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TOPSTORIES

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    BELL MTS PLACE

    TV: Sportsnet, Radio: Sportsnet 590 The FAN

    KEY PLAYERS

    Matthews/Laine

    It’s a rematch of the top two rookies in the NHL from last season — the Leafs’ Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine of the Jets — and this never gets old, even though the two players wish the hype and comparisons would go away. Matthews looks superb and led the Leafs in scoring in the pre-season with five goals and two assists in four games. Laine had five goals and three assists in four games. The two should be among the top players in the league.

    NEED TO KNOW

    The Jets went with veteran Mathieu Perreault on the top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, making that decision this week after trying Kyle Connor and Nic Petan there. The second line will see Bryan Little between Laine and Nik Ehlers . . . Injuries to Matt Hendricks and Andrew Copp could mean slight changes to the third and fourth lines . . . Wheeler, Little, Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien, are the only players left from October, 2011, when the Jets franchise moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg.

    UP NEXT

    Saturday, vs. New York Rangers

    Read more:

    Leafs still have to ‘line up the moon and the stars’: Feschuk

    Why not the Leafs?: Arthur

    Andreas Borgman, Eric Fehr grab last roster spots with Leafs


    LIVE: Leafs lead Jets 7-2 in the third period of season openerLIVE: Leafs lead Jets 7-2 in the third period of season openerLIVE: Leafs lead Jets 7-2 in the third period of season openerLIVE: Leafs lead Jets 7-2 in the third period of season opener

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    Visible minorities make up more than half of Toronto’s population, but only 3.3 per cent of corporate boards and 9.2 per cent of the private sector’s senior management, a new study finds.

    While the percentage of women on large corporate boards has steadily grown, from 14.8 per cent in 2012 to 23.6 per cent in 2017, the representation of visible minorities in leadership has stalled, inching up from 2.8 per cent to 3.3 per cent over the five years, said the study by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, released Wednesday.

    “Diversity is more than gender,” said Wendy Cukier, the institute’s founder and professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, at a forum on advancing diversity and inclusion in Canadian Business. “If you look at the minority representation on boards, it is not a pretty picture.”

    The six-year study, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, analyzed data on senior leaders from the largest organizations in Greater Montreal and the GTA in six sectors — elected, public, private, volunteer, education and agencies/boards/commissions.

    Although the representation of women has improved, the gains are primarily made by white women, said Cukier.

    “While equally represented in the workforce, white women outnumber racialized women 16 to 1 on corporate senior management teams,” noted Cukier.

    In Toronto, 24 per cent of companies have more than 30 per cent women on their boards while 28 per cent have none. By contrast, only 3 per cent of firms have 20 per cent visible minorities on their boards and 90 per cent have none.

    In Montreal, where minorities make up more than 20 per cent of the population, almost 10 per cent of corporate boards actually had more than 40 per cent women, while 25 per cent had none. Only 3 of 60 of the largest companies there had any racial minorities on their boards.

    “We have a problem,” said Cukier, adding that the research findings underline the significance of moving forward two government bills currently before the Parliament and Queen’s Park — that aim at tracking racial diversity data in organizations.

    Navdeep Bains, federal minister of innovation, science and economic development, said Bill C-25, which is now before the Senate, requires publicly traded corporation to report on diversity data and policies.

    “Diversity is not just the right thing to do. It has a strong economic case,” Bains told the Toronto forum attended by business leaders, diversity and industry experts. “Canadian competitiveness and strength and resourcefulness come from our people and diversity.”

    Michael Coteau, Ontario’s children and youth services minister and minister responsible for anti-racism, said Bill 114 will extend reporting requirements on race, gender and other demographic characteristics to provincially-funded agencies.

    “Eliminating systemic racism and advancing racial equity is integral to our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday life,” said Coteau, who was also on the panel. “We believe that data is the foundation of an effective strategy to advance inclusion.

    Tiffany Gooch, a public affairs consultant in Toronto, said she was not surprised by the little progress made by visible minorities as the hope was that changes would trickle down from gender diversity to other aspects of diversity representation.

    “You need a critical mass for any conversation to take on,” said Gooch, who believes both proposed government bills can help build a good foundation for meaningful conversations about organizational diversity.

    Andi Shi, executive director of the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada, was disappointed by the poor minority representation in leadership roles despite Canada’s celebrated pride in multiculturalism.

    “There is still the unconscious assumption that racial minorities are not good enough, and the fear that we are not going to perform as good as a white person,” said Shi. “We need quotas to force organizations to make changes.”

    Overall in 2017, women are faring well in taking senior leadership positions in all sectors in Toronto compared to private companies, representing 42 per cent in agencies, boards and commissions, 40.1 per cent in education, 42.5 per cent in the volunteer sector, 44.4 per cent in the public sector, and 41.5 per cent among elected officials.

    However, visible minority representation is still dismal in 2017 in all areas, accounting for just 17.2 per cent in agencies/boards/commission, 23.1 per cent in education, 12.3 per cent in the volunteer sector, 9 per cent in the public sector, and 29.8 per cent among elected officials.


    Minority representation on corporate boards ‘not a pretty picture,’ says Ryerson Diversity Institute founderMinority representation on corporate boards ‘not a pretty picture,’ says Ryerson Diversity Institute founderMinority representation on corporate boards ‘not a pretty picture,’ says Ryerson Diversity Institute founderMinority representation on corporate boards ‘not a pretty picture,’ says Ryerson Diversity Institute founder

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    Jordan McIldoon always wanted to protect his nana.

    The adoration between the 23-year-old — killed in Sunday’s mass shooting in Nevada — and his grandmother in Vancouver was always palpable to his parents, who shared the detail among memories of their son on Wednesday.

    But when McIldoon’s parents left to bring their son’s body home from Nevada, the beloved grandparent described by the family as a “wee Scottish woman” had to stay behind. That’s where RCMP Sgt. Mitch Fox stepped up.

    “I was going to hire security because the media was coming to our house, and her house is in the back property,” Jordan’s mother, Angela McIldoon, told the Star. But a friend in the RCMP put her in touch with Fox first.

    Read more:

    Trump speaks in Vegas: ‘America is truly a nation in mourning’

    Stephen Paddock was instantly labelled a ‘lone wolf.’ Is that just code for a shooter who’s white? Analysis

    Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock’s girlfriend says she had no knowledge of attack

    Fox drove out right away to meet Jordan’s nana. While Angela and Alan have been in the U.S., Fox set up regular patrols past the house and made sure she had his direct line, “for anything she needs.”

    As the McIldoons process the loss of their only child, they’ve been met with waves of compassion from Vancouver to Las Vegas. To them, that’s Jordan’s legacy: leaving behind a story of love instead of violence or hatred.

    The 23-year-old grew up in Maple Ridge, B.C. on his family’s acreage. Before he died on Sunday, he’d been living there with his parents, his grandmother and his girlfriend Amber — who he adored, the family said.

    At any chance he was given, he’d zip off to their cabin in Missezula Lake.

    His parents will remember him there: where he flipped upside down on his bike, roared through the park, and drove around in a diesel truck with his cowboy boots on. They’ll remember a two-year-old who climbed up on the roof of a barn, and leapt into lakes before he knew how to swim.

    Sharing photographs of Jordan with the Star, Angela had special affection for ones that showed him, grinning, in crisp white snow around the cabin.

    The couple says they have no words to describe the pain of losing their son. But as they begin to put together the pieces of Sunday’s tragedy across the U.S. border, both friends and strangers have woven a safety net of comforts.

    A first class flight on Air Canada; a limo to take them to the police station. A beautiful suite, tucked away in the corner of the MGM hotel, where nobody could hear if the couple wept at their son’s loss. There would be no bill.

    At the family reunification centre in Vegas, bustling with supports from chaplains to assistance dogs, it would be easy to miss Paul Poteat. He’s been sleeping in his truck, Angela said, to make sure affected families have rides anywhere without cost.

    “He is kind and compassionate and has been an enormous help to us,” Angela wrote in an email. Each day, the couple met with a victim advocate from the Las Vegas Metro police. Her name was Peggy Wellman. She reminded them to eat, and offered wise advice during the first few days.

    And then there was the man in the blue vest.

    Paul Cunningham, from the Canadian consulate, landed in Las Vegas with a critical task. He and his team would be getting Jordan’s body home. Angela called the consular team’s arrival a sight for sore eyes.

    But any list of people the family has leaned on would be incomplete. “There are countless others whose paths we have crossed,” she wrote.

    “Our boy will leave a legacy of love and not hatred.”


    Web of supports help B.C. parents who lost their only child in Las Vegas attackWeb of supports help B.C. parents who lost their only child in Las Vegas attackWeb of supports help B.C. parents who lost their only child in Las Vegas attackWeb of supports help B.C. parents who lost their only child in Las Vegas attack

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    The Winnipeg Jets, like many other Canadian teams, were so hopeful to start the season. This team has only reached the playoffs once since its sainted return in 2011, but they had just re-signed 21-year-old forward Nikolaj Ehlers to a seven-year, US$42-million contract, and brighter days were ahead. This must say good things about Winnipeg, right?

    “Well, you throw enough cash in front of these guys, how can you say no, right?” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, before dropping the half-joke. “No, it really does. I think everyone’s buying into the direction we’re going, there’s a lot of excitement about some of the faces we have in our room.”

    Across the hall — or through a twisting network of them, more accurately — the Toronto Maple Leafs were a bigger mirror image of that hope, with their own complications ahead. Auston Matthews and William Nylander and Mitch Marner haven’t signed their big deals yet, but the big deals are coming. Nylander, who is up after this year, mentioned he didn’t want to negotiate during the season: he said, “Yeah, I’ll just tell my agent to not talk to me.”

    And then the Leafs delivered an evisceration, a 7-2 opening win. The Jets pushed the Leafs around to start the game, and Toronto kept taking penalties, and Frederik Andersen had to be great just to keep them in it. So of course Nazem Kadri scored the first goal of the season on Toronto’s first power play, and then James van Riemsdyk added another right off a faceoff.

