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- 10/27/17--06:23: _Highway 401 eastbou...
- 10/27/17--11:57: _Australian dual cit...
- 10/27/17--12:32: _‘They are approachi...
- 10/27/17--09:13: _Trial hears about b...
- 10/27/17--08:45: _Live near a busy ro...
- 10/27/17--13:54: _MPPs unanimously pa...
- 10/27/17--14:46: _Canada suspends mil...
- 10/27/17--13:47: _Uber testing autono...
- 10/27/17--13:05: _Mom whose overdose ...
- 10/27/17--11:57: _IT consultant hired...
- 10/27/17--14:30: _Canada recognizes o...
- 10/27/17--14:44: _Trial into Laura Ba...
- 10/27/17--13:23: _45 made, 18 kept: T...
- 10/27/17--15:13: _Maritimes’ softwood...
- 10/27/17--15:31: _The more equivocal ...
- 10/27/17--15:27: _White House stands ...
- 10/27/17--15:35: _Push to see value-f...
- 10/27/17--16:00: _Trust Project: How ...
- 10/27/17--15:35: _CSIS says harassmen...
- 10/27/17--19:20: _Charges filed in sp...
- 10/27/17--13:47: Uber testing autonomous cars in Toronto
- 10/27/17--13:05: Mom whose overdose photo went viral is ‘thankful’ cop posted picture
- 10/27/17--15:35: Push to see value-for-money analysis of Scarborough subway rejected
- 10/27/17--16:00: Trust Project: How the Star’s census coverage came together
Firefighters and air ambulance were on scene and it may take most of the day to re-open the highway, police said.
Highway 401 eastbound lanes near Cedar Creek closed after deadly crash
Australia’s High Court on Friday disqualified the deputy prime minister and four senators for holding dual citizenship at the time of their election, violating a 116-year-old constitutional ban. The government holds a single-seat majority.
Australian dual citizenship ruling might trigger coalition government’s collapse
The declaration of independence followed immediately by Madrid’s move to seize control sets up a weekend showdown in Spain’s worst constitutional crisis since it embraced democracy in 1978. Here’s what to expect.
‘They are approaching a cliff’: What’s next for Spain after Catalonia’s declaration of independence
A witness in the trial of two men accused of killing Laura Babcock says he met the young woman at a bar in Toronto’s west end in the summer of 2012 and she asked to move in with him right away.
Trial hears about bitter feud in alleged love triangle involving Laura Babcock
Toronto’s medical officer of health estimates dirty air causes 1,300 premature deaths and says vehicle emissions are the reason.
Live near a busy road? Your odds of getting sick or dying just got higher
A move in the Ontario Legislature to condemn the 1937 Rape of Nanking by Japanese invaders is making waves across the Pacific.
MPPs unanimously pass motion to commemorate victims of Nanjing massacre
Canadian special forces have provided training, advice and assistance to both the Iraqi military and Kurdish peshmerga for the last three years.
Canada suspends military aid to Iraqi, Kurdish forces amid outbreak of hostilities
Two autonomous Uber cars that have been on Toronto’s streets since August are now periodically driving by themselves, Uber said Friday.
Uber testing autonomous cars in Toronto
Erika Hurt has reposted the picture to Facebook to celebrate one year of sobriety, and credits the incident with changing her life.
Mom whose overdose photo went viral is ‘thankful’ cop posted picture
Peter Faist, the common law spouse of a top aide to former premier Dalton McGuinty, signed the deal three years ago during the police investigation of the gas plant scandal.
IT consultant hired to clean hard drives in McGuinty’s office tells court he had immunity deal with police
The Canadian prime minister made his remarks after the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona passed a motion unilaterally establishing a new country.
Canada recognizes one united Spain amid Catalonia dispute, Trudeau says
A couple of gal-pals on a shopping stroll in Bloor West Village. Hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious to send that bitch a nasty birthday text? LOL.
“A year ago today was the first time I slept with Dellen.’’
That poison dart was from Christine Noudga on Feb. 12, 2012, the day Laura Babcock turned 23.
Babcock, no social media slouch, zinged right back.
“That’s fine. I slept with him a couple of weeks ago.”
Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t.
“Oh, they were sleeping together,” Karoline Shirinian assured court on Friday, plucking insider knowledge from her memory data bank of The Dating Files. “But he seemed to have no interest in pursuing a relationship with her.”
Shirinian’s loyalties were clearly towards Noudga, her BFF. Though earlier Babcock had been her BFF.
“First shocked, then upset,” she said, describing Noudga’s reaction to the unexpected tit-for-tat blowback.
“It definitely changed from this is going to be funny to . . . whether there was any truth in it.”
The inner lives of mean girls. Except these weren’t high school teenagers caught up in adolescent mischief. They were all savvy, well-educated women in their early 20s.
Noudga had been dating — “if you can call it that,” Shirinian noted with a smirk — Dellen Millard for a year, since hooking up on the night of Babcock’s 22nd birthday, following a surprise party at Medieval Times thrown by Babcock’s then-boyfriend Shawn Lerner.
Babcock had “dated” Millard in the distant past. Babcock and Shirinian, one-time close friends, were on the outs over some peeve or another, though they would subsequently — in the way of girls who blow hot and cold with each other — reconcile. Babcock was aware that Noudga was involved with Millard but didn’t seem annoyed by it until after her breakup with Lerner.
In fact, Shirinian was inside the close circle of pals who were in contact with Babcock on the last weekend of her life — a Canada Day phone call when the former declined an invitation from the latter to meet up at Rib Fest at Centennial Park. Babcock, whose moods had been swinging wildly for months — one therapist had diagnosed her with borderline personality — was enthusiastic about her new-found gig working for an escort agency. Shirinian suspected Babcock wanted to boast about the men who were paying $250 an hour to spend time in her company. “She was looking to open up her own escort business. She had no embarrassment about what she was doing.”
Shirinian didn’t want to hear anymore about it and passed on getting together. “I wasn’t interested in that type of business so I said no. That really wasn’t for me.”
