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    SOMERSET WEST, SOUTH AFRICA—Oscar Pistorius was taken from prison to a hospital Thursday for medical examinations and will be kept at the facility overnight amid South African media reports that the former track star and convicted murderer was suffering from chest pains.

    Pistorius was taken to the hospital Thursday morning and was expected to return to the prison later the same day, Department of Corrections spokesperson Logan Maistry told The Associated Press. However, Pistorius will now stay overnight in the hospital “for observation,” Maistry said.

    Read more:

    Prosecutors to appeal Oscar Pistorius’ ‘shockingly too lenient’ jail sentence

    Oscar Pistorius sentenced to six years in prison

    Maistry declined to give details of Pistorius’ medical complaint, citing department rules preventing the divulging of information on offenders. He said only that Pistorius was having “medical examinations.”

    Reports claimed Pistorius was suffering from chest pains and was taken from Atteridgeville Prison to the emergency department at Kalafong Hospital in the South African capital Pretoria by ambulance, and escorted by armed guards.

    Maistry declined to comment on the reports, while a spokesperson for Pistorius didn’t immediately return a phone call from the The Associated Press seeking comment.

    Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympic runner and multiple Paralympic champion, is serving a six-year prison term for murder in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. He has served a year of his sentence.

    The 30-year-old Pistorius was first imprisoned at the Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in central Pretoria but was moved to Atteridgeville because it was better suited to handle disabled inmates.

    This is the second time Pistorius has left prison for a hospital visit. Last year, he was taken to the hospital for treatment to cuts on his wrists, which prison authorities said he sustained after falling in his cell.

    Pistorius was convicted of murder after an appeal by prosecutors against an initial manslaughter verdict. He killed Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013 by shooting her multiple times through a toilet cubicle door at his Pretoria home. Pistorius claimed he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder hiding in the cubicle.

    Prosecutors have announced their intention to appeal again, this time against Pistorius’ six-year sentence, which they say is too lenient. The National Prosecuting Authority said it will appeal to South Africa’s Supreme Court, and the appeal could be heard this year. Pistorius faces having his sentence increased to 15 years if prosecutors are successful. There is no death penalty in South Africa.


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    Might as well start with a disclosure: 20 years ago, I worked for a summer for the Yonge Street Small Business Association, and for John Anderson, the proprietor of a furniture shop called Morningstar and the ringleader of the merchant and landlord group. So I know, and have warm memories of, the people and area I’m writing about here — I have a conflict of interest in this story because I made a little money once upon a time from these people and places.

    Back then, they had funding from the federal government to pay me minimum wage to paint storefronts. For a summer, I lugged cans of paint up and down a 36-foot extension ladder, putting colour on the first and second floors of restaurants and clothing stores on Yonge between College and Bloor.

    On Wednesday evening, I went back to Anderson’s Morningstar storefront — now moved across the street — for an emergency meeting of the business association. A lot of the businesses there have endured the ups and downs of the two decades since: Nail’s Attraction, Rock Variety, Hockridge china shop (there since 1900), Cat’s Cradle, ABC Books. Many of them still occupy the two- and three-storey storefronts that have long defined the strip.

    But a lot has changed in the area since then, too. The laneway food stands of Roy’s Square are gone, replaced by a giant glass condo tower at Bloor. Across the street, Stollerys is gone, replaced by a construction site that will be a condo tower. North and south of Wellesley, whole blocks have now been turned into giant holes in the ground that will become condo towers.

    And these changes, inevitably, bring other changes. And those changes, the merchants and landlords gathered Wednesday night said, represent a crisis for small businesses.

    While the meeting was taking place, the Star reported that rock ’n’ roll haircut institution House of Lords was closing up shop because, after 51 years in business, a property tax hike — “double taxation,” the owner called it — was just too much to absorb.

    At the meeting a half a block south, John Anderson was telling about 40 assembled merchants sitting among the carved wooden doors for sale in the rear of his shop that he expected House of Lords closing would be just the beginning — as many nodded along, he proposed tracking the businesses that shuttered due to tax increases and labeling them the “Mayor Tory Cemetery.”

    Read more: House of Lords hair salon set to close after 51 years

    Although the discussion soon made clear it isn’t John Tory who’s responsible for the tax increases they are complaining about. It’s the provincial agency that does property tax assessments, MPAC. Because of the recent sales in the neighbourhood to condo developers, every building on the strip has been reassessed according to the value of its “highest and best use,” in the lingo of the province. Which means a little T-shirt shop in a 14-foot-wide, two-storey Victorian brick building is assessed taxes as if it were a 40-storey condo with a Shopper’s Drug Mart in the podium.

    House of Lords owner Paul Burford called it “double tax.” John Anderson was talking about a “100 per cent tax increase in one year.” Other landlords, pointing to the assessments, were talking about a 500 per cent increase in their taxes by 2020.

    It looks like this: one landlord in attendance showed me the tax bill on his building in the 500-block of Yonge. In 2016, he paid just over $22,000 in property tax. In 2017, he was asked to pay more than $48,000. And that increase was the first year of a four year phase in — so he was told to expect similar increases every year until 2020.

    It is standard in commercial real estate for landlords to pass property tax increases directly to tenants — commercial leases include a “base rent” paid to the landlord and then an “additional rent” premium that absorbs all costs such as taxes, which is adjusted each year. But landlords in attendance said they couldn’t pass these increases to tenants, because the small retailers would be bankrupted, leaving the space vacant and the landlord with the bill.

    George Giaouris owns a building in the 500 block (“I’ve been here on Yonge St. since I was 9 years old,” he says) and operates his own shop, North Bound Leather, on the main floor. “My second floor tenant,” he said at the meeting, “I’m supposed to tell them, ‘Your base rent is $15 per square foot, now the assessment says your share of the (taxes), according to the assessment, is $22 per square foot?’ That’s just wrong. I can’t do that.”

    Some would say Giaouris and others like him ought to just sell their buildings to developers who can build something to justify the “highest use” taxation. But adding insult to injury, the landlords along Yonge don’t even believe the valuations mean anything. The area is now covered as part of a Heritage Conservation District, which means the many existing two- and three-storey buildings that remain must be protected, as is. Any new towers to be built would have to be set behind the existing storefront buildings, in order to preserve the character of the neighbourhood.

    Which means the option of building a big condo there to cash in isn’t even really available.

    This is, in a nutshell, very similar to the problem facing the converted warehouse building at 401 Richmond St. I wrote about earlier this year, where property taxes charged to little gallery and artist studio spaces were set to triple — again thanks to “highest and best use” assessments reflecting condos going up on other lots in the neighbourhood.

    Unless we want every neighbourhood where a new residential condo is built to soon be razed and replaced by walls of identical towers, it’s a problem with our tax system we need to find a solution for.

    Those in attendance seemed to feel that taxes should be based on the current use of a property — not some speculative “higher” or “better” use. A tiny book shop should be taxed as a tiny book shop, not as a massive condo that may or may not be viable on that site 20 years from now.

    Linda Malone, director of the IAM Yoga studio at 680 Yonge, told the meeting very specifically she and others were not anti-condo. In fact, she said, it was customers who live in some of the more recently built new units who she thought made her fledgling business viable.