    Then came the nuclear weapon. Late in the first Auston Matthews dragged Dustin Byfuglien around the ice, and Winnipeg fans were booing Matthews, and he had drawn a penalty, and the Jets were all staring at Matthews so much that they left William Nylander all alone. 3-0, Leafs.

    Then in the second, Connor Carrick had zipped a 70-foot pass to Mitch Marner at the other blue line, and he slipped it to a flying Matthews, and two Jets converged on Matthews as he flipped the puck to an open Patrick Marleau for a Zorro-style goal. Marleau scored the fifth one, too. There was no blown lead this time, either. Steve Mason wasn’t great for the Jets, but this is a dangerous team.

    It all took place in a space unscarred by the future, and it was perfect. The Jets might believe they are headed up, but the Leafs are convinced of the same thing, with more evidence. Edmonton and Calgary, who played Wednesday night, are singing the same songs.

    “I would think it’s exciting for those markets, but I would tell you there’s a whole lot of U.S. teams that think they have the same thing going on,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “You guys are just focussed on these groups. Because there was a couple of dead years there. Now these teams look like they’re back, yet Pittsburgh set the standard in hockey for the last little bit, before that L.A. and Chicago. These teams, we can talk about the potential, but in the end you’ve got to deliver. That’s what we’re all trying to do.”

    Jets coach Paul Maurice, for his part, put what they’re all trying to do into simple words: “Turn pro, right?”

    These are the innocent days, before the big contract negotiations, before envy takes root, before things get too complicated. Right now the stars are cheap, and it is Matthews who pulls the most into his orbit. If you want a prediction, he will chase Connor McDavid all season. That he and McDavid were on a line with Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele at last year’s World Cup of Hockey remains an absurd, glimmering piece of hockey history.

    “Oh yeah, you could tell he was a special player,” said Scheifele of Matthews. “And I think the biggest thing that I took away from it was how hard he worked on his game. We’d be out shooting pucks for hours on end, and he was always out there, he was always working on things. That’s the biggest testament to him ... how hard he wants to be the best. That’s what makes him the player that he is. I like to stay out there for hours on end, and he was always there with me. A pretty special thing to do with his clout and his skill level.

    “It’s the same for Connor, it’s the same for (Sidney) Crosby ... and that’s what makes them the players that they are. That’s what all the best do. That’s what LeBron James does in his sport, that’s what Tom Brady does in his sport, that’s how you become the best in the world. And obviously Auston is someone who wants to be the best.”

    “The games that we played in, I’ve never had so much fun playing hockey in my life,” said Scheifele. “It was some fun hockey to play, to be a part of. It was awesome. It was the battle level of a playoff game, but the skill level of an all-star game.”

    The Leafs wobbled early but showed all-star skill, and will try tomarry their skill to the requisite level of work, every day. Not every goalie will be Steve Mason; Andersen won’t be brilliant every night. As Matthews said, “Can’t get too far ahead of yourself, but can’t live in the past, either.” But the fresh ice is here, waiting to see who will best master the future, and Toronto is making a claim.


    Leafs stand and deliver in opener: ArthurLeafs stand and deliver in opener: Arthur

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    There will be no “Mayor Rob Ford Memorial Stadium” in Toronto.

    City council rejected the proposal late Wednesday night to rename Centennial Park Stadium after the late Ward 2 Etobicoke North city councillor whose turbulent 2010-2014 term as mayor included revelations he smoked crack cocaine and lied about it for months.

    Mayor John Tory tabled the proposal, along with recommendations for consultation, saying that he knew it was controversial.

    Read more:

    ‘Rob Ford Memorial Stadium’ proposal triggers groans, gratitude

    He was a terrible mayor, but naming football stadium after Rob Ford fine by me: Keenan

    The proposal came at the request of the Ford family, Tory noted. “In all of my dealings as mayor ... I try to be generous and to put politics to the side,” the mayor, who beat Rob Ford’s brother Doug to become mayor in 2014, told council.

    Tory said he was “erring on the side of generosity.” He said Ford had his supporters, who saw him as a diligent public servant but, Tory said, he also recognized that Ford as mayor had done things “hurtful” to many people in Toronto.

    The only councillor to speak against the proposal, Jon Burnside, said he was doing so out of a conviction that council should not name things after politicians, whose job by definition is to help people.

    Councillor Joe Cressy made a successful motion to split Tory’s proposal into two parts — one specifically for the renaming of the stadium after Rob Ford and another that community members be consulted on ways to honour the memories of Pam McConnell and Ron Moeser, the other former councillors who died this council term.

    Council voted 11-24 on the Rob Ford proposal, while passing the latter one.

    Cressy said after the vote: “I got along with Rob and I considered him a colleague and I was devastated to hear that he passed so young, but considering many of the things that took place in his time as mayor I didn’t think it appropriate to name a kids’ football stadium after him.”

    Rob Ford was councillor for Ward 2 Etobicoke North for a decade, becoming equally famous for his hard work solving homeowners’ problems and his outrageous pronouncements and behaviour. Elected mayor in 2010, he sidelined his left-of-centre opponents and started pushing through a conservative agenda that included targeting low tax hikes and exacting concessions from city unions.

    But his mayoralty spiralled into scandal that made worldwide headlines after the Star revealed his substance abuse, which included smoking crack cocaine with gang members and public alcohol abuse. His football coaching and charitable foundation to help schools start football programs also generated headlines and he was banned from coaching by the Toronto District School Board.

    Ford went to rehab and was mounting a re-energized mayoral re-election bid when a cancer diagnosis forced him to seek his old council seat, instead. He died in March 2016.

    Last week, after the Star revealed Tory’s renaming proposal, Doug Ford, who served as Ward 2 councillor during his brother’s mayoral term and who plans to challenge Tory for the mayor’s seat in 2018, said: “Politics is politics. We’ve known John (Tory) and his family for over 25 years; he used to be a broadcaster and would kind of go after us once in a while, so, it’s politics.”

    “You’ve got to separate politics and something like this; it’s always a sensitive area for anyone, so we’re going to carry on.

    “We’re grateful. We’re appreciative, and we’ve very honoured.”


    No ‘Rob Ford Memorial Stadium’ in Toronto after council rejects renaming proposalNo ‘Rob Ford Memorial Stadium’ in Toronto after council rejects renaming proposal

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    In August an 18-year-old Englishwoman named Alicia Bettsworth lathered her face and body in three layers of “ultra dark” tanning lotion and fell asleep before she could wash the stuff off. According to the UK Sun, the paper she was later quoted in, Bettsworth woke up the next day in a panic. She had the complexion of a burnt yam. “Once I got over the shock I started laughing and thought it was hilarious,” she told the paper. “It’s such a ‘me’ thing to do.”

    It’s also such a teen thing to do: not only dousing oneself in cheap tanning lotion (every white adolescent girl has been there) but falling asleep when one really ought to stay awake. Napping at inappropriate times is practically a teenage right of passage. Sometimes it yields harmless, albeit embarrassing results (Bettsworth’s face has since returned to its natural hue). But other times oversleeping and the general exhaustion that compels it produces another not so harmless result: spotty attendance at school, irritability, and even anxiety and depression.

    The latter is the subject of a new study published in Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, indicating that a major reason teens are sleepy and moody is not because God made them that way but because they go to school too early in the morning. The study, spearheaded by University of Rochester Medical Center professor Jack Peltz, suggests that teens who start school before 8:30 a.m. may be at a greater risk of experiencing depression and anxiety. The researchers collected data, via an online tool, from nearly 200 American students aged 14-17 and divided them into two groups: students who start school before 8:30 a.m. and students who start school after that time. The students were then asked to record their experiences regarding quality of sleep and mental health in a sleep diary. The result? Students who arrived later to school — after 8:30 — experienced fewer depression and anxiety symptoms than those who started earlier. In other words, a little more sleep can go a long way. It seems an obvious conclusion but it’s not.

    It’s not obvious because we tend to view extreme fatigue in teenagers the way we view scraped knees in little kids — as an inevitable fact of life. And an endearing one too. The sleepy teenager is a fixture in pop culture and even in this very newspaper: the syndicated comic strip, Zits, stars a shaggy haired high-schooler who is consistently bleary-eyed and beat. In one instalment he walks through his family’s kitchen with a mattress affixed to his back. Adolescence, we are led to believe, is sleep personified.

    But what if it doesn’t have to be? What if the negative consequences of teenage exhaustion, everything from napping at inappropriate times to flunking out of school to becoming depressed, aren’t the sole product of biology, but rather of a deeply flawed, man-made schedule? A schedule that serves working adults at the expense of their kids? Plenty of research now exists in addition to the study described above indicating that teens do not get enough sleep and that they might be adequately rested should school start a little later, but many Canadian high schools have not adjusted their start times to reflect this. They should.

    Of course scheduling isn’t everything. A 9 a.m. start time isn’t likely to improve a kid’s mental health if every night she falls asleep with her iPhone buzzing beneath her pillow after binge-watching 13 Reasons Why on her laptop in bed. It’s impossible to discuss sleep hygiene without addressing the enormous impact technology has had on our ability to get a decent rest. Scrolling social media in the dark under the covers and binge-watching shows before bed — these are widespread habits among parents and teens both (I know someone in her mid-60s who recently watched the entire first season of the sci-fi horror show, The Mist, on Netflix in a single day). In other words, teens aren’t the only demographic whose sleep is suffering at the moment.

    But they are the most vulnerable. We should amend our schedules to set them up for success. They’ll wake up refreshed, ready to learn and hopefully (for all the Alicia Bettsworths out there) the same colour as when they went to bed.

