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    Most people know what a U-turn is when they see one, but if you asked the province of Ontario for a definition of the manoeuvre, it wouldn’t have an answer.

    Brampton resident Michael Robinson realized this in September 2015when he was on his way to pick up his wife from her job at Wal-Mart, driving north on Sunforest Dr. He turned left into a driveway, reversed his car and proceeded south — a standard three-point turn.

    Robinson was pulled over by a Peel Region police officer for disobeying a “No U-turn” sign and given a ticket.

    But is a three-point turn also a U-turn? The police say yes, even though the Ontario Highway Traffic Act does not offer a clear definition of a U-turn or a three-point turn.

    Robinson disagreed so he fought the ticket in court.

    A three-point turn, Robinson argued in court, is a series of manoeuvres, while a U-turn is one continuous motion.

    “It does not take rocket science and a higher education to understand the shape of a U in our alphabet,” Robinson told the Star in an interview. “Unfortunately the vagueness and ambiguity within our laws allows different interpretations . . . The goal is about road safety. I believe that I practised very good road manners and safety.”

    The officer who pulled him over testified that Robinson did a U-turn because his vehicle did not fully leave the roadway during the three-point turn.

    Neither argument was central to the verdict.

    On Aug. 18, Robinson was found guilty of disobeying a sign.

    Section 143 of the Highway Traffic Act refers to a U-turn as a turn “so as to proceed in the opposite direction,” and that was what led to Robinson’s charge.

    Justice of the Peace Richard Quon heard the case and produced a 42-page ruling, which concluded: “A three-point turn as a driving manoeuvre is not defined in the Highway Traffic Act . . . and as such, a three-point turn for the purposes of the Highway Traffic Act is not legally distinct from a U-turn manoeuvre.

    “The defendant’s turns and driving manoeuvre . . . constitute a U-turn manoeuvre within the meaning of the Highway Traffic Act, since their purpose had been to facilitate the motor vehicle turning around to proceed in the opposite direction.”

    Robinson said that he was given two demerit points, but the usual fine of $85 was waived.

    The Ministry of Transportation told the Star “(Robinson) was charged with changing the direction of travel . . . regardless of the matter in which the change was executed. This type of manoeuvre was prohibited at the location.”

    Jordan Donich, a traffic lawyer at Donich Law in Toronto who wasn’t part of the case, told the Star that a driver’s intent to turn around is more important than the manoeuvre itself.

    “How ridiculous would it be if all someone would need to get around an illegal U-turn would be to stop two or three times along the way?” Donich asked. “The U-turn is there not necessarily to prevent a U-turn necessarily, it’s because it’s unsafe to make a 180 and proceed the other way . . . it’s not so much about the manner in how you turn.”

    Donich said that the absence of a definition of a U-turn is intentional.

    “They want to have liberal interpretation of your behaviour. If it’s too clearly defined, people can then create a conduct that may not fit the definition and get off free.”

    Daniel Slovak, a paralegal at Traffic Ticket Knights in Markham, also agreed with the ruling.

    “He was trying complete something illegal by maneuvering in a different way, he should have been in a little bit more creative,” Slovak said. “I would have pulled into the driveway. I would count, one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.”

    Robinson is still frustrated by the decision.

    “It was based not on constitutional or charter law but a vague common law practice of favouring breach ‘intent of the law,’ ” Robinson said. “Had I the time or funds I would pursue it further.

    “In the end the little guy suffers. Those who are unaware just go on paying fines.”

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    Metrolinx will undertake a “thorough and comprehensive” review of two proposed new GO Transit stations, after a Star investigation revealed that the provincial transportation ministry pressured the arm’s-length agency into approving the stops.

    One of the proposed stations, Kirby, is in the Vaughan riding represented by Ontario Liberal Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca. The other, Lawrence East, is part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan.

    Documents obtained through a freedom of information request show that in June 2016 the Metrolinx board approved both stations despite internal reports that recommended against their construction, following intervention from Del Duca’s ministry.

    According to a letter posted online by Metrolinx Tuesday afternoon, Rob Prichard, the chair of the agency’s board, has directed staff to examine “all the relevant analyses and information” for both stations, and report back to the board on whether to proceed with the stops.

    The review will include updated submissions from the cities of Vaughan and Toronto on proposed land-use changes around the station sites, population and jobs projections, local transit plans, “and any other relevant information.”

    However, Prichard’s letter, which was addressed to Del Duca and dated Friday, Sept. 8, did not say whether the scope of the review would include examining how the stations came to be approved in the first place.

    Hours before Metrolinx released the letter, Del Duca, appearing at an unrelated news conference in Burlington, Ont., refused to elaborate on what role if any he played in pressuring Metrolinx into approving the stations last year, saying he wouldn’t comment on “historical details” of the transit planning process.

    The minister said the important thing is that Metrolinx won’t move forward with the stops unless further analysis determines they’re warranted.

    “Metrolinx will not enter into any contractual obligations or spend any money until they’re satisfied that both Lawrence East and Kirby are justified,” Del Duca said.

    “If the Metrolinx management and board are satisfied that they are justified, they’ll go forward. Again . . . if the evidence isn’t there, the stations won’t go forward.”

    The Kirby station is estimated to cost about $100 million to build, while the price tag for Lawrence East is estimated at $23 million.

    Business cases commissioned by Metrolinx determined that both Kirby and Lawrence East would cause a net loss of ridership on the GO network, because they wouldn’t attract enough new riders to offset the number of passengers who would stop taking transit due to the longer travel time the additional stations would cause.

    A consultant report commissioned by the agency recommended against building the stations, as did initial drafts of Metrolinx board reports.

    The board met in private on June 15, 2016, and voted not to go ahead with the stops, but a day later Del Duca’s ministry sent the agency draft press releases indicating he intended to announce stations that the board hadn’t approved.

    The press releases shocked Metrolinx officials, the documents show. After discussions between Metrolinx leaders and ministry staff however, the agency’s board reconvened in public on June 28, 2016, and approved the two stops as part of a list of 12 new stations under GO Transit’s $13.5-billion regional express rail expansion plan.

    Metrolinx board reports were redrafted to support the stations, and the business cases weren’t released until almost nine months after the vote. Metrolinx never published the consultant report recommending against the stops.

    On Tuesday Del Duca was asked whether he directed Metrolinx leaders to approve the two stops.

    “I was given an opportunity to provide my input, I provided my input with respect to those decisions,” he replied, echoing statements he made to the Star in June.

    He refused to explain why his ministry drafted press releases that showed he planned to announce stations Metrolinx hadn’t approved.

    “You’re focused on the historical details, I’m focused on the go forward,” he told a reporter.

    The minister evaded the question when he was asked whether the approval of the two stations was free from political influence.

    “I think on a go-forward basis what the most important thing for us to recognize is that Metrolinx is going to make sure they’re satisfied that both Lawrence East and Kirby are justified based on the analysis that they’re going to do,” he replied.

    According to Prichard’s letter, Metrolinx staff will report back in time for the board’s February 2018 meeting. The chair wrote that Del Duca has confirmed that he will “respect and support whatever conclusion the board reaches.”

    Prichard’s letter was in response to one Del Duca sent on Aug. 29, in which the minister acknowledged that “concerns have been raised about the process by which the Kirby and Lawrence East stations were ultimately approved.”

    The letter did not specify what “concerns” the minister was referring to.

    On Aug. 29, Ontario PC transportation critic Michael Harris wrote to the provincial auditor general to ask her to conduct a “full value for money audit” of the two stops.

    “The minister of transportation’s office has unfortunately provided very few answers as to why ministry-funded analysis recommending against these projects was overruled,” wrote Harris, who is the MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga.

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    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pressed the Liberal government Tuesday about the growth of temporary work in Ontario and how proposed changes to labour laws don’t do enough to protect workers from “shady” companies.

    Citing a recent investigation by the Star — in which a reporter spent a month working undercover as a temp worker inside a North York food factory — Horwath said existing laws allow workers to be exploited by temp agencies and the changes the government is proposing will not fix the problem.

    “Too many shady companies contract out risky work to temp agencies, because our laws are written so that if a temporary employee is hurt on the job, the company isn’t held fully responsible,” Horwath said during question period. “Our laws make it easy for unscrupulous employers, unscrupulous companies, to save money by hiring temporary workers and allowing them to get hurt, instead of investing in permanent employees and training them properly.”

