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    Emergency responders have rescued a man from the rubble of a house that collapsed on an east Hamilton street Tuesday afternoon.

    Neighbours on Gibson Ave. clapped as paramedics wheeled the man on a stretcher to the street.

    Firefighters responded to the call at 134 Gibson Ave., which is between Barton St. E. and Cannon St. E., just east of Birch Ave. around 2:20 p.m.

    “We’ve had a house collapse,” fire department spokesperson Claudio Mostacci said around 2:35 p.m. Tuesday from the scene.

    “There’s one person trapped inside that we’re trying to get to.”

    Mostacci said firefighters had made “verbal contact” with the man, whom neighbours described as blind and in his 60s or 70s.

    About 50 minutes later, rescue workers emerged with the man on a stretcher.

    Mostacci said it was too early to know how the house collapsed.

    Al Martin said he was visiting his wife a couple of doors when he heard an explosion and smelled gas.

    “I turned around and I heard this great big bang.”

    Hamilton firefighters rescue trapped person after house collapseHamilton firefighters rescue trapped person after house collapse

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    The Ontario government has, for decades, turned a blind eye to “outrageous” pollution causing serious health effects in Indigenous communities, the province’s environment watchdog said Tuesday.

    In the annual report delivered to Queen’s Park, Ontario environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe recognized recent progress, but condemned years of inaction by the provincial government in the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, and in mercury-contaminated Grassy Narrows in northwestern Ontario. Both have been subjects of investigations by journalists, including those of the Star.

    “The conditions faced by these Indigenous communities would not be tolerated elsewhere in Ontario, yet have long been deemed unworthy of priority, effort or expense,’ said Saxe. “After decades of neglect, the province is finally taking some steps, but the pollution that these communities still face is outrageous.”

    A joint investigation by the Star, Global News, National Observer, the Michener Awards Foundation and journalism schools at Ryerson and Concordia universities revealed a troubling pattern of secrecy and potentially toxic leaks in the area known as Chemical Valley. There are 57 polluters within 25 kilometres of Sarnia registered with the Canadian and U.S. governments.

    The investigation raised questions about whether companies and the provincial government are properly warning residents of Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang when potentially toxic substances, including benzene, known to cause cancer in high levels of long-term exposure, are leaked. Aamjiwnaang is surrounded on three sides by petrochemical plants.

    In the report, Saxe said there is “strong evidence” to suggest pollution is causing “profound” health problems in Aamjiwnaang, which neither the federal nor provincial governments have properly investigated.

    Following the joint investigation, provincial Environment Minister Chris Ballard committed to funding a study examining the health effects of pollution in the Chemical Valley, something residents had sought for nearly a decade.

    But Saxe said the government still needs to take the cumulative effects of pollution into account, do more air-monitoring, update regulations and properly enforce those on the books. It currently ignores some forms of common emissions, such as those from flares, used to burn off materials dangerous to plants.

    Last week, Aamjiwnaang resident Vanessa Gray filed a request for the province to investigate a flaring incident caught on video at Sarnia’s Imperial Oil plant from February 2017, where clouds of fire and steam billowed from its smokestacks for hours. Gray said the episode caused a burning sensation in her nose.

    “It is wonderful that the government’s going to do a health study, but what they really need to do is clean up the air,” Saxe told reporters.

    Ron Plain, who has spent the past 25 years living in Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang, said he hopes Saxe’s report will open the eyes of those who thought the issue isn’t that bad. Plain has cancer; the 55-year-old’s doctors have told him he’ll likely be dead in a year.

    “It’s about time,” Plain said of Saxe’s report. “I live it . . . . Everybody here is living it.”

    Speaking to media at Queen’s Park Tuesday, Aamjiwnaang Chief Joanne Rogers said nothing in Saxe’s report was new; the community has long asked for action, and Saxe isn’t the first commissioner to identify the issues.

    But Rogers said she’s confident change can happen this time if the First Nation is included in discussions going forward.

    “We breathe that air, so why is there delay after delay?” she said.

    In her report, Saxe recommended the provincial environment ministry post real-time air monitoring data for the people of Aamjiwnaang — a plan to do so is already in the works — and update air standards for sulfur dioxide, a component of acid rain that can cause a range of health issues, even below the threshold where humans are able to smell it.

    In response, Ontario Environment Minister Chris Ballard said his ministry will soon release new sulfur dioxide regulations, updating laws set in 1974 that haven’t been revised since. In her report, Saxe said the current standard doesn’t protect human health, and this is something the government has been aware of for years.

    “I don’t think our government has been slow to respond to these issues,” Ballard said when asked if institutional racism was a factor in the government’s delayed responses in Aamjiwnaang and Grassy Narrows.

    “A lot has been done. A lot more has to be done.”

    On Friday, a statement released by Rogers and the First Nation’s council suggested the issues in Chemical Valley may be a violation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration says Indigenous communities have the right to the “conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources.”

    Saxe’s report, delivered Tuesday, also condemned government inaction on mercury poisoning in the Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations near Dryden, Ont. Contamination of the Wabigoon River there has sickened residents for generations; the most recent study found 58 per cent of community members are either diagnosed with or suspected of having Minamata disease, a severe neurological illness caused by mercury poisoning.

    “[T]he Ontario government declined to take action for decades, largely ignoring the suffering of the Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong peoples. Over and over, the Ontario government chose to do nothing. It chose not to remove the sediment, not to investigate in more detail, not to monitor whether mercury levels were indeed declining. In other words, it chose to allow the ongoing poisoning of the communities,” the commissioner wrote in the report.

    After a nearly year-long Star investigation that found, among other things, mercury tainted soil upstream from Grassy Narrows, the province committed earlier this year to paying $85 million to clean up the contamination.