    Correction: In my Sept 28 column, “A smooth running TTC would be cooler than a hyperloop to Montreal” I suggested incorrectly that TTC streetcars derail on a regular basis, forcing drivers to leave their posts to get their vehicles back on track. According to the TTC, streetcars do not derail regularly, and when they do they are not repaired with passengers present. I mistook the operation of a manual switch (a process that does require the driver to leave the vehicle) for derailment. I apologize for the error.

    Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.


    Why schools should let teenagers sleep a little bit longer: TeitelWhy schools should let teenagers sleep a little bit longer: Teitel

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    Sidewalk Labs, a sister company of tech giant Google, is the preferred partner to build a high-tech “smart” neighbourhood on Toronto’s east downtown waterfront, the Star has learned.

    The board of Waterfront Toronto, the federal-provincial-city agency overseeing the so-called Quayside project, is expected to vote at an Oct. 20 meeting whether to confirm the agency’s staff recommendation arising from a rigorous competitive bid process launched in May.

    If confirmed by Waterfront Toronto’s board, the choice of a firm owned by Google holding company Alphabet Inc. would be a big high-tech feather in the cap of the city currently chasing the second headquarters of Amazon and other innovation opportunities.

    Quayside is envisioned by the agency as a testbed for cutting-edge technology as well as a bustling, functioning neighbourhood, with homes, offices, retail and cultural space, near Queens Quay E. and Parliament St.

    “This is very big news for more good jobs on our waterfront,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher. “Expediting plans for waterfront transit will be critical for its success.”

    A source familiar with the outcome of Waterfront Toronto’s request-for-proposal told the Star on Wednesday that Sidewalk Labs is Waterfront Toronto’s “preferred proponent” to help build the “precedent-setting waterfront community.”

    Waterfront Toronto, Google and Mayor John Tory’s office all refused comment Wednesday, citing confidentiality and the integrity of the bid process.

    Sidewalk Labs is Alphabet’s urban innovation unit, with a stated goal of “reimagining cities from the Internet up.”

    Dan Doctoroff, the company’s chief executive and co-founder, told a conference in New York City last May that his company was “looking into developing a large-scale district” to act as its smart city test bed.

    The community would be universally connected by broadband and could have, Doctoroff said, prefab modular housing, sensors to constantly monitor building performance, and robotic delivery services to cut residential storage space, website The Architects’ Newspaper reported in May.

    Improving transportation would be a focus, possibly with self-driving cars and design to encourage biking and walking, he told the conference. World-leading environmental sustainability could include thermal exchange systems to capture wasted building heat, and smart sensors to limit energy use.

    Waterfront Toronto says the 4.9-hectare (12-acre) site will be “a testbed for emerging technologies, materials and processes that will address these challenges and advance solutions that can be replicated in cities worldwide.”

    The agency said the winning bidder must propose plans to foster sustainability, resiliency and urban innovation; complete communities with a range of housing types for families of all sizes and income levels; economic development and prosperity driving innovation that will be rolled out to the rest of the world; and partnership and investment ensuring a solid financial foundation that secures revenue and manages financial risk.

    Development of the three publicly owned blocks at the east end of Queens Quay will eventually include redesign and reconstruction of the intersection of Queens Quay and Parliament Street.

    Toronto tech leaders at a Smart Cities event in Toronto last May said the city is on the cusp of a tech boom, noting talk of Google interest in the city and Uber’s decision to make Toronto a hub for driverless car research.


    Google firm poised to partner on Toronto high-tech neighbourhoodGoogle firm poised to partner on Toronto high-tech neighbourhood

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    OTTAWA—An emotional Amanda Lindhout is testifying in the trial of a man accused of kidnapping her in Somalia.

    Lindhout sobbed as she approached the witness box to describe her abduction at gunpoint, the beginning of what she calls 460 days of hell.

    Lindhout, a freelance journalist from Red Deer, Alta., and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were seized by masked gunmen near Mogadishu in August 2008. Both were released in November 2009.

    Ali Omar Ader, a 40-year-old Somalian national, has pleaded not guilty to a criminal charge of hostage-taking for his alleged role as a negotiator.

    He was arrested by the RCMP in Ottawa in June 2015.

    It emerged during pre-trial motions last spring that the Mounties had lured Ader to Canada through an elaborate scheme to sign a purported book-publishing deal.

    Read more:Amanda Lindhout kidnapping case delayed over sensitive information disclosure


    Sobbing Amanda Lindhout tells of her abduction at gunpoint as kidnapping trial beginsSobbing Amanda Lindhout tells of her abduction at gunpoint as kidnapping trial begins

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    CALGARY—The premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick say they’re disappointed by TransCanada’s cancellation of the Energy East pipeline, which would have connected their two provinces.

    Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says her government has always supported Energy East because of the new jobs, investments and markets it would create.

    New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant also said Energy East would have been good for his province’s economy and generated future revenue for his government.

    Read more:

    Report questions need for new pipelines from the oilsands

    Energy East pipeline to review upstream, downstream greenhouse gas emissions

    NDP’s Charlie Angus leaves the door open for oil pipelines — with many strings attached

    Energy East had been proposed as a way to move Alberta oilsands production as far east as an Irving Oil operation in Saint John, N.B.

    The Calgary-based company had announced last month that it was suspending its efforts to get regulatory approvals for the mega project.

    It announced Thursday that it will no longer be proceeding with its applications for the mega project “after careful review of changed circumstances.”

    Supporters of Energy East said the pipeline was necessary to expand Alberta’s markets and decrease its dependency on shipments to the United States. Detractors raised questions about the potential environmental impact.

    “We are deeply disappointed by the recent decision from TransCanada,” Notley said in a statement.

    “We understand that it is driven by a broad range of factors that any responsible business must consider. Nonetheless, this is an unfortunate outcome for Canadians.”

    Gallant said he believes the project’s decision was due to recent changes to world market conditions and the negative impact of lower oil prices.

    “We believed if TransCanada continued with the process, the project would be approved. We still believe that,” Gallant said.

    But others pointed to the complex regulatory process and mixed messages from the federal government as contributing factors.

    TransCanada’s statement didn’t blame either the regulatory process or low oil prices for its decision, which will result in a non-cash charge of about $1 billion in its fourth-quarter financial results.

    But TransCanada CEO Russ Girling assured investors that he expects TransCanada will continue to focus on its $24 billion near-term capital program, which he said will support growth in its annual dividend.

    TransCanada shares were essentially flat at about $61 on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of mid-morning.

    Meanwhile, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre celebrated the Energy East announcement on Thursday, suggesting in a series of tweets that citizen groups and local politicians from the Montreal-area played a key role in putting a stop to the project.

    Coderre and numerous other elected officials had argued the environmental risks associated with it far outweighed the economic benefits.

    “The abandonment of the Energy East project is a major victory for the municipal world,” Coderre wrote.

    Coderre also thanked local Indigenous groups for their leadership on the pipeline file.


    TransCanada ends bid to build Energy East pipeline after ‘careful review of changed circumstances’TransCanada ends bid to build Energy East pipeline after ‘careful review of changed circumstances’

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    Ontario is set to introduce ticket sale legislation today that would ban so-called scalper bots and impose new rules on reselling tickets.

    The Canadian Press has learned that it will be part of a larger consumer protection bill.

    An outcry from fans shut out of buying tickets to the Tragically Hip’s farewell tour last year prompted the Ontario government to take a look at the issue.

    Scalper bots are designed to purchase online a large number of tickets for a concert, show, or other event, enabling the person running the software to sell those tickets at a profit, and it would be illegal to knowingly resell a ticket originally purchased by a bot.

    Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, however, has previously admitted enforcing a ban on scalper bots, which are not unique to Ontario, would be difficult.

    Under the new legislation, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services agents would get the power to do inspections and lay fines against violators of the act. Companies themselves would also get the power to sue other companies for losses resulting from the use of bots.

    Tickets could not be resold at more than 50 per cent above the face value, and that original price would have to be displayed.

    Primary ticket sellers would have to tell buyers the capacity of the venue as well as how many tickets would be available through the general on-sale.

    Ticket resale site StubHub has previously said it supports efforts to tackle bots, but that it values the ability of users to buy and sell tickets at prices fans deem appropriate, free from regulatory interference. It told the government during consultations that more regulatory burdens on the ticket market will drive sales off mainstream platforms that provide certain protections.

    Read more:

    Ticketmaster sues over use of ‘bots’ to buy up seats

    Ontario plans to ban ‘ticket bots,’ cap resale value after public outcry

    Ontario to ban computer ‘scalper bots’ that scoop up concert tickets


    Ontario government to introduce ticket sale legislation to ban scalper botsOntario government to introduce ticket sale legislation to ban scalper bots

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    MONTREAL—More than half of the North Atlantic right whales examined after being found dead since this summer were killed by blunt-force trauma, according to a new report.

    Twelve of the animals, which are classified as an endangered species with less than 500 in the world, have been discovered dead since June in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sending shock waves through the scientific and animal conservation communities.

    Another three of the right whales were found dead in American waters.

    “This makes it the deadliest year we’ve seen for North Atlantic right whales since the years of whaling,” said Tonya Wimmer, director of the Marine Animal Response Society.

    The long-awaited report includes the results of six autopsies. Four died from blunt-force trauma, one died after becoming tangled in fishing lines and another was in an advanced state of decomposition and the cause of death could not be determined, said Pierre-Yves Daoust, a pathologist and professor at the University of Prince Edward Island’s Atlantic Veterinary College.

    Autopsy results on a seventh whale show that it died after getting tangled in fishing line. The carcasses of the remaining whales could not be recovered from the waters.

    The trauma, which shows up in the dead animals as fractured bones or severe internal bleeding, could only be the result of a collision with large ships given the whale’s size and the protective cushion of blubber and muscle, said Émilie Couture, a veterinarian with the Université de Montréal.

    “The only reported cause of blunt-force trauma death in North Atlantic right whales is ships,” she said.

