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Articles on this Page
- 08/22/17--03:00: _Bombardier shipped ...
- 08/22/17--07:07: _Boris Spremo, forme...
- 08/22/17--12:01: _Uber's self-driving...
- 08/22/17--13:59: _Toronto psychiatris...
- 08/22/17--18:20: _African Canadian Le...
- 08/22/17--17:48: _Uniqlo workers at T...
- 08/22/17--16:26: _Scarborough activis...
- 08/22/17--19:06: _The Rebel open to a...
- 08/22/17--17:21: _It doesn’t get butt...
- 08/22/17--17:01: _Suspended Hamilton ...
- 08/22/17--12:06: _Rule-breaking realt...
- 08/22/17--15:20: _Province tries to b...
- 08/22/17--09:07: _Trump blames media ...
- 08/22/17--07:07: Boris Spremo, former Toronto Star photographer, dies at 81
- 08/22/17--12:01: Uber's self-driving cars hit Toronto streets today — in manual mode
- 08/22/17--17:48: Uniqlo workers at Toronto Eaton’s Centre reject joining a union
- 08/22/17--12:06: Rule-breaking realtors should face stiffer penalties, says OREA
- 08/22/17--15:20: Province tries to block Dalton McGuinty testifying at lawsuit
The TTC agreed to let Bombardier ship unfinished streetcars to Toronto and complete them on the transit agency’s property in order to successfully meet 2016 delivery targets, the Star has learned.
The Quebec-based rail manufacturer has famously struggled to fill the $1-billion, 204-vehicle order for the TTC’s new streetcar fleet. Under the schedule, the company was to have delivered more than 100 cars by end of last year, but as of this week the TTC has just 41in service.
There was a welcome spot of positive news just before last Christmas however when, with 10 days to spare, Bombardier announced that it had made good on a revised target it had set earlier that year: delivering the 30th streetcar by the end of 2016.
“Bombardier meets its 2016 delivery commitment to the TTC,” the company trumpeted in a Dec. 21 press release, which was accompanied by a photo of smiling Bombardier workers holding a “Just arrived!” sign in front of the vehicle at the TTC’s Hillcrest Complex on Bathurst St.
There was a catch, however — the streetcar wasn’t fully finished. In fact, all four of the cars that Bombardier delivered last December were not complete when they arrived on TTC property.
Minutes of meetings between the TTC and Bombardier that the Star obtained through an access to information request reveal that in order to meet the 2016 target, the TTC agreed to deviate from the detailed vehicle acceptance process spelled out in the streetcar contract.
In subsequent interviews, the TTC confirmed that the company shipped four mostly finished cars to Toronto, and then Bombardier workers completed them at the TTC’s Leslie Barns streetcar maintenance and storage facility.
The gambit paid off — Bombardier finished all four cars in Toronto and they went into service before the New Year as planned.
But the deviation from the normal process reveals the extent to which Bombardier had to improvise to meet the year-end target, and the concessions the TTC agreed to in order to make it happen.
Both Bombardier and the TTC maintain the strategy was necessary in order to get the new streetcars delivered as soon as possible, and that the outcome benefitted the city’s transit users.
Bombardier spokesperson Marc-André Lefebvre called it a “positive story.”
“This is work that we are very proud of … The 2016 deliveries are a great example of the positive outcome of the turnaround plan we introduced last year, which has effectively made it that Bombardier has met every single quarterly delivery commitment in the past 12 months,” he said.
TTC CEO Andy Byford said that he was willing to be “flexible” with the delivery process as long as it didn’t mean compromising on safety or vehicle quality. He said the TTC’s only motivation was getting the streetcars quickly, not helping Bombardier protect its reputation.
“I’m not out to do Bombardier favours. But I am out to get the best possible outcome for my customer,” Byford said.
“This isn’t being nice to Bombardier, it’s doing the right thing by the people that ride our service.”
Lefebvre said that Bombardier came up with the plan near the end of 2016 after it identified “potential bottlenecks in rail shipments availability” that could have delayed delivery of the cars, which are shipped to Toronto from Bombardier’s plant in Thunder Bay by the Canadian Pacific Railway.
He described the work that was completed in Toronto as “very minor esthetic items” like interior panels that required adjustments and paint touch-ups. The TTC said that outstanding work included “final assembly of panelling and interior components.”
TTC spokesperson Stuart Green told the Star that if the transit agency hadn’t agreed to deviate from the normal process, “it is most likely that Bombardier would not have been able to deliver these four cars by year end.”