It is believed that Babcock was murdered on July 3 or 4, her body burned in an industrial incinerator. Her remains have never been found.
Millard and co-accused Mark Smich have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
It is the prosecution’s theory that Babcock was the odd woman out in a romantic triangle with Millard and Noudga. The jury has been told of placating texts Millard sent to a disgruntled Noudga in April, allegedly about Babcock. “First I am going to hurt her. Then I’ll make her leave.” And: “I will remove her from our lives.”
Could the flint for killing really have been sparked by a catty text banged off in a moment of idle spite?
It is unknown whether Noudga will testify at the trial which has just concluded its first week. For now, a glimpse into these internecine relationships is being provided by Shirinian. She’ll be cross-examined Monday by Millard, who is acting as his own lawyer before Justice Michael Code.
Shirinian reinforced what the jury has already heard — that Babcock’s behaviour had become increasingly erratic over the previous six months as she allegedly became more deeply involved with drugs; that she’d quarrelled with her parents over house-rules and many a night would not go home at all; and that she’d explode over small disagreements with friends, causing feuds.
But Shirinian insisted Babcock had no wish to do herself harm. “She wasn’t suicidal. She was not going to kill herself, no, absolutely not.”
Shirinian too had become friends with Millard, once attending a party he hosted inside his private plane’s hangar at Pearson, more often hanging out in the basement of his Maple Gate Court home, fitted with a bar and a bunch of X-boxes connected to TV consoles. Smich, best bro to Millard, would occasionally be there as well.
Babcock and Noudga were reasonably tolerant of each other in those days, said Shirinian. “After Christine started seeing Dellen, sometimes Laura would be OK with it and sometimes she’d lash out, say mean things, send her nasty messages.” Post-Shawn breakup, tensions exacerbated.
Oh sure, Shirinian was aware that Babcock was getting it on with Millard, or so Babcock claimed. Shirinian and Noudga would put their heads together to discuss whether Babcock was being truthful or just blowing smoke. “I would hear it from both sides,” she told Crown attorney Ken Lockhart. “Mainly I think she (Noudga) didn’t believe it.”
Until that damned text got her seriously wondering.
As all this interrelationship heaving and huffing was going on, Babcock was often couch-surfing, floating around town like a tumbleweed. A look-see into her tenuous day-to-day existence in those final months was provided by two earlier witnesses on Friday: An antidote to the meanness of girls in the kindness of strangers. As they tell it anyway.
Jeff Wilson, a TV producer, told court he met Babcock, who aspired to become an actress, at his local watering hole in June or July, 2012. She bent his ear with woeful tales of her predicament. And presto, Wilson offered her a place to stay temporarily. “It was just until she got her stuff together, while she found some work and a place to live.”
After two weeks, with Babcock apparently making no attempt to resolve her issues, Wilson said it was time to go.
“It ended up in tears.”
On cross-examination, Millard asked: “Did she ever tell you she was using your place to work as a prostitute, while you were out?”
No, she hadn’t.
“How did she compensate you for staying there?’’
There was no compensation, Wilson insisted.
Millard: “I’m going to suggest to you that she was trading sex for these things.”
Wilson: “That’s not the case.”
Court heard next from Dr. Sohail Khattak, a 53-year-old pediatrician who specializes in attention deficit disorder.
Khattak met Babcock in, he thinks, early summer of 2012. He’d had dinner with a woman at the roof bar of the Park Hyatt, after which they retired to his room. The woman complained she’d had too much to drink and wanted to take a cab home but didn’t want to make the trip alone. So she called her friend, Laura Babcock, who showed up around 3 a.m.
Subsequently, Khattak met Babcock alone on two more occasions.
“She was a very intelligent girl going through some emotional times.”
Khattak claimed he wanted to help — to the point of giving Babcock the security deposit — first and last month rent, plus another month out of generosity — she needed for an apartment and even offering to co-sign the lease.
At their final meeting, again in his hotel room, Babcock announced that she’d found a place. Then she received a phone call. “She seemed disturbed” by it, said Khattak.
Babcock left. He never saw or heard from her again.
No, he’d never had sex with her, Khattak testified. No, he’d never seen her use drugs.
But the final word on Day 5 of the trial goes to Karoline Shirinian.
About that needling text the ladies sent to Babcock. What does she think of it now?
“I would say it was unnecessary and kind of petty.”
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Trial into Laura Babcock's murder hears of bitter text message exchange: DiManno
During a 300-day campaign in 2014, now-Mayor John Tory made a broad promise to deliver a Toronto that was “more livable, more affordable and more functional.” He also made dozens of specific pledges.
With the third anniversary of his election on Oct. 27 and the next election one year away, the Star checked whether he has kept them.
Our conclusion: of 45 promises, 18 were fulfilled, 13 were broken, nine were still in progress, four were redundant (meaning the government was already doing what Tory had pledged), and one was in limbo (meaning it’s unlikely to progress at all this term).
The Star reviewed policy papers released by Tory’s campaign and public statements made by the now mayor in 2014.
Our accounting focuses on concrete promises, not broad statements. For example, Tory promised, as mayor, he would be an ambassador for youth employment (too broad to check), but specifically promised to double the number of companies participating in a youth-employment program (a promise kept).
In some cases, the promises fulfilled may have been something already in progress or under consideration by city and agency staff, meaning Tory can’t take full credit, although they did happen under his administration.
In an emailed response to this analysis, Tory said: “I ran to restore honesty, integrity and trust in this office, and I believe I’ve done that. It was the first thing I set about doing when I was elected and I have never lost sight of it in my three years here.”
“I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in three years working with council and the other governments: we’re moving forward on cutting traffic; we’re moving forward on building transit; we’re moving forward on building affordable housing and creating more child-care spaces, and we’re doing it all while keeping taxes low.”