    The autopsy results rule out the possibility that the whale deaths studied so far were due to infection, starvation or other illness, and will put additional pressure on the federal government to put in place preventative solutions to protect the endangered species.

    The animals are black in colour, often with white patches. They can grow up to 18 metres long and a normal lifespan is at least 75 years. They are generally present in Canadian waters through the spring, summer and fall months, but swim to the southern United States for the winter.

    There are only believed to be 458 of the whales in existence.

    Since the deaths came to light in June, the Canadian government put in place mandatory speed limits on large shipping vessels, limiting them to a maximum of 10 knots in an area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence stretching from Quebec to Prince Edward Island.


    Twelve dead whales have been found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence since June. They all died by blunt force traumaTwelve dead whales have been found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence since June. They all died by blunt force trauma

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    Canada is Patrick Stanio’s second home, where he is good enough to work but not good enough to stay.

    After returning for 37 years to do back-bending work on three different farms in Ontario — spending half his life away from his family in St. Lucia — the 66-year-old migrant worker is anxious about his future. Eventually he’ll become too frail to do the work and too slow for his employer.

    Despite his long history here and devotion to his job, Stanio has always been just a guest in Canada. As a low-wage labourer, despite his skills being in demand, he hasn’t been able to qualify for immigration.

    “I used to carry my children’s photos with me to Canada because I wasn’t really there when they were growing up. Now I’m carrying my (five) grandchildren’s photos,” said Stanio, sitting on a worn bench at the back of an old bunkhouse he shares with five Jamaican workers on a farm on the shores of Lake Erie.

    “Many of us come back year after year to work on farms. It’s nothing temporary. Canadians just want us to do the jobs they won’t.”

    While supporters of Canada’s migrant farmworker program tout it as a win-win for migrant workers and the country’s agricultural sector, critics say workers like Stanio are the ones who pay the price for the cheap food on our dining tables.

    The share of migrant workers in Canada’s agricultural workforce has doubled in the last decade as what was once seasonal need for harvesters has turned into a year-round labour market reality.

    The workers pay income tax and employment insurance, and contribute to the Canada Pension Plan. However, their precarious status in Canada makes it difficult for them to exercise their rights and protections under labour laws, making them easy prey for unscrupulous recruiters and bad employers.

    Numerous research studies have found the current programs for low-skilled migrant workers leave them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

    Unlike their counterparts with higher education and professional designations, who can work for any employer and have multiple programs to apply for permanent residency, farm workers are tied to a single employer and in most parts of the country have no chance to become permanent residents unless they marry a Canadian.

    Some advocates say the solution is granting migrant farm workers permanent residence upon arrival, which would eliminate the leverage employers have over workers with tenuous status. At the very least, they say, Canada should change the rules that prevent workers from being able change employers.

    In light of the federal government’s inaction, some provinces have taken steps to use their own immigration powers to give low- and semi-skilled migrant workers including farm workers access to permanent residency.

    The Ontario government announced a new program this summer to allow currently employed migrant workers in construction and agriculture to apply for permanent resident status with lower language and education requirements.

    The province said it has not decided how many spots will be allocated for farmworkers, but given the small annual quota — 6,000 for temporary foreign workers in all industries — at most a small fraction of the estimated 22,000-plus migrant farmworkers in the province stand a chance at being accepted.

    “Granting permanent residency to these migrant workers should be a priority. Right now, they have no ability to do that. We need to give them choices,” said University of Windsor law professor Vasanthi Venkatesh, who specializes in social movement as well as labour and human rights.

    “The workers are no longer invisible. It’s an embarrassment and Canada needs to do something.”


    Agri-food is a $108 billion business in Canada, accounting for more than 6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. It is one of the top priorities of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s innovation economy.

    In the latest NAFTA negotiations, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAuley said the government is committed to boosting food exports over the next few years.

    While Canada’s agricultural sector has evolved rapidly — with the increased use of technology and growing farm operations and revenue — little has changed for its Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), which was launched in 1966 as a stopgap initiative to fill labour shortages. The program allows participants from 11 Caribbean countries and Mexico to work here for up to eight months a year.

    Today, temporary migrant farmworkers make up more than 1 in 10 workers in Canada’s agricultural workforce compared with 1 in 20 a decade ago, according to a Conference Board of Canada study last year.

    As demands for workers grow, Ottawa not only has expanded the program but added agricultural, low-wage and high-wage streams to its temporary migrant worker program to ensure a year-round supply of various types of agriculture workers.

    Even so, the booming agricultural industry is faced with labour shortages.

    The conference board said job vacancies in the sector have doubled over the past decade and are expected to double again by 2025, leaving farm operators 113,800 workers short.

    What makes the agricultural labour market unique is the large seasonal fluctuation in the demand for workers especially during the harvest, said Michael Burt, director of industry sector economics at the conference board.

    There is only so much mechanization can do for crops that are labour intensive such as fruits, vegetables and mushrooms. A shrinking rural population exacerbates the labour gap, he said.

    “During the peak summer months, you need 100,000 more workers available in the industry over three, four and five months,” said Burt, a co-author of the conference board report, Sewing the Seeds of Growth.

    “The ability to attract Canadian workers is affected by the nature of the industry. It’s hard work and doesn’t pay very well.”

    In Simcoe, Ont., Schuyler Farms has 140 Trinidadian farmworkers who come in waves and work on the 1,200-acre cherry and apple farms between March and November. Brett Schuyler, who has worked on farms since he was 10, said finding Canadian workers is always a struggle.

    “They do not want to go out and weed a field of tomatoes, though it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with this work,” said Schuyler, 30, one of the owners of the farm.


    Unlike his Canadian counterparts who have their home and families to go back to each night, Patrick Stanio said migrant workers like him — predominantly men — can only return to their bunks where they share every aspect of their lives, with little privacy.

    Sometimes, workers have to get up very early so they can avoid the lineup to shower or take turns using the stove to cook. In cramped spaces, tempers can flare. At some farms, workers have curfews and are at the mercy of their employers to take them shopping and to see the doctor because there is no public transit.

    Stanio, who has never been to school, said he was unemployed, tending his own family farm growing bananas and yams in St. Lucia before he enrolled in the seasonal agricultural worker program in 1980.

    “Things are very hard in my country. There are no jobs and I have a lot of people to support,” said Stanio, whose two adult sons have been trying unsuccessfully to get into the program and join him in Canada.

    He earns about minimum wage on 45 hours of work each week on a tobacco farm; he usually arrives in Canada in May.

    Although the money he makes has allowed him to build a new home in his village, Stanio said he has paid by being kept away from his family and missing the growing up of his two sons, now 35 and 32, and 29-year-old daughter.

    While Stanio is proud to have put his children through school, his yearly ritual of working in Canada has not lifted his family out of poverty.

    Still he counts himself as lucky because he has been healthy and only got injured once more than 10 years ago when he slipped while working and had to stay in the Brantford hospital for two weeks.

    “The farm owner didn’t send me home (to St. Lucia) and let me go back to work,” remembered the six-foot-five and slender Stanio, whose callous hands are scarred with years of tending tobacco plants


    Stanio is one of roughly 54,000 migrant farm workers who came to Canada last year and among the 74 per cent arriving under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.

    Some 24 per cent of the workers came through the agricultural stream of the temporary foreign worker program for workers for crops on a government-stipulated list of farm products. The rest were brought in under the low-wage and high-wage categories for production outside that list.

    The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, a not-for-profit group, estimates it costs $12,000 more to hire a migrant worker over a two-year span than hiring a Canadian when factoring in advertising, airfare, administration, rent subsidy and other work compensation contributions.

    During the oilsands boom in Alberta, employers such as Tim Hortons increased pay to attract Canadian workers to remote places such as Fort McMurray. However, the labour cost was ultimately transferred to consumers who paid more for the same cup of coffee and muffins elsewhere.

    “We have very little control over global prices. You need to keep your costs and prices in check or people would buy their corn from Mexico and the United States,” said Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, a beef cattle farm owner from Bruce Mines, 60 km east of Sault Ste. Marie.

    “We can’t go out and pay as much wages as possible. We need to stay competitive in the marketplace.”

    Toronto economist Armine Yalnizyan said the temporary foreign worker program benefits Canadian employers and consumers because it depresses food prices.

    “It normalizes bad workplaces and working conditions because it is difficult to enforce the workers’ legal rights. Whether it is a win-win depends on who you are talking to. Who would want to do the work at those wage ranges?” asked Yalnizyan.

    While managers in agriculture can earn anywhere between $19.2 and $21.05 an hour, general farmworkers are paid between $15.65 and $18.25, with seasonal harvesting labourers typically making somewhere between $13.25 and $16.80, according to Statistics Canada.

    “It is true Canadian employers can’t find Canadian workers willing to do the job, but how much are you willing to pay people? The flip side of the low grocery prices is the low wages for someone somewhere else.”

    Jennifer Pfenning of Pfenning’s Organic Farm in New Hamburg, near Kitchener, said the problem with the migrant farmworker programs is Ottawa offers no pathway to residency and citizenship for the migrants, turning the programs into a revolving door rather than offering a sustainable workforce that employers prefer.

    “Migrant workers are not cheap labour, but they are effective labour. The biggest underlying reason that many farmers do not want workers to have status on arrival is fear. They are afraid . . . they will have put in a lot of work and expense to get the person here and then have no guarantee that the worker will stay,” said Pfenning.

    “While this fear is not completely baseless, it is a risk we should be willing to take in order to ensure that we have a just and fair society.”

    A report by Statistics Canada this year found the rate of transition to permanent residence for seasonal agricultural workers was at a dismal 3 per cent compared to the average 21 per cent conversion rate among temporary foreign workers overall.

    Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Canada’s economic immigration programs feature objective criteria — skills, language ability, education and work experience — to select candidates most likely to integrate successfully.