Lefebvre declined to speculate on whether the company would have met the 2016 target if the TTC hadn’t agreed to modify the acceptance plan.
The streetcar contract, which the TTC and Bombardier signed in 2009, spells out in detail the process by which each $5-million vehicle is supposed to change hands.
Following Bombardier’s “completion of the manufacture and assembly” of each car, the vehicle is to undergo pre-delivery tests and an “in-plant inspection.”
If it passes, the TTC’s engineer issues a preliminary acceptance certificate (PAC) “verifying the date on which the (streetcar) has been so completed … and is ready for delivery” to Hillcrest.
Upon delivery, the car undergoes additional trials, including a 600-km “burn-in” test run. Only after those tests are complete does the TTC engineer issue a final acceptance certificate (FAC) that means the transit agency has taken ownership of the vehicle.
Under the modified delivery process, the TTC agreed that the four cars would be shipped to Toronto without the agency first verifying they were complete, and would undergo both the PAC and FAC processes here.
The TTC spokesperson said that the four cars were subjected to the “same rigorous final approval testing” as all other vehicles, and that there was no cost to the transit agency.
The documents the Star obtained are minutes of meetings that TTC and Bombardier hold each month about the streetcar order. The minutes from the end of 2016 indicate that TTC officials were not fully convinced the plan would work.
At a November meeting, a TTC official told Bombardier that the transit agency couldn’t guarantee the acceptance process could be carried out in Toronto in time because with just six weeks before the year’s end, the company had yet to provide a detailed delivery schedule. The TTC needed one to ensure it had enough operators, inspectors, and maintenance workers on hand to conduct testing once the cars arrived.
“There will be a big effort for everyone to co-ordinate this during the holidays,” read the minutes, which were written by the TTC.
At the same meeting the TTC warned that if it looked like Bombardier would miss the year-end target, the transit agency would pull out of the modified approval process.
“TTC will stop the PAC process in Toronto if schedule slips (sic) and the 16 cars delivery becomes at risk,” read the minutes.
The meeting minutes also indicate that in late 2016 and early 2017, more than two years after the first new streetcar was delivered, the TTC was still expressing serious concerns about problems with Bombardier’s manufacturing process, including failing control switches, collapsed rubber on the bellows that connect streetcar segments, cracked bonnets, leaking windows, incorrect parts being installed, and deficient welding jobs.
Lefebvre said Monday the company has made “significant progress” on welding problems, which have plagued the order since the beginning. He said any other production issues “should be resolved in the very near future.”
Under the latest revised schedule, the company is supposed to deliver a cumulative total of 70 cars by the end of the year. In July the company admitted that the schedule was at risk.
Lefebvre said that doesn’t mean Bombardier will miss the 2017 target and stated that the company is “deploying extraordinary resources ... to meet our deadlines.”
“Our overall focus firmly remains to deliver the entire fleet of 204 streetcars by the original contract deadline of 2019.”
Few people would have the nerve to straddle a steel beam hanging near the top of the CN Tower, or to shout “Hey, Queen!” in the presence of royalty.
Nothing could stop Boris Spremo from getting his million-dollar photo.
The retired Star photographer made it his business to document history, whether he was shooting a war, or capturing a Canadian prime minister during a lighter moment.
Spremo has died at the age of 81. He had been diagnosed with cancer in February. He took a turn for the worse last week, according to his family.
“He was the light of everyone’s life,” said his granddaughter Jessica Spremo. “He was constantly cracking jokes. He never took anything too seriously. (He was) always looking for an adventure.”
Spremo was born in Yugoslavia and came to Canada in 1957 after a stop in Paris. Following four years at The Globe and Mail, he joined the Star in 1966, where he spent 34 years as a photojournalist. He retired in 2000.
A member of the Order of Canada who was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame, Spremo received 285 national and international photojournalism awards in a lifetime of photography.
His work took him to conflict zones including Vietnam, Grenada, Northern Ireland, Israel, Gaza and Iraq. He documented famine and drought in Central Africa in 1983 and the plight of Kurdish refugees in 1991.
“He never lost sight of where he came from,” Jessica said. “Having that perspective, he could relate to people . . . and have them, kind of, be comfortable, if only for a few minutes, in the situations that they were in.
“He treated everyone the same.”
Photos he took in Canada stood out. Known for his dogged pursuit to find the perfect shot, Spremo developed a rapport with politicians, including prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and John Diefenbaker.