    Mercury survivor and Grassy Narrows environmental health coordinator Judy Da Silva said those already poisoned are still facing “hopelessness” and a lack of support.

    “We’ve been so ignored for decades that our people are in disbelief of anything ever changing,” she said.

    Saxe’s report also called attention to the 36 First Nations communities in Ontario under water advisories, including 17, which have been without a safe water source for more than a decade. Although the problem is the federal government’s responsibility, the provincial government can and should help by protecting water sources and by providing more technical training, Saxe said.

    “The Ontario government must make environmental justice part of its pursuit of reconciliation with Indigenous people.”

    Enviro watchdog blasts province for inaction on ‘outrageous’ pollution in Indigenous communitiesEnviro watchdog blasts province for inaction on ‘outrageous’ pollution in Indigenous communities

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    WASHINGTON—A first-term conservative lawmaker has announced his abrupt retirement from the U.S. Senate, saying he wants no part of a Donald Trump-led Republican party marked by what he called reckless, abnormal, undignified and un-American behaviour.

    Jeff Flake of Arizona admitted that he faced an uphill battle for the nomination next year, given the target on his back because of his frequent criticisms of a president beloved by the party’s rank-and-file.

    He urged colleagues to show some courage and speak out against an erratic president, whose policies he called a betrayal of core Republican beliefs like free trade, immigration, and the international institutions America helped build after the Second World War.

    Read more: 57 false claims. Donald Trump shatters his one-week record for dishonesty

    Key Republican senator calls Donald Trump an ‘utterly untruthful president,’ says he is ‘debasing’ the U.S.

    In a speech on the floor of the Senate, Flake condemned the “flagrant disregard of truth and decency” that he believes is undermining American democracy under the Trump administration.

    “When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ what are we going to say?” said Flake, a Mormon former head of a conservative-libertarian think tank.

    “I rise to say, ‘Enough.’ We have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner ... We all know better than that.”

    Flake urged colleagues not to be complicit in condoning “reckless, outrageous, undignified” behaviours from “the top of our government”: “They are not normal,” Flake said. “Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent.”

    The resignation came at an ironic moment.

    The president spent the first part of the day embroiled in a Twitter war against the last Republican to announce his Senate departure. Since announcing he was leaving, Bob Corker has been warning that Trump’s erratic behaviour could cause a Third World War.

    Trump responded on Twitter by calling Corker a “lightweight,” and “liddle Bob Corker.”

    The pro-Trump nationalist wing of the GOP celebrated its latest political scalping. With Corker gone, and Flake leaving, and some urging John McCain to step aside while he battles cancer, the insurgents celebrated their increasing control of the party.

    The headline on the Breitbart website was, “Winning: Flake Out.” That site is run by Steve Bannon, the bomb-throwing nationalist who went from a White House position to working to overthrow the party establishment.

    The White House danced on Flake’s political grave. Asked about the resignation, presidential spokesperson Sarah Sanders said: “Based on previous statements, and based on the lack of support he has from the people of Arizona, it’s probably a good move.”

    Bannon has already successfully backed an extreme, anti-gay, twice-fired judge who last month illustrated his support for gun rights by carrying one on stage while wearing a cowboy hat. That candidate, Roy Moore, won the party’s nomination for a senate race in Alabama.

    The Republicans hold a narrow lead in Senate seats and are unlikely to lose the chamber in next year’s election. The electoral calendar is extremely favourable to the party, with two-thirds of seats up for election next year belonging to Democrats.

    Democrats hope they might take back the other chamber.

    More traditional conservatives lamented Tuesday’s developments. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We’ve just witnessed a speech from a very fine man.” Scott Lincicome, a pro-free-trader at the libertarian Cato Institute, tweeted, “Maybe this is just a horrible blip, or maybe the GOP really is beyond saving.”

    Flake finished his resignation speech on a hopeful note.

    “It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party,” he said.

    “It is also clear to me for the moment that we have given up our core principles in favour of a more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment ... Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy ...

    “(But) this spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more. And I say the sooner, the better.”

    With files from The Associated Press

    Retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake slams Trump for disregarding ‘truth and decency’Retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake slams Trump for disregarding ‘truth and decency’

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    A man accused of murdering a young Toronto woman who vanished five years ago got into a testy exchange in court today with the woman’s former boyfriend.

    Dellen Millard, who is representing himself in the first-degree murder trial, cross-examined Shawn Lerner, frequently questioning his recollection of events that followed Laura Babcock’s disappearance.

    The Crown alleges Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., murdered the 23-year-old woman in the summer of 2012 and burned her remains in an incinerator.

    Read more: Dreadful details come fast and furious on Day 1 of trial into Laura Babcock’s murder: DiManno

    Both have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

    Lerner has testified that he confronted Millard after Babcock went missing to ask about the woman’s final phone calls — all to Millard, according to phone records.

    Lerner has repeatedly said that although it’s been five years since he met Millard at a coffee shop in Mississauga, Ont., his memory of what he called “probably the most important meeting” of his life is clear.

    “Shawn, you don’t like me very much, do you?” Millard asked during his cross-examination.

    “No,” Lerner responded.

    “Do you find me sketchy?” Millard asked.

    “Yes,” Lerner said.

    Court has heard that Lerner spearheaded the search for the missing woman in the summer of 2012. He said he also filed a complaint about Toronto police “fumbling” the missing person’s case early on.

    He said he last heard from Babcock in a text on July 1, 2012, and says he filed a missing persons report with police two weeks after that text. The two broke up about six months before, but maintained a friendship.

    The Crown contends Babcock was killed at Millard’s home for being the odd woman out in a love triangle and her remains were burned a few weeks later in an incinerator at his farm near Waterloo, Ont.

    Millard spent much of his time testing Lerner’s memory, which focused on that meeting at a Starbucks in Mississauga, Ont.