    The Star found that the number of temp agency offices opening across Ontario has increased by 20 per cent in the last decade. There are now more than 1,700 operating in the GTA alone.

    Read more:

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    Are we up to the job of rescuing work?: Mallick

    Among the advantages for companies that use temp agencies is that when a temp worker is hurt on the job, their agency — not the workplace where the injury occurred — assumes liability at the worker’s compensation board. This saves the company money on insurance premiums.

    Bill 148, the government’s “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act” — which, if successful, will increase the minimum wage to $15 — includes some measures to improve working conditions for temp agency workers.

    It will ensure they are paid the same as permanent employees doing “substantially similar” work, for example, and make it easier for them to unionize. But the bill does not directly address injury liability, which is one of the most significant financial incentives to use temp agencies in the first place.

    “That’s a gaping hole and this is an opportunity to close that hole,” Horwath added in a phone interview with the Star.

    The proposed legislation, which had its second reading in the Legislature on Tuesday, also doesn’t include any caps on how many temp agency workers a company can hire, or time limits on how long they can be made to work in the same job at the same workplace as a “temp.”

    Speaking Tuesday at a conference at Ryerson University, Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government was “fully intending” to explore amendments to the bill, which will return to committee hearings after second reading.

    “My hope would be that we can find ways to strengthen it for sure.”

    Responding for the Liberals in the legislature on Tuesday, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn told Horwath that the government is “as concerned as you are” about the “growth” of temp agencies.

    Flynn pointed out the ways in which the proposed legislation helps temp workers, and added that the ministry will be beefing up its enforcement capability by hiring 173 new employment standards inspectors “to go out and proactively inspect premises, perhaps like the one that was mentioned in the Star.”

    Traditionally associated with casual office work, statistics obtained by the Star show that the majority of temps are now working in non-clerical sectors, such as manufacturing and construction.

    Temp workers are also more likely to be injured on the job. Last year, non-clerical temps suffered more than twice as many injuries as non-temps doing similar work, according to Workplace Safety Insurance Board data analyzed by the Star.

    Academic research suggests that the higher injury rates are due to the fact that temps receive less training, while companies also assign them riskier work.

    As part of a year-long investigation into the rise of temp work, the Star sent a reporter to work undercover as a low-wage temp worker at Fiera Foods, an industrial bakery that mass produces bread products for major grocery stores and fast-food chains. She received just five minutes of safety training before stepping onto the factory floor. She was also paid in cash, at a payday lender, without any documentation or deductions.

    Last year, 23-year-old temp worker Amina Diaby was killed while working at Fiera Foods when her hijab was pulled into a machine, strangling her.

    Horwath said the Star’s stories showed the “squalid and dangerous conditions” faced by many workers, including Diaby.

    “There’s no way that anybody should go to work in the morning and be fearful that they’re not going to come home at night.”

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    The Blue Jays have now won four games in a row following their 3-2 victory against the Orioles on Tuesday at the Rogers Centre.

    The O’s have lost five straight; they now appear to be the only target for the Jays in terms of escaping last place, at least accomplishing something.

    The Orioles carried a one-run lead into the ninth, but ace closer Zach Britton allowed two runs on a game-tying single by catcher Luke Maile and a game-winning single to centre field by 21-year-old shortstop Richard Urena.

    Britton blew just his second save in, well, forever.

    For the Jays, Tim Mayza picked up his first career win.

    “You feel a lot of emotions and you dream about that,” Urena said through an interpreter. “You come out here and you’re just trying to do your job. It’s just a plus when you get the chance right there to win a game.”

    Read more:

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    Blue Jays to open 2018 season March 29

    Youngsters help lift Blue Jays past the Orioles

    Urena was called up from Double-A New Hampshire, where he hit .241. In nine games with the Jays, he is batting .324 and is riding a five-game hitting streak. It shouldn’t be that easy for a 21-year-old in his first look at major-league pitching.

    “It’s not too different, Double-A from the major-leagues,” Urena said. “The only difference is here they have more control of where the pitches are going. I can put better swings on those pitches around the zone, not all over the place.”

    The Jays improbable experiment of converting right-hander Joe Biagini from an effective major-league setup man back into a starting pitcher continued, a role he last filled in the Double-A Eastern League in 2015.

    The biggest challenge for Biagini thus far in the conversion has been maintaining an effective pitch count. Against the O’s, he had the lowest average pitches per inning of any of his 15 big-league starts. For his first 14 outings, he averaged 16.8 pitches per inning over 68 2/3 innings pitched. On this night, the 27-year-old worked eight innings, using just 88 pitches for an average of 11.0 per frame.

    “Actually his stuff was (the most encouraging),” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “It’s all related. He was really good. Just a good live fastball, a dominating performance. Good for him, he needed that.”

    Biagini was in total control through the first six innings, with no opponent advancing into scoring position. But in the seventh, he stumbled. Leading off the inning, Trey Mancini pulled a double into the left-field corner and with two outs, Mark Trumbo looped an RBI single to centre field in front of Kevin Pillar. That tied the game at one and carried it to Baltimore’s solid bullpen.

    The O’s took the lead in the eighth with Biagini in uncharted territory. Shortstop Tim Beckham crushed the starter’s 86th offering to left-centre for the go-ahead home run. He pitched well enough to win, but was tagged with a no-decision.

    “A game like this was almost really frustrating,” Biagini said. “Because it’s just not quite enough. When you’re cruising along and you have it turn like that quickly, it always eats at you a little bit.”

    The Jays opened the scoring in the third against talented right-hander Dylan Bundy. Maile led off with a line drive to right-centre field for a single. Urena and Josh Donaldson pasted Baltimore’s outfielders to the wall for long flyball outs, then Justin Smoak launched a drive to right that went off a leaping Joey Rickard’s glove as he bumped into the fence for a run-scoring double.

    Maile was making his 34th start of the season and fifth since returning from the disabled list following knee surgery. But with catcher Russell Martin activated from the disabled list (right oblique) and slated to start Wednesday’s series finale, future starts may be limited for Maile and the two other catchers on the expanded roster, Miguel Montero and Raffy Lopez.

    For his part, Martin just wants to play.

    “As a professional when you’re ready to go, you’re ready to go,” Martin said prior to Tuesday’s game. “It’s a (long) time that it took to get better and when you’re a professional you go out there and compete. If you’re healthy you play and you help your team win. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”

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    The journey from their hurricane-ravaged home in Houston was frightening for 39 rescue dogs, some refusing to eat or leave their cages for fresh air when the four-van convoy took breaks on its way back to Toronto.

    For volunteers, the hardest part of the trip wasn’t unloading the dogs for walks, cleaning up soiled crates or the more than 24 hours of driving.

    It was saying goodbye.

    “Just having three grown men, sitting in a van, bawling their eyes out was something that I was not going to forget any time soon,” said Curtis Cluett, a volunteer.

    Cluett and eight other volunteers from Redemption Paws, a Toronto-based, non-for-profit organization, parted with the dogs on Monday morning after a weekend rescue trip.

    The volunteers arrived in Texas on Friday to help animal rescue and sanctuary organizations like Hot Mess Pooches find a new home for some of its dogs in the wake of the hurricane.

    “It was controlled chaos to say the least,” Cluett said. The shelter received an additional 15 to 20 dogs after word of the Redemption Dogs’ trip spread, but the volunteers were only able to safely transport an additional two Rat Terriers.

    “All of these dogs were very loved,” Cluett said. “It was hard seeing these people who cared so deeply about their pets having to give them up.”

    The exchange process took volunteers about four hours. First, they unloaded the humanitarian supplies brought down from Toronto, and then filled up the vans. Poodles, a cockapoo, Great Danes, three Dalmatians (one of which had its eyes surgically removed following an infection), Chihuahuas, husky mixes, and other pups wagged their ways into dog crates, and hit the road.

    Nicole Simone, founder of Redemption Dogs, said the organization has already received over 2,000 informal requests for adoption from all over Canada.

    “It’s a bit crazy,” she said, adding that she’s gotten calls late at night inquiring about adoption. Simone said four dogs will be available for adoption at a time, and the applications are now available on the organization’s website, where people can also make donations to support future rescue missions.

    They have raised about $29,000 so far, and may embark on another journey to Houston or provide animal rescue relief related to Hurricane Irma.

    As for the Houston mission, Simone said Redemption Dogs made a promise to the shelters that they would continue caring for the dogs, which will mean restricting adoption applications to the GTA to facilitate check-ins.