In 1976, he captured Diefenbaker in silhouette working on his post-retirement memoirs while at a summer cottage in Barbados. The photo of Canada’s prime minister, resting in a lounge chair as the sun peaked out from the clouds following a rainfall, secured Spremo one of his many National Newspaper Awards.
Spremo was lauded for his photo of Trudeau the day after the latter won the 1980 federal election. It was one of the most recognizable photos of the former prime minister.
Camped outside Trudeau’s office until his staff finally let Spremo in, the photographer urged him, “Do something for me! Give me a picture!”
Trudeau decided to fire off an elastic from a paperclip.
“That to me is the quintessential Boris picture, right there, because it sums up his personality, his style,” said Star photographer Richard Lautens.
“Who else is going to get a sitting prime minister to sit there behind the desk on Parliament Hill firing elastics?
“He was willing to talk anybody into anything.”
Having known Spremo for 40 years, Lautens considered him a mentor. He was a “mythic figure, this larger-than-life character” with a personality “you could barely fit in a room,” he said.
“He had this personality, this drive. He would get in anywhere. He would never take ‘no’ for an answer,” Lautens said. “He would step on his own mom for a picture, especially an exclusive. I always figured he’d be around as long as Mt. Rushmore.
“His face should be up there somewhere.”
Said former Star photographer and senior editor Fred Ross: “He worked his ass off” to get the right shot.
It was important to Spremo to get his photo on the Star’s front page the following day.
Ross recalled how the photographer would keep track of all his front-page pictures and how he’d grow restless, even to the point of nudging Ross for better assignments, when he went a while without one.
“He never took any pictures. He made pictures. Big difference,” Ross said. “First class is probably not a definitive enough term for him. He lived and loved to make pictures.
“That was his whole being.”
Lautens said Spremo “would just kind of own the paper whenever he was working.
“He would see me or anybody else in this place as much competition as anybody else,” he said. “Then he’d give you that big smile and everyone would go, ‘Well, that’s Boris.’ ”
Torstar chair and former Star publisher John Honderich referred to Spremo as a “giant” – although “I’m not sure that even ‘giant’ does justice to his career,” Honderich said.
“Boris definitely knew what he wanted in life and the chain of command was not something he felt was particularly relevant. He would just come and knock on my door all the time and say this is what he wanted to do. He was full of stories, full of life, vivacious.
“This man lived every inch of his life and every inch of his career.”
Spremo’s photographic style differed from many of the techniques used by his competitors, according to Lautens.
To him, it was about capturing a moment from the perfect spot at the perfect time.
“Most of the stuff you see of his has got a humorous little twist to it, but extremely personal,” he said. “The style he shot in is very much kind of the way your eye might see things, whereas most photographers would always try and do something visually different, use certain lenses or certain lighting. He was willing to put himself in the line of fire. He was willing to risk pretty much everything to get himself in that position to make that image.
“It was that kind of intimate approach that, kind of, sold the deal.”
Spremo was not afraid to take readers to the highest of heights. On one occasion, he shot a CN Tower ironworker at 440 metres above ground.
“He was very famous for climbing up on skyscrapers and doing crazy stunts to get the best angle,” said Ken Faught, a former Star photographer and photo editor. “He was just a bulldog. It was his way or the highway.”
His sense of humour also had an edge.
Tasked with covering a Papal visit in 1984, Spremo was on Pope John Paul II’s train, which ran from Sherbrooke to Trois-Rivières, Que.
As the pope sat in the fourth car of the train by a window, with a light on him so that people at the stations could see him as the train passed by, media set up camp in the first car.
But they grew bored during the long trip, prompting Spremo, partially as a result of some egging on from fellow media, to fold up one of the blow-up cushions into a shape similar to the pope’s mitre, throw on a table cloth and hold a monopod as a staff. The impression was complete with a papal wave.
“People started taking photos of him instead of the actual pope,” said Jessica Spremo. “When the pope actually went by, all these people were walking away.”
The stunt landed him in hot water and some media picked up the story.
In another instance, legend has it that Spremo, in attempt to get the attention of a wayward-looking Queen Elizabeth II on a visit to Canada, shouted, “Hey Queen! Look over here!”
“All the protocol guys were, like, ‘You can’t talk to the Queen like that,’ ” Lautens laughed.
When Spremo retired from the Star, it was obvious to everyone that he wasn’t ready to stop shooting.
“It’s inspiring, not just for journalists everywhere, but for anybody in any occupation, to see a guy who has that fire in his belly his entire life,” said Lautens. “Even to this day, I’m still in awe of the guy.