    “I’m trying to get at your memory, your recollection, sir, you told us you have an average memory,” Millard said.

    “I’ve been very explicit about my memory, this was a long time ago, but this was probably the most important meeting of my life and there are things I can remember clearly — and I remember that clearly,” Lerner said.

    At that meeting, Millard denied having anything to do with Babcock’s disappearance and also denied he had a sexual relationship with Babcock.

    “I mentioned that she got into harder drugs, correct?” Millard asked.

    “You mentioned cocaine specifically,” Lerner said.

    “Did I tell you she was looking for a place to stay?” Millard asked.

    “Yes,” Lerner said.

    “Did I tell you that I refused arranging a place to stay for her,” Millard asked.

    “Yes,” Lerner responded.

    Lerner also told court that Babcock had been trying hard to find out what was wrong with her mental health, settling on a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

    He also said she told him she had begun working as an escort in the last month before her disappearance, which he said he didn’t approve.

    He also told court he paid for a hotel for two nights in late June 2012 as she had become transient and living with friends for short intervals.

    Babcock’s body has never been found.

    Dellen Millard got into a testy exchange in court with Laura Babcock’s ex-boyfriendDellen Millard got into a testy exchange in court with Laura Babcock’s ex-boyfriend

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    WASHINGTON—The news out of Washington last week was dominated by the fallout from President Donald Trump’s lies about his interactions with the families of fallen soldiers.

    There were other Trump whoppers that didn’t get discussed. Oh, were there other whoppers.

    The president uttered 57 — 57! — false claims from Monday through Sunday. His astonishing output shattered his old record for most false claims in a week in office, 40, which he had set just three weeks prior.

    Why was Trump so especially dishonest in this week of all weeks? It might just have been because he was talking a lot. He did a long interview with Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo (11 false claims), a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (10 false claims), interviews with five conservative talk radio hosts (20 false claims total), and several other public events. As per usual, he repeated some of his false claims over and over — saying seven times, for example, that the U.S. is the world’s highest-taxed country, though it is nowhere close.

    All together, he made 777 false claims over his first 276 days in office — an average of 2.8 false claims per day.

    Trump has proven uniquely willing to lie, exaggerate and mislead. By all expert accounts, he is more frequently inaccurate than any of his predecessors.

    Read more: GOP Senator Bob Corker calls Donald Trump an ‘utterly untruthful president,’ says he is ‘debasing’ the U.S.

    We are keeping track. Below is a list of every false claim Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20.

    Why call them false claims, not lies? We can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional; in some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not telling the truth.

    Last updated: Oct. 24, 2017

    With 57 false claims, Donald Trump shatters his one-week record for dishonestyWith 57 false claims, Donald Trump shatters his one-week record for dishonesty

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    SUDBURY—‎The byelection bribery trial of two Liberals came to an abrupt end Tuesday as a judge took the rare step of dismissing Election Act charges against them for lack of evidence.

    The acquittal lifts a cloud of suspicion hanging over Patricia Sorbara — former deputy chief of staff to Premier Kathleen Wynne — and local Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed for more than two years.

    “One who seeks to be a party's nominee is not running in a general election,” Judge Howard Borenstein ruled in a 40-minute decision read to the court.

    Sorbara and Lougheed were accused of offering prospective candidate Andrew Olivier jobs or posts to quit his push for the Liberal nomination in a 2015 byelection, making way for Wynne’s choice, defecting New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault, now her energy minister.

    Sorbara faced an additional charge of offering paid campaign jobs to two of Thibeault’s NDP office staff as an inducement for Thibeault to leave federal politics and join Wynne’s team.

    She was acquitted on that because Borenstein said he “cannot see how employing two entrusted staff” violates the act when bribery is commonly described as “an element of dishonesty.”

    Sorbara cried and hugged her legal team after the verdict, and Lougheed was visibly relieved at the decision.

    A visibly relieved Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told the Star he was pleased by the verdict.

    “It's great news,” said Thibeault, adding he will more to say Wednesday.

    The dramatic ruling followed an application from defence lawyers Michael Lacy, Brian Greenspan and Erin Dann for a directed verdict after the Crown finished presenting its case. No defence witnesses had been called pending the judge’s decision.

    The defence argued evidence from witnesses in court last month showed Thibeault had agreed to become the candidate before Sorbara and Lougheed approached Olivier with opportunities to stay involved in the party after he was passed over, meaning there was no official nomination race.

    They also maintained the Election Act does not apply to “private” nomination races governed by the constitutions of political parties.

    Sorbara and Lougheed faced fines of up to $25,000 and maximum jail time of two years less a day under the charges, which were not criminal.

    It’s the second time Lougheed has been cleared following an Ontario Provincial Police investigation.

    Criminal charges against the wealthy local funeral home owner and philanthropist were stayed in 2016, several months before the lesser Election Act charges were laid against him and Sorbara. She had not been charged previously.

    Moments after the verdict, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, whose party has been airing attack ads on the Sudbury trial, said “this whole episode is but one part of a consistent pattern of political corruption.”

    “We’re worried about what they’ve been able to keep hidden and are fearful of what scandal will come next,” said Brown, who was recently served with a notice of libel from Wynne for claiming she was on “trial”in Sudbury.

    NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson, who attended parts of the trial, complained that the Liberals “got off on a technicality.”

    “I don’t see this as a great news story for the government,” Bisson told reporters at the Legislature.

    “They can wrap this as a victory if they want,” he said, adding the Liberals lost “in the court of public opinion.”

    The probes by the OPP and Elections Ontario began after Bisson and his Progressive Conservative counterpart Steve Clark called on authorities to investigate allegations from Olivier.

    Olivier released tapes of recorded conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara, accusing them of trying to reward him for not contesting the February 2015 byelection called after New Democrat MPP Joe Cimino unexpectedly quit five months into his term.