    “After somebody adopts the dog we’ll be checking in regularly via home or email, and we expect people to keep in touch for the rest of the dog’s life,” she said. Being there to support the animal after adoption, if needed, is part of the organization’s philosophy of ethical rescue.

    For now, the dogs are being housed at the OSPCA headquarters in Stouffville, after the organization stepped in and offered to help out with veterinary checks. There is a mandatory 10-day quarantine period for international rescues before they are put up for adoption, Simone said.

    “It’s hard knowing that these dogs are going to be basically alone for the next 10 days,” said Cluett, reminiscing on dogs like Luke and Leia, a black Labrador pair, or Gabriel, who had all the volunteers head over heels.

    “I think that this is one of the most important things I’ve ever done.”

    With files from Bryann Aguilar

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    After a few impatient drivers zip past students who haven’t cleared the intersection, a white Dodge Ram turns left onto Wilson Ave. in front of Pierre Laporte Middle School, blowing through a red light.

    It’s been less than 20 minutes since the final bell, and Principal Paolo Peloso has already witnessed at least three drivers making dangerous manoeuvres at an intersection bustling with students.

    “Even this morning, I was out there again and I saw two girls crossing . . . and a car just zooms in front. They had to stop in order to avoid being hit,” Peloso said.

    The school of about 400 students applied to have a crossing guard at the end of the last school year. It’s one of at least 49 schools waiting for an assessment by Toronto Police, who administer the crossing guard program.

    Peloso and Vice-Principal Arlene Wheeler have made a point of coming out to monitor before- and after-school traffic at Wilson Ave. and Julian Rd., just west of Keele St. The area has seen an influx of traffic now that construction is complete at the new Humber River Hospital, located across the street from the school, on the south side of Wilson Ave.

    Last Friday, on only the fourth day of the new school year, a Grade 7 student was struck by a car about two kilometres west of Pierre Laporte while crossing Wilson Ave. on her way to school.

    The school sent a letter to parents informing them of the incident, but some parents had already voiced concerns about the intersection to Peloso last school year.

    Though the student was not seriously injured, Peloso believes the incident underscores the need to have a crossing guard at the intersection as soon as possible.

    “We don’t want to wait until somebody gets hurt,” Peloso said.

    Because the school only runs three buses, most students take transit or get picked up by parents. Peloso said the hospital’s opening has increased TTC traffic on Wilson Ave., including a new stop in front of the school, which is more convenient for students.

    Councillor Maria Augimeri, of Ward 9 York Centre, has worked with Pierre Laporte and other schools in her ward on getting crossing guards, and said she believes the program should be administered by the city.

    Toronto Police have been running the program since 1947. According to the 2017 police budget, it costs $8.59 million to administer the program.

    Const. Derrick Martin, a school crossing guard co-ordinator with Toronto Police Traffic Services, said the city will be taking over the program “very soon.”

    Applications for a school crossing guard are currently received by the office of the police chief and then sent out to the divisions, which then conduct a daylong traffic assessment. These assessments are done in the order the applications are received and not triaged based on public safety, Martin told the Star. At Pierre Laporte, this assessment is slated for the beginning of 2018.

    “This is typical,” said Martin of the wait time for a guard. “All the requests usually come around the beginning of the school year and then they taper off.”

    There are about 600 to 700 crossing guards who are usually paid to work three hours a day, and cover the morning, after-school and lunch hours. The guards are hired and trained by police, and considered civilian employees.

    When crossing guards are absent from duty, police officers are dispatched to fill in.

    “The community welcomed the GTA’s largest hospital into our ward knowing that we would have some challenges,” Councillor Augimeri said. She credits Peloso and Wheeler, the “dynamic duo” at Pierre Laporte, for making safety a priority as they await a decision on a crossing guard.

    “They are the most outstanding staff I’ve ever witnessed,” she said.

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    The most popular college and university programs are business, administration and law — but all the jobs are in engineering and information technology, says a new international report on education.

    Following trends in the 30-plus other developed nations included by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), about 29 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students are taking business and law, and about 11 per cent engineering, manufacturing and construction.

    While overall, university graduates still have much higher employment rates and earn more, engineering and information and computer technology sectors have the highest employment rates, the report says.

    “(Post-secondary) enrolment is expanding rapidly, with very strong returns for individuals and taxpayers, but new evidence shows that universities can fail to offer, and individuals fail to pursue, the fields of study that promise the greatest labour-market opportunities,” said the OECD in a written release.

    Read more:

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    Ontarians fear job skills outdated, survey finds

    Its report “finds that business, administration and law are the most popular careers in countries surveyed, chosen by around one in four students. This compares to 16 per cent in engineering, construction and manufacturing, and less than 5 per cent of students study information and communication technologies, despite graduates in these subjects having the highest employment rate on average across OECD countries, exceeding 90 per cent in about a third of them.”

    Deb Matthews, Ontario’s minister of advanced education and skills development, said the OECD report is further evidence that college and university “remains a worthwhile investment for students for their future” and noted the government’s new student aid program that provides students from lower-income homes with free tuition — they receive more in non-repayable grants than they have to pay in fees.

    “Post-secondary education and training is a key pillar of Ontario’s economic strategy; seven out of every 10 new jobs created in Ontario are expected to require post-secondary education or training,” she said in a written statement to the Star.

    “However, we know there is more to be done to prepare students with the skills they need for a changing economy, and that work must be done in collaboration with post-secondary institutions. We are working together with colleges and universities … to set the foundation for broader post-secondary education system transformation, including in areas like experiential learning, teaching quality and economic development.”

    Another report released Tuesday found Ontario workers need to be better equipped to face the changing job market. The report, by the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, also urged that students not only learn “broader skill sets,” but for post-secondary institutions to make sure they get input from employers to help shape programming.

    Meanwhile, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has warned that Ontarians are worried about their outdated job skills, saying what workers are trained for doesn’t necessarily match what employers are looking for.

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    A Toronto police officer found with a small amount of cocaine in his wallet is expected to plead guilty to professional misconduct at a disciplinary hearing later this year.

    Dressed in a maroon suit jacket, Det. Const. Kirk Blake made a brief appearance before the Toronto police tribunal Tuesday, facing two counts of professional misconduct under Ontario’s Police Services Act.

    Police prosecutor Insp. Domenic Sinopoli told the tribunal that Blake is expected to enter a guilty plea at a November hearing, although the officer did not enter a plea Tuesday.

    Blake, who has 17 years with the Toronto police, was charged with one count of possessing a narcotic after the Guns and Gangs officer was found to have a small amount of cocaine in his wallet.

    The discovery of the drug came about in September, 2016, after Blake left his wallet behind at the Scarborough courthouse, where he had been doing some computer work in his capacity as an officer.

    The wallet was located by another Toronto police member and “found to contain a small clear plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance,” later determined to be cocaine, according to a police document outlining the misconduct allegations against Blake.

    “It was further determined that you were not in lawful possession of the substance in the accordance with your duties as a police officer,” according to the document.

    Blake was granted an absolute discharge after pleading guilty to the criminal charge.

    The officer is accused of misconduct for allegedly acting in a disorderly manner or in a manner likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the Toronto police force.

    The penalty for a conviction under the Police Service Act ranges from a reprimand to dismissal.

    Blake will appear before the tribunal on November 21.

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at

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    The salaries of the two top players at the Toronto Parking Authority remain a secret despite all other senior executives voluntarily releasing their pay.

    The parking authority released a list of salaries of senior management to the Star on Friday. The salaries of president Lorne Persiko and Marie Casista, vice-president of real estate and marketing — both of whom are currently on paid leave pending an investigation into a questionable land deal— were censored.

    “Where there are individuals for which the information is not provided, the individual did not give consent to disclose,” said a letter from the parking authority accompanying the list of salaries. The only information provided about Persiko’s remuneration is that he is afforded a leased vehicle.

    Persiko and Casista were put on paid leave after a damning auditor general’s report released in June concluded the parking authority was planning to overpay for a parcel of land in North York by more than $2.5 million.

    The authority — which manages all Green P parking in Toronto — is currently under new direction from interim president Andy Koropeski. The board is now chaired by city manager Peter Wallace, who, in an extraordinary measure, was put in place by city council following the auditor’s report.

    The Star has tried for more than a year to find out how much Persiko and other parking authority executives are paid. The city agency hired an employment law firm and spent more than $5,000 to thwart those requests.