ON TRANSIT AND TRANSPORTATION
Tory promised: To build “SmartTrack” – a 53-kilometre “London-style surface rail subway” service with 22 stops primarily on existing GO lines and including a new western spur to the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre in seven years without using city taxpayer funds.
Though Tory has seen elements of SmartTrack advanced by council, it is not what he promised during the campaign. The city is moving forward with a plan to build six new GO stations served by GO trains and a future LRT line towards the airport. One of the GO stations, Lawrence East, is currently under review. Tory’s promise to finance SmartTrack through a risky scheme called tax increment financing — essentially borrowing against property taxes from future development to build now — remains unclear with problems concerning the assumptions made in calculating the financing plan still unresolved.
Tory promised: To start construction of the Scarborough subway extension “immediately.”
Construction on the Scarborough subway has not begun. Some exploratory geotechnical work is being done. When Tory made this promise, candidates were discussing a three-stop plan, which has been scrapped in favour of a one-stop approved alternative introduced under Tory and now estimated to cost at least $3.35 billion. Subject to a further vote of council expected late next year, construction is anticipated to begin in 2020 and finish in the second quarter of 2026.
Tory promised: To provide new express bus service on routes serving, for example, Don Mills Rd., Dufferin St. and for Liberty Village.
Status: In progress.
New express bus service was added in 2016 on five routes, including Don Mills. In June of this year, the TTC board approved a 10-year expansion plan of express service on new and existing routes. New routes to be added in 2019 include one on Dufferin.
Tory promised: To freeze TTC fares in 2015.
Fares increased by 10 cents in 2015. Shortly after his election, Tory recommended the increase to cover proposed TTC improvements, including restoring bus service cut under former mayor Rob Ford. TTC fares have also increased every year thereafter under Tory’s administration. He has promised to support a fare freeze in 2018.
Tory promised: To support a reduced TTC fare for people on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
A “Fair Pass” program was approved by council in 2016, providing discounts for those on ODSP starting in 2018.
Tory promised: To add queue-jumping bus lanes at key intersections outside downtown to improve bus commute times.
Status: In progress.
There are currently two queue-jumping lanes approved for construction in 2018 at Steeles Ave. and Don Mills Rd. and Lake Shore Blvd. and Brown’s Line, a TTC spokesperson confirmed. A third location will be going to council for approval shortly and another 15 are under consideration for future years.
Tory promised: To approve the Gardiner East “hybrid” option that maintains the elevated connection to the Don Valley Parkway.
Tory won a narrow victory in a 2015 council vote to build the hybrid and then amassed wider support in 2016 for the most expensive hybrid option.
Tory promised: To crack down on illegal parking during rush hour.
Though the mayor can’t direct police operations, Tory has encouraged several tag-and-tow blitzes for rush-hour rule breakers and saw police officers deployed to key intersections in 2016.
Tory promised: To form a major route construction coordination committee.
Tory formed a road closures coordination committee in his first year, which continues to meet regularly.
Tory promised: To expand the city’s on-street cycling network, prioritizing separated bike lanes in “sensible locations.”
Status: In progress.
In 2016, council approved a 10-year cycling network planthat would expand the on-street network, but voted against staff recommendations to conduct further studies in major corridors while a Bloor bike lane pilot was ongoing. Council will vote on making the Bloor bike lanes permanent at a meeting next month. Tory supports making the lanes permanent.
Tory promised: To increase the amount of bicycle parking at existing TTC and transit stations as well as on city streets.
In 2016, the TTC added bike parking at six subway stations. Money from the federal government earmarked for TTC improvements, includes plans for 25 new storage stations to roll out starting this November and 15 more early next year.
Tory promised: To ensure bicycle lane maintenance was a separate line item in the budget “so the funding is transparent.”
Bike lane maintenance is grouped together with maintenance for roads, bridges and sidewalks in the transportation services budget.
Tory promised: To develop a tourism cycling strategy, including the expansion of Toronto’s destination cycling trail network.
There is no tourism cycling strategy. Tourism Toronto reported in 2016 that cycling is not a motivator for people to visit Toronto. City staff are pursuing various trail expansion projects as part of the city’s off-street cycling network, which were identified in 2012 before Tory took office.
Tory promised: To form a task force to immediately review and recommend changes to the corporate structure of Toronto Community Housing and report back in July 2015.
As one of his first acts as mayor, Tory appointed a six-person task force, which produced a final report in 2016. The task force recommended, among other things, breaking up the company into separate entities dealing with development and operations.
Tory promised: To address the Toronto Community Housing repair backlog “immediately.”
Status: In progress.
A repair backlog of $1.6 billion remains despite Tory’s ongoing efforts. The city has contributed $1 billion in repair financing, largely through mortgage and other refinancing. The other governments have yet to contribute to a requested one-third share each, despite Tory and the city’s insistence insist that they do so. A revised plan will be debated by council during the 2018 budget process.
Tory promised: To explore financing and incentives to encourage the development of both ownership and rental affordable housing.
Tory launched the Open Door program in 2015, which provides tax breaks and incentives to developers. Since then, the city has invested $121.86 million to encourage the creation of 1,869 rental and 596 home ownership units, none of which are completed yet. Housing advocates have criticized the city’s approach, saying the units remain unaffordable for many.
Tory promised: To “enhance” the Rent Bank program
The Rent Bank program, which provides interest-free loans for those at risk of eviction, is operated by a non-profit agency. Since the demand for those who qualify for the loans and deposits requested have not increased, the program has not expanded and is increasingly self-sustaining.
Tory promised: To provide more cash for community benefits, known as section 37 funds, for affordable housing through the development application process.
The mayor has no direct involvement with these agreements. Since 2014, the amount of cash and number of new units secured through the development process has increased. However, section 37 agreements are negotiated between staff, the developer and the local city councillor and later approved by council.
Tory promised: To increase funding for the rent supplement program
This promise is only barely fulfilled as the result of a largely inflationary increase to the rent supplement program, which helps subsidize rents for those eligible. The program remained relatively stable between 2014 and 2017. Funding increased from $33.1 million to $35.1 million and the number of units served decreasing slightly from 3,645 to 3,600.