    As the city changes, she said, it may even be that a lot of the businesses on Yonge would have to find a side-street location—perhaps even her own. “But who here feels that we are being penalized at the expense of big developers?” she asked, and almost everyone in the room raised their hands. “We want a reasonable increase so we, as business owners, can find out if our businesses can grow with the city of Toronto. A 500 per cent tax increase is pushing us out.”

    Edward Keenan writes on city issues ekeenan@thestar.ca . Follow: @thekeenanwire


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    There are future stars in the twinkling.

    Only a handful of Blue Jays, though, who can sport that glitter label for 2018: Aaron Sanchez, if he once and forever resolves his blister issues; Justin Smoak, assuming this season is not an anomaly; Devon Travis, maybe a batting average leader if he can stay healthy; Roberto Osuna; and Marcus Stroman.

    But mostly Josh Donaldson, the American League MVP less than two years ago, when he joined George Bell as the only Blue Jays thus decorated.

    Donaldson is under club control for another year, although he is eligible for salary arbitration, an often contentious route averted in 2016 when he signed a two-year contract worth nearly $29 million, a massive bargain for the club.

    The Jays probably won’t spring for a five-year re-up, which Donaldson will likely be seeking, at mega-money numbers, as a free agent. It’s a fine balancing act for the team, weighing the more distant future against the close-up future, re-tooling without gutting, because the fan base isn’t as sturdy as these past couple of seasons would suggest.

    So I part company with my far baseball-wiser colleague Rich Griffin, who speculated in print on Thursday that perhaps the time is almost nigh — as in this winter — for the franchise to cash in its Donaldson chips, thereby freeing up more money to fill other roster holes. Most assuredly the team does have holes, never properly addressed by management after the 2016 ALCS. The fault lies first and foremost with them, even had not injuries battered the roster from spring training to just last week, when Troy Tulowitzki needed arm-around support to get off the field with his severely sprained ankle.

    But leveraging Donaldson whilst they can strikes me as cutting off your nose to spite your face. There’s got to be some reason to come to the ballpark, some lure. Donaldson can be both transitional and the core element of a reconstituted lineup.

    Read more:

    A Bautista decision could be first part of Jays’ stretch run: Griffin

    Series preview: Toronto Blue Jays at Houston Astros

    The Donaldson of old powers Jays to win over White Sox

    Back-to-back shin ailments plagued him at the beginning of this campaign. We’ll likely never know how much it’s hurt him to play. But he’s on the trainer’s table for a good hour after every game.

    It is easy to forget, as well, the he started torrid, .310 in nine April games with an OPS of 1.015. Donaldson certainly hasn’t been his recognizable self through much of this season, though maybe that corner has been turned in the past fortnight or so.

    He had a homer a day in the just completed three-game series with the White Sox, plus a double and four walks. He has been clearly more nimble afield at the hot corner, after a span of errors and plays not made.

    “I’ve been able to put in a lot of work the last week or so,” Donaldson said afterwards. “It’s starting to pay off.”

    Indeed, he had been taking extra defensive work with the coaching staff before the club left Toronto on a six-game swing. “We went on a 10-game road trip and it’s difficult to get the appropriate work because we’re on the road, it’s not our field. That said, I felt that getting some extra work, some early work out there, focussing on the defense, helped.

    “There’s been a few times this year, four or five times, where I made a nice play and either tried to make a nicer play out of something that I shouldn’t have or just made a bad throw. Right now I’m doing pretty decent and making good throws. It helps that, when you don’t make a good throw, Smoak is able to pick me up.”

    The fistful of walks is also telling.

    “Just staying disciplined to my plan. Really grinding out at-bats. There’s been several times where I got down 0-2 and was able to grind it out and work a walk out of that — and that’s a win for me.’’

    Donaldson evaluates his own swing and likes what he’s seen of late. “I felt guys were pitching me pretty tough for about two weeks straight. I’m not saying these (White Sox) guys weren’t but I was able to take advantage of a couple of mistakes they made towards me. In the past I’ve been missing those balls and fouling them back.

    “This is the big leagues. You don’t get a lot of mistakes. So when you do get them you have to make sure that you make them count.”

    The turnaround could be attributable to something as simple as ditching that batting helmet with a face protector flap, adopted in late May as protection for all the inside pitches he was getting. He did get smacked in the mug last season.

    It was interfering with his vision at the plate.

    “I felt like there was a couple of times when I had it on there, it was blocking me out of a couple of pitches or I was having to turn my head in a certain manner in order to kind of get a good look at the pitcher.’’

    He tried to make some adjustments, moving the flap, to no avail. “It really wasn’t working. I was, like, to hell with it.”

    To hell and back in many ways this season.

    Bring back the Bringer of Rain, next season.


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    A man has been charged following the violent robbery of an 81-year-old woman at an ATM in Aurora.

    Surveillance video of the incident was released by police Wednesday, and the suspect was arrested at a home in Aurora that night.

    “I am inspired by the strength and determination of this 81-year-old woman who experienced such a traumatic event but remained so calm and focused,” York Region police Chief Eric Jolliffe said in a statement.

    The incident happened Monday at around 7:30 p.m. at a bank near Yonge and Wellington Sts., police said.

    The woman was withdrawing money when a man approached and grabbed her money. The suspect pushed her to the ground when she resisted. He then stole the money and fled the scene on foot.

    Police say the woman was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

    Terrence Rocks, 35, from Sudbury was charged with robbery. Police said they received a large number of tips helping to identify him. Rocks is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 8.

    With files from Emily Fearon


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    OTTAWA—The auto sector rates nary a mention in the published list of U.S. objectives for the renegotiation of NAFTA.

    But senior Canadian officials privately believe the automotive industry is actually at the root of American demands for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement and will be the key to the success — or failure — of negotiations to revamp the trilateral deal.

    Donald Trump, they note, rode a wave of anti-trade sentiment to victory in last fall’s U.S. presidential election, propelled by an unabashedly protectionist, America-first agenda, including a threat to rip up NAFTA, which he called “the worst trade deal in the history” of the United States.

    Read more:

    ‘Do not worry about Canada’ on NAFTA, Trump says in leaked transcript. ‘We do not even think about them’

    Canadian businesses warn Trudeau against Trump-inspired NAFTA rewrite

    Trump to rip up NAFTA? Not so fast: Olive

    It was a populist message that tapped into long-simmering resentment over the exodus of American manufacturing operations — including the Big Three automakers and auto-parts plants — to Mexico. And it resonated particularly loudly with voters in the 14 auto-producing states, 12 of which ultimately delivered their electoral college votes to Trump.

    Now, Canadian officials believe the success of the NAFTA renegotiation, set to start Aug. 16, hinges on Trump’s ability to claim a win on the auto front. And they believe the route to that victory lies in stricter labour and environmental standards to minimize Mexico’s low-wage advantage.

    Read more news about U.S. President Donald Trump

    It’s an issue on which Canadian and American interests are largely aligned. Some stark statistics compiled by Unifor, the union representing autoworkers in Canada, explain why:

    • Mexico buys just 8 per cent of North American-made vehicles but employs 45 per cent of the continent’s autoworkers.

    • Since NAFTA came into effect in 1994, four assembly plants in Canada and 10 in the United States have closed; eight new plants have opened in Mexico.