    Read more:

    Toronto Parking Authority keeps executive salaries secret

    Mayor John Tory calls for parking authority salaries to be released

    Senior Toronto parking execs suspended during land deal investigation

    Typically, the salaries of heads of city agencies and corporations can be found on the province’s public sector salary (Sunshine) list. The parking authority is exempt, the city has said, because even though it collects hundreds of millions on behalf of the city it receives no public funding.

    In July, Mayor John Tory told the Star he believed the salaries should be public and asked staff to find a way to make that possible.

    “All the money in the Toronto Parking Authority is public money,” Tory told the Star then.

    Persiko did not return a request for comment Friday. Casista’s husband, Real Casista, told the Star on Friday that her salary was “personal information.”

    The following annual base salaries and taxable benefits for 2016 were released by the authority Friday:

    • Andy Koropeski, vice-president of operations: $203,310: $2,230;

    • Robin Oliphant, vice-president of finance: $203,310: $2,595;

    • Remy Iomanaco, vice-president of design and construction: $203,310: $2,230;

    • Ian Maher, vice-president of strategic planning and IT: $203,310: $2,230;

    • Michael Konikoff, head of marketing: $185,000;

    • Arlene Yam Fritz, head of human resources: $185,000.

    More than a year ago, the Star filed an access-to-information request for the salaries of Persiko and other top executives. The request was rejected by the parking authority on the grounds that salaries were “employment-related matters.”

    The Star appealed that request to the province’s information commissioner, and a decision is expected in the fall. (A subsequent access-to-information request revealed the authority spent $5,346 in legal fees fighting the appeal.)

    In the meantime, the authority released the above salaries voluntarily.

    Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler released her report in June about the now-cancelled land deal. It followed a 10-month investigation by her office after concerns were raised by authority board member John Filion about a land deal at Finch Ave. West and Arrow Rd., near Hwy. 400.

    Romeo-Beehler’s report found the parking authority would have overpaid $2.63 million for the nearly five-acre parcel.

    The deal, she told council, resulted from a “hairball” of relationships and potential conflicts involving Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, the Emery Village BIA, a lobbyist working for the BIA, the TPA executives and a sign consultant working for the TPA.

    Jennifer Pagliaro can be reached at (416) 869-4556 or

    Jayme Poisson can be reached at (416) 814-2725

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    HOLLYWOOD, FLA.—Six patients at a sweltering nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning, raising fears Wednesday about the safety of Florida’s 4 million senior citizens amid widespread power outages that could go on for days.

    Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, and added: “The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.” He did not elaborate.

    “It’s a sad state of affairs,” Sanchez said. “We all have elderly people in facilities, and we all know we depend on those people in those facilities to care for a vulnerable elderly population.”

    Gov. Rick Scott called on Florida emergency workers to immediately check on nursing homes and assisted living facilities to make sure the patients are safe. And he ordered an investigation into what he called an “unfathomable” situation.

    “I am demanding answers,” he tweeted.

    The home said in a statement that the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the AC.

    Exactly how the deaths happened was under investigation, with Sanchez saying authorities have not ruled anything out, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. He also said investigators will look into how many windows were open in the nursing home.

    Across the street from the nursing home sat a fully air-conditioned hospital, Memorial Regional.

    The deaths came as people trying to put their lives back together in hurricane-stricken Florida and beyond confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm’s wake, including tree-clearing accidents and lethal fumes from generators.

    Read more:

    Hurricane Irma inflicts extensive damage on Florida orange crops

    ‘It’s going to be devastating’: FEMA fears 25% of Florida Keys homes are gone after Irma

    Toronto hydro crews en route to Florida in wake of Irma

    Not counting the nursing home deaths, at least 13 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm had passed.

    At least five people died and more than a dozen were treated after breathing carbon monoxide fumes from generators in the Orlando, Miami and Daytona Beach areas. A Tampa man died after the chain saw he was using to remove trees kicked back and cut his carotid artery.

    In Hollywood, three patients were found dead at the nursing home early Wednesday after emergency workers received a call about a person with a heart attack, and three more died at the hospital or on the way, police said.

    Altogether, more than 100 patients there were found to be suffering in the heat and were evacuated, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Patients were treated for dehydration, breathing difficulties and other heat-related ills, authorities said.

    Nursing homes in Florida are required by state and federal law to file an emergency plan that includes evacuation plans for residents. Any plan submitted by the Hollywood centre was not immediately available.

    Calls to the owner and other officials at the Hollywood home were not immediately returned, but the facility’s administrator, Jorge Caballo, said in a statement that it was “co-operating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome.”

    Through a representative, Carballo told the SunSentinel newspaper that the home has a backup generator but that it does not power the air conditioning.

    The nursing home was bought at a bankruptcy auction two years ago after its previous owner when to prison for Medicare fraud, according to news reports at the time of the sale.

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates nursing homes, gives the Hollywood centre a below-average rating, two stars on its five-star scale. But the most recent state inspection reports showed no deficiencies in the area of emergency plans.

    Florida, long one of America’s top retirement destinations, has the highest proportion of people 65 and older of any state — 1 in 5 of its 20 million residents. As of 2016, Florida had about 680 nursing homes.

    As of Tuesday, the number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat had dropped to 6.8 million — about a third of Florida’s population. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. The number of people remaining in shelters fell to under 13,000.

    Elsewhere around the state, a Coral Gables apartment building was evacuated after authorities determined a lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants.

    And at the huge, 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, more than half the residential buildings had no power Wednesday afternoon. Rescue crews began going door to door in the 94-degree heat to check on people and hand out water, ice and meals.

    “These people are basically prisoners in their own homes,” said Pembroke Pines City Manager Charlie Dodge. “That’s why we are camped out there and doing whatever we can to assist them in this process. And we’re not leaving.”

    Florida Sen. Bill Nelson called the six deaths in Hollywood “an inexcusable tragedy” and called on authorities to get to the bottom of it.

    “We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our seniors safe during this difficult time,” he said.

    In the battered Florida Keys, meanwhile, county officials pushed back against a preliminary estimate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 25 per cent of all homes in the Keys were destroyed and nearly all the rest were heavily damaged.

    “Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses,” said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers.

    The Keys felt Irma’s full fury when the hurricane roared in on Sunday with 209 km/h winds. But the extent of the damage has been an unanswered question for days because some places have been unreachable.

    In Marathon Key, a Publix grocery store opened under police guard on Tuesday, but residents could buy only 20 items each, and no cigarettes or alcohol allowed, said 70-year-old retiree Elaine Yaquinto.

    She said she had yet to see any state or federal agencies or utility companies working on the ground yet. Her home had no electricity or running water, apart from a trickle of cold water that was good enough for a shower.

    “It made me feel like normal,” she said.

    U.S. President Donald Trump plans to visit Naples, on Florida’s hard-it southwestern coast, on Thursday.

    At the Hollywood nursing home, Jean Lindor, a kitchen worker, said through a Haitian Creole translator that the air conditioner had not been working since the storm and it had been hot inside.

    Paulburn Bogle, a member of the housekeeping staff, said the place had been hot but manageable the past few days. The staff used fans, put cold towels and ice on patients and gave them cold drinks, he said.

    Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak said his office had received the bodies of at least three of the victims — two women age 71 and another who was 78 — for autopsies.

    “They were sick already. It’s going to be tough to tell how much was the heat and how much of it was they were sick already,” Mallak said.

    Flora Mitchell arrived at the home trying to find out what happened to her 58-year-old sister, Vonda Wilson, a stroke patient who lived there for about 10 years. She said she last heard from her sister two days ago and found out the air conditioning was not working.

    “We need to know what happened to her,” she said. “They haven’t told us anything.”

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    Police are appealing for witnesses after a 19-year-old woman was allegedly sexually assaulted early Sunday.

    The woman was in the area of King St. W. and Portland St. around 1:30 a.m. Sunday when she was involved in a physical altercation with one other woman, police say. While one of the women left the scene after the altercation, the other remained.

    Shortly after, a white SUV pulled up with two men inside. The 19-year-old entered the vehicle, mistaking it for an Uber.

    Once inside the vehicle, the woman was sexually assaulted by one of the men, police say.

    The woman was later dropped off in the area of Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E. around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

    Police are looking for anyone with video footage of the altercation at King St. W. and Portland St., or that may have witnessed the woman exiting the vehicle at Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E.