    Olivier ran for the Liberals in the June 2014 provincial election but placed second to Cimino, who gained the seat held for 19 years by retired Liberal MPP and cabinet minister Rick Bartolucci.

    “I will not be bullied, I will not be bought,” a spurned Olivier told a Sudbury news conference after revealing he had talked with Wynne, Sorbara and Lougheed and told he would not be the candidate.

    Wynne testified at the trial that Olivier had not been a “strong” flag-bearer for the Liberals in 2014 after losing the party stronghold to the NDP.

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

    Another is of Sorbara telling Olivier: “We should have the broader discussion about what is it that you’d be most interested in doing . . . whether it’s a full-time or part-time job in a (constituency) office, whether it is appointments, supports or commissions . . . .”

    Olivier, a successful mortgage broker, who was injured playing hockey years ago and became a quadriplegic, records conversations because he cannot take notes.

    According to the Election Act, “no person shall, directly or indirectly, give, procure or promise or agree to procure an office or employment to induce a person to become a candidate, refrain from becoming a candidate or withdraw his or her candidacy.”

    With files from Robert Benzie

    Judge dismisses charges against Liberals in Sudbury byelection trialJudge dismisses charges against Liberals in Sudbury byelection trial

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    After revelation that four huskies belonging to a top musher tested positive for an opioid painkiller, there are renewed concerns about inhumane treatment of animals involved in the race.

    Animal-rights activists say dog-doping scandal proves Iditarod ‘needs to end’Animal-rights activists say dog-doping scandal proves Iditarod ‘needs to end’Animal-rights activists say dog-doping scandal proves Iditarod ‘needs to end’Animal-rights activists say dog-doping scandal proves Iditarod ‘needs to end’

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    The government will use the bigger-than-expected boost to its bottom line to give families more breaks, not chart a path to a balanced budget.

    Lower deficits, better growth mean breaks for families: fedsLower deficits, better growth mean breaks for families: feds

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    Weedora advertises itself as a text-message based service, delivering marijuana to your door.

    Toronto parent angered by flyer promoting weed delivery serviceToronto parent angered by flyer promoting weed delivery service

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    The Liberals’ victory on Monday would suggest that Quebecers — even in the nationalist heartland — are mostly done with voting for a permanent federal opposition party.

    Liberals byelection win in Quebec spells trouble for other federal parties: HébertLiberals byelection win in Quebec spells trouble for other federal parties: Hébert

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    “It is not because you are the Attorney General of Canada that you can act as if the Rules do no apply. This is not acceptable,” Justice Simon Noël told government lawyers in a September conference call, according to a transcript obtained by the Star.

    Judge slams Ottawa for delays over $35-million CSIS lawsuit alleging workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobiaJudge slams Ottawa for delays over $35-million CSIS lawsuit alleging workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobia

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    After Laura Babcock's disappearance, her ex-boyfriend Shawn Lerner went so far as to file a complaint about what he felt was a deficient police investigation.

    A good guy emerges at grim trial into Laura Babcock’s murder: DiMannoA good guy emerges at grim trial into Laura Babcock’s murder: DiManno

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    When it comes to political scandals, Ontario’s Liberals have made legal history.

    Not just not guilty. Not even close.

    An extremely rare “directed verdict” from a judge throwing out the prosecution’s unfounded case before the defence needed to even defend itself. Because “no reasonable jury” could possibly fathom a conviction in this three-year-old case that the Ontario Provincial Police, the opposition parties and some pundits had described as a slam dunk from the first.

    And so for the first time in the 27-year history of Ontario’s Election Act, a judge has said, in so many words, that the law is an ass. Especially in the hands of the OPP and Crown prosecutors who surely should have known better.

    Read more:

    Judge dismisses charges in Sudbury byelection trial

    PC leader Patrick Brown fires back at Wynne’s libel threat

    Judge questions merits of charge against former top Wynne staffer in Sudbury byelection trial

    Two Liberal party warhorses — one working in the premier’s office, the other a Sudbury kingpin — faced bizarre allegations of bribery and influence-peddling merely for playing politics in a local byelection. Their supposed crimes?

    Persuading and dissuading.

    They tried to persuade Glenn Thibeault, a star candidate from the federal NDP caucus in Ottawa, to run for the Liberals in a provincial byelection. And they tried to dissuade a local aspirant with a far dimmer star — Andrew Olivier lost in the previous general election — from fracturing party unity, instead urging him to go off quietly (because the premier would never sign his nomination papers anyway).

    In a dramatic judgment delivered Tuesday, a judge tried to explain to OPP investigators and Crown prosecutors what they never learned in police college and law school:

    That there’s a difference between wooing and bribing a star candidate.

    And that pacifying a disappointed aspirant — urging him to remain active and involved — can’t be twisted into influence-peddling.

    That may be too nuanced for our opposition parties, who now understand their jobs to be forever opposing everything, even if always overreaching. Smelling blood, it was the New Democratic Party that first called in the cops as part of their continuing campaign, in league with the Progressive Conservatives, to criminalize the governing Liberals.

    When a judge called it all off this week, the NDP and Tories still wouldn’t give up. They claimed the Liberals had gotten off on a “technicality” — if that’s what you call the absurdity that the judge methodically laid out in his decision.

    This was never a complicated case, despite feverish attempts by the NDP, OPP, and Crown to raise it to a higher level. Like many perceived transgressions, this one first went viral on social media, when a disgruntled Olivier revealed in a Facebook posting that he’d recorded Premier Kathleen Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, Patricia Sorbara, and local Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed, offering him volunteer or paid positions if he would play ball.

    It is in the nature of most Ontarians to ignore provincial politics most of the time. Even when people pay attention, it’s usually from a distance.