    “There is no evidence to indicate that migrant farmworkers would continue working for agricultural employers if they became permanent residents upon arriving in Canada, or meet the level of skills, language ability, education or work experience that are known to be key to a newcomer’s success in Canada,” Hussen said in an email to the Star.

    University of Windsor’s Venkatesh pointed out that the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program was meant to be a temporary initiative when it was launched five decades ago.

    “In the 1960s, Canadians were against the importation of labour. That’s why Canada had focused on the permanent residence,” said Venkatesh.

    “People thought (the seasonal agricultural program) was not going to last and it was just a stopgap measure because we were an immigrant country and not a labour importation country.”

    While employers use the sector’s seasonality to justify using migrants for temporary jobs, Venkatesh said the workers pay a huge social cost in the form of family separation and relationship breakups. The program has done little to address the perpetual poverty in the migrants’ home countries, which simply rely on remittances from the workers, she added.

    A recent report by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture estimated each Mexican worker in the seasonal agricultural program sent home on average $9,879.32, which represented 76.8 per cent of their income during their employment in Canada.

    Because the workers are tied to a single employer during their time in Canada, that can leave them vulnerable in cases of workplace disputes and unwilling or unable to exercise their rights.

    To better protect the workers, said Venkatesh, Canada should issue what’s called “open worker permits” that allow them to work for any farm “to balance the uneven power” between workers and employers.

    “It’s a question of control by employers on how workers have to work,” she said. “Like someone brought in by Google and moved to work for IBM, it’s still going to benefit the whole sector in the country because of the skills the person brings in.”

    Hussen, the immigration minister, said he has concerns about eliminating the employer-specific work permit because the temporary foreign worker program is built on the labour market impact assessment system that requires employers to demonstrate a labour shortage.

    “The bulk of the government’s worker protection activities are employer-based. Inspection powers for the foreign worker program are linked to the employer who applied for the labour market impact assessment . . . to the offer of employment submitted by the employer to the Immigration Department,” he said.

    “If the work permit is not linked to the employer through the labour market assessment or employment offer, the government could lose its ability to hold employers accountable for non-compliance.”

    Anelyse Weiler, a University of Toronto PhD student specializing in labour migration and sustainable food systems, said granting status to migrant farmworkers upon arrival is the only way to liberate a “captive labour force that is readily exploitable by design.”

    “When low-wage migrant workers are given the dangling carrot of a pathway to permanent residency, they are vulnerable to highly exploitative employment arrangements during the limbo period before they potentially become permanent residents,” said Weiler, a co-author of a paper — titled Food Security at Whose Expense?— published in the International Migration Journal in August.

    “One of the drawbacks of open work permits alone would be that if workers are still deportable and lack a fair appeal process prior to a repatriation order, then they might face similar challenges as today.”

    The argument that the migrant worker programs are a win-win for Canada and the workers ignores the lopsided imbalance of power, she said.

    “These programs function by taking advantage of racialized global inequality. It’s hard to square the win-win logic with years of research documenting systemic problems of substandard housing, inadequate access to washrooms and unscrupulous job recruiters who charge exorbitant fees,” Weiler noted.

    The Conference Board of Canada’s Burt said migrant farmworker programs are not long-term solutions to the sector’s continuous labour crunch.

    Over the long run, Burt said farm operators and governments must change Canadians’ attitude toward the sector and tap into the newcomer pool to address the labour shortage. For instance in Windsor, Highline Mushrooms Farms has recruited workers with agricultural experience from the local refugee community.

    “We really need to revisit the assumptions in our immigration system. If people are doing work that is viable to the society, we need to give them better access to permanent status in Canada,” said Burt.

    “As a society, we need to make sure anybody coming into the country is treated well when they are here and are not taken advantage of. We must seriously look at what role permanent immigration can play in filling the labour gap in the sector.”

    Schuyler, of Schuyler Farms, said he could see some merit to the open work permits, but has reservations about how it could work, particularly for the seasonal workers who are here for up to eight months only while employers must pay part of their airfare and housing.

    “My personal view is that someone who has successfully worked on the temporary foreign worker program should be given a leg up when applying for residency as they have already proven that they can positively contribute to Canadian society,” said Schuyler.

    “On the benefits of having workers as permanent residents, there are too many variables to give a fully educated comment. However, anything to streamline and simplify the process and associated paperwork would greatly improve things.”

    Back in Simcoe, Stanio, the St. Lucian migrant worker, said he hopes to stay strong and healthy, and continue to return to Canada till the day he’s too old to work because he would not be able to get by on the $160 monthly pension he said he is expected to receive from Canada.

    “I have spent so much time in Canada that I feel at home in this country. I do feel lonely and bored by myself with the other guys here,” said Stanio. “I can’t say I know Canada or I belong here because I only live and work on the farm.”

    Canada’s migrant farmworker programs

    Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP):

    Workers from Mexico and 11 Caribbean countries can stay in Canada for up to 8 months each year but must leave the country by December 15. Their jobs must be in primary agriculture involving products on the National Commodities List, a group of items designated by Ottawa ranging from fruits to dairy to sod. Employers must provide round-trip airfare and free housing.

    Agricultural stream:

    Essentially works like the SAWP, but workers can be from any country and work year-round for up to two years. Employers must provide round-trip airfare and, except in B.C., free housing.

    Low-wage stream:

    Similar to the other two programs, but not restricted to products on the National Commodities List. Employers must provide round-trip airfare and arrange affordable housing.

    High-wage stream:

    Similar to the low-wage program but for higher-skilled agricultural positions. There is no requirement to provide housing and no restriction on how long the workers can stay.

    Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada


    Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’Patrick has worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’

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    Real estate agents in Ontario will face new conflict of interest rules when they represent both a buyer and seller in a single transaction and tougher penalties when they violate the industry regulations and ethics.

    The Liberal government announced on Thursday an update to the Real Estate Business Brokers Act (REBBA) that will see the fines for unethical realtors double to $50,000. Brokerages found breaking the rules will be fined up to $100,000 per violation.

    Government and Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles said the government was compelled to act in light of media reports and industry consultations that revealed some agents were double-ending sales to their own benefit.

    In some cases agents were manipulating bidding wars so they wouldn’t have to split the sales commission with another agent.

    The practice of representing both parties in a sale is properly known as multiple representation.

    “Our default will be that multiple representation doesn’t occur. That is a preferred direction we’re going in,” MacCharles told the Toronto Star in an embargoed interview on Tuesday.

    Where it turns out a client wants to buy a property listed by their own agent, one party will be assigned to another agent in the same brokerage.

    There will be some exceptions where agents can still represent both sides of the transaction. Those would include sales in rural communities where there are not many agents; family situations where the parties are well known to one another; and some commercial sales where the parties have legal advice and sufficient expertise.

    In those cases, the agent's role would be limited to that of a facilitator where they administer the sale but are prohibited from providing advice on offers or prices.

    The details of those exceptions and the enforcement of the rules will be determined after further consultations, said MacCharles.

    “We’re trying to protect our consumers, give some choice to the consumers and recognize this is a significant industry worth millions of dollars, if not billions, every month,” she said.

    The changes will require a beefed-up role for industry regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). It will transition from a complaints-based agency to a more proactive, investigative regulator. Again, the specifics of how RECO will enforce the new rules have yet to be determined, said the minister.

    The new fines will likely be effective by the end of the year. Other changes will take until 2019, she said.

    Real estate executives have said that only a small portion of sales involve agents representing both parties.

    MacCharles said there were 17,637 transactions in August. But she did not have figures on how many of those were multiple representation transactions.

    "Going forward we want these things to be addressed up front through our regulator. We will get the data. RECO will have that in an up-front way. We can monitor the trends, see what we need to do on the regulatory side," she said.

    The new rules, similar to those in Alberta and British Columbia, will be "some of the strictest in North America when it comes to transparency and consumer protection," said David Reid, president-elect of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), which has 70,000 industry members.

    The association's CEO Tim Hudak said that acting as a facilitator, "bringing a willing buyer and seller to the table to find a win-win solution," is a big part of a real estate agent's job.

    But Toronto broker John Pasalis, CEO of Realosophy, says that reducing the role of the agent to a facilitator means neither party has an advisor and champion in their corner.

    “It’s buyer beware and seller beware,” he said.

    “They basically represent nobody and are just a middleman bringing a sale together. This is actually worse than what we have now, because under the current rules, the buyer and sellers are still clients so agents have to still represent their interests.”

    The new rules on multiple representation are the first phase of a two-part review of the 2002 REBBA.


    Ontario realtors face new double-ending rules, stiffer finesOntario realtors face new double-ending rules, stiffer fines

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    Buyers of new homes in Ontario will have a faster track to warranty payouts for builder defects under a massive overhaul of the Tarion home warranty system, the province has announced.

    Under legislation being tabled at Queen’s Park today, buyers who find defects in their newly-built homes will no longer be forced to prove the cause of the problems to obtain warranty coverage, simply show that the defects exist.

    “This has been a persistent issue that consumers, stakeholder and the media have been vocal about,” said Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, at a press conference at Queen’s Park Thursday morning. “If passed, the proposed legislation would clarify the dispute resolution process to make it easier and fairer for new home owners.”

    An ongoing Star investigation has found buyers who have encountered defects in their new homes are stymied by onerous requirements to prove the cause of the deficiencies in order to successfully make a warranty claim. Some new homeowners the Star spoke to were forced to hire engineers and heating and ventilation specialists in an effort to prove problems with their furnaces — a process they complained was lengthy and costly.

    The legislation revamps the way the new home warranty program in Ontario works by stripping Tarion Warranty Corporation of its role as regulator of new homebuilders. Under the Liberals’ plan, a new “administrative authority” will be created to regulate builders and vendors, while Tarion will continue to administer warranty claims.

    The measures address what MacCharles calls “conflict of interest concerns” with the multiple roles Tarion currently plays as regulator, warranty provider and adjudicator in disputes between buyers and builders. Tarion, a private non-profit corporation, was created by the province in 1976 to protect new home buyers and regulate builders.