Tory promised: To ensure more city-owned land is used for affordable housing
Through the Open Door program, the city has made 10 sites available for public housing since 2014 compared to three sites between 2010 and 2014. Another two dozen additional sites have been identified.
Tory promised: To establish a standing committee on housing and homelessness that reports to council.
Status: In progress.
There is no standing committee for housing, though an affordable housing committee, which is not a standing committee, continues to meet regularly. Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat said there remains a possibility such a committee could be created before the end of the term.
Tory promised: To keep residential property taxes at or below the rate of inflation.
Residential property taxes — when you don’t factor in the already-approved Scarborough subway levy built in to the increase in 2015 and 2016, or the new increase for transit and housing projects added at Tory’s urging in 2017 — rose at the rate of inflation for the last three years: 2.25 per cent in 2015 (2.75 per cent with the subway levy), 1.3 per cent in 2016 (1.9 per cent with the levy), and 2 per cent in 2017 (2.5 per cent with the city-building levy).
Tory promised: To push the province to cut the business education tax.
There is still a portion of property taxes that businesses are required to pay towards the costs of province-wide education.
Tory promised: To “continue” with a city policy to rebalance residential and commercial tax rates.
Status: In progress.
In the 2017 budget, council allowed one half of the tax rate increase on the residential property class to be applied to the commercial property class, rather than the city’s one-third policy and a slowing down of a tax ratio reduction policy implementation with a revised target of 2023 rather than 2020.
ON JOBS AND THE ECONOMY
Tory promised: Streamline Invest Toronto, the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and the city’s economic development division and double the number of foreign investment leads in his first term.
In 2014, the now-defunct Invest Toronto recorded 158 foreign direct investment opportunities with 24 new investments in Toronto. As of August 2017, under the new Toronto Global — a joint effort between various GTA cities, provincial and federal governments with the goal of increasing foreign investment — 300 leads were identified with 19 companies in the process of establishing a location in Toronto.
Tory promised: To double the number of companies in the Partnership to Advance Youth Employment (PAYE)in his first year
The employment and social services division reported at the end of 2015 that the number of companies participating had tripled to 129 in September 2015 from 40 in 2014.
Tory promised: To institute a regular report card on red tape and measures to reduce it.
There is no regular report card on red tape.
Tory promised: To double the available open data each year during his term.
At the end of 2014 there were 165 datasets available, in 2015 there were 197, in 2016 there were 225 and in 2017 there were 255. Toronto ranked second only to Edmonton in the Public Sector Digest’s 2017 index of 61 Canadian cities open data initiatives.
Tory promised: To implement a poverty reduction strategy.
Status: In progress.
Tory tapped the late councillor Pam McConnell to oversee the city’s 20-year poverty reduction strategy, with a plan that council requested in 2014, before Tory became mayor, approved in 2015. A 2016 progress report showed that of 98 action items on that year’s work plan, a third were in progress or ongoing, another third were completed, 20 per cent were partially completed and almost 10 per cent were deferred or delayed.
Tory promised: To advocate for more child-care spaces and increased child-care funding.
In the 2017 budget, council added 300 child-care subsidies. While Tory pushed Premier Kathleen Wynne to address a daycare affordability crisis, at the same time he announced a plan to scrap a city grant for daycares in schools in 2017 to fund the new child-care subsidies. Tory later reversed his position under pressure and backed a plan to continue to offer the grants while still funding the new subsidies.
Tory promised: To improve food security, including breakfast nutrition programs in school.
Status: In progress.
Tory has a mixed record on student nutrition, despite his commitment to implement the poverty reduction strategy. In 2016, Toronto Public Health was under pressure to adhere to a directive to cut its budget to meet Tory’s council-backed property tax target, putting 13,000 low-income students at risk of losing healthy snacks. The proposed cuts were not advanced to city council for approval.
ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Tory promised: To maintain the city’s 2012 tree cover of 3.8 million trees by doubling the city’s annual expenditure to $14 million by 2019 and fund the planting of 380,000 trees annually
The 2015 budget only increased the number of trees to be planted from 100,000 to 105,000. In 2016, the budget increases to just under $10 million. For 2017, the approved budget allowed for 120,000 trees to be planted.
Tory promised: To create a sustainable city advisory board and release a “sustainable city report” annually.
No such advisory board or report exists.
Tory promised: To appoint an environment advocate, with responsibilities that include the creation of a plan to prepare the city for climate change adoption.
There is no environment advocate. A chief resilience officer was hired this year to help the city prepare for the impact of climate change. Tory pushed back on the required $6.7 million needed next year for a much-lauded climate change action plan brought forward by staff. At the request of Tory’s appointed parks committee chair and executive member Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, staff have been asked to produce business cases to prioritize goals set out in the plan for the 2018 budget — something advocates say the plan already does.
Tory promised: To collect data to monitor energy use at city buildings and use the data to achieve $22 million in annual savings by his fourth year in office.
The city’s environment and energy division already monitored energy use at city buildings before Tory took office. Annual savings are much less than $22 million. In 2016, $400,000 in revenue annually was achieved by reducing electrical consumption, $900,000 annually through LED retrofit projects and $30,000 through water retrofits at Metro Hall and city hall.
Tory promised: To proactively plan parks near new developments by linking in the parks department at the early stages of the development application process and create a transparent accountable system for tracking where park levy funds are spent.
Parks staff were already involved in the review of development applications, have created policies in conjunction with city planning that address park deficiencies and report on how park levy funds are spent.
Tory promised: To create new corporate and philanthropic partnerships to support Toronto’s parks.
Status: In progress.
The most significant partnership announced during Tory’s term has been the creation of a linear park under the Gardiner, still under construction, known as The Bentway. The project is a result of the $25 million donation from philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews.
ON ARTS AND CULTURE
Tory promised: To appoint a “creative economy” advocate .