    The big eye-catching headline was Sudbury bribery. But there less to the case than met the eye.

    Volunteer party jobs aren’t exactly bribery. Being invited to apply for a job as a constituency assistant — which typically pays $35,000 to $45,000 a year — hardly qualifies as big money.

    The tape recordings were certainly awkward, as most private conversations can be when aired in public — just ask the Tories, for example, if they’d be OK with transcripts of their own conversations being released. Out of context, anything can sound like everything, but police and prosecutors are meant to dig deeper than Facebook postings.

    Instead, they laid criminal charges against Lougheed — a prominent fundraiser in Sudbury for the Liberals, but also a famously generous donor to local medical facilities — before having second thoughts and downgrading the allegations to provincial offences under the loose language of the Election Act. They also roped in Sorbara, accusing her of inducing Thibeault to quit the NDP and join the Liberals for the price of a couple of short-term jobs for old staffers that amounted to a few thousand dollars.

    As I wrote last year, when the police were still in hot pursuit: “It’s easy to confuse democracy with criminality, and to conflate take-no-prisoners campaigning with bribery and skulduggery. But any informed reading of the Elections Act makes it clear that it was written to guard against influence peddlers trying to pervert the course of democracy by buying off corrupt politicians, not political operators trying to recruit winning talent to their team (while ridding themselves of losers).”

    By dragging it out for years, the police did undeniable damage to the reputations of Lougheed, Sorbara and Thibeault (who was never charged despite being sullied). And tarnished the Liberal party in the process.

    In so doing, the OPP did the work of the NDP and the PCs — not deliberately, but inadvertently. And the Crown did a disservice to us all by failing to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to crumple up the charge sheet before their case crumbled in court.

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

    Ontario’s Liberals make legal history in Sudbury bribery trial: CohnOntario’s Liberals make legal history in Sudbury bribery trial: Cohn

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    OTTAWA—Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he “of course” participated in government discussions around the decision to give Bombardier’s C Series and Global 7000 aircraft programs a $372.5-million repayable loan last winter.

    Morneau dismissed as absurd comments made to the Star by Opposition critics that he should have recused himself from those discussions since he continued to hold shares in Morneau Shepell, which has the contract to run some, but not all, of Bombardier’s pension regimes.

    Morneau Shepell, the company the finance minister used to run, is one of Canada’s largest administrators of pension and benefits plans, a point underlined by Morneau.

    Read More:

    Why it’s wrong to villainize Morneau

    Morneau Shepell ties to Bombardier flag ‘minefield’ for finance minister: Opposition critics

    Morneau commits to selling off 1 million shares in his former company

    In brief comments to the Star in a lockup for reporters on his fall economic update, Morneau said that when he stepped down as executive chairman of the company after he was elected in November 2015, Morneau Shepell had some 20,000 clients across Canada.

    He suggested he didn’t know all of the corporate clients, and a communications adviser standing with him added that in any event the conflict of interest screen that Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson had urged upon him was in place.

    That screen, Morneau’s office said on Monday, “protects against conflicts arising from dealings specifically with or related to Morneau Shepell, and each instance is reported directly to the Ethics commissioner.”

    A source told the Star that Bombardier’s contract with Morneau Shepell to administer benefits for some of its workers has been in place for more than a decade and there has been no substantial change since the 2015 election.

    Neither Morneau Shepell nor Bombardier would discuss their contract.

    Morneau says he remembered “at least two times” being taken out of meetings, and was unaware of any requirement to report the recusals. Dawson’s office confirmed to the Star Tuesday that Morneau’s office has reported no recusals to it.

    Dawson only publishes “recusals” or instances when the screen fails to work in advance to prevent the minister’s participation in a discussion in which he could have a conflict of interest — and he has to step out of, or recuse, from the discussion.

    Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said in an interview Tuesday Morneau “exposed himself to a long list of real or perceived conflicts of interest” in hanging onto his $20 million in Morneau Shepell shares, and the Bombardier loan raises concerns in his view.

    “When a finance minister forks over $372 million to a corporation like Bombardier, Canadians deserve to know he’s doing it in their interests, not because of some other unknown reason.”

    “The Bombardier bailout has turned into an absolute disaster,” Poilievre said. “Since it was announced, the executives have given themselves pay increases and they’re laying off 14,000 people. Now, we learn that their most cherished plane is being sold off to European investors.” (Airbus is taking a controlling interest in Bombardier’s C Series program, with no money or debt exchanging hands.)

    “It’s very hard to see how all of this handout to Bombardier was in the public interest. So whose interests were involved in this terrible decision?”

    NDP ethics critic Nathan Cullen echoed similar concerns.

    “I’m not sure what’s worse: the transgression or refusing to admit there was a problem in the first place.”

    “When it appears to be a conflict to everybody else except the person involved, you know you have a problem with the person involved and with the so-called ethical screen you could drive a truck through. He receives benefit from the decisions he’s making. He’s involved in conversations that he should not be involved in,” said Cullen, adding Morneau refuses to answer whether he was recused on C27 (a pension reform bill).

    Last week, Morneau announced he would place his all his assets in a blind trust and move to sell some one million Morneau-Shepell shares — worth about $20.6 million and held by an Alberta numbered corporation — in an arm’s length transaction under the guidance of Dawson.

    He meets with her Wednesday to discuss his next steps in that process, he told CBC.

    Bill Morneau dismisses objections to his participation in Bombardier loan discussionsBill Morneau dismisses objections to his participation in Bombardier loan discussions

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump talks about terminating NAFTA as if that would be as easy for him to do as firing off a tweet or ordering a second scoop of ice cream.

    Some experts agree with him. But a bunch don’t.

    These experts say it is only Congress, not the president, that has the authority to kill the North American trade pact. If Trump tried, in other words, they believe he could be blocked by pro-NAFTA legislators.