“For the longest time, he was photojournalism in Canada.”
Spremo remained active in retirement, playing tennis five times a week and spending time at his Lake Simcoe cottage, where he loved to be on a boat.
He also got tremendous joy out of his 1959 Cadillac, “my baby,” as he liked to call it, according to his granddaughter.
In retirement, he kept shooting photos.
“He never went anywhere without a camera, whether to the store or on a trip,” Jessica said. “He always said, ‘You never know where you’re going to get that million-dollar photo.’ ”
Spremo is survived by his wife Ika, their four daughters and seven grandchildren.
Uber has obtained a permit to test its self-driving cars in Ontario, the company said on Tuesday.
Two autonomous vehicles (AVs) operating in manual mode will be driving around the University of Toronto campus and surrounding areas starting Tuesday and continuing for the rest of the week. “Manual mode” means that although the cars have self-driving capability, they will be operated by human drivers.
The cars aren’t available for rides: they will be conducting mapping tasks. Uber says it hopes to test the cars in autonomous mode by the end of 2017.
“In an effort to support our Toronto team’s engineering efforts, we are kicking off our data collection processes this week. This data will support our engineering efforts as we prepare for official testing later this year,” says Susie Heath, a spokesperson for Uber Canada.
Uber announced in May that it would open a research group devoted to driverless car technology in Toronto, creating a third hub and its first outside the U.S. for the company’s AV ambitions.
Last year, Ontario became the first province in Canada to allow on-road testing of AVs. The Ministry of Transportation’s pilot program permits approved companies and research groups to test their vehicles providing that applicants meet certain criteria, including putting a human in the driver’s seat to monitor vehicle operations at all times.
Uber’s self-driving car tests elsewhere have been accompanied by regulatory disputes. In California, Uber initially refused to apply for permits for the self-driving cars it was operating in San Francisco, arguing that the vehicles don’t meet the state’s definition of autonomous. The New York Times also reported that Uber’s AVs in San Francisco ran several red lights.
The state revoked the vehicles’ registrations, and Uber responded by moving its testing to Arizona, where regulations are more permissive. (An Uber AV in Arizona was involved in a crash, but police said the other driver was at fault.) Uber later obtained the California permits and put its self-driving cars back on the streets.
The company has had a tumultuous year across the board: CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down in June, and has not yet been replaced.
Ontario has said it wants to position itself at the forefront of the emerging autonomous vehicle market, which some — including Uber — believe will be worth billions of dollars. The province also cites the potential for more environmentally-friendly and safer roads, since automated drivers are not prone to distraction or drinking and driving, like humans are.
In a display of its tougher stance on misconduct involving patient-doctor relationships, the discipline committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has revoked the licence of a psychiatrist who entered into a romantic relationship with a patient he intends to marry.
Whereas similar conduct in previous cases was typically met with suspensions, the decision to strip Toronto doctor Nagi Ghabbour’s licence is likely a response to criticism that the committee was being too lenient in the past, critics say.
Ghabbour is only the second Ontario physician to lose his licence for beginning a relationship with a patient too soon after the end of the doctor-patient relationship.
“The very nature of the relationship, the profound vulnerability of this specific patient and Dr. Ghabbour’s lack of insight into the egregiousness of the misconduct led the committee to decide that revocation is the only suitable penalty to fully protect the public in the circumstances of this case,” a five-member panel of the discipline committee wrote in a decision released Tuesday.
“Sexual relationships with prior psychotherapeutic patients are likely never advisable, nor likely ever in the best interest of the patient. Public trust and protection must be the guiding principle for the profession to do no harm.”
Ghabbour, 55, will be eligible to reapply for his licence in one year, but will have to prove that he has learned from his misconduct, the panel said. His lawyer did not return the Star’s request for comment.
Ghabbour admitted at his discipline hearing in February to professional misconduct in that he began a relationship with Patient A, whose name is covered by a publication ban, about a month after he stopped being her psychiatrist.
The panel heard in February that the pair are living together — Patient A even attended the discipline hearing — and that they intend to marry.
The college had argued that Ghabbour’s licence should be revoked, but the doctor’s lawyer pushed for a nine- to 12-month suspension with a condition that Ghabbour receive therapy.
While admitting during the penalty phase of the hearing that dating a patient so soon after the end of their professional relationship was a serious boundary violation and a “huge lapse in judgment,” Ghabbour also testified: “I love her, I adore her, and I respect her.”