    • U.S. and Canadian vehicle and auto-parts trade deficits with Mexico have grown exponentially — a fourfold increase for Canada, from $1.6 billion pre-NAFTA to $8.7 billion now.

    And all those disturbing numbers are explained by another stark statistic: Mexican autoworkers earn an average of about $4 per hour, compared to $30-$35 per hour in the U.S. and Canada.

    Rebalancing the auto industry so that all three countries get a fair share of investment and jobs “will be the biggest piece of the puzzle, I would suggest, in NAFTA,” says Unifor president Jerry Dias.

    On that score, there’s some urgency for Canada and the U.S., both of which hope to regain a bigger share of the pie as the auto industry embarks on historic investments in the next generation of vehicles: electric and self-driving cars.

    While the U.S. list of objectives for NAFTA negotiations doesn’t mention the auto sector specifically, it does call for stiffer rules of origin and more stringent, enforceable environmental and labour standards — which would have a direct bearing on the automotive industry.

    Unifor supports those American objectives. The union wants to see the rules of origin beefed up so that vehicles must have at least 70 per cent North American-made content — up from the current 62.5 per cent — to be eligible to move duty-free between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

    That’s aimed primarily at forcing Asian and European automakers and Chinese producers of auto electronics to build more plants in North America.

    Automakers, however, are vehemently opposed to raising the minimum content requirement, which they argue is already the highest of any trade agreement in the world.

    “Any changes to the duty-free access and content rules will disrupt the highly integrated supply chains and reduce the massive benefits, undermining the global competitiveness of that integrated automotive industry we talk about,” Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, told the House of Commons trade committee last May.

    David Paterson, vice-president of General Motors Canada Ltd., reminded the committee that a vehicle built in North America can cross borders seven times during the manufacturing process. Tracing the content of every part already requires “a lot of bureaucracy.”

    “Under the category ‘do no harm,’ we must set out to reduce, not add, red tape,” he said. “We would prefer to see tracing eliminated.”

    On this issue, the government appears to be siding with the automakers.

    Rather than focus on rules of origin, senior Canadian officials — speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter — said strengthening labour and environmental standards would be a more effective way to reduce Mexico’s disproportionate share of auto investment and jobs.

    The objective, one official stressed, is not to stop auto production in Mexico, but to close the wage gap so Mexican workers benefit while making the other two NAFTA partners more competitive.

    Mexico would not be averse to measures that would raise the standard of living for its workers, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, suggested in an interview.

    “The question really is over what period of time and how you achieve that,” MacNaughton said.

    “Also, we need to make sure that living standards and good paying middle-class jobs in Canada and the United States continue to be created, too. So the question is: can you find a way to create that win-win-win?”

    Currently, NAFTA includes side deals on labour and the environment — essentially just aspirational goals to improve working conditions and committing each country to enforce its own labour and environmental standards.

    That has allowed Mexico to take advantage of its low wage rate, lack of free collective bargaining and non-existent health, safety and environmental standards to lure auto companies looking for the cheapest place to set up shop, Dias says.

    That advantage would diminish if companies operating in Mexico were compelled to abide by standards similar to those applied in the U.S. and Canada. Dias advocates strict timelines for raising wages and penalizing companies that don’t meet them.

    “There’s going to have to be a wholesale change in the system,” Dias says.

    “Corporations are going to have to be more responsible, they’re going to have to start to treat people better, they’re going to have to start to pay them respectfully.”


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    How will the Donald Trump presidency end? It will end badly, so let me count the ways:

    1. America is hurtling towards a constitutional crisis that will rock its institutions to the core.

    2. Its president and his business empire will soon be exposed as beholden to Russian oligarchs and mobsters.

    3. Trump will try to fire special counsel Robert Mueller to prevent this from becoming known, but Congress will intervene.

    4. His only remaining hope will be a 9/11-scale disaster or contrived war that he can exploit.

    5. If we are lucky enough to survive all of the above, Trump will resign before he is impeached — but only in exchange for a pardon from his servile vice-president, Mike Pence.

    Yes, this scenario is anything but far-fetched.

    One lesson we have learned from the slow-motion train wreck of this Trump presidency is that precise predictions are impossible to make. That is true, except for one thing.

    We are now getting a much clearer sense of where this high-stakes drama is heading. The details may change but the contours of this epic chapter in American political history are beginning to emerge.

    Although it has been another head-spinning week, perhaps the most important disclosure was a Washington Post story (notwithstanding reports that Mueller empanelled a grand jury to probe Russia’s ties to the 2016 campaign). The story suggested how centrally involved Donald Trump has become in the expanding inquiry about his secret connections with Russia.

    The story revealed that, contrary to previous public assurances, Trump himself dictated a misleading statement about the nature of a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.

    Mueller, a former FBI head, is examining Russian interference in the 2016 election, including potential obstruction of justice and allegations of cover-up. But much to Trump’s horror, Mueller’s investigation is expanding to include the history of connections between Trump’s controversial business empire and Russian government and business interests.

    In this latter category are some of the most corrupt Russian oligarchs and mobsters, involved in widespread money laundering, who rose to prominence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

    On the surface at least, one of the most perplexing questions still unanswered from last November’s shocking election result has been Trump’s persistent refusal to single out Russia or President Vladimir Putin for dramatically interfering in the American presidential election.

    This has prompted many people in the U.S. and abroad, not only his critics, to ask the question: “What does Russia have on Trump?”

    Increasingly, it appears that the Mueller investigation will help answer that question by examining the close but largely secret relationship between the Trump empire and Russian financial interests.

    According to leaks, it has only been in recent days that Trump has realized that this Mueller probe, if not stopped, may even include an examination of his tax returns that he has been so stubborn to keep secret.

    A revealing preview of what Mueller is undoubtedly discovering was featured as the extensive cover story of September’s issue of the U.S. magazine New Republic. Written by investigative journalist Craig Unger, the story was titled: “Married to the Mob: What Trump Owes the Russian Mafia.”

    Unger was stark in his conclusions: “Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.”

    More than anyone, Trump knows what Mueller will discover. He knows the legal peril that he and his family are in. He also knows that his presidency is certain to end — in some way — if that story ever becomes public.

    We should remember this when we see how Trump acts in the weeks to come. Like a cornered rat, he will fight to protect his interests. In every conceivable way, he will work to stop Mueller’s probe, to challenge Congress if it intervenes, to undermine the press and judiciary if they get in the way and — yes — even to engage in reckless military adventures if he thought that would strengthen his position.

    This next stage of this Trump story will no longer be a diverting reality show. It will be the moment when Americans — and the rest of us — will learn if U.S. democracy is strong enough to stop him.

    Tony Burman is former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News. Reach him @TonyBurman or at tony.burman@gmail.com


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    After a seven-month investigation into a deadly Christmas Eve cottage fire that killed a Riverdale family of four, the Office of the Fire Marshall says the source is undetermined but that it started in the living room.

    Geoffrey (Geoff) Taber, 56, his wife Jacqueline (Jacquie) Gardner, 47, and their sons Scott Taber, 15, and Andrew Taber, 13, died in the Dec. 24 fire in the McCrackens Landing area of Stoney Lake. The blaze destroyed their 4,000-square-foot cottage, also killing their two pet dogs.