    The vigorous debate is taking place in corporate boardrooms, legal offices and think tanks across the continent. Once a matter of mere academic interest, it may now have huge stakes for Canada. And everybody involved agrees on just one thing: it will probably be decided by judges.

    “I think the only certainty is that if Trump were to go ahead and withdraw, or purport to withdraw, there would be lawsuits immediately. And probably injunctions. And this thing will be tied up in courts for a while,” said Matthew Kronby, a Toronto trade lawyer with Bennett Jones and former director general of Canada’s Trade Law Bureau.

    “I have spoken as recently as yesterday with a lawyer at a prominent U.S. law firm where one lawyer has looked at it and had a particular view — he thought the president did have the authority to do so unilaterally — but he acknowledged that there were several other people in his firm that came to the opposite conclusion,” Kronby said.

    The question is especially important because of the vast gulf between the views of Trump and many of his Republican colleagues on the subject. As Trump has derided NAFTA as the worst trade deal in world history, several senior Republicans have been outspokenly supportive of the agreement.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers have courted American legislators, but they say they aren’t counting on Congress to save the day. The government’s read of the situation, an official said on condition of anonymity, is that Trump could probably dump the deal with a stroke of his pen.

    “That is obviously just completely uncharted legal territory. So it’s difficult to know what would exactly happen … But for our purposes, we do kind of believe there’s a pretty good chance that he could just do this,” the Canadian official said.

    Read more:Thousands of Canadians live in the U.S. on NAFTA permits. So what happens if Trump kills the treaty?

    There is yet more disagreement on a related subject: what would happen next if the agreement were indeed terminated in one way or another.

    The official said the Canadian government has concluded that the old Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which contained many of the same provisions as NAFTA, would snap back into force if NAFTA went away. They point out that the Canada-U.S. agreement was merely suspended with an exchange of diplomatic notes, rather than deleted, when NAFTA was created.

    Jon Johnson, a C.D. Howe Institute senior fellow who worked for Canada on both agreements, agreed that the old deal would snap back automatically if NAFTA vanished — but he said “it would be a mess” requiring further action, since some important provisions, such as those on auto manufacturing, are different. Kronby, meanwhile, said he was not convinced the snap-back would be automatic; Trump, he said, might have to issue some sort of executive order to make it happen.

    And then there’s a third possibility.

    “Obviously, I guess (Trump) could theoretically withdraw from both at the same time,” the Canadian official said.

    The unresolved questions have taken on increasing urgency as NAFTA talks have faltered on account of Trump demands the Canadian and Mexican governments consider unreasonable. Canada and the U.S. traded public criticism at the end of the fourth round in Washington last week.

    Trump has consistently promised to terminate the agreement if he cannot secure a new deal. In a television interview on Sunday, he sounded slightly less enthused than usual about the possibility of termination, saying: “It will probably be renegotiated. But if it’s not successfully renegotiated so it’s fair for the United States, it will be terminated.”

    Trump regularly makes dramatic threats he does not plan to carry out. But he has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to make sharp breaks with existing international agreements. In his first nine months, he has abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accord while taking steps to weaken the Iran nuclear deal.

    The confusion over his threat to kill NAFTA is a product of the uniqueness of the situation. No court has ruled on the powers involved in terminating trade deals because the first and only time the U.S. terminated a deal was in 1866, the year before Canada came into existence.

    The issue is so complicated because it involves the U.S. Constitution and multiple ambiguous laws.

    NAFTA itself says “a party” can withdraw from the agreement after giving the other countries six months of notice. But it does not say whether the president himself counts as the U.S. “party” or whether he needs the endorsement of Congress.

    The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.” (Point: Congress.) It also gives the president various powers over foreign affairs more generally. (Point: Trump.) Section 125 of the 1974 Trade Act, in which Congress grants various trade powers to the president, says “every trade agreement … shall be subject to termination” — but that sentence, unlike others, does not specifically identify the president as the person who can do the terminating. (Point: who knows.)

    The only thing that seems certain in the event Trump begins the six-month notice period is the kind of uncertainty businesses hate.

    “Companies are going to become much more conservative in their business planning. And we’ll see those impacts all the way down the supply chains,” said Dan Ujczo, an Ohio trade lawyer with Dickinson Wright. “Uncertainty equals conservative business planning.”

    Can Donald Trump actually kill NAFTA? You’re not the only one who’s unsure: AnalysisCan Donald Trump actually kill NAFTA? You’re not the only one who’s unsure: Analysis

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  • 10/24/17--21:06: Article 7

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    Toronto police issued a handful of warnings about the risks of social media for teens at a town hall event Tuesday that drew more than 50 concerned parents and residents to Rosedale United Church.

    The event, organized by the North Rosedale and neighbouring residents associations, was an opportunity for the community to discuss safety and social media use among midtown teenagers following a series of park parties in the neighbourhood that turned violent.

    Staff Sgt. James Hogan of Toronto Police’s 53 Division said slower response time to complaints about noisy parties is largely a result of stretched resources. The police spend thousands of hours responding to mental health calls, which is important he noted, but can tie them up for hours at hospital because they can’t hand over custody. Those types of things can delay response to events like noisy parties, which he described as a mid-priority call.

    Read more:

    Toronto’s Gossip Girl website scrutinized after ‘Rosedale Jam’ park party stabbing

    Community mourns boy fatally stabbed in Stan Wadlow Park

    However, police responded to a call about a robbery that took place at one park party this fall in five minutes, he said.

    Providing as much information about a call can help police determine its priority listing. A call about drug use or intoxicated or unconscious teenagers will be given a higher priority than one about a noisy party, Hogan said.

    “We can’t be effective if we don’t know what we need to know,” he said.