Ghabbour’s penalty hearing took place while the provincial government was looking to strengthen the law around sexual abuse and physician-patient relationships in the wake of a Star investigation into doctors still at work after being found guilty of sexually abusing their patients.
The government’s Bill 87 became law in May. It stipulates that a person is still considered a “patient” for one year after they stop seeing the physician. Therefore, any sexual activity within that year would lead to the mandatory revocation of a doctor’s licence. Colleges would also be permitted to extend the period beyond one year.
The bill was not yet law when Ghabbour’s conduct and hearing took place, but the college’s lawyer drew the panel’s attention to it while arguing for revocation. “It’s an indication of where our society is moving in Ontario with regards to this type of conduct,” Elisabeth Widner told the panel.
The discipline panel acknowledged a “shift in societal values” in its decision to revoke.
“The public expects and deserves professionalism and integrity from Ontario doctors and that the college will regulate the profession in the public interest,” the panel wrote. “The committee is very aware of the shift in societal values that is highlighted by the Ontario government’s amendments to the Regulated Health Professions Act (Bill 87).”
Medical malpractice lawyer Paul Harte, who was not involved with the case, said the panel’s decision sends a message that the type of conduct Ghabbour engaged in will not be tolerated, but that it is a message that should have been transmitted long ago.
“They seem to be responding both to the concerns expressed in the media and also concerns expressed by the Minister of Health,” he said.
Patient A had been experiencing stress at work as well as marital difficulties, and was seeing Ghabbour for anxiety and depression, the panel heard in February. Ghabbour provided prescriptions for antidepressants. He also documented suicidal ideation.
She eventually began displaying romantic feelings for him in sessions, which he testified he resisted. Ghabbour maintained he didn’t want to refer her to someone else because he felt she was lacking support in other areas of her life and he wanted to help her.
After one session, she hugged him, and at one point he noted in his charts that the patient was “idealizing him and is seeking a real/physical bond with him,” according to an agreed statement of facts filed at the hearing. He said he made attempts to make clear to her that he was her psychiatrist.
In one of their last sessions, Patient A kissed him on the mouth, Ghabbour testified. Within weeks of Patient A deciding she no longer wanted Ghabbour as her psychiatrist because of her personal feelings toward him, the two began to see each other socially, and the relationship soon became sexual, the panel heard.
“Dr. Ghabbour testified that he was concerned about abandoning Patient A if he referred her for appropriate therapy once the transference was evident,” the panel wrote, referring to when Ghabbour became aware of Patient A’s feelings for him.
“It is atrocious that he chose to terminate treatment and made no attempt to transfer her to another psychiatrist, despite his conclusion that she was suffering from serious psychiatric conditions that included suicidal ideation. His misconduct in pursuit of his own needs has led, in the result, to many patients being abandoned.”
The first doctor to lose their licence for starting a personal relationship too soon after the end of the professional one was Mehdi Horri, whose licence was yanked in March, as a different panel of the discipline committee was still deliberating Ghabbour’s punishment.
The province does not plan to intervene after the African Canadian Legal Clinic asked it to investigate Legal Aid Ontario’s decision to suspend their funding.
The ACLC called legal aid’s decision “biased, unjust and racist” in a press release Tuesday, saying that the clinic was wrongly stripped of funding even though it has taken the necessary steps to ensure financial accountability after years of back and forth with legal aid.
Legal Aid Ontario denies racism had anything to do with the decision. The organization had concerns about the clinic’s financial management after a 2013 audit revealed personal purchases made on the clinic’s credit card by executive director Margaret Parsons, and money paid to Parsons that appeared to be hefty bonuses.
Parsons has maintained that she has never received a bonus from the clinic — only overtime pay she was owed — and that she paid the clinic back for a personal purchase she mistakenly made on the clinic’s credit card.
The ACLC press release said the organization implemented eight conditions for funding that were previously outlined by legal aid, and that a forensic audit by Price Waterhouse Coopers found no embezzlement, fraud, or misappropriation of funds.
Julian Falconer, the lawyer who advised legal aid on issues related to the ACLC, said that the final decision was made by legal aid’s clinic committee after several audits revealed apparent financial mismanagement.
The press release claim that the decision was unjust, Falconer said, is “simply not borne out by the findings and the clinic committee decisions.”
Falconer said that the ACLC’s concern about the lack of diversity on legal aid’s board of directors — one issue raised in the press release — was valid, but that it does not change the nature of the organization’s decision regarding the clinic.
“Very important issues of race are being injected when it really becomes an issue of accountability for an executive director,” Falconer said.