In December 2016, Tory appointed Councillor Michelle Holland as his advocate for the innovation economy, with a role of “championing the growth of Toronto’s technology and knowledge sector.”
Tory promised: To work with staff, arts organizations and the private sector to try to meet or exceed the $25 per capita arts funding goal by 2017.
The target was met for 2017. During the 2017 budget process, a Tory-backed 2.6 per cent budget reduction request for all divisions saw staff considering deferring funding that would put the $25 per capita target at risk. Under pressure, Tory-appointed budget chief Councillor Gary Crawford reversed that plan at committee, putting the city back on track.
Tory promised: To open a standalone music office to bolster new partnerships and reduce red tape.
Tory didn’t create a standalone office like the film office. However, under his administration a music advisory council is working on a music strategy and a music sector development officer is responsible for cutting red tape for the industry.
Tory promised: To march in the annual Pride parade.
Tory has marched enthusiastically, with many of his staff and fellow council members, every year.
ON OTHER THINGS
Tory promised: To outsource garbage collection east of Yonge St.
Status: In limbo.
After taking office, Tory said information provided by staff indicated the city could save far less from outsourcing than he had believed possible during the campaign. But at the beginning of this year, Tory planned to push ahead with outsourcing anyway. At risk of being defeated at council, Tory moved a surprise motion that referred the issue back to staff for further study to be completed at an unspecified date.
Tory promised: To keep Toronto Hydro public.
The utility remains public. Though Tory slammed election rival Karen Stintz for suggesting privatization, in 2016 he agreed the city should look at a partial sale to fund transit and housing. His office, the Star’s sources said, took an interest in appointments to Toronto Hydro’s board of directors, while two of Tory’s key campaign advisors, the Star revealed, were hired to lay the groundwork for a partial sale. Tory denied reports earlier this year that talks were underway and said he would see the utility kept in public hands.
Tory promised: To keep a weekly schedule that is public and easily accessible and to hold at least a weekly press availability.
Tory sends a daily itinerary of public events he’ll be attending to the press gallery. Critics have argued it should be posted publicly and show all meetings (including those behind closed doors) that he is attending.Tory often speaks to the media once a day, sometimes multiple times a day.
Tory promised: To introduce “real penalties” for politicians and bureaucrats who “abuse the privileges, responsibilities and trust that accompany public service.”
The penalties have not changed.
Jennifer Pagliaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-869-4556
45 made, 18 kept: The Star analyzes promises John Tory made before he became mayor
HALIFAX—A new federal study says climate change in the Maritimes may lead to a gradual reduction in the growth of softwood trees, which are crucial to the region’s pulp industry.
Using computer models, the Natural Resources Canada study marks the first regionwide assessment of the composition and growth of the Acadian Forest to the end of this century.
The forest is carefully watched in forestry circles, as it is a unique mix temperate forests, with warmer weather trees like red maples, and boreal forests that include fir and spruce.
Assuming that greenhouse gas emissions continue at “business as usual” levels, the study says the woodlands will experience an average temperature rise of 7 C by the end of the 21st Century.
As a result, in the latter half of the century trees like red spruce will decline in abundance between 10 to 20 per cent when compared with 2011, while the hardwoods that prefer warmer climates will increase.
The study’s author, scientist Anthony Taylor, says there are still some uncertainties about the model because some factors are still being studied.
Still, he says the model presents some causes for concern for the forestry industry.
“It’s suggesting ... by the end of the century those particular species that the industry relies heavily on will not be performing as well as they are today,” he said in an interview.
His paper suggests several methods of adapting forestry practices, such as planting species of softwood that are proven to be more resilient in warm climates.
The paper also says the industry could start thinning forests to allow temperate species to grow more quickly, rather than to promote softwoods that will struggle in the warmer weather.
The study, published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, predicts there will be an overall decline in the size of the Acadian forest because the increase in hardwoods like red maples won’t make up for the lost softwoods.
The paper says there are currently 32 species in the region, with about half of them being boreal species like spruce, pine and fir.
Van Lantz, a professor of forestry economics at the University of New Brunswick, said he published a peer reviewed study in 2012 that looked at the effects of climate change based on historical data, but the newer model shows a sharper rate of decline.
“It was a surprise to me. It’s caused me today to write ... a project proposal with Natural Resources Canada to get into depth on the economic consequences of this projected decline,” he said.
The forestry industry is a major part of New Brunswick’s economy, estimated to be close to five per cent of its gross domestic product, with softwood making up the majority of the total, Lantz said.
“It’s very worrying. ... When the timber supply is reduced by a certain percentage you get a similar reduction in the forestry sector and that’s a lot of money.”
Tracy Glynn of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick said in an email that the mid-century decline of softwoods points to the need for New Brunswick and the other Acadian forest regions to consider adapting to forests that will eventually have more hardwoods.
“We can start by ending the spraying of planted clear-cuts that wipe out hardwoods in favour of softwood plantations: a call that has been growing momentum in the province recently, with over 35,000 people signing a petition to end glyphosate spraying in the woods,” she wrote in an email.
She also said the conclusions point to the need for different forest management.
“In a future of climate change, we need to look at non-softwood products and make sure that we manage them in a sustainable way that protects a healthy forest.”
Maritimes’ softwood trees in decline due to global warming, study warns
For Canadian politicians visiting India, it is a rite of passage: Circumambulating the Golden Temple to honour the holiest site in Sikhdom.
Prime ministers, cabinet ministers, premiers — and anyone aspiring to those jobs — knows the importance to voters back in Canada of being photographed on the temple grounds in Amritsar, wearing a head-covering out of respect for the faithful.
But it won’t be happening anytime soon for Jagmeet Singh— neither praying, nor paying his respects. That’s because the new NDP leader, who could one day be Canada’s first turbaned prime minister, was refused a visa when trying to visit India in 2013.
Back then, as an Ontario MPP, Singh was told (unofficially) that he’d been turned down after criticizing India’s treatment of minority groups. Four years later, fresh from winning this month’s NDP leadership convention, he is once again a controversial figure in India — and here at home among some Indo-Canadians.