    While teen parties themselves are nothing new, both Hogan and his colleague, Const. Alex Li, who works in crime prevention and community relations at 53 Division, said news of parties can spread much further through social media.

    “The internet and social media have no boundaries,” Li said, adding that people with even a little tech savvy can find out where they are and people from outside the local area are making their way there.

    “I am concerned about it,” said Victoria Elliott, who brought her 13-year old son, Kalen Gibbons, to the event with her so he could hear what the police and others had to say.

    “When you hear of a child being stabbed who’s only 15 in your neighbourhood, yeah that’s a little bit worrisome I would say,” Elliott said, noting she has two older stepdaughters who used to attend parties in Rosedale and the ravine.

    “They said there were a lot of kids who would be really messed up,” she said.

    “As a parent, especially now with social media you don’t always know where they are, they can tell one friend about something and then the next thing you know a hundred of those people’s friends and other friends end up showing up,” she said, adding she wished more teens had come to event Tuesday evening.

    A handout provided at the town hall shows the number of robberies in the Rosedale-Moore neighbourhood in the last year has increased. By this time last year 12 robberies had taken place, versus 19 this year, a 58 per cent increase. The number of break-and-enters and assaults have also increased by 18 and 5 per cent respectively. The year-over-year rate of reported sexual assault, meanwhile, decreased by 50 per cent and auto theft went down 60 per cent.

    Jessica Green, who runs a public relations company, offered tips for how to use social media safely and positively.

    Always think before you post, she said. Ask yourself is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? And finally, is it kind?

    Nothing on social media can ever be truly deleted, she said, adding they’re either stored on a server somewhere or may have been screen-capped.

    “We can see how deleting tweets has worked for Donald Trump,” she said. “Not so well.”

    The town-hall followed a series of parties in the area that resulted in robberies and other criminal activity, including one that local teen gossip site Miss Informed dubbed the “Rosedale Jam” on Sept. 16.

    Several emergency calls were made that night from the Rosedale Park area reporting stabbings, assaults, robberies and unconscious teens. The party had been advertised across social media.

    The suspects include eight to 10 teens wearing hoodies and bandanas across their faces and police believe they’ve attended several parties to conduct similar robberies.

    Fifteen-year-old Isaiah Witt was stabbed and killed at another party on Oct. 7 at Stan Wadlow Park, which police confirmed Tuesday is being investigated as part of their larger investigation into park parties in the area. Four men were arrested and two men aged 18 and 19 are facing second-degree murder charges.

    A statement posted to Miss Informed on Friday said though the site doesn’t take responsibility for the parties, it wouldn’t be posting about the events anymore.

    With files from Victoria Gibson, Samantha Beattie, and Tamar Harris

    Toronto police warn of social media risks for teens after string of parties turn violentToronto police warn of social media risks for teens after string of parties turn violent

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    Ontario’s Early Years Centres are getting a rebranding — and 100 new locations.

    The province on Tuesday announced that it will be opening the new “EarlyON” sites over the next three years, and renaming existing sites, spending $140 million a year.

    Like the current Ontario Early Years parenting and literacy centres — which can be located in local schools — families will be able to access programs for young children and parenting supports.

    “Our new EarlyON centres will be innovative hubs for early years programs and services for families,” said Indira Naidoo-Harris, the minister responsible for early years and child care, in a written statement.

    “These family centres are part of our transformative plan to give all children the best possible start in life. They will be a vital resource for thousands of families and children in our communities.”

    Education Minister Mitzie Hunter called the centres a “one-stop shop, for parents and families, offering helpful information, programs and services — while supporting our vision for child care in Ontario and preparing our youngest learners for future success.”

    EarlyON Child and Family Centres will be the new name for early years centres, parenting and family literacy centres, child-care resource centres and “Better Beginnings, Better Futures,” all provincially funded initiatives.

    The early years centres, which target families with children from birth to age 6, were first opened 15 years ago. Programming is free of charge.

    Ontario’s Early Years Centres opening 100 new locations, will be rebranded Ontario’s Early Years Centres opening 100 new locations, will be rebrandedOntario’s Early Years Centres opening 100 new locations, will be rebranded Ontario’s Early Years Centres opening 100 new locations, will be rebranded

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    WASHINGTON—A Republican stood on the Senate floor Tuesday and delivered a detailed indictment of just about everything about the Republican president.

    Declaring that he must answer to his children and grandchildren, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said he could not “stay silent” about Donald Trump’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified behaviour” — or about his party colleagues’ “complicity” in supporting a president who is a threat to America’s values and future.

    “None of this is normal,” Flake said.

    “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country,” he said. “The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.”

    Trump’s “anger and resentment,” Flake said, “are not a governing philosophy.” Invoking Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan and cries of “fake news,” Flake said, “We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake.”

    “Mr. President, I rise today to say: enough,” Flake said.

    It was an extraordinary moment, seemingly written for the history books, that might, under other circumstances, have suggested that Trump was losing control of the party he took over.

    But the day as a whole might have actually demonstrated that Trump’s grip is strengthening, not weakening. Flake gave his speech minutes after he effectively conceded defeat to Trump by announcing he would not be seeking re-election in 2018 — and, afterward, he received little support from fellow senators.

    Read more:Key Republican senator calls Donald Trump an ‘utterly untruthful president,’ says he is ‘debasing’ the U.S.

    Flake, a seven-term House member in his first term in the Senate, is a traditional conservative who has boasted high scores from right-wing advocacy groups. But he had alienated many of his own voters by criticizing Trump in a book he published earlier in the year. And he acknowledged that his pro-trade, pro-immigration stances, once standard in the party, put him out of step in the Trump era.

    “There may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party,” he told the Arizona Republic.