    The vehicle in question is described as a white, 2009 Ford Escape with tinted windows, fog lights, and a license plate beginning with the letter “C.”

    Police are looking for anyone with video footage of the altercation at King St. W. and Portland St., or that may have witnessed the woman exiting the vehicle at Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E.

    Witnesses can contact Toronto police at 416-808-3300.

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    A provincial court pilot project that has judges presiding over bail hearings at two of Ontario’s busiest courthouses has lawyers once again questioning the role of justices of the peace.

    In an effort to speed the court process, the Ontario Court of Justice announced last week that judges would take over bail hearings at College Park in Toronto as well as the Ottawa courthouse.

    The move comes as governments and courts continue to grapple with the effects of a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision that set strict timelines to bring criminal cases to trial.

    The pilot project, expected to last 18 to 24 months, “is exploring whether the introduction of judges’ criminal trial experience at the earliest stage of the criminal court process could reduce time to final disposition,” said court spokesperson Kate Andrew.

    “All judges at the Ottawa and College Park courthouses will participate in the bail project and will be scheduled to preside in bail court as well as in trials, judicial pre-trials and all other regular judicial responsibilities.”

    Unlike someone looking to become a judge, a person does not need a legal background to qualify for the role of justice of the peace. Aside from presiding in bail court, JPs, who earn significantly less than judges, sign off on search warrants and preside over brief court appearances and matters involving provincial offences.

    JPs will continue to handle bail hearings in courthouses other than College Park and Ottawa, Andrew said.

    The court’s pilot project has prompted lawyers to question why JPs preside over bail in the first place, pointing out that it’s a critical step in the court process in which a person’s liberty is at stake when they have not yet been convicted of a crime.

    Many criminal defence lawyers have long complained about the fact that such an important task is being placed in the hands of individuals who do not necessarily have a legal background.

    Some have blamed JPs as one reason why jails are overcrowded with inmates who are awaiting trial.

    Others see it differently.

    “Putting experienced judges in bail court isn’t a solution to ensuring speedier justice,” said criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown, a Toronto director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. “While it is preferable to have our bail courts staffed with jurists who possess criminal law backgrounds, the answer is to hire more justices of the peace who possess that skill set.”

    While the court has said judges will continue with their regular duties on top of presiding in bail court, lawyers have expressed concern that the pilot project will still lead to delays at the trial stage if judges have to be moved around to accommodate bail hearings.

    Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said that there were times when it could take up to a week to get a bail hearing at the courthouse in that city, “which is unacceptable,” but it could take months, if not more than a year, to get a trial date.

    “The role of justices of the peace should be examined,” he said. “I think there should be an acknowledgement that justices of the peace play an important role in the justice system . . . , but I think there should be no scared cows about what that role actually should be.

    “If you take a step back and think about it, it is rather shocking that you would rather have people without legal degrees, without the type of experience that judges by definition need to have, making decisions about police searching your house and about whether someone remains in custody or is released pending trial.”

    Spratt said that a complete re-orientation of the justice system is required in order to reduce court delays, including examining the use of the criminal law in dealing with people who are in poverty, or have mental issues and addictions.

    James Morton, former counsel to the Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario, told the Star that part of the reason for having judges conduct bail hearings could be a current shortfall on in the number of JPs.

    But he also acknowledged that there have long been calls from some groups for judges to preside over bail, and that could have played a role in the court’s decision on the pilot project.

    “Justices of the peace know the law perfectly well and can make the decision just as well, to my thinking, as any judge can,” he said.

    “Regardless of anything else, the length of time a bail hearing takes is really not contingent on the judge of the justice of the peace hearing it; it’s contingent on the Crown putting in whatever material they have, the defence calling sureties, whether they’re arguing over the form of release.”

    Court delays are expected to be at the top of the agenda of the two-day federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers’ meeting, which begins Thursday in Vancouver.

    The issue was put front and centre last year when the Supreme Court ruled in a case known as R. v. Jordan that cases that take longer than 18 months in provincial court, and 30 months in Superior Court, must be tossed unless the Crown can prove there were exceptional circumstances for the delay.

    Bail has been among the areas targeted by Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi as in need of an overhaul to speed up the court process. There have been calls for federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to push for Criminal Code amendments that would scrap preliminary inquiries in most cases.

    Wilson-Raybould’s parliamentary secretary, Marco Mendicino, told the annual Opening of the Courts ceremony in Toronto Tuesday that change is expected to be announced at the meeting in Vancouver.

    “There, we hope to adopt a suite of legislative and policy proposals whose purpose will not only be to reduce court delays, but even more so, to break free from the culture of complacency which has beset our justice system, as laid bare in Jordan.

    “It is time to act,” he said in his remarks.

    Naqvi told the ceremony, which included the chief justices from all three levels of court in Ontario, as well as a number of other judges, lawyers and dignitaries, that the Ministry of the Attorney General will soon be releasing a new policy for Crown attorneys on bail.

    “Too many of the people in our province’s correctional facilities are on remand,” he said.

    “Too many are vulnerable, low-risk people, or those with mental health and addictions issues.

    “And far too many, a disproportionate number, are racialized or Indigenous.”

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    SUDBURY—Premier Kathleen Wynne says a would-be byelection candidate simply wasn’t up to the job — and was offered a chance to get more involved in the party in an effort to let him down easy.

    The details came in her long-awaited testimony to the Election Act bribery trial of the premier’s former deputy chief of staff, Patricia Sorbara, and Sudbury Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed.

    The pair are charged with offering Andrew Olivier, a mortgage broker and the party’s 2014 provincial election candidate, jobs or appointments to abandon his efforts to become the Liberal nominee in an unexpected byelection early the following year.

    “I didn’t say this to him . . . he hadn’t been a great candidate,” said Wynne, the first Ontario premier in recent memory to testify at a trial that opposition parties are calling a test of Liberal “corruption” with a provincial election next June.

    Wynne strode past a phalanx of reporters, TV cameras and radio microphones on her way into the courthouse, spending almost four hours in the witness box. On her way out of the building, a handful of protesters weakly chanted, “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

    “He had not been able to pull the team together . . . there was some concern,” the premier said of Olivier, who placed second in 2014 as the Liberals won a slim majority but lost Sudbury to the NDP after holding it for 18 years.

    Wynne’s preferred candidate for the February 2015 byelection — called after New Democrat MPP Joe Cimino suddenly quit for family reasons — was defecting Sudbury New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault, now her energy minister.

    That’s why Wynne, who was once passed over for a party nomination in 1999, felt it necessary to reach out to Olivier to ask him to support Thibeault and stay involved in the party.

    “I thought it was a decent thing to do . . . this was a difficult moment for him,” she said of Olivier, who subsequently released recorded conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara that prosecutors allege were illegal job offers.

    Olivier recorded

    The defence has argued that Thibeault had privately agreed to become the candidate before the conversations Olivier had with Sorbara and Lougheed.

    Olivier, who is quadriplegic, tapes some calls and conversations because he cannot take notes.

    Wynne testified her own conversation with Olivier ‎— which was not recorded — made it clear there was a “process” he could go through to take various positions in the party, such as seeking an elected spot on the executive, serving on volunteer committees or seeking a public appointment.

    “These were not things that would happen immediately,” Wynne testified under examination by Crown prosecutor Vern Brewer, describing her phone chat with Olivier on Dec. 11, 2014 as “awkward” because he was not signalling whether he would back Thibeault.

    Olivier subsequently ran as an independent in the byelection and placed third behind Thibeault and a New Democrat.

    The next call from the Liberal hierarchy to Olivier was by Sorbara, the following day. Lougheed had talked to him an hour or two before Wynne.

    “My recollection is Pat was going to follow up with Andrew,” Wynne added. “Beyond that, there was no instruction.”

    ‎On the tape of that conversation, Sorbara said, “we should have the broadest discussion about what it is that you would be most interested in doing, whether it’s a full-time or part-time job in a (constituency) office, whether it is appointments or commissions . . . .”

    In his talk with Olivier, Lougheed stated: “The premier wants to talk. They would like to present you options in terms of appointments, jobs, whatever, that you and her and Pat Sorbara could talk about.”

    Under cross-examination by Lougheed lawyer Michael Lacy, Wynne replied “I did not” when asked if she gave “scripts” to Sorbara and Lougheed but said there was a “shared understanding” that the approach was aimed at keeping Olivier involved in the party.