    Fire investigators were able to isolate the source of the fire as coming from the living room, where the family had a wood-burning fire place, electric baseboard heaters, a real Christmas tree, and upholstered furniture, which investigators say is highly flammable.

    However, because of the level of destruction from the fire, the exact ignition source is undetermined.

    Scott Evenden, operations manager at Fire Investigations Services unit, said the cottage was equipped with multiple wall-mounted smoke alarms. However, investigators do not believe smoke alarms were installed in the vaulted ceiling above the living room and in the nearby stairwell.

    This “ultimately played a role in the inability for the victims to escape safely from the structure,” Evenden said.

    Investigators were unable to test if existing smoke alarms were functioning as the blaze consumed the cottage interior and destroyed most of the structure itself, with the roof collapsing inside.

    Family members provided investigators with photographs of the home before the fire and spoke to other witnesses to corroborate some of their findings, including the presence of candles in the home.

    The family’s two pet dogs near possibly lit candles was also considered, said lead investigator Mike Ross.

    “If you’re going to have candles in the presence of animals, keep them out of reach where they can’t be knocked over,” Ross advised.

    There is no evidence to suggest the fire was suspicious.

    The family’s funeral at St. Paul’s Bloor St. Church in January drew in hundreds of mourners.

    Taber, born in 1960, had a 30-year career at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt. His wife, Gardner, also worked there as a corporate lawyer before moving to Altamira Investment Services where she served as general counsel and secretary before raising her sons full-time, according to a statement from the firm.

    Scott Taber was a student at Montcrest School and graduated in 2015, while Andrew Taber was in Grade 8 at the same school, said David Thompson, head of the school in an email to the Star. The boys were avid hockey players.

    “There’s no recovering from this, especially at this time of year,” Withrow Park Ball Hockey coach Evan Korec told the Star after the January funeral service. Taber had been a fellow coach and sponsor for the league, and Korec had coached Scott and Andrew.

    “I think every year, going forward, this will be part of our holiday – remembering them,” he said.

    With files from Betsy Powell


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    It’s not your grandfather’s Oshawa.

    The long-time home to GM Canada has evolved into a health sciences and education hub — and one of the nation’s top performing urban economies — thanks to what the Durham Workforce Authority calls a “creative push for growth” after the credit crunch and global auto sector implosion in 2008.

    The city, along with Windsor, is expected to boast the fastest-growing economy this year among 15 medium-sized census metropolitan areas analyzed by the Conference Board of Canada in a report published Thursday. What’s more, the growth isn’t just about cars.

    While GM remains a major employer and has unveiled new investment in Oshawa this year, health sciences, the professions, construction and retail have become key to what the report calls “red hot” jobs growth in the city about 60 kilometres from Toronto.

    The city has seen the growth of nearly 30,000 jobs since 2011, including a record 18,000 in 2016.

    “We’ve reinvented ourselves as a community,” said Oshawa Mayor John Henry, adding that the city has made strategic investments in universities and colleges, boasting 20,000 full-time students at three post-secondary institutions, as well as the largest, multi-specialty medical group practice in Canada.

    The investment has helped the city on the eastern edge of the GTA attract and retain young people, along with business investment that includes Costco’s 2012 construction of a 146,500-square-foot outlet at the former site of the north General Motors plant at Ritson Rd. and William St.

    Henry said Oshawa has a diversified economy with roots in advanced manufacturing and transportation, in part by virtue of its natural deep water port on the shores of Lake Ontario.

    “We’re multi-phased,” Henry said. “We’re more than the auto industry.”

    GM Oshawa employs about 3,000 workers, down sharply from more the 23,000 in the 1980s — before free trade changed the automotive landscape in the 1990s leading to more plants in Mexico, China and Korea.

    Officials say as many as 8,000 auto jobs have been lost in Durham Region since 2007 as GM suppliers such as ACSYS Technologies went out of business.

    The economy in the city of more than 170,000 people is expected to grow by 2.5 per cent this year, the same figure forecast for Windsor, according to the conference board report. The remaining six Ontario cities in the report will post growth under 2 per cent.

    “The weaker Canadian dollar and solid U.S. demand continue to provide a lift to many southwestern and eastern Ontario metropolitan economies, especially their export-oriented manufacturing industries,” said Alan Arcand, the board’s associate director of municipal studies.

    The local construction sector is expected to be among the region’s top performers on the strength of non-residential projects, while services output is expected to post solid growth, the report says.

    Windsor, Oshawa’s traditional rival for the automotive capital title, meanwhile, is enjoying a continued revival of the manufacturing sector. Driven by the auto industry and strong U.S. vehicle sales growth, the local manufacturing sector has expanded for seven consecutive years, posting average annual output growth of 6.8 per cent over 2014-16.

    Economic growth in Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, home to tech companies including smartphone pioneer BlackBerry, is expected to decelerate to 1.6 per cent in 2017, following a 2.1 per cent increase in 2016. A modest expansion of 0.5 per cent is on tap for the local manufacturing sector this year, while services growth is expected to moderate.


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    Large commercial players are dominating the short-term rental market in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and raking in most of the revenue, according to research analyzing Airbnb activity.

    And contrary to the Airbnb narrative that the online booking service is about regular people sharing their homes to help pay the mortgage, there has been disproportionately large growth of full-time, entire-home listings that belong to hosts with multiple Airbnb properties, according to a copy of a draft report prepared by the McGill University School of Urban Planning.

    The report said the full-time, entire-home listings represent 6,500 properties across the three cities and account for more than a third of all revenue earned. In Toronto, growth in that category has increased more than 100 per cent from May 2016 to June 2017.

    “More and more of the money is being earned by a smaller and (a) more kind of commercialized and sophisticated, large-scale set of hosts,” said professor David Wachsmuth, lead author of the report called “Short-term Cities: Airbnb’s Impact on Canadian Housing Markets.

    The report bills itself as the first comparative analysis of short-term rentals in three major cities and is based on a data set obtained from Airdna, a data company that tracks the performance of Airbnb listings. The report also used data taken from the 2011 and 2016 censuses and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s rental market survey.

    In some cases, some hosts have hundreds of separate properties listed on the Airbnb platform and are earning millions annually, Wachsmuth said Thursday.

    “These aren’t . . . people who own their house and they’re renting it out on the weekend when they’re gone.”

    Airbnb spokesperson Lindsey Scully rejected the report’s conclusions.

    “The author of this study has a history of manipulating scraped data to misrepresent Airbnb hosts, the vast majority of whom are middle-class Canadian families sharing their homes to earn a bit of additional income to help pay the bills,” she told the Star Thursday.

    “The fact is, just 760 Airbnb entire home listings, or 0.07 per cent of the entire housing stock in Toronto, are rented frequently enough to outcompete a long-term rental, undercutting the author’s baseless conclusions about housing units removed.”

    Wachsmuth said he stands by his team’s research — “my methodology is completely transparent” — and urged Airbnb to provide open data access to McGill researchers. He described as “completely absurd” Airbnb’s statement that only 760 entire-home listings on Airbnb are pushing out long-term rentals.

    Wachsmuth also wrote a study, currently under peer review, of Airbnb’s impact on gentrification in New York City.

    Where there’s no dispute is that there has been an explosion in the number of Airbnb listings in Canada. There are now 81,000 active listings in the three cities, up from 50,000 in May 2016, the draft paper said.