    Flake’s poll numbers in Arizona had plummeted, and pro-Trump Republican strategists like Steve Bannon had been plotting to defeat him. He acknowledged Tuesday that it would have been hard to win his party primary.

    “He had pissed off so many of the conservatives here,” said Laurence Schiff, a psychiatrist and self-described “Trump guy” who chairs the Republican committee in Arizona’s Mohave County. He said Flake was too supportive of illegal immigrants; voters there, he said, want a hard line, including Trump’s giant wall on the Mexican border.

    “I don’t think Jeff Flake is particularly conservative,” Schiff said. “I think that Flake had pissed off so many of the Republicans that an awful lot of people who weren’t going to vote for (Democratic candidate) Kyrsten Sinema were going to sit home.”

    Republican members of Congress who do plan to run again have been reluctant to criticize Trump, even as they have been privately scathing, out of fear of alienating such voters. Just as they remained largely silent in response to former president George W. Bush’s criticism of Trump last week, they did not did not appear moved by Flake’s call to vocal action.

    “As a Republican, I’m proud of our former presidential candidates and retiring senators. About our active politicians, I’m not so sure,” conservative writer Bill Kristol, a Trump critic, wrote on Twitter.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has avoided criticism of Trump, called Flake a “very fine man.” But neither McConnell nor other Republican leaders endorsed any of the substance of Flake’s remarks. Nor did they offer backup to the other retiring senator who castigated Trump hours earlier.

    In a lengthy attack of his own, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lambasted Trump as “utterly untruthful” after the president tweeted a false claim about the senator’s role in Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Trump, Corker said, is “debasing” the country and “obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”

    House Speaker Paul Ryan brushed off Corker’s words as part of a mere Twitter feud. He urged people to focus on the Republicans’ legislative priority of the moment: tax reform.

    “That’s what matters. So all this stuff you see on a daily basis on Twitter this and Twitter that, forget about it. Let’s focus on helping people,” he said.

    Flake’s decision to abandon the Senate leaves Trump to contend, for a year, with three Republican senators who strongly dislike him and no longer need his support. (The other Arizona senator, John McCain, has terminal brain cancer; Corker has also announced he will not run.) With a 52-member caucus, Trump can only afford to lose two party members on any given vote to execute his agenda.

    In the long run, though, the departures of Flake and Corker will almost certainly move the party closer to Trump’s own views. While Democrats have a chance to win Flake’s seat, the top candidate for the Republican nomination is a staunchly pro-Trump former state senator, Kelli Ward.

    “It’s not like Corker was this liberal trapped inside the Republican Party. He was a moderately conservative internationalist. And that he can’t find a place in the Republican Party is bizarre by historical standards. That’s what the Republican Party stood for in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s,” said Terry Sullivan, a University of North Carolina political science professor who studies the presidency.

    Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, dismissed Flake’s criticism as petty “grandstanding.” And she celebrated his decision to leave the Senate with a pointed jab, saying it was “probably a good move” in light of the “lack of support that he has from the people of Arizona.”

    Trump, meanwhile, attacked Corker again on Twitter — mocking his height once more.

    “People like liddle’ Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back,” the president wrote. “Now we move forward.”

    ‘None of this is normal’: Republican Sen. Jeff Flake delivers a blistering indictment of Donald Trump’s presidency‘None of this is normal’: Republican Sen. Jeff Flake delivers a blistering indictment of Donald Trump’s presidency

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    With the legalization of pot scheduled for next year, a cannabis delivery company is advertising its services by distributing hot pink flyers to city mailboxes amid complaints questioning its methods.

    Riverdale resident Pauline Stanley received an advertisement late last week from Weedora, offering seven free grams of marijuana with the purchase of one ounce of a “high end” strain. Interested parties would reach out via text message for service.

    Stanley, a mother of two children, aged 9 and 14, reached out to the company under an alias to gather more information. She said prices for an ounce — with names such as “Chemo Kush,” or “UK Cheese 2.0” — are $150 to $250.

    Stanley said there’s a school down the street from her home, adding she’s frustrated that a technically illegal recreational drug market can operate unchecked and indiscriminately appeal to youth.

    “My door is not a nightclub,” she said. “There are all kinds of school-age kids in the neighbourhood, so how many of these (flyers) were nabbed by teenagers? It’s pretty inviting.

    “When I got it, I thought this must be illegal and intrusive,” Stanley said.

    Stanley said the advertisement isn’t for medical purposes. The company’s website doesn’t specify. It does state that buyers must be 19 or older to order.

    “It is our mission to give cannabis lovers the best strains grown by local farmers for the most affordable prices, delivered right to your door in the GTA,” reads the company’s mission statement.

    The federal government is planning to follow through with plans to legalize recreational pot on July 1, 2018. Ontario has signalled that cannabis will be sold from LCBO outlets or through a government-operated server.

    Mark Pugash, director of communications at the Toronto Police Service, said the issue is on the force’s radar, but declined to comment.

    A request by the Star for an interview with the unnamed owner of Weedora was declined.

    By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the company’s website showed that about 750 people had visited.

    “It normalizes drug use, in the eyes of children,” Stanley said.

    Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth) said Stanley’s concerns are warranted, adding that the crackdown of dispensaries in Toronto has forced the marijuana market to shift its strategy and continue working in a protracted grey zone.

    “It is technically advertising an illegal product for somebody to bring it to your house,” she said. “The marijuana industry is a very smart, savvy, large industry that will find other ways to distribute until the regulation comes into play.”

    Fletcher said her ward has seen dispensaries pop up, tolerated by her constituents for a spell, and eventually shut down.

    “It’s the wild, wild west,” she said. “I believe there must be regulation. This gray area is unfair to everybody, at this point. I think the police need to act a little more swiftly.”

    Toronto parent angered by flyer promoting weed delivery serviceToronto parent angered by flyer promoting weed delivery service

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