Parsons said Tuesday that the organization is asking the province to intervene with a “thorough and independent investigation” into the decision because the organization feels that the LAO was not objective.
“It was a forgone conclusion,” Parsons said, referring to the formation of the LAO’s Black Advisory Committee which she saw as legal aid moving to replace ACLC before a decision had officially been made about the clinic’s funding future.
“Whenever it started… it was biased, and it was made to replace us,” Parsons said.
The province said that it does not intend to intervene in legal aid’s decision.
“The Clinic Committee of Legal Aid Ontario reached its decision following a thorough adjudicative process, which included multiple third-party audits,” a ministry of the attorney general spokesperson told the Star.
Falconer said that legal aid has both short- and long-term plans to serve the African Canadian community when ACLC loses its funding.
The Human Rights Resource Centre and private practitioners have stepped up to fill the gap until a new clinic — to be formed using input from the advisory committee — gets off the ground, he said.
Employees at the Uniqlo store at Toronto Eaton Centre voted Tuesday against joining a union that organizers had hoped would be able to improve working conditions at the Japanese retailer’s first Canadian location.
“I voted yes for better working conditions, for better scheduling and also for respect,” said Jasper Lim, 22, a part-time employee and history student at the University of Toronto.
“I feel disappointed by the results because I definitely thought it would succeed.”
Only 35 of the 120 employees who voted on Tuesday — 169 were eligible to vote — cast ballots in favour of joining Workers United Canada, a union with roots in the garment trade. Eighty-four employees voted against the union and one ballot was spoiled, said Tanya Ferguson, organizing co-ordinator for Workers United Canada Council.
Just a week earlier, the union had the support of more than 40 per cent of employees, who had signed union cards, triggering the vote.
Ferguson and Lim said that after management was notified of the union drive, employees in routine team meetings, held at the start of every shift, were told that they would take home less money if they joined a union because they would have to pay union dues.
Employees were also led to believe that they would no longer be able to speak directly to managers about their working conditions, Lim said.
“They created a campaign that was based on fear and they disseminated some misinformation,” said Lim.
Scheduling emerged as a key issue. Employees are scheduled to work shifts that include an unpaid hour-long lunch and an unpaid half-hour break later in the shift, which means they must be available for 9.5 hours of work while only being paid for eight.
Yasuhiro Hayashi, Uniqlo Canada chief operating officer, said the success of the store to date has been due to the hard work of employees and that he sees the vote as an opportunity for the company to improve how they engage with employees moving forward.
But there are no plans to change the scheduling system.
“We want the employees to be productive and energized and feel recharged,” said Hayashi. “I would say that working this 9.5 hours works best for not just employees, but also for the store as well.”
He said employees were not told they would not be able to engage with managers if they unionized.
“We were just one step away from having a union,” said employee Chicheng Wat, 35.
“I hope this encourages other people to unionize — not just those at Uniqlo, but others in the retail sector. This is not something undoable.”
A group of activists is asking the Ontario auditor general to probe what they claim is “the use of non-evidence-based decision-making” in the approval of expensive Toronto-area transit projects.
Scarborough Transit Action plans to file a request with Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk on Wednesday morning requesting that her office investigate the planned construction of the Kirby and Lawrence East GO Transit stations, as well as the Scarborough subway extension.
“The auditor general has a responsibility to ensure that there is a good value for money, and we feel that this is very bad value for money,” Moya Beall, a spokesperson for the group, said in an interview Tuesday.
The auditor general is tasked with overseeing provincial spending and reporting any misuse of public funds. A spokesperson for her office did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday evening.
As the Star has previously reported, Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the GTHA, approved the two new GO Transit stations in June 2016 as part of its regional express rail expansion despite reports that showed they would be a drain on the transit network.
Business case analyses commissioned by Metrolinx found that both the Kirby station in Vaughan and the Lawrence East stop in Scarborough would attract few riders, and would actually lead to a decrease in ridership on the GO network because adding the additional stations would increase travel time for other passengers.
The resulting uptick in car use would lead to an additional 869.8 million kilometres driven on the region’s roads over the next 60 years, along with increased congestion and pollution, and millions of dollars in foregone transit revenue, the analyses found.
The Kirby stop would cost $125.8 million to build and operate over 60 years, while the Lawrence East station was projected to cost $45.8 million.
As the Star reported in June, an internal report prepared for Metrolinx by a consultant but that the agency never made public recommended that neither Lawrence East nor Kirby be approved, and determined they should not be considered for the next 10 years.
An advance copy of Scarborough Transit Action