secretary, opened Wednesday’s White House press briefing by reading a letter of praise she said was from the child.

    “I’m 9 years old and you are my favourite president,” Sanders read. “I like you so much I had a birthday about you.”

    With reporters looking on, Sanders then answered a few questions Dylan had posed in his letter, including, “how big is the White House?” and, “how much money do you have?”

    “I don’t know why people don’t like you,” she continued reading. “You seem really nice. Can we be friends?”

    Read more:Trump’s attacks on Sessions, Mueller raise concerns about ‘authoritarian’ tactics

    Sanders spent much of Wednesday’s briefing addressing questions about Trump’s plan to bar transgender individuals from the U.S. military. In a series of morning tweets, Trump had earlier said he wants transgender people barred from serving “in any capacity.”

    Sanders described the move as a “military decision” and said Trump was concerned the current policy “erodes military readiness and military cohesion.” She said the secretary of defence was notified yesterday after Trump made the decision.

    Later in the press briefing, Sanders said she would end proceedings early if reporters continued to ask questions about the transgender issue.

    Here’s the full text of Dylan’s letter, complete with spelling errors:

    Dear President Trump

    My name is Dylan (redacted) but every body calls me pickle. I’m 9 years old and you are my fovrit President. I like you so much I had a birthday about you. My cake was the shap of your hat. How old ar you? How big is the white hose? Ho much monny do you have? I dont now why people don’t like you. You seme nice can we be friends? My pitcher is in here so if you see me you can say hi.

    Your friend


    With files from The Associated Press

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