    “Separating the administrator of the new home warranty program from the new home builder and vendor regulator would help to increase consumer confidence in the warranty program that protects their home, which represents one of the most important investments a consumer can make,” the minister said.

    Also in the legislation are measures for up-to-date protections for deposits on new homes and condos. In Ontario, the maximum deposit protection for a new home is $40,000 while the condo deposit protection is just $20,000 — amounts that do not reflect current home prices, especially in the GTA. The government says it will ask Tarion to come up with deposit protection amounts more aligned with today’s real estate market.

    Read more:

    Province stripping Tarion of builder-regulator role

    Ontario corporation Tarion spends millions in salaries, advertising, conferences

    Consumers report ‘lack of faith’ in Tarion’s builder records

    The plans have been informed by recommendations made by former Associate Chief Justice J. Douglas Cunningham, who was appointed by the province in late 2015 to conduct an independent review of the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act and Tarion following a series of Star stories. Opposition parties have also called for greater oversight.

    In March 2017, Cunningham produced a lengthy report consisting of 37 recommendations for improving the system, including: setting out the minimum standards for mandatory warranty protections in legislation; creating a separate entity to regulate builders and vendors; improving the transparency of information available on Tarion’s online builder directory; and making the new regulator subject to transparency and oversight provisions similar to those in place for other administrative authorities.

    Tarion is unique when it comes to the province’s administrative authorities in that it has the power to enact its own regulations, such as those governing builder performance and warranty terms.

    In her remarks, MacCharles said both newly-created administrative authorities would be subject to “stronger oversight, transparency, governance and accountability” similar to Ontario’s other modern authorities, such as the Electrical Safety Authority, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority and the Travel Industry Council of Ontario.

    “If passed, the proposed legislation would also give the government a much greater role in rule making and setting standards,” she said.


    Tarion warranty payouts to be fast-tracked under new legislationTarion warranty payouts to be fast-tracked under new legislation

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    A Forest Hill couple took their neighbours to court for copying the look of their multimillion-dollar home.

    Jason and Jodi Chapnik, who own the home on Strathearn Rd., near Bathurst and Eglinton Sts., alleged that a house on nearby Vesta Dr. was newly renovated to look “strikingly similar” to theirs — including using the same shade of blue and matching grey stonework.

    The Chapniks filed a lawsuit against neighbour Barbara Ann Kirshenblatt, her builder husband and architect brother-in-law for copyright infringement in federal court, as well as the real estate agent who profited from the house’s recent sale and the anonymous contractors who worked on the house. They were seeking $1.5 million in damages, $20,000 in statutory copyright damages, $1 million in punitive damages, and a mandatory injunction on the defendant to change the design of the home.

    According to a 2014 statement of claim, the Chapniks say their architect-designed home is “one of the most well-known and admired houses in the Cedarvale and Forest Hill neighbourhoods, in a large part due to its uniqueness.” They claim Kirshenblatt, who is “in the business of . . . flipping houses,” copied their home to increase her property value “while decreasing the value of the Plaintiff’s unique house.”

    Kirshenblatt denied copying the look of her neighbours’ home and said the house is actually inspired by Tudor stone cottages, of which multiple photographs were supplied in the statement of defence filed in court.

    Further, she said, the features, including the “application of a single colour, such as blue, to windows, doors and stonework, and the application of ‘Tudor’ style stonework to a façade has been common to the trade for centuries, and is not protectable by copyright.”

    The allegations were not proven in court. The parties agreed to settle out of court and the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

    “There is no admission of guilt or liability on the part of my clients, and they truly believe that they did nothing wrong,” said the Kirshenblatts’ lawyer, Jeremy Lum-Danson, in an email.

    “To them, the houses do not look the same.”

    The case had gone on for more than three years.

    The Chapniks purchased the Strathearn Rd. house, originally built in 1935, for $3.8 million in 2006, according to land registry information, and began renovations one year later.

    The couple worked with the late Gordon Ridgely and his architecture firm to draw up a new design, wanting to maintain the home’s stonework but “modernize the look and feel of the building,” according to a statement of claim filed by the Chapniks.

    The size of their house doubled to about 8,000 sq. ft. during the renovation, the couple’s lawyer, Kevin Sartorio, confirmed.

    A brown front door with an arched lintel, distinct grey masonry and mortar application and raised stonework around the chimney were part of the renovations.

    Wood-framed windows were redesigned and painted blue, and T-shaped stone corbels with unique detailing were installed. Special wood panels were mounted on select gables.

    “A tremendous about of skill, effort, time, judgment, care (and money) was spent across nearly seven years in terms of designing, architecting and building a unique and beautiful house,” Jason and Jodi Chapnick said in an email through their lawyer.

    “The events that occurred in relation to the house on Vesta Drive were incredibly distressing.”

    A value assessment by the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. shows that as of Jan. 1, 2016, the Strathearn property, which sits on one acre of land, was worth about $5.8 million.

    “It would have been much less expensive for the Chapniks to simply knock down the original house and build a new house,” the claim document read.

    The Vesta Dr. house went on the market in May 2013. It was purchased by Barbara Ann Kirshenblatt, a retired kindergarten teacher, for $1.6 million, and renovations began right after the deal closed in October.

    Her husband Eric’s construction company, RKS Building Group, and his brother Steven’s architectural firm, Kirkor Architects and Planners, were brought on to design and build at the Vesta Dr. property.

    Jason Chapnik, an entrepreneur and CEO of a Toronto-based investment firm, claims that contractors from the Vesta Dr. project visited his property. In May 2014, the contractors approached his home and “indicated that they were building a house nearby and were copying aspects of his design,” according to his statement of claim.

    “These tradespeople noticed Mr. Chapnik and walked onto the Strathearn property to speak to him and study the Strathearn house closer,” the claim said.

    Chapnik first noticed the apparent similarities between the properties “when only the windows were installed onto the wood frame.”

    Neighbours and friends emailed and called the couple to comment on their home’s apparent twin, their statement of claim said. The houses are 850 metres apart.

    Documents say the Chapniks delivered a notice to Kirshenblatt to “cease infringing.” And that “Ms. Kirshenblatt indicated that she would not cease.”

    The Chapniks then mounted the legal dispute against Kirshenblatt under the company, Strathearn Consulting Inc., in August 2014. They later added the other defendants.

    “The Defendants’ conduct constitutes willful, high-handed, and deliberate infringement of the Plaintiff’s copyright in the Strathearn Design and should attract the Court’s condemnation through a substantial award of aggravated, exemplary or punitive damages,” the Chapniks’ claim said.

    An archived real estate listing from 2014 shows the Kirshenblatts were asking almost $4.3 million for the newly renovated Vesta Dr. house.

    It was sold for $3.6 million in February 2015, almost $2 million more than what the Kirshenblatts paid to purchase the house in 2013, according to land registry information.

    The Krishenblatts, who have lived in the Forest Hill neighbourhood since 2007, never resided at the Vesta Dr. house.

    The Kirshenblatts, RKS Building Group, Kirkor Architects and Planners, subcontractor King Masonry Yard Ltd., Forest Hill Real Estate, real estate agent Julie Gofman, and “Jane and John Doe” — representing anonymous individuals and companies like builders and tradespeople — are all named as defendants in the claim.

    Copyright infringement does not require that the infringing party knows they are doing it, and anyone involved in reproducing and profiting from the copyrighted work can be sued, said Carys Craig, an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School who specializes in intellectual property law and policy.

    “There’s nothing about copyright that requires you to be an expert, or to be applying and registering your rights in order to either acquire rights or to infringe them,” she said.

    In a statement of defence, Kirshenblatt and the other parties noted the houses have different shapes, layouts and configurations. They drew up a table to compare the differences. For example:

    • The Strathearn Rd. house has slim overhang on the eaves while the Vesta Dr. house has traditional overhang.

    • The Strathearn Rd. house has a cedar roof while the Vesta Dr. house has asphalt shingles.

    • The Strathearn Rd. house has “random rubble stone,” while the Vesta Dr. has a “stone veneer.”

    • The eavestroughs on the Strathearn Rd. house are copper with a rounded bottom whereas on Vesta Dr. the eavestroughs are metal or aluminum with a square bottom.

    “The look and feel of the two properties are so divergent in overall appearance, scale and context that to the normal passerby, any meaningful visual relationship between the two residences would be difficult to associate,” according to the Kirshenblatts’ statement of defence.

    The Kirshenblatts submitted a photocopy of a 1940 Canadian Homes and Gardens magazine showing Tudor-style cottage designs in their court filings, a style they claim to have been inspired by in the redesign.

    They were also requested by the Chapniks to list all the properties they looked at “to develop the Vesta house” and provide addresses and to provide the name and addresses of contractors.

    They supplied the addresses of three other houses in the Forest Hill area, along with some online listings and the castle from the James Bond movie Skyfall.

    “The defendants do not know the addresses for the houses (found online) or the Castle from the James Bond movie,” according to an undertaking requesting more information from the plaintiffs.

    The document shows the Kirshenblatts provided several names of contractors, except for a man inexplicably called “Scary Steve” who “did the mason work.”

    “These defendants do not have his contact information.”

    A consent judgment was submitted on Sept. 21 to end the lawsuit out of court.

    “Given the costs associated with the matter through trial, it was in the interests of all parties to reach an amicable settlement,” said the Kirshenblatts’ lawyer, Jeremy Lum-Danson.

    “The case has had a profound impact on my clients. For them it has caused an unnecessary burden and disruption on their lives.”

    Through their lawyer, the Chapniks said “a significant amount of time and money had to be expended in order to protect our copyright.”

    They said the settlement “will allow us peace of mind to know that this should not happen again in the future.”

    A copyright case between homeowners is rare, Craig, the law professor at Osgoode, said, adding that most disputes happen between architectural firms or construction industry people.