Singh’s pointed comments about a Sikh right to self-determination sparked protests from Indian politicians leery of local separatists who still dream of carving out an independent Khalistan in the Punjab.
“It is better you confine your political views to Canada and don’t create any problem for Sikhs in India,” former Punjabi parliamentarian Tarlochan Singh told the Hindustan Times.
Singh’s equivocations about the perpetrators of the 1985 Air India bombing have also raised eyebrows among the families of passengers who perished in the deadliest terrorist incident in Canadian history.
Asked in a CBC interview if he condemned those who still honour the accused mastermind as a martyr — images of the late Talwinder Singh Parmar still pop up in some Sikh temples and commemorations — the NDP leader chose his words carefully. Or perhaps carelessly.
While condemning the “heinous” violence, he hedged: “I don’t know who’s responsible (for the attack) but I think we need to find out who’s responsible.”
Given that most of the 329 on board were Canadian citizens, and that Parmar was identified in court and by an inquiry as the instigator of the attack, the analogy has been drawn to an American politician withholding judgment against Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks.
Bal Gulpta, chair of the Air India 182 Families’ Association, complained that Singh “should have disowned the glorification of terrorism, even suspected terrorism or promoters of terrorism.”
Supriya Dwivedi, a morning talk radio host who had family friends aboard the ill-fated flight, commented that Singh “needs to be able to better answer these sorts of questions.”
No Canadian politician wants to be seen as soft on terrorism, given the current climate. Nor does any leader want to be seen as excessively hard on self-determination, given Quebec’s historical environment.
Politics is always a balancing act and some have suggested Singh is being unfairly singled out because he is Sikh. But that doesn’t mean a national leader can dodge sensitive questions about public positions he has — or hasn’t — taken in the past.
During his time in the Ontario legislature, MPPs passed frequent resolutions marking historical massacres and expressing solidarity with victims around the world. Singh proposed a resolution in 2016 condemning an Indian “genocide” during anti-Sikh riots in 1984 (it was defeated, but a similar resolution passed the next year).
World history isn’t part of the legislature’s provincial mandate, but it pays off with domestic voters. MPPs can pronounce on foreign affairs with impunity.
Now that Singh has moved from the relative obscurity of Queen’s Park to the rarefied atmosphere of Parliament Hill, he can expect more scrutiny.
The Air India disaster never got the attention it deserved because of a double standard that downplayed the deaths of so many Indo-Canadians. It would be unfair to apply another double standard — making Singh pay a special price for that collective inattention — but the more equivocal his answers, the more persistent the questions will become.
Similarly, the self-determination issue will remain a perennial in Canadian politics given Quebec’s sovereignty movement, just as Catalonia has returned to the Spanish agenda, and Khalistan is still a sore point in India, which has spent decades fending off separatist movements all along its northeastern and northwestern borders.
Like any politician who tries to avoid giving offence, Singh may only end up offending more people along the way. That said — and no matter what he leaves unsaid — if the NDP leader ever becomes prime minister, he may yet get that Indian visa.
Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. email@example.com, Twitter: @reggcohn
The more equivocal the answers, the more persistent the questions for Jagmeet Singh
NEW YORK —The White House officially and emphatically called all women who have accused U.S. President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct liars on Friday.
More than a dozen women came forward last year during the presidential election with allegations of sexual assault or misconduct against Trump.
“Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning and the president’s spoken on it,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday.
The stand was made as a spiralling scandal surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has emboldened women to speak more openly about sexual predators.
The #metoo campaign on social media has become a popular way for women to share stories of assault.
During the campaign, Trump vowed to sue all of the women who spoke out publicly.
Last week, Trump called allegations of sexual assault made against him over the years “fake news.”
Trump responded to a question during a freewheeling Rose Garden news conference about a subpoena reportedly issued to his campaign for documents related to sexual harassment allegations against him.
“All I can say is it’s totally fake news — just fake. It’s fake, it’s made-up stuff. And it’s disgraceful what happens.”
Trump added: “That happens in the world of politics.”
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, filed the subpoena in March as part of her defamation suit against Trump for saying she and other accusers were lying.
Her lawyers want the Trump campaign to turn over “all documents” relating to Zervos and nearly a dozen other women who have accused Trump of unwanted sexual advances and touching.
Meanwhile, a plaque commemorating the president’s infamous remarks about grabbing women “by the p----“ was posted outside the film studio where he unleashed his stunning admission to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush.
An employee at the Burbank, Calif., studio shared a photo on Facebook of the small plaque that he said the show’s producers put up, with the caption, “In dishonor of our President, the producers of my show have created a plaque commemorating his comments to Billy Bush, which happened on our lot.”
Trump was caught on tape telling Bush that he often kissed and fondled women without their consent and tried to hit on a married woman “like a b----.”
“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said.
The plaque reads, “On this spot in September 2005, Donald J. Trump bragged about committing sexual assault. In November 2016, he was elected President of the United States.”
White House stands by Trump’s insistence that his sex assault accusers are liars
The city’s audit committee has rejected a push to conduct a value-for-money analysis of the Scarborough subway.
On Friday, a motion from Councillor Josh Matlow for that comparison of the approved, one-stop, $3.35 billion subway extension to the seven-stop LRT alternative failed in a 1-4 vote. Councillors Christin Carmichael Greb, Michael Ford, Stephen Holyday, and Chin Lee voted against it.
That decision came as the auditor general presented a work plan for future audits for next year, the last of the term and ahead of an anticipated staff report on the updated cost of the Scarborough subway, which is expected to rise.
“My question for you is: Do you want to have all the relevant facts before you to inform your decision?” said Matlow, who has been critical of the subway plan, at committee. He has been chiefly concerned about the lack of information provided to justify it.
“If you would prefer the one-stop subway and if the information comes back to support that argument, in fact, if you always believed it would, then what do you have to be afraid of?”