    “The words chosen by Mr. Lougheed may not have been perfect words,” Lacy said.

    The trial is expected to continue into October.

    Sorbara and Lougheed face maximum fines of $25,000 and two years less a day in jail for the alleged infractions, which are under a lesser category of provincial offences and not under the Criminal Code.

    Sorbara faces a second count of inducing Thibeault to be the candidate. The Crown says he asked for income replacement through the campaign if he jumped from federal politics to the provincial Liberals and for jobs for two of his NDP constituency off‎ice staff.

    Wynne testified that Sorbara had a say in how party funds were spent in the byelection.

    “My understanding is she would have.”

    Read more: Wynne threatens Brown with libel action over his Sudbury comments

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    A veteran Durham police officer has come out swinging as he fights charges of discreditable conduct relating to allegations he made homophobic comments during an exchange with potential recruits.

    The pursuit of Police Services Act charges against Sgt. Tom Andrews is a waste of resources, the officer’s lawyer, Bernie O’Brien, said as a disciplinary tribunal began on Tuesday morning in Whitby.

    “This is a Durham police management issue that’s gone amok,” O’Brien said. “We think this is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”

    O’Brien said Tuesday he’ll file an application to have the prosecution of Andrews declared an abuse of process. He’s also seeking removal of the prosecutor assigned to the case.

    The allegations against Andrews relate to April of this year when he was acting as staff sergeant in Oshawa. A notice of hearing from the service says Andrews, asked to speak to two recruits, used vulgar and discriminatory language when he warned them about maintaining stellar reputations as officers.

    According to the notice, Andrews told the recruits, “You can sleep with a thousand women and you’re a king. But you fellate one man and you are a c---s----- for life.”

    The comment, made in front of an officer who’s openly gay, was “unprofessional, inappropriate and harmful to those who did and would have heard them,” the notice states.

    The complaint that led to the charges, however, was not made by the recruits or other officers in the office at the time Andrews made them. A third party filed the complaint after hearing about the exchange, O’Brien confirmed.

    Andrews denied the comment was homophobic; he attributed the resulting charges to “political correctness.”

    “I used an analogy in a teaching environment,” Andrews said. “Rather than talking and resolving third-party concerns like this, I guess it’s easier to just call the lawyers and get out the taxpayers’ chequebook.”

    O’Brien said Tuesday that Andrews has been assigned to administrative duties. He is not authorized to employ use of force tactics and is barred from performing paid duty, restrictions that will cost the veteran officer $40,000 in wages, O’Brien said.

    “He was taken out and put in the penalty box,” O’Brien said. “It’s unfair. It’s undignified.”

    O’Brien will seek removal of the firm of Ian Johnstone, a longtime prosecutor for Durham police, from the case. He cited an instance in 2012 when Johnstone filed a personal complaint about a remark made by Andrews that led to disciplinary action.

    “The justification is the perception of a fair and impartial hearing,” O’Brien said later.

    O’Brien will also apply to have the disciplinary action by police brass declared an abuse of process.

    Alex Sinclair, acting as prosecutor during Tuesday’s hearing, rejected O’Brien’s assertion that the comments in question were harmless.

    “That theme I simply can’t agree with,” Sinclair said. “When you make homophobic comments in the workplace, that’s a serious issue.”

    A number of officers attended the tribunal to show support for Andrews. Brad Durst, vice-president of the Durham Regional Police Association, said Andrews has “the full support of the association.”

    “I’ve known Tommy for 25 years,” said Durst. “He is truly the hardest-working, most dedicated officer.”

    The tribunal has been adjourned to Oct. 31.

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    ROCKFORD, WASH.—A shooter opened fire at a high school in Washington state Wednesday, killing one person and injuring at least three others, authorities said.

    Brian Schaeffer of the Spokane Fire Department told reporters that one person died at Freeman High School in the tiny town of Rockford, south of Spokane, and three injured victims were taken to a hospital.

    Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital received three pediatric patients, spokesperson Nicole Stewart said. They were in stable condition, and family members were with them, she said.

    Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said at the scene that the shooter was in custody, The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported.

    Worried parents rushed to the school in the town of about 500 people near the Idaho border, about 40 kilometres southeast of Spokane. The two-lane road into town was clogged as people sped to the school.

    Cheryl Moser said her son, a freshman at Freeman High School, called her from a classroom after hearing shots fired.

    “He called me and said, ‘Mom there are gunshots.’ He sounded so scared. I’ve never heard him like that,” Moser told the newspaper. “You never think about something happening like this at a small school.”

    Ambulances and a Lifeflight helicopter were sent to the school.

    Stephanie Lutje told The Associated Press that she was relieved to hear her son was safe after his high school near Freeman was put on lockdown. She commended the school district for its communication with parents.

    “It’s been amazing, within probably 15-20 minutes of hearing about it, I’d already received a phone call, I’d already received a text message saying that their school is OK,” she said.

    She still worried for others she knew, including a co-worker who had yet to hear from her son, a sophomore at Freeman.

    “My stomach’s in knots right now,” she said.

    Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement that “all Washingtonians are thinking of the victims and their families, and are grateful for the service of school staff and first responders working to keep our students safe.”

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    NEW YORK—Former pharmaceuticals company CEO Martin Shkreli had his bail revoked and was headed to jail Wednesday while awaiting sentencing for a securities fraud conviction.

    A judge heard arguments about whether the provocative online antics of Shkreli, dubbed the Pharma Bro, were bad enough to put him behind bars and decided to have him taken into custody immediately.

    A defence attorney had argued in court papers that Shkreli’s recent offer to pay a $5,000 bounty for securing a Hillary Clinton hair with a follicle while she’s on a book tour was merely a tasteless joke comparable to some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s derisive comments, not a threat worthy of putting him behind bars.

    Read more:

    ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli reportedly selling one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album on eBay

    ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli has been convicted of securities fraud

    “Indeed, in the current political climate, dissent has unfortunately often taken the form of political satire, hyperbole, parody or sarcasm,” wrote the lawyer, Ben Brafman. “There is a difference, however, between comments that are intended to threaten or harass and comments — albeit offensive ones — that are intended as political satire or strained humour.”

    The attorney was responding to government filings last week that argued Shkreli’s behaviour was threatening enough to jail him while he awaits sentencing for his securities fraud conviction. Prosecutors said the posting prompted the Secret Service to use more resources because it ran the risk that many of Shkreli’s social media followers would think he was serious.

    Shkreli, who is best known for hiking up the price of a life-saving drug and for trolling his critics on social media, was found guilty last month on charges, unrelated to the price-fixing scandal, that he cheated investors in two failed hedge funds he ran. The defence had argued that investors got their original investments back and even made hefty profits.

    Shkreli has said he feels “exonerated” despite his conviction and thinks there’s a “50-50 chance” he won’t face any punishment. He chatted with fans on his YouTube channel and sparred with a reporter after last month’s verdict.

    “In sum and substance,” he said, “I feel exonerated.”

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    Kathleen Wynne wasn’t on trial Wednesday in a Sudbury courtroom. But as the first sitting premier to appear on the witness stand, Wynne faced her own trial by fire.

    Equally, Hillary Clinton wasn’t on trial in a congressional hearing room, or in an abortive FBI probe last year. But we know how that ended on the campaign trial.

    Legally, Wynne could have dodged this week’s courtroom confrontation. Like all MPPs, she enjoys parliamentary immunity from judicial obligations.

    Politically, however, the premier had every reason to waive those rights. By agreeing to testify in the bribery trial of her former top campaign aide and a local party loyalist, Wynne wanted to show in a provincial courtroom that she had nothing to hide.

    But she had everything to defend in Ontario’s broader court of public opinion this week — not least her political reputation.

    Wynne took a personal gamble, albeit with little downside. In our parliamentary system, a premier is practiced at the alternating rituals of Question Period and news conferences, which tend to be more challenging than the plodding crown prosecutors she faced in Sudbury.

    Yet if the political risk was manageable, the potential upside isn’t so measurable for a premier trying to rebuild her reputation. In our legal system, an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty; in our political system, a premier is presumed corrupt until proven otherwise (even if she is not personally on trial).

    It is unsurprising that politicians are not given the benefit of the doubt, given that they are prone to say with a straight face that their baloney is filet mignon. That said, the premier’s utterances were delivered under oath Wednesday, so there is more reason to take Wynne at her word, if only this once.