    “We often don’t think about architecture when we think about copyright, and we often don’t think about buildings as works of art,” Craig said. “So it might seem like a particularly strange claim to the average person who assumes that if you own a home you can design it as you want.”

    Vjosa Isai can be reached at visai@thestar.ca.


    This Forest Hill couple sued their neighbours for $2.5 million over a house renovated to look like theirsThis Forest Hill couple sued their neighbours for $2.5 million over a house renovated to look like theirs

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    The nation’s largest gun-lobbying group said devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to function like automatic firearms should be subject to new regulation after a growing number of Republican lawmakers say they’re open to such restrictions.

    Following a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday, in which the gunman had weapons modified to allow rapid firing, the National Rifle Association called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review whether the “bump stock” devices used to modify semi-automatics comply with federal law.

    “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” the group said in a statement on Thursday. The NRA also criticized politicians seeking to ban guns, saying doing so wouldn’t prevent a “criminal act of a madman.”

    For years, Republican lawmakers have been largely in line with the NRA, which has long objected to new restrictions. The shooting in Las Vegas, in which 58 people were killed, has brought new attention to bump stocks, aftermarket accessories that allow more rapid firing, and prompted Republicans’ comments. Many Democrats have long called for much stricter gun laws.

    With the NRA and Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, open to more strict regulation of bump stocks, it stands a good chance of taking affect.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told MSNBC that changing the law is “something we need to look into.”

    “I didn’t even know what they were until this week and I’m an avid sportsman,” Ryan said.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House wants to engage with Congress on the debate over bump stocks. “We welcome that,” she told reporters Thursday. “We want to be part of the discussion.”

    Read more:

    Las Vegas gunman had ‘bump-stocks’ that could turn firearms into fully automatic ones

    Once an obscure device, ‘bump stocks’ are in the spotlight after Las Vegas shooting

    Stephen Paddock was instantly labelled a ‘lone wolf.’ Is that just code for a shooter who’s white? Analysis

    On Wednesday, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican leader, said he’s open to considering new limits on bump stocks and called for a hearing. Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, called for a ban on the devices.

    Not for hunters

    “My reaction was that this was all designed to kill or injure as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and that’s the reason why automatic weapons are generally not available,” Cornyn said Thursday. “No sportsmen or hunter uses them.”

    Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said he doesn’t see a need for the devices to be legal but wants to hear more about the accessories before making a final decision. Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake made similar comments.

    “I’m open to finding out about it and maybe putting it on the category that would be outlawed,” Inhofe said.

    Other Republican senators, including Orrin Hatch of Utah and John Thune of South Dakota, said they’re considering whether changes are needed.

    Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said he wants more study of the bump stocks and isn’t ready to call for a ban. “For a guy from Wyoming who owns plenty of guns, it’s something I’d never heard of until yesterday,” he said. “This news is terrible and what’s happened is a great tragedy.”

    The NRA statement reiterated its position that “banning guns from law-abiding Americans based on the criminal act of a madman will do nothing to prevent future attacks.” The group also urged Congress to pass legislation that would require states to recognize right-to-carry permits issued by all other states.

    Legislation proposed

    Democrats, including Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, on Wednesday introduced legislation banning aftermarket products designed to allow more rapid firing.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called on lawmakers to add various new restrictions, including bolstered background checks of gun purchasers and a ban on bump stocks.

    But Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said her party should be careful not to push too hard.

    “Let’s stay focused on the possible,” she said. Right now, she added, lawmakers in both parties are talking about bump stocks and “I’d like us to stay focused on it.”

    Selling and manufacturing automatic weapons has been illegal since 1986, and weapons purchased before then are regulated by the federal government. Products to modify semi-automatic firearms are legal.

    Bump stocks “may be an area where we need to look to be sure the law is not being subverted,” said Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican.

    Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina said lawmakers are drafting a letter to ATF seeking more information. Meadows said he doesn’t understand why someone would want to buy one.


    NRA open to new rules on ‘bump stock’ devices that allow rapid firing after Las Vegas shootingNRA open to new rules on ‘bump stock’ devices that allow rapid firing after Las Vegas shooting

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    James Duff was some eight takes into the scene when he was shot at for the first time.

    Wearing black ski masks and armed with airsoft guns, Duff and another actor were filming at a bar in Crawfordsville, Indiana, for a low-budget film called 10 to Fire, a local production of mostly volunteers about a dystopic future where everyone is armed.

    But unbeknownst to the actors on set, a worried citizen had called 911 to report an armed robbery in progress at the Backstep Brewery, a bar just blocks away from Crawfordsville’s police station.

    Duff was walking backward out of the bar with the airsoft gun in hand when the police officers arrived, in a confrontation captured in a tense video by a police body camera.

    “Drop the gun!” one of the officers yelled, drawing his weapon and firing off a shot when Duff did not instantly comply. The shot missed Duff’s head by about two inches, he said. The police officer continued to yell at Duff to drop the gun and get on the ground.

    “We’re doing a movie,” Duff told him.

    “Excuse me?” The officer replied, continuing to point his gun at Duff and urging the other actors to stay inside the bar.

    The story of the on-set mishap Sept. 26 has ricocheted out of this town of 16,000 northwest of Indianapolis and around the world, after the body camera footage from the officer who discharged his weapon was released this week.

    No one was injured in the shooting, but Duff, a 48-year-old concrete and construction worker acting in his second movie, says he hasn’t felt the same since. He remembers the bullet whizzing by his head, “a big breeze.”

    “They didn’t even give me a chance,” Duff said in a phone interview Wednesday, more than a week after the shooting.

    Duff said he can’t get the episode out of his mind when he is awake and has been having nightmares where he replays it in his sleep. “I woke up Thursday morning screaming my head off,” he said. “I think about it all of the time.”

    The police said that Duff failed to release the weapon immediately — video shows him attempting to take off the mask before he drops the gun. Duff said he had just been trying to determine what was going on. He said he was handcuffed for about 10 minutes, and interviewed by detectives at the police station.

    Montgomery County Prosecutor Joseph Buser announced Monday that no one would be charged in the incident.

    In 2010, a film crew shooting a hostage scene in a Long Island convenience store was raided by 20 officers, though the actors were able to identify themselves before shots were fired. In Pittsburgh the same year, the filming of a horror movie left a hotel room splattered with a blood-like substance, empty bottles of booze and even a piece of fake scalp, resulting in a police investigation into what the chief later joked was the most gruesome crime scene he’d ever scene. And a film roll from a 1990 cop comedy starring Dan Aykroyd, Loose Cannons, which depicted a Aykroyd standing over a body, drew suspicion after being found in a Calgary landfill by a worker decades later.

    In Duff’s case, the situation was compounded by a few factors. The crew had not notified the police about the filming. The airsoft guns had been clipped of their identifying orange nozzles. And Duff exited the building by himself, with the crew still filming inside and hidden from police.

    “It was an easy oversight, but it was a critical oversight,” said Steve Hester, 63, a former community college custodian who’s directing the film. “We were basically only a block and a half away from the police station. We weren’t thinking.”

    “I had a policeman tell me not to make things look so real and I told him then I needed to quit my job, because that’s my job, making things look real,” he said.

    Footage shot that day by the film’s crew captures the filming of the scene inside the building. After Duff exits to the street, walking backward, shouting can be heard outside the building. He appears to turn around, the gun still in his hand, before the shot is fired. The actor playing the other bandit curses and goes to pull off his mask.

    “My first thought was a firecracker went off,” said Philip Demoret, co-owner of the film company and the second bandit in the scene. The film crew has been inundated with interview requests the last few days, Demoret said.

    “I think I need an agent,” he said.

    Duff says he plans to finish the filming of 10 to Fire in the hopes of furthering his new acting career.

    “I’m hoping someday it will go somewhere, maybe someday I’ll hit Hollywood,” he said. “Hopefully, if I continue to be the bad guy, the next script notifies the police department.”

    Crawfordsville Police Chief Mike Norman said that similar situations could be avoided with better communication with the police.

    The film is scheduled to be released in the town next year.


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    A Michigan woman will spend seven days in jail after she defied a judge’s order to have her 9-year-old son vaccinated.

    Rebecca Bredow was sentenced for contempt of court Wednesday, nearly a year after an Oakland County judge ordered her to have her son vaccinated. Bredow had been given until Wednesday to get her son the medically allowed amount of vaccination, which would be up to eight vaccines. But the Detroit area mother, citing her religious beliefs, had refused to do so.

    “I’m a passionate mother who cares deeply about my children, their health and their well-being. . . . If my child was forced to be vaccinated, I couldn’t bring myself to do it,” Bredow said during a court hearing, according to the Associated Press.

    The jail sentence is the latest in an ongoing custody battle with her ex-husband, James Horne, who wants their son vaccinated and shares joint custody of the child.

    “I understand you love your children. But what I don’t think you understand is that your son has two parents, and dad gets a say,” Judge Karen McDonald told Bredow, the AP reported.

    McDonald granted Horne temporary custody of their son and ordered him to be vaccinated. She also said in court that Bredow’s attorney had signed the November court order for vaccination, meaning Bredow had agreed to it.

    “It’s clear to me that you don’t care about orders even if you agree to them, which you did,” the judge told Bredow, who’s the primary caregiver of her son with Horne.

    Bredow had told The Washington Post that she expected to go to jail.

    “I can’t give in against my own religious belief,” she said Saturday, adding that she is not against vaccination. “This is about choice. This is about having my choices as a mother to be able to make medical choices for my child.”

    Parents who either delay or refuse vaccinations for their children do so for a number of reasons, including religious, personal and philosophical beliefs, safety concerns, and a desire for more information from health-care providers, according to 2016 research published in the Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

    The American Medical Association has long decried allowing parents to decline vaccination for nonmedical reasons and has cited vaccines’ ability to prevent diseases such as measles, mumps and other infectious diseases. Still, a majority of states allow religious exemptions for vaccinations. Nearly 20, including Michigan, provide exemption for religious and personal reasons. Only three, California, Mississippi and West Virginia, don’t allow nonmedical exemptions.