    “More worryingly, in the same time period the number of entire homes which have been converted to full-time Airbnb usage has increased from 9,000 to 14,000 across the three cities,” said the draft report.

    That means 14,000 entire homes, including condo units, have been taken out of the long-term rental market, at a time when there is scarce rental housing stock and a low vacancy rate.

    “Every home that is converted to full-time Airbnb use is subtracted from the pool of actual potential long-term rental housing units in a city,” said the draft paper.

    “These listings are growing around 25 per cent more rapidly than other categories of listings.”

    Wachsmuth said the unavoidable conclusion is that Airbnb is having an impact on the rental housing market. That’s why it makes sense for Toronto and Vancouver to adopt proposed regulations that would impose a one-host, one-home rule, and place other restrictions and fees on short-term rental hosts.

    Toronto’s executive committee has approved a city staff proposal that short-term rentals be legal for up to three rooms, or an entire home as long as it is a person’s principal residence. A final set of proposals will go before city council later this year.

    “We shouldn’t let short-term rentals drive out long-term rentals,” Wachsmuth said. “It’s absolutely vital that Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms be required to proactively enforce these regulations.”

    The draft report also said that while a lot of money is being made using Airbnb, the big profits are going to commercial hosts who don’t live on the properties.

    While Airbnb hosts in the three cities earned $430 million last year, 10 per cent of hosts earned a majority of that revenue, the report said. The top 1 per cent of hosts earned $51.7 million — more than 12 per cent of the total, the report said.

    “They’re making an enormous amount and an enormously growing amount of money,” Wachsmuth said.

    For instance, Toronto’s largest Airbnb host, Toronto Suite Rentals, had 128 listings and earned $1.34 million on Airbnb last year.

    A casual host in the three cities earned an average of $5,310 between May 2016 and June 2017 — a 55-per-cent-increase over the previous year.

    “Airbnb is growing like crazy, people who are saying ‘I would like a slice of that action and they’re listing their homes.’ It doesn’t mean that they’re earning much money. I think the two trends are happening simultaneously. Lots and lots of people are hoping they can make some money off Airbnb but actually it’s a maturing market and more and more of the money is being earned by the sophisticated players who really know how to make it,” Wachsmuth said.

    The report also identified the top five revenue generating listings in each of the three cities. In Toronto, the five Airbnb listings were booked, on average, 236 nights a year and pulled in $145,000 each.

    It’s easy to see why some property owners prefer short-term renters to long-term tenants.

    “There aren’t many places that go for $20,000 a month in Toronto,” Wachsmuth said.


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    Concerned for patients’ privacy and pocketbooks, Ontario’s health minister says he will tackle a new Big Pharma marketing scheme that uses electronic medical records to sell drugs.

    Minister Eric Hoskins said he will ask Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons to investigate how electronic vouchers that steer patients to brand name drugs over cheaper generics “may be impacting privacy, accessibility and affordability.”

    He said he also plans to “express my concerns” with Telus Health, which inserts the electronic vouchers into its popular electronic medical record software (EMR) used by thousands of doctors across Canada.

    “Our government remains steadfast in our commitment to put patients at the centre of our health-care system,” Hoskins said in a statement.

    To drive business their way, brand-name drug companies have paid Telus to digitally insert vouchers so that the prescription is filled with their product instead of the lower-cost generic competitor that pharmacists normally reach for, a recent Star investigation found.

    The voucher works like a coupon: If a patient’s insurance does not cover the full cost of the pricier brand name drug, the drug’s manufacturer will cover part or all of the cost difference from its generic equivalent.

    Thousands of doctors across Canada use electronic medical records to take notes during patient visits and to create a prescription to be filled by the patient’s pharmacy. Telus Health, a subsidiary of the telecom giant, is a dominant player in the electronic medical records field. Following publication of the Star story, one major Toronto hospital has suggested that its doctors opt out of the voucher feature.

    By including the vouchers in electronic medical records, concerned physicians say a clinical tool they use to prescribe drugs and care for patients is being co-opted so drug companies can increase profits. Industry experts say the vouchers can add unnecessary costs to private drug plans, which may be passed on to the patient through higher premiums.

    Doctors had to agree to the voucher feature in the Telus software before it was enabled on their systems, and physicians can opt out at any time.

    Telus Health said the feature has been positively received by the majority of doctors using the software. The voucher is offered only after a physician chooses a drug by its brand name to prescribe “so there is no influence on what drug the physician selects,” a spokesperson said.

    Telus has been a significant beneficiary of a provincial government-funded program that saw more than $340 million distributed to doctors to adopt electronic medical records in their practices. Roughly half of the doctors who received funding went with a Telus-owned EMR that now includes the voucher feature.

    OntarioMD, a subsidiary of the Ontario Medical Association, managed the funding program, which ran from 2005 to 2015. Its role included determining if EMR software met certain specifications to be certified. The organization’s CEO, Sarah Hutchison, said the use of brand drug vouchers in EMR is not considered as part of the certification process.

    But some doctors think it should be.

    “Electronic health records are publicly funded for the benefit of patients,” said Toronto physician Nav Persaud, who complained about the voucher feature to Telus.

    “Electronic health records that are used to market products for the pharmaceutical industry or to share information for marketing purposes should definitely not be publicly funded — they could be banned entirely.”

    In his statement, Hoskins said he will be writing to Telus and OntarioMD “to express my concerns about these practices and start a dialogue on how we can best move forward with the management of our patients’ electronic health records to ensure transparency and openness.”

    Hoskins, a doctor, will also request Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons look into the matter to see “how we can establish a stronger, clearer guideline moving forward.”

    The head of the doctor regulator has already said, in general, vouchers being included on a prescription is “not appropriate” as they may lead patients to think their physicians favour brand drugs over generics.

    In an internal obtained by the Star, Dr. Rocco Gerace, registrar of Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, said the inclusion of vouchers on prescriptions may also “lead some patients to perceive that the physician is in a conflict of interest, or that they are recommending or endorsing the name-brand formulation of a drug instead of a generic or other alternative.”

    Gerace said in his letter that the regulator’s policy recommends physicians generally use the generic name of a drug to make sure the prescription is clear.

    Generics contain the same pharmaceutical ingredients and can cost as little as one-fifth of the brand price.

    To keep costs down, many drug plans encourage pharmacists to substitute a cheaper generic drug when filling a prescription for a brand drug, unless the prescribing doctor specifically requests otherwise. Without a voucher, even if a doctor uses the brand name on a prescription, pharmacists may substitute the cheaper generic.

    The voucher feature is offered in a number of electronic medical record systems, a Telus spokesperson said, adding that its system, introduced in August 2016, follows ethical principles not necessarily present other software.

    Ontario’s health minister committed to raising the issue at the next meeting with his federal, provincial and territorial counterparts.

    “I believe we need a pan-Canadian approach to addressing this and ensuring consistency across the country,” Hoskins said.

    For now, it will remain up to individual doctors to decide whether to use the voucher feature.

    At St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, about 100 physicians and nurse practitioners in the family medicine and pediatrics units use a Telus EMR to write prescriptions for their patients.

    The hospital is “strongly” encouraging its doctors opt out of the voucher feature, said chief medical officer Dr. Doug Sinclair, adding that the vast majority have already disabled the function.

    “We do not see that it benefits them or the patient population we serve,” Sinclair said.


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    Eastbound lanes remain closed on Highway 401 near Port Hope after a fiery fatal collision Thursday night.

    At around 10 p.m., Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) responded to a call for a collision involving a tractor-trailer and two other vehicles.

    Two people were pronounced dead on scene after one of the vehicles engulfed into flames. Their identities are being withheld until next of kin has been notified, OPP said.

    In a tweet Friday morning, OPP stated that all eastbound lanes on Highway 401 remained closed from Toronto Rd. in Port Hope to Burnham St. in Cobourg.

    The circumstances surrounding the collision are unclear.

    With files from Northumberland News


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    A court hearing ended Friday with no decision on whether a York University student will stand trial a second time for allegedly sexually assaulting a fellow student.

    Mustafa Ururyar was convicted in a trial last year of sexual assaulting Mandi Gray in 2015.

    That verdict was overturned on appeal in July for being “incomprehensible” and failing to explain the reasoning for the conviction clearly.

    Related story:

    Judge overturns ‘incomprehensible’ conviction of Mustafa Uruyar for alleged sex assault of Mandi Gray

    The case was sent back to Ontario court and the Crown must now decide whether or not to prosecute for a second time.

    The Crown has not yet spoken with Gray and would like to get her input about before deciding whether or not to re-prosecute the case, Ururyar's lawyer Daniel Brown told the court Friday.

    The matter is next expected to be in court on Sept. 8 for a judicial pre-trial, though the paperwork was not in court for the date to be confirmed.

    Ururyar was not present in court Friday.

    Related story:

    Original trial that convicted Mustafa Ururyar of sexual assault was a baffling spectacle: DiManno


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    It will be a wet and messy end to the work week — and perhaps a testy commute out of the region for the long weekend — as Environment Canada has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for Toronto and the rest of the GTA.

    Other regions under the watch include York, Durham, Halton and Peel. The weather agency says the thunderstorms will begin late Friday morning and continue into the afternoon.

    The agency alert issued this morning says dangerous thunderstorms may be capable of producing damaging wind gusts, damaging hail and heavy rain. Heavy downpours can also cause flash floods and pooling on roads, so take care if you are embarking on a long weekend commute.

    There is cold air coming in the afternoon Friday, which is a factor in creating an “unstable atmosphere” when combined with the hot and humid weather from earlier this week.

    Temperatures in Toronto are expected to reach a high of 27 C with the humidex at 35. Winds will be gusting from 20 to 40 km/h. It will be partly cloudy with a low of 14 C overnight.


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    A preschool teacher buckled in for the two-hour flight from Seattle to San Jose noticed something on the cellphone screen of a fellow passenger that set off alarms. According to police, the unnamed woman began following along as the man in the seat ahead swapped messages about sexually molesting children.

    Thanks to the young teacher’s alert action, the man and another women were arrested quickly on Monday. Two children — ages 5 and 7 — have been identified by authorities as the likely potential victims. Police say without the teacher’s heroic intervention, the abuse could have gone undetected.

    “It’s kind of mind-blowing,” San Jose sex-crimes Detective Nick Jourdenais told the Mercury News. “She gets on a plane, a normal citizen minding her business. A couple of hours later, she’s intervening on quite possibly the most traumatic thing children can go through. This was life-altering for them.”

    Michael Kellar, 56, must not have realized his large-sized cellphone screen was legible to the passenger seated behind him on the flight. “It was in large font, and she sees certain words and starts contemplating there’s something bigger there,” Jourdenais told the paper. “Then the conversation transitions to children. That’s the moment when she decided to preserve the evidence as best as she could.”

    According to police, the teacher snapped her own cellphone photos of the conversations, which allegedly involved Kellar requesting the individual on the other end to perform sex acts on the kids. The teacher then told the flight crew, who in turn contacted authorities on the ground.

    When the Southwest plane touched down, San Jose police and San Francisco-based FBI agents detained Kellar for questioning. The Tacoma native told police the texts were just role playing and sexual fantasy, the Mercury reported. He freely let law enforcement look over the messages.

    But back in Tacoma, FBI agents were busy pinpointing the identity of the other party. Capt. Mike Edwards, commander of the Seattle Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force, told KIRO 7 that investigators traced the messages to a woman Kellar had met via an online dating site. Eventually, the trail led law enforcement to Gail Burnworth, 50, of Tacoma.

    At a news conference Thursday, San Jose Police Sgt. Brian Spears said investigators were able to rescue the children before the assault. Burnworth was babysitting the children. “Extremely disturbing,” he said.

    “Folks that are doing these sort of things are literally all around us,” Edwards told reporters. “We don’t know who they are. The discussion that was going on was very disturbing, about harm to children,” he told Q13 Fox TV.

    “Had she had not come forward, had not done anything with this, they would have carried out their plans and intentions. . . . They need to be punished and they need to be kept away from kids.”

    “I’d like to highlight that if it wasn’t for this particular passenger taking action to alert the staff and alert the police, this catastrophic event would have been horrific,” said Spears. “In my eyes, she is our hero.”

    Kellar is now in jail in Santa Clara County. He faces two counts of attempted child molestation and two counts of solicitation of a sex crime. Burnworth was booked at the Pierce County jail in Washington. She faces charges of sexual exploitation of a minor, rape of a child, and dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

    It could not be determined if the two had lawyers yet to speak for them.


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    OSHAWA, ONT.—Police say a 26-year-old female cyclist has died after being struck by a car east of Toronto earlier this week.

    Durham regional police say Emily Sharon Shields of Oshawa, Ont., died Friday after she was take off life support.

    Police say she was struck Wednesday morning by a black Ford Crown Victoria sedan that veered out of control. The car then hit a tree.

    They say Shields suffered critical injuries and was taken to hospital then later airlifted to a trauma centre in Toronto. The 32-year-old driver sustained minor injuries.

    Police say they are also seeking a third vehicle that may have been directly or indirectly involved in the collision.

    It is described as a small sedan with black tinted windows, last seen travelling east on Adelaide Ave. toward on Townline Rd. in Oshawa, Ont.


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    QUEBEC—Muslims in Quebec City are going to have their own cemetery after all.

    The cemetery will be located on a parcel of land of about 6,000 square metres the city is selling for about $270,000 plus taxes, Mayor Régis Labeaume and members of the Muslim community said at a news conference Friday.

    It is expected to be ready this fall.

    The news came just three weeks after a zoning change proposal aimed at setting up a Muslim cemetery in Saint-Apollinaire, a town of around 6,000 southwest of Quebec City, was defeated in a referendum by a 19-16 margin. One ballot was rejected.

    “It’s very disappointing,” Mohamed Labidi, president of the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, told the Star on July 16. “We feel ignored . . . the action in Saint-Apollinaire is against living together.”

    The centre was the driving force behind the purchase of a plot of land beside an existing cemetery in Saint-Apollinaire earlier this year that members hoped would become their own.

    Quebec City’s Muslims have been looking for a cemetery for two decades, but made a renewed push after they completed the payment for the city’s main mosque in 2011.

    It was there last January that a gunman shot and killed six men in the main prayer hall and injured 19 others. The bodies were sent overseas and to Montreal for burial.

    Labidi praised Labeaume for keeping his promise to forge ahead with plans for the cemetery.

    “It’s a great day,” Labidi said. “It is a historic day for Quebec City. Today, we are reaping the benefits of 20 years of hard work.”

    Boufeldja Benabdallah, interim co-ordinator of the cemetery project, also welcomed the news.

    “Earlier, Mr. Labeaume was praising the land and its beauty,” he said. “I told him, ‘You’re going to push us to die earlier because we want to take advantage of the land.’ It’s just to say there is joy today and we are all going to die in peace and with respect.”

    Benabdallah also stressed the importance of remembering those who died in the shooting in January.

    “I’ll finish up with a fraternal thought for our six brothers who died in the tragedy last Jan. 29,” he said. “Today’s announcement will put a bit of balm on this tragedy.”

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also endorsed the decision.

    “An important and courageous step for dignity and decency. Congratulations Mayor Labeaume for taking action,” Trudeau tweeted Friday.

    The GTA’s first Sunni-Shia cemetery was approved in March 2012. The Toronto Muslim Cemetery Corporation received a licence from the province, officially giving it the go-ahead to begin operations at Bethesda Sideroad and Leslie St. in Richmond Hill, the Star’s Noor Javed reported.

    For years, Muslims in the GTA used non-denominational cemeteries, often compromising on certain religious requirements at the time of death, such as speedy burial. The new Muslim cemetery ensures that all graves are correctly aligned toward Mecca, as preferred, and service is available on weekends.


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    They may drive motorists crazy — and initially cause confusion — but municipalities are increasingly turning to roundabouts as a way to keep traffic flowing and reduce serious accidents.

    But with more of these intersections — popular in Europe for over a century, but becoming more common in Ontario only in recent years — it’s time that the Highway Traffic Act is updated to include roundabouts, says a Tory MPP whose Waterloo-area riding is the traffic-circle capital of the province.

    “From a motorist’s perspective, I love roundabouts versus intersections,” said Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga). “They are way . . . safer. The biggest thing, when my family is in the van, are the (traditional) intersections, which scare the hell out of me. Even when I go through them, I’m looking left and right,” worrying about serious collisions.

    But there are issues with roundabouts and drivers unfamiliar with navigating them — particularly pedestrian safety, which some critics say are the weaknesses of roundabouts.

    “Five years ago, there was a major incident in the region where a student was crossing, and she was hit by a bus. And from there we identified that there’s nothing mentioned in the Highway Traffic Act as it pertains to traffic roundabouts,” said Harris, who had been advocating for an update to legislation for several years.

    “People struggle. If they are not used to roundabouts, they struggle. My parents, for years, avoided them.”

    Waterloo Region now has more than 50 roundabouts. While roundabouts lead to higher accident rates, they are almost all minor fender-benders or side-swipes with little damage and few, if any, injuries — no head-on collisions or T-bone accidents. One local study found that despite the higher numbers of crashes, roundabouts are still are the safer bet.

    Ela Shadpour did her master’s thesis at Wilfrid Laurier University on the social cost of roundabouts versus signalled intersections because it was such a hot topic in the local media. The Waterloo Region Record has covered the issue extensively.

    Her study found that accident rates are higher —much higher when roundabouts are first installed, compared to signalled intersections — but most of them were minor. Given the nature of the crashes, roundabouts took much less of a toll on drivers and society — less severe injuries, if any, and no fatalities, she found.

    Changing lanes or knowing what lane to exit in, “that’s what’s very confusing, at the earliest stages,” said Shadpour. “I really believe as time goes by, people learn how to drive in roundabouts.”

    Previous studies have shown that over time, the number of accidents drops.

    Ontario’s transportation ministry is involved with roundabout installation when the intersection involves a provincial highway. Sheri Graham, manager of its traffic office, said the first one opened in Picton in 2009, and the province now has about 19 currently in use and another 50-plus on the way.

    “Typically (with roundabouts) we see lower speeds, and when it comes to collisions, a lower operating speed can result in a better outcome . . . they are less severe type of collisions, and you don’t necessarily have rear-end collisions,” she said.

    Head-on collisions, she added, are eliminated “because all the vehicles are travelling in the same direction. We see more of the side-swipe type of collisions as compared to other types.”

    She said pedestrian rules are the same as any intersection.

    Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said current legislation covers pedestrians and roundabouts, which are “safer, more efficient and improve the flow of traffic. All of the elements required to navigate a roundabout are in the Highway Traffic Act. New drivers can also refer to the province’s official driver’s handbook, which includes a section on how to safely drive through roundabouts.

    “That being said, we know that there is always more work to be done so we will continue to monitor roundabouts across the province and work with our municipal and road safety partners to make improvements where necessary.”

    In Waterloo Region, planners say the safety and traffic flow benefits are behind the boom in roundabouts, and it also means road capacity and traffic flow can be increased without adding lanes.

    Bob Henderson, manager of transportation engineering, said roundabouts do take up more land, and that can be an issue. And using them isn’t automatic; the region runs collision prediction models “and there might be areas in the region where a signal will perform really well . . . but in general, roundabouts will result in fewer injuries and fewer fatal injuries.”

    He said there is typically about a 20-per-cent increase in collisions with a roundabout versus a traditional intersection, but few injuries.

    “We’ve had roundabouts since 2004, and we haven’t incurred any fatal incidents,” Henderson said.

    While some have said roundabouts are unfriendly to pedestrians, he said they are used in Waterloo by those walking, on bikes and motorists — even area Mennonites travelling by horse and buggy.

    He said the region has asked the province to consider updating driver testing to include roundabouts, in communities where they are located.

    Mississauga has also been moving toward roundabouts, saying they mean less travel delays, lower speeds and “fewer conflict points between vehicles,” said Leslie Green, who is manager of transportation projects. She and road safety supervisor Colin Patterson say roundabouts require less maintenance and have no electricity costs. Land needs, however, and construction present extra costs.

    The city will soon have four roundabouts — the first one opened in 2011, at Duke of York Blvd. and Square One Dr. — and three more are in the works for 2019.

    Like Waterloo, the city launched a public education campaign to help drivers navigate roundabouts, and it says there are fewer collisions at roundabouts than traditional intersections, and no reported incidents involving those on foot or on bike.

    Harris has put forward a private member’s bill, the Safe Roundabouts Act, that he said would modernize the Highway Traffic Act to include roundabouts. The bill asks the government to first consult the experts regarding everything from safety to speed limits to signage — including “uniformity of road design standards” to help ease driver confusion.

    The CAA of South Central Ontario said it first spoke to Harris five years ago when he began to push for clearer roundabout rules. The CAA supports municipalities in choosing what’s right for the communities, and “we’ve always been supportive of the concept that provides additional safety measures for road users,” said spokesperson Elliott Silverstein.

    Harris said there’s inconsistency for pedestrians as well, with some intersections where they have the right of way and others where they yield to traffic.

    “We are seeing more and more communities with roundabouts,” he said. “Now is the time to get it right.”


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    Toronto’s new Medical Officer of Health is calling for a public discussion on the merits of decriminalizing all drugs in the wake of the ongoing overdose epidemic.

    “It’s clear that our current approach to drugs in this city and this country doesn’t seem to be having the desired impact,” Dr. Eileen De Villa told reporters Friday at a briefing on how the city is responding to drug users overdosing and, in some cases, dying.

    There have been six suspected fatal overdoses since the weekend, including two teens found dead in an Etobicoke highrise. In addition, Toronto emergency wards treated 79 people suspected of overdosing during the last week of July. It’s not yet clear how many were deaths.

    Last year, it’s believed more than 2,400 Canadians died as a result of opioid-related overdoses.

    On Friday, following Thursday’s emergency meeting of city partners, De Villa reviewed with reporters the city’s overdose prevention strategies which include asking police to carry the fentanyl antidote and speeding up the opening of three safe injection sites.

    De Villa said among the 10 key strategies in Toronto’s Overdose Action plan is a call for a public health approach to drug policy that puts the health of the community first, “rather than looking at this as an issue of criminal behavior and or an area for law enforcement.”

    The city is convening a committee of health and drug policy experts to explore “a different approach that puts the health of the community first,” she said.

    While acknowledging the city doesn’t have the power to change the Criminal Code, “Toronto has always been a leader … in policy and I don’t see why we wouldn’t continue to be a leader on this front,” said De Villa, who stepped into her high-profile position four months ago.

    Councillor Joe Mihevc, chair of the board of health, joined De Villa at the briefing and said the generations of the war on drugs has been an “abject failure.”

    He said Toronto should be “provoking” the conversation that is happening internationally. About 25 countries, including Portugal, have decriminalized drugs in some form, and next year recreational marijuana will be legal in Canada, he noted.

    “Is it appropriate, is it a wise use of public resources to be throwing police, lawyers, courts…the criminal justice system at it, or is it an issue where we throw in a lot more public health staff and nurses? What yields the best result?,” he said.

    Mihevc predicted, if the fentanyl crisis deepens in Canada, mayors across the country will begin pressuring the federal government to look at legalizing and regulating illicit drugs.

    He drew the connection to the wave of opioid overdoses, where former patients prescribed painkillers, including “nice, white middle-class people,” get hooked, then turn to fentanyl-laced heroin bought on the illegal market. Some traffickers cut their drug supply with fentanyl, a highly potent painkiller.

    “If there is a silver lining to the tragedy that we’re living with overdoses, it is provoking a larger conversation on how he have understood drugs, the control of drugs, the illegality of drugs, the ethics of drug use in Canada,” Mihevc said.


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    Police have charged a driver following a deadly collision in Mississauga on Wednesday and are asking for the public’s help for information.

    Kasim Khurami, 62, from Mississauga, was crossing the street when a gray Mazda sedan made a turn and hit him. Khurami was pronounced dead on scene.

    The collision occurred at the intersection of Edwards Blvd. and Topflight Dr., near Hurontario St. and the 407, at midnight.

    The driver, who wasn’t hurt, left the scene but returned later, said Peel police Const. Mark Fischer.

    Ramesh Banjara, 55, from Brampton, has been charged with failing to stop at the scene of an accident causing death.

    Police are asking for anyone with information or footage of the collision to contact the Major Collision Bureau or Peel Crime Stoppers.


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    WASHINGTON—The waters of the so-called swamp are starting to rise around Donald Trump, with various creatures of Washington’s political marshes threatening his presidency from multiple angles.

    Consider about nine developments of the last few days in a town derided by the president as an amphibian-infested bog.

    First, the special investigator in the Russia affair has empanelled a grand jury, according to multiple reports. Second, lawmakers from both parties are co-operating to craft different bills that would curb Trump’s ability to fire the investigator.

    Third, the attorney general Trump mused about firing has been promised his job is secure. Republican lawmakers have brushed off three demands from the president: on Russia sanctions, on health care, on adjusting procedural rules — that’s four, five and six. A pair of Republicans have just released books criticizing the president.

    Eight, his own party’s senators have blocked him from making appointments during the summer break; they used a rare parliamentary gimmick to thwart him. And to cap it all off, Trump’s critics have been emboldened by a new dip in his poll numbers.

    Read more: We now know how the Trump presidency will end. Let's hope we survive: Burman

    This is all happening by the end of the first congressional session of the Trump presidency, which is concluding this week with senators heading off on their summer recess. On their way out the door, they stiff-armed questions about their president.

    One Republican walking down the hallway shrugged when asked whether the president understands the health law he wants them to pass: “I certainly wouldn’t want to comment on what the president understands and doesn’t understand.”

    Their mood has been hardening against the commander-in-chief.

    Republicans have made it clear they’re unhappy Trump threatened one of their old colleagues — former senator, now Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump has just fired two party establishment figures from his White House staff. He then fuelled rumours he might fire Sessions out of frustration with his refusal to defend the president in the Russia affair.

    Democrats say they hear the grumbling from Republican colleagues.

    Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee investigating Russian collusion, says he’s convinced any move to fire special investigator Robert Mueller would trigger a constitutional crisis.

    “I’ve seen a real change in tone (from the Republicans),” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

    Mark Warner, another Democrat on the committee, said he’s noticed the same shift: “Republican colleagues have said (firing Mueller) would be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.

    “I think you would see widespread bipartisan support to put back in place (a new special investigator).”

    In fact, two groups of senators, from both parties, have already started crafting bills to restore an investigator if Trump fires Mueller. It now appears unlikely that Trump will fire the attorney general to get a new one who might fire Mueller.

    Republicans have rebelled against the idea, saying they will not confirm a replacement for Sessions.

    One Trump-skeptical Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, said in an interview with The Canadian Press that nobody in the Republican caucus would accept the special counsel being fired without just cause.

    Graham is doing his part to protect the investigator — he’s co-sponsored one of the bills that would set limits on the president’s ability to oust him.

    Mueller is under assault from the president’s staunchest supporters.

    Trump boosters are promoting the idea of firing him in part because inquiry staff donated to Democrats. But Graham said that, as a lawyer himself, he doesn’t see that as a disqualifier. He pointed out that most members of the Kenneth Starr team that investigated Bill Clinton were Republicans.

    As for Sessions’s job security, Graham said: “I’ve never felt better about Jeff.”

    Meanwhile, lawmakers thumbed their nose at Trump and voted overwhelmingly to limit his ability to eliminate sanctions. When Russia protested, Trump called lawmakers a bunch of big-talking, do-nothings who can’t even pass a health law.

    In fact, several are now working to protect Obamacare and keep it from collapsing — once again, in defiance of the president’s wishes. One of the lawmakers who voted to preserve Obamacare, Sen. John McCain, even taunted the president over his Russia remarks.

    He responded to a presidential tweet with one of his own: “You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbours & threatening our allies.”

    And then news broke late Thursday in the Wall Street Journal that Mueller had called in a grand jury in his Russia investigation. The probe appears to have grown from a look at election collusion to broader issues involving financial crimes, based on the expertise of the lawyers he’s hired.

    So, what does that mean?

    A former assistant Watergate prosecutor and federal prosecutor says it means 23 people have been selected to be on a grand jury, and rather than simply interviewing witnesses in an office, they can summon them to give formal testimony, then consider charges.

    In case that wasn’t clear enough, Nick Akerman adds: “Because the prosecutors want to take testimony under oath and may be heading toward indictments.”


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