The work plan will be considered by council next month. The auditor general has the power to conduct her own investigations without direction from council, but on Friday the auditor, Beverly Romeo-Beehler, told the Star she has decided against doing such a comparison because, she said, it is not her role to re-open council decisions.
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who was chosen by Mayor John Tory to champion the subway project, called Matlow’s motion a “back-door attempt” to “sabotage” the subway.
Top bureaucrat, City Manager Peter Wallace, confirmed in March that staff have never been directed to do and therefore have never presented such an analysis.
The vote on a value-for-money analysis was followed by a discussion of a controversial briefing note that was produced last year before a crucial vote.
That briefing note, produced by the TTC and which cast doubt on the feasibility of returning to the fully-funded LRT plan, was the subject of a complaint to the auditor general.
Romeo-Beehler found no evidence that TTC CEO Andy Byford or his staff deliberately misled council, nor did she find any evidence of political interference.
She did outline several problems with the briefing note, including a cost calculation and its limited distribution. It was initially provided to just the mayor’s office and that of TTC chair Councillor Josh Colle. It was subsequently leaked to CP24 by the mayor’s office, the Star earlier confirmed.
On Friday, Matlow outlined questions that still remain, including why Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency that was in charge of the LRT project, didn’t verify the contents of the TTC-produced briefing note that were “easily verifiable.”
The briefing note raised doubts an LRT could still fit in the existing corridor, replacing the aging Scarborough RT.
When the Star earlier asked Metrolinx to confirm whether the LRT would still fit in the corridor, as their earlier work had stated, a spokesperson confirmed that it did.
On Friday, Matlow produced an email from senior TTC official Gary Carr saying he’d met with a senior Metrolinx official responsible for the corridor where the LRT would have run in the midst of the briefing note being drafted. It’s unclear if they discussed constraints in the corridor with an LRT option.
The auditor general also found an email from former Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig to Byford during that time where McCuaig indicated a cost estimate provided for the LRT was too high — by $320 million. That figure was never adjusted and McCuaig’s comments weren’t noted in revised versions of the briefing note.
“The TTC co-operated fully with the (auditor general), providing all correspondence relevant to this issue, including correspondence with Metrolinx. Staff were exonerated of any wrongdoing by the AG. Any further questions on this matter should be directed to her office,” TTC spokesperson Brad Ross wrote in an email Friday.
Metrolinx declined to comment. McCuiag could not be reached for comment.
Matlow maintained there were “significant errors” and omissions in the briefing note and that he didn’t believe that a request for the briefing note “began at the TTC.”
“The briefing note was ultimately used as a political tool that influenced the outcome of a council vote that led to a one-stop subway that will serve far fewer Scarborough residents for over a billion dollars more of the city’s limited funds.”
Push to see value-for-money analysis of Scarborough subway rejected
This story is part of the Star’s trust initiative, where, every week, we take readers behind the scenes of our journalism. This week, we look at how the Star put together its coverage of the recent release of 2016 census data.
Before the latest census numbers were released earlier this week, one question kept coming up in the Star newsroom: Would the data show that Toronto, for the first time, had become a visible minority majority city?
If that was the case, reporters and editors would have to be ready.
Statistics Canada gives advance notice about what will be released when, which gives newsrooms a chance to plan. But, without data available beforehand, editors and reporters do their best to plan for the kind of coverage they think will be needed.
With the return of the mandatory long-form census after a 10-year absence, an accurate look at the city’s ethnic makeup was once again a possibility. The 2011 National Household Survey found that 49 per cent of those living in Toronto identified as a visible minority, so editors were on the lookout for a change in that number in 2016.
“We knew that this information would be particularly important for the Star, as it touched on a lot of issues clearly in line with our organization’s interest in social justice issues” such as affordable housing and equality, said Natasha Grzincic, the Star’s digital news lead and co-ordinator of the Star’s recent census coverage. “It was very much a question of what the Star could bring to its audiences that they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
About a month before this week’s release of data, a team of Star editors, reporters, data analysts and designers began exploring potential story ideas based on topics provided in advance by Statistics Canada: immigration, ethnocultural diversity, housing and Aboriginal peoples.
During their brainstorming sessions, there were a few questions Grzincic and the team kept coming back to: if indeed the data showed that Toronto was a visible minority majority, what would that look like? And how could the Star make this information relatable to each reader?
The idea of an online interactive map in which readers could look up their census tract using their own address was born.
“We wanted people to be able to easily find what their community looked like in terms of visible minority populations,” said Grzincic.
With this in mind, the team asked Statistics Canada to provide data specific to the GTA, such as ethnic groups broken down by income brackets, the fastest-growing ethnic groups, and areas where people spend the highest portion of their income on rent or mortgage payments. The idea was that reporters and editors would have information that would not be readily available on release day had the Star not asked in advance.
Knowing the kind of information that was coming allowed editors to tap relevant reporters, create graphic templates and schedule story publication.
On Tuesday, the big day began in Ottawa with a “lockup,” a practice common for government budgets, in which journalists are literally locked in a room and provided data. The catch is no information can leave the room until some prescribed time (phones must be turned over to ensure security). In this case, Ottawa reporter Alex Ballingall, along with self-described “data map geek” Matthew Cole and interactive designer Cameron Tulk went into a room in a government building at midnight and were provided hard and digital copies of census information. They then had 8 1/2 hours to produce their stories and the interactive map to be posted on thestar.com when the embargo was lifted Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
“The big challenge is trying to find the story behind the numbers. They give you a lot of information, and you have to sift through it to find what you think the Star’s readers will find interesting or need to know,” said Ballingall. “Luckily, Statistics Canada provides unlimited coffee, Timbits, muffins, chips, juice boxes, bottled water and sandwiches to help you make it through the night.”
Ballingall filed three stories from the lockup, including one focused on the fact that 51.5 per cent of City of Toronto respondents identified as visible minorities that ran on page A1 of the next day’s paper.