    In Michigan, parents or guardians of children enrolled in public and private schools are required to attend an educational session, in which they learn about diseases that vaccines can prevent, before they’re given waivers for nonmedical purposes.

    Bredow said that’s what she had done. She added that she and Horne had initially agreed to delay their son’s vaccines for three months after he was born in 2008. Two years later, in 2010, she said they both agreed to suspend all immunizations, and their son has not had a vaccine shot since.

    Horne’s attorney, Benton Richardson, was not available for comment Wednesday, but he told ABC last week that the legal dispute was not about vaccinations.

    “It is a case about Ms. Bredow refusing to comport with any number of the court’s orders and actively seeking to frustrate Mr. Horne’s joint legal custody rights,” Richardson said.

    The legal dispute also comes amid a growing anti-vaccine sentiment, which began in 1998, when a medical journal published a now-discredited study linking vaccination with autism. The once-fringe movement has become more popular and received a nod of approval from Donald Trump, who repeatedly suggested a link between vaccination and autism before he ran for president.

    In January, vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said the then-president-elect had asked him to chair a new commission on vaccines. A spokeswoman later said that Trump was exploring the possibility of creating a commission on autism. The plan appears to have stalled. Kennedy told STAT News last month that he has had no discussions with White House officials about the commission since February.

    Several people who support Bredow gathered outside the Oakland County courthouse Wednesday, holding signs saying they “Stand with Rebecca” and “No Forced Shots.”


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    Public health and safety is its “number one priority,” says the Saskatchewan government in response to unprecedented national investigation published Sunday that puts the spotlight on evidence of dangerous holes in its oversight of the oil and gas industry.

    The reports, published collaboratively by National Observer, the Toronto Star, Global News and four university journalism programs, revealed nearly five years’ worth of industry violations related to a toxic gas called hydrogen sulphide (H2S). They occurred under the watch of provincial government officials who were aware there was a problem.

    The investigation spoke to a number of people who were sickened by the sour gas during that time, and in 2014, a worker died on the job of exposure to it. There is no evidence that the provincial government issued public safety warnings following these incidents, and internal records obtained through access to information legislation show that it declined twice to make public the hydrogen sulphide danger zones it had identified with data from industry.

    The investigation, called The Price of Oil, was carried out over the course of the year by the media outlets, journalism schools at the universities of Concordia, Regina, Ryerson and British Columbia, The Michener Awards Foundation and the Corporate Mapping Project.

    Saskatchewan Energy and Resources Minister Nancy Heppner sent a letter responding to the investigation and defending her government’s actions.

    “There has been a marked improvement in air quality in southeast Saskatchewan in terms of sour gas levels,” she wrote.

    READ MORE:

    That rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecy

    ‘There’s no sense in speaking up’ despite deadly gas risks

    Responding to requests for comments on the investigation, the provincial government highlighted initiatives it undertook to protect public safety as complaints of injury — and industry facilities that were failing inspection — piled up between 2012 and 2016.

    “Air quality measurements consistently show that air quality standards are being met,” said spokesman James Parker, a senior communications advisor working for the government’s executive council.

    Hydrogen sulphide, also known as sour gas, is a corrosive, invisible gas that can leak from the wellheads, tanks and flare stacks of the oilfield, and is fatal to humans in high concentrations.

    In 2014, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of the Economy — the regulator of the oil and gas industry in the province — deliberated, and rejected, a tough new penalty regime of fines for companies that broke the rules. One month later, oilpatch worker Michael Bunz died of hydrogen sulphide exposure after a valve burst in a facility and spewed the gas into his face.

    It was that year, said Parker, that the government launched a cost-recovery levy tied to oil and gas wells that would fund increased regulatory programming, including the purchase of equipment, the hiring of additional field staff, the development of new data systems and increased technical training. The levy has since been expanded to include pipelines, Parker added, including those that transport H2S.

    Between 2012 and 2017, the Ministry of the Economy has increased its inspection of wells and facilities that process high volumes of hydrogen sulphide, and started collecting gas composition data to better identify the wells where hydrogen sulphide production is highest, he explained. It has invested in new air monitoring stations, hand-held sour gas measurement devices for field inspectors, field-testing of new equipment, and infrared cameras that can identify gas leaks and emissions venting at wells and facilities.

    Asked if the government perceived such efforts as having been “sufficient” to protect the public, given complaints of injury and a workplace death, Parker declined to comment. He did not answer any followup questions sent by the investigative team after the report was published, apart from a clarification about the 2014 levy, and criticism of opinion pieces that challenged the government’s position.

    Parker said The Price of Oil’s reporting omitted the fact that “the public is encouraged by government to contact the ministry to report incidents.” The investigation discovered internal Ministry of the Economy records stating that the ministry “prefers to see operators deal with public complaint without having to be involved.” Parker did not address that apparent contradiction.

    “The editorial reply (by Heppner) will have to suffice,” said Parker, the government spokesman, after National Observer requested an interview.

    All other interview requests to the ministries of the economy and the environment were declined.

    Heppner, Saskatchewan’s energy and resources minister, said in her letter that “protecting the health and safety of Saskatchewan citizens is the number one priority for the Government of Saskatchewan. We take our responsibilities seriously.”

    Other efforts to curb rogue hydrogen sulphide emissions in Saskatchewan include the launch of an Integrated Resource Information System (IRIS) that provides tools for managing inspection and incident reporting, a budget increase of $1.35 million for regulatory programs between 2017 and 2018, and the reallocation of resources to field operations in southeast Saskatchewan, where hydrogen sulphide risks are highest, he added.

    However, in light of The Price of Oil investigation, opposition parties in Saskatchewan are crying foul.

    On Monday, Saskatchewan’s Progressive Conservative Party Leader Richard Swenson called on Premier Brad Wall’s government to release all documents and industry reports concerning hydrogen sulphide leaks in southeastern Saskatchewan.

    Speaking as a former energy minister, Swenson told the investigation: “You’re not there as the minister of oil company promotion, you’re there as the minister responsible for the rational utilization of a resource to the benefit of all of us... When you take the oath, it’s a dual responsibility.”

    Based on the documents unearthed in the investigation, he said public safety “seems to have taken a backseat” under Wall’s ruling Saskatchewan Party. He suggested it may be time for Saskatchewan to create an independent, arm’s length regulator for the oil and gas industry, similar to the Alberta Energy Regulator or British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission.

    If the investigation’s reporting can be verified, Swenson added, the Saskatchewan government’s inaction on hydrogen sulphide could add up to “criminal negligence.”

    The Saskatchewan Party was founded in 1997 by a coalition of former Conservative and Liberal party members, then in opposition, who were trying to unseat the NDP government. Under Wall’s leadership, it formed a government in 2007 and has been in power since. The Progressive Conservatives no longer have seats in the legislature.

    Parker would not say if the Saskatchewan government is considering Swenson’s request, or whether it would consider moving to a new form of industry regulation.

    Meantime, Saskatchewan’s official opposition New Democrats accused the Wall government of “ignoring its responsibility to keep Saskatchewan people safe.”

    “They can no longer stand back and hope that the industry will police itself,” said the party’s environment and economy critic Cathy Sproule in written comments. “Their hands-off approach is failing Saskatchewan families, it’s threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink, and it’s hurting our economy.”


    Public safety is No. 1 priority, Saskatchewan government says after toxic gas investigationPublic safety is No. 1 priority, Saskatchewan government says after toxic gas investigation

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump plans to announce next week that he will “decertify” the international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it is not in the national interest of the United States and kicking the issue to a reluctant Congress, people briefed on an emerging White House strategy for Iran said Thursday.

    The move would mark the first step in a process that could eventually result in the resumption of U.S. sanctions against Iran, which would blow up a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear activities that the country reached in 2015 with the U.S. and five other nations.

    Trump is expected to deliver a speech, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 12, laying out a larger strategy for confronting the nation it blames for terrorism and instability throughout the Middle East.

    Under what is described as a tougher and more comprehensive approach, Trump would open the door to modifying the landmark 2015 agreement he has repeatedly bashed as a raw deal for the United States. But for now he would hold off on recommending that Congress reimpose sanctions on Iran that would abrogate the agreement, said four people familiar with aspects of the president’s thinking.

    All cautioned that plans are not fully set and could change. The White House would not confirm plans for a speech or its contents. Trump faces an Oct. 15 deadline to report to Congress on whether Iran is complying with the agreement and whether he judges the deal to be in the U.S. national interest.

    “The administration looks forward to sharing details of our Iran strategy at the appropriate time,” said Michael Anton, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

    Other people familiar with the nine-month review of U.S. military, diplomatic, economic and intelligence approaches toward Iran spoke on condition of anonymity because aspects of the policy are not yet set and Trump has not announced his decision.

    Trump’s senior national security advisers agreed within the past several weeks to recommend that Trump “decertify” the agreement at the Oct. 15 deadline, two of those people said.

    That would start a 60-day congressional review period to consider the next steps for the United States. On its own, the step would not break the agreement among Iran, the United States and other world powers, but would start a clock on resuming sanctions that the United States had lifted as its part of the deal.

    The administration has begun discussing possible legislation to “strengthen” the agreement, congressional aides and others said. That is the “fix it or nix it” approach suggested by both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton a leading Republican hawk on Iran.

    It is an uncertain prospect, and many supporters of the deal consider it a dodge.

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month that he will not reopen the deal for negotiation.

    Separately, representatives of Iran, China and Russia told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the same thing during a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session, two senior diplomats familiar with that meeting said.


    Donald Trump plans to ‘decertify’ Iran nuclear deal, likely throwing landmark accord into disarrayDonald Trump plans to ‘decertify’ Iran nuclear deal, likely throwing landmark accord into disarray

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