    In truth, there were no surprises in her testimony, because few of the facts in this convoluted tale are in dispute. The cognitive dissonance comes in the context, in how you connect the dots and distinguish them from false leads.

    Our accompanying news coverage lays out the background to the seemingly sordid story of attempted bribery: A failed candidate in the 2014 general election, Andrew Olivier, wanted to run again in a 2015 byelection until the premier sidelined him by settling on a more electable candidate, Glenn Thibeault.

    In the aftermath, the premier’s team tried to pacify Olivier by dangling the prospect of an appointment if he would support Thibeault in a show of party unity. Their mistake was to go out of their way to console Olivier, a quadriplegic who records his calls because he cannot take notes.

    And so a scandal was born: Olivier taped top Liberal campaign aide Pat Sorbara suggesting he consider the appointment process, and recorded local Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed doing the same.

    When he posted the embarrassing recordings on Facebook, the opposition — which knows precisely how politics is played — pounced by filing an OPP complaint. Once the cops were on the scent, the story seemed to stink.

    At first, they laid criminal code charges. When the cops and crown realized the chances of a conviction were remote, they downgraded the case to lesser provincial offences under the barely understood and rarely invoked Election Act — relying on wording clearly intended to guard against greedy land developers buying off dissidents with handsome bribes, not party leaders ridding themselves of losers.

    That Olivier was never given any concrete offers, merely invited to go through the application process — for unpaid volunteer positions or a constituency assistant job that typically pays a whopping $35,000 a year — has been lost in all the bribery hyperbole. In reality, Olivier couldn’t be bought off because he had already been ruled out for the nomination, once the premier decided to appoint Thibeault using her power under the party constitution.

    Which makes the whole muddle moot. Chicanery isn’t bribery.

    Just ask Mike Duffy, who was excommunicated by his fellow senators and excoriated by his former media colleagues, before being exonerated by a judge who mocked the police case.

    To borrow a hockey analogy, and as much as I oppose fighting in the NHL, imagine if a losing coach filed assault charges every time an opposing player threw a sloppy punch. When you criminalize the competitiveness of the political game, and when you weaponize the Election Act, you arrive at the absurdity that is Sudbury.

    No one can predict a judge’s verdict. But this is a case that should never have gone to court, and may one day come back to haunt the opposition PCs as they deal with a similar mess of their own making in Hamilton — involving an embarrassing recording, a police investigation and litigation over a disputed nomination.

    Let the games begin — cops and robbers and politicians chasing their tails. But don't our police and prosecutors have real criminals to catch?

    Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. , Twitter: @reggcohn

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    Toronto is moving forward with the development of 2,000 market-rent and affordable rental housing units, through a provincial agreement to unlock surplus land across the city.

    “There are far too many people who need to live in this city, who we need to have live in this city, who we want to live in the city, who would have an income that wouldn’t allow them to live affordably in this city,” said Mayor John Tory.

    The rental properties will be built on two lots in the West Don Lands, as well as the site of a multi-level parking lot on Grosvenor St. and the old provincial coroner’s office, on Grenville St.

    Tory’s remarks were made during a press conference with provincial Housing Minister Peter Milczyn, at one future site, near St. Lawrence Market, on Wednesday morning.

    The land will go up for sale on Thursday and developers will be invited to submit proposals, with the understanding the property must be used for affordable and market rent housing.

    The province will profit from the sale but the expectation is the land will sell for less than it would if it was put on the market with no restrictions, said Milczyn.

    They hope to have the first round of proposals within a month and work could begin on one site as early as next spring, he said. The decision to unlock the property was announced in late April.

    Milczyn said at least 30 per cent or 600 rental homes will be affordable. In Toronto, affordable is defined as rental units costing at or below the average rent across the city.

    The remaining 1,400 will be at the “low end” of market rent, or the average rent for similar-sized properties across the city.

    “So all of these units, compared to some of the other buildings that are around us, will be more affordable than you would otherwise see in the city,” he said.

    At least one in 10 of the new units will be designed for large families, he said.

    “Families should be able to live in these communities,” said Milczyn, who said more announcements about surplus provincial lands are coming.

    The city will be waiving $27.9 million in fees, charges and property taxes to support the development of the 600 affordable units, through the city’s Open Door Program.

    Kenneth Hale, director of legal service with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, said one concern is according to federal and provincial agreements, affordable housing is defined as less or equal to 80 per cent of market rent.

    “Eighty per cent of Toronto rent is not affordable to the people who need housing most in this city,” said Hale, particularly people receiving social assistance.

    “There doesn’t seem to be any clear programs that tie future subsidies to these developments,” said Hale.

    “When they say affordable housing who is it going to be affordable to?”

    In Toronto, more than 181,000 people are on waitlists for affordable housing.

    Tory, on Wednesday, said the city has “great plans to do more” and people should “stay tuned for us making more land available,” for affordable housing.

    “I can assure you from our end that we are doing everything we can to move these projects forward quickly,” said Tory.

    Councillor Ana Bailao, the city’s housing advocate, said the development will “serve an important need,” by providing safe, affordable and long-term housing for families and workers in the downtown.

    Tory and Bailao praised late councillor Pam McConnell, who passed away in July and was devoted to social justice and the creation of affordable housing. Bailao said McConnell’s vision of an inclusive city was a powerful reminder that equality is a shared responsibility.

    Next week, Bailao will be presenting information on the creation of an additional 298 units, in seven developments, run by not-for-profit, co-operative and private sector organizations, to the city’s affordable housing committee.

    The city will be investing a further $22.4 million in “capital funding and fees, charges and property tax relief,” also through the Open Door program, said Bailao, in a release.

    The city will, for the first time, meet and exceed an annual target to approve more than 1,000 affordable units annually, she said.

    On Monday, Tory and Milczyn announced that Toronto will get $90 million in provincial funding, over three years, to help end chronic homelessness.

    Those funds come from a $200 million commitment in the last budget, to be spent over three years, and earmarked to reduce homelessness across Ontario.

    Other municipalities will receive details on funding in the fall, said Milczyn.

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    MONTREAL—For a taste of the challenges that could await Thomas Mulcair’s successor in Quebec consider the following: On Tuesday, Longueuil-Saint-Hubert MP Pierre Nantel told le Devoir that he and possibly others might prefer to sit as independents than to serve in the House of Commons under any of the non-Quebec candidates vying for the NDP leadership.

    In an open letter published Thursday, Nantel — who currently serves as the party’s heritage critic — writes that it was Jack Layton’s promise of a party respectful of Quebec’s national character that drew him along with many of the province’s voters to the NDP in 2011.

    From his perspective, the fact that Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Jagmeet Singh have all spoken out against Quebec’s plan to prevent individuals wearing face coverings from dispensing or receiving public services amounts to a breach of that promise.

    The bill currently debated in the National Assembly would essentially impact the minority of Muslim women who wear the niqab and the burka.

    MP Guy Caron — the only Quebec candidate in the running — has said that while he disagrees with the bill he would, as federal leader, respect the will of the National Assembly on the matter.

    Ashton, Singh and Angus have argued that Quebec’s secular character should not be affirmed at the expense of constitutionally protected religious freedoms.

    In his letter, Nantel warns that under a leader set on a collision course with the National Assembly on secularism the NDP could lose its tenuous connection with nationalist Quebecers and, by the same token, set the cause of federalism back in the province.

    Nantel will support Caron in the leadership vote, but there is more at play here than the jostling that often attends the last stretch of a competitive political contest.

    Indeed this MP’s crisis of confidence in some of his party’s values predates the entry of any of the current leadership aspirants in the campaign to succeed Mulcair.

    In the last campaign Nantel was one of a handful of Quebec New Democrat candidates who broke ranks and came out in support of the proposed Conservative niqab ban at citizenship ceremonies.

    Back in January, the local media in Nantel’s Montreal South Shore riding reported that he was considering a run for the Parti Québécois in next year’s Quebec election. On Wednesday he described that scenario as “hypothetical.”

    Nantel is a popular, hard-working MP. He would be a catch for a momentum-hungry PQ for more reasons than one.

    His federal riding includes much of the provincial riding of Vachon. That happens to be the seat currently held in the National Assembly by Martine Ouellet, the latest leader of the Bloc Québécois. She is expected to vacate it to run federally in 2019.