The other two stories looked at how Ontario is now home to the largest Métis population in the country, and how an increasing number of immigrants are choosing to live in the Prairies, particularly Alberta.
After the lockup ended, a team of reporters in Toronto began digging into custom data sets provided by Statistics Canada and contextualizing it for readers.
Columnist Shree Paradkar provided commentary on Toronto becoming a minority majority city, while Affordable Housing Reporter Emily Mathieu looked at Flemingdon Park and Georgina Island, the top two communities in the GTA with housing in need of major repairs. Real Estate Reporter Tess Kalinowski examined census data that showed condominiums now house more than 20 per cent of Torontonians, and reporter Alex McKeen covered the news that 33 per cent of households in Toronto spent more than the Statistics Canada benchmark of 30 per cent of income on shelter.
Coverage continued Thursday, with Social Justice Reporter Laurie Monsebraaten looking at data showing the persistent income gap between visible minorities, recent immigrants, and Indigenous Canadians, and the rest of Canadians. Meanwhile, Identity and Inequality Reporter Jennifer Yang worked on a weekend profile of three census areas where most respondents identified as Chinese.
“Covering the census is a mix of extensive planning and breaking news all in one assignment,” said Julie Carl, senior editor of national and urban affairs and social justice. “Having a sense of what you want to cover, even if you don’t have the raw data beforehand, is key. Once you have the data, you have to interpret it quickly, hit the ground running to find and write stories that illustrate the information.”
Trust Project: How the Star’s census coverage came together
After three days of federal officials publicly acknowledging that employees of Canada’s spy service deserve better, government lawyers pushed back Friday on the specific allegations of harassment made by the five intelligence officers and analysts who first brought the issue to light.
“No organization can ensure that its employees and managers will never act inappropriately. Organizations cannot be held to such a standard. Rather, organizations must be measured by whether they have procedures in place to address issues as they arise,” reads the government’s statement of defence, filed Friday in a $35-million lawsuit that alleges a toxic workplace inside the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
CSIS maintains that the five plaintiffs had their complaints “addressed by the Service in a fair, reasonable and timely manner,” and should not be entitled to compensation.
“If the plaintiffs have suffered any damages,” the 18-page statement reads, “the damages claimed are excessive and remote.”
The lawsuit, filed in July, alleges the five intelligence officers and analysts encountered managers who openly espoused Islamophobic, racist and homophobic views and discriminated against Muslim, Black and gay employees.
One of the complaints, “Alex,” alleged that he had faced years of homophobic harassment as an intelligence officer, often called a “fag” or “homo.” One email included in 54-page statement of claim alleges a manager wrote to Alex: “Careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo.”
Pseudonyms are used for both the complainants and managers who are cited in the lawsuit, since under Canada’s Security of Information Act, identifying a spy can be considered an offence. All five of the complainants are still CSIS employees, but are on medical leave.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the House of Commons earlier Friday that there must be “appropriate consequences” for harassment and discrimination at CSIS. “This behaviour is unacceptable.”
He was responding to calls from NDP public safety critic Matthew Dube, for an investigation into the workplace conduct at the spy service.
CSIS director David Vigneault publicly acknowledged Wednesday that his agency suffers from a workplace climate of “retribution, favouritism, bullying and other problems,” which he said is, “categorically unacceptable in a high-functioning, professional organization.”
Vigneault’s statement was accompanied by an executive summary of a “workplace climate assessment” conducted at CSIS’s Toronto office, which uncovered low morale and a possible exodus of employees who said they felt “disillusioned and disheartened.”
One employee described the Toronto office as “the region progress forgot.”
“The issue here is that there’s clearly a cultural problem and one third-party report is not enough,” Dube said Friday, according to the Canadian Press. “What we’re asking the minister is to launch a full investigation into this type of discrimination, these allegations of homophobia and Islamophobia.”
The defence statement filed Friday conceded some of the allegations, admitting that at the spy service’s Toronto office “inappropriate language was used by employees.”
But addressing each of the five complainants, the statement refuted many of the individual allegations, or questioned the character of the complainants.
“Alex socialized extensively with senior managers in the office and developed personal friendships with many such managers,” reads the statement, claiming he had been close to “Simon,” the manager who allegedly sent some of the questionable emails.
The statement also claims that Alex’s internal complaint last year into the harassment resulted in “disciplinary sanction on the employee against whom Alex’s complaint of harassment was deemed founded.”
Alex has alleged the only career that suffered after he complained publicly was his own.
For “Bahira,” a Muslim intelligence officer with more than a decade of experience and who alleges she faced discrimination once she started to wear a hijab, the government claims that, “any scrutiny” or “direction given to Bahira over the course of her employment with the Service, was reasonable, justified and wholly consistent.”
Last month, Federal Justice Simon Noël chastised the Department of Justice for not responding faster to the lawsuit, filing a statement of defence beyond the usual 30-day limit.
“(T)here is a course of action to be followed and you are no different from any other parties in Canada,” Noël said told government lawyers in a teleconference call. “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.”
The Star reported on the call Tuesday after a transcript of the conversation was filed in federal court.
According to the transcript of the Sept. 13 call with Noël, however, the government was attempting to “resolve the claim.”
Toronto lawyer John Phillips, who represents the five plaintiffs, said in an emailed response Friday night that, “CSIS continues to blame the victims and refuse to accept responsibility for the harm and suffering the organization has caused.”
“The CSIS director has had a chance to meet with these employees and has seen them in tears. He knows exactly what his organization has done to them,” he wrote. “It has crippled them and destroyed their careers. Yet CSIS continues to grind them because it can. In my view, it is a shameful response.”
CSIS says harassment complainants don’t deserve $35 million as Goodale calls bullying at spy agency ‘unacceptable’
WASHINGTON —A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., approved Friday the initial charges stemming from the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
First reported by CNN, the charges remain sealed by a federal judge. What the charges are was unknown but individuals could be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the network said.
The Justice Department in May appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel for the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein signed the order.
Charges filed in special counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation, report says