    In the last federal election, Nantel kept his federal seat with a slim 700-vote majority. The Bloc won a solid 27 per cent of the vote. If he were to make the jump to the provincial arena and a solid PQ riding, he would in the process provide Ouellet with as clear a federal run in Longueuil-Saint-Hubert in 2019 as she could hope for.

    In terms of raw politics this could be described as a win-win quid pro quo.

    That being said, there is more to Nantel’s lament than an isolated case of positioning in the possible hope of a more promising political future under a different banner.

    There is a widespread fear among the party’s rank-and-file in Quebec that the nationalist-friendly terms set out by Layton and Mulcair to bring the province under the NDP tent will become moot under a less Quebec-savvy leader. And that as a result, the province’s New Democrats will no longer be competitive.

    In his letter Nantel readily admits that, in contrast with Caron, he is not a lifelong NDP supporter but rather a Layton convert. But the New Democrat predicament in Quebec is that the party has more supporters like Nantel than like Caron.

    Justin Trudeau’s Liberals assume that they would benefit from a fading NDP presence in Quebec. That assumption is almost certainly right when it comes to ridings like Mulcair’s Outremont that happen to be home to a diverse and solid federalist constituency.

    But in other areas of the province, it could give a breath of life to a moribund Bloc Québécois.

    Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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    He was a giant of his time, a classic of his political type as regional godfather and an architect of some of the social programs on which Canadians still define and pride themselves.

    Allan Joseph MacEachen — known as “Allan J.” across his native Cape Breton Island; if you called him anything else you outed yourself as a come-from-away — died this week at 96.

    And for once the frequently uttered epitaph is true. His like is not apt to pass this way again any time soon.

    “Allan J. was the pre-eminent parliamentarian of his time,” Bob Rae, former MP and Ontario premier, told the Star.

    “He will deservedly be remembered for his deep commitment to social justice, to the economic development of his region and the whole country and to Parliament itself.”

    Sean Fraser, Liberal MP for the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova, told the Star that MacEachen “was just a larger-than-life character. He’s peerless in Canadian politics.”

    MacEachen held just about “every position there is to hold,” Fraser said. “And he did more with those positions than can reasonably be expected of a human being.”

    Allan J. was an MP and senator for more than 43 years, starting out at the progressive heart of the Pearson government in the 1960s and using his vast parliamentary skills, University of Toronto professor Nelson Wiseman told the Star, to engineer the downfall of the Joe Clark government in 1979 and his considerable powers of persuasion on the Liberal caucus to enable Pierre Trudeau’s return as leader — after his dalliance with resignation.

    “Allan MacEachen was a very, very shrewd tactician, and it’s actually because of him that Pierre Trudeau came back into power in 1980,” Wiseman said.

    MacEachen was born in 1921 in Inverness, N.S., and grew up during the Great Depression. His father worked in the Cape Breton coal mines for 46 years, and when he left, his son once recalled, “he left with nothing; he had no pension.”

    But MacEachen found education to be the great equalizer. He attended St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and graduated in 1944 before studying economics at M.I.T.

    He was first elected in 1953 at just 33, was defeated in 1958 and re-elected in 1962.

    His first cabinet portfolio was as Lester Pearson’s labour minister. Then, in 1966, as minister of national health and welfare, he helped implement medicare in Canada, widely regarded as his greatest achievement.

    He told the Commons “this effort springs not only from a deepening of our humanitarian concern for our fellow citizens, but from a realization that we cannot afford the social and economic consequences of our failure to do so. In an industrial country such as ours, we cannot afford the loss to the economy stemming from ill health.”

    MacEachen, said Rae, “was at the heart and centre of the Pearson government — whose social and economic policies remain an integral part of the policy architecture of our country.

    “The Canada Pension Plan, medicare, manpower changes, regional development, immigration changes — Allan J. was instrumental in making these happen.”

    In 1968, MacEachen ran for the Liberal leadership, but lost badly and ended up in debt. He was shuffled sideways, then downward for a time by Pierre Trudeau. He considered quitting politics, but friends convinced him he would be letting down Cape Breton.

    For all MacEachen’s accomplishments during the Pearson years, he was what former Star columnist Richard Gwyn once called “a late-blooming media star.”

    By 1972, MacEachen had been on Parliament Hill for almost 20 years in various capacities, but cultivated a sort of shaggy, bearish demeanour that was clever camouflage for his shrewdness.

    He was an intensely private bachelor, with a reputation among some colleagues for brooding and melancholy. And it was the Clark-Trudeau dramas of 1979-80 in which he jumped to national prominence, Gwyn wrote.

    In his memoirs, Pierre Trudeau wrote that MacEachen had great strategic sense, lived and breathed politics and was “the kind of man I respected because he had no ulterior motives.

    “He said what he thought, and the reasons he would give were always his real reasons.”

    Trudeau’s confidence in MacEachen was reflected by the late Liberal cabinet minister, Eugene Whelan, when he wrote in his memoir of having his knuckles rapped by the PM after speaking out critically on financial affairs while MacEachen was minister.

    “You can say anything you like about the banks, but leave MacEachen out of it,” Whelan reported Trudeau telling him.

    MacEachen, who retired from the Senate in 1996 after 12 years in the upper chamber, led the infamous Liberal protests there in the late 1980s over the Progressive Conservative government’s free-trade treaty with the United States.

    At MacEachen’s Senate retirement, colleague Sen. Anne Cools described the country’s first deputy prime minister as a true son of Cape Breton, whose parents spoke Scottish Gaelic at home.

    “His Scottish racial ancestry is revealed in his physical build and his stalwart features. He is a handsome man with great serenity and poise. He has the countenance of one who understands human beings and the human condition.

    MacEachen enjoyed solitude, she said. His face was inscrutable when necessary. “He is a complex man.”

    Richard Gwyn concurred.

    “The only way to understand him is to understand Cape Breton,” Gwyn wrote in The Northern Magus, a biography of Pierre Trudeau.

    “That tribal, private, tightly knit kingdom peopled by cynical romantics and canny innocents, peopled that is to say by Catholic highland Scots, given to beholding the Hebrides in dreams.

    “MacEachen is happiest in the past, which to him is part of the present. He speaks Gaelic fluently and visits Scotland regularly to revivify his roots. To his Cape Breton tribe, he is shepherd and icon combined.”

    And for all the titles he held — for all the landmark accomplishments — his “reputation at home was for service to his constituents,” said Fraser.

    He recalled an oft-told tale of how, as external affairs minister, MacEachen was attending a Middle East peace conference. He wanted the schedule changed so he could leave Thursday in order to get home to Cape Breton to deal with constituents.

    He was told by other participants that changing the agenda was no small inconvenience.

    “He said to the U.S. secretary of state, ‘The difference between your political system and mine is if I don’t get back for this weekend for my meetings at home, we don’t get to have this meeting next year.”

    Fraser said MacEachen’s impact on Canadian politics will continue for years because of the leaders he groomed as they passed through his office and under his influence.

    “When I was student union president at St. F.X. (Francis Xavier), the president of the university had worked in his (MacEachen’s) office.

    “When I was deciding to go to law school, the two people who convinced me that it was a good idea . . . they both got their start in law and politics working for Allan MacEachen.

    “The people that are around Ottawa now who have worked alongside him include Ralph Goodale and Gerry Butts.

    “This man had his fingers on the careers of so many talented people that he’s going to continue to influence Canadian politics for a generation after he’s gone.”

    In fact, MacEachen — whose stamp of approval mattered until the end of his days — helped in the election of 2015, Fraser said.

    “He had a home in Antigonish until he passed and he had a big red sign in the middle of town for me during the last election.”

    Still, it might be Bob Rae who hit on the most important of Allan J.’s legacies.

    Rae met MacEachen when he was a young guide in the House of Commons in the summer of 1966 and the MP was already a parliamentary veteran.

    “I saw him perform brilliantly in an emergency debate on back-to-work legislation. When I was first elected to the House in 1978, he was friendly, but didn’t give me any leeway in debate. I was his critic when he was finance minister.

    “When I was thinking about running for the Liberal leadership in 2006, he called me out of the blue and said he wanted to help. Given my often barbed comments about him I was taken aback. I went to see him, and we talked it through. I asked him to co-chair my campaign, which he generously did.”

    MacEachen was a scholar who remained, Rae said, “a student of economics, politics and philosophy his whole life.”

    He had been “made frail by a series of strokes, but kept reading, engaging and talking things through as best he could.

    “His was a life of service,” Rae said. “And he was loved by many, including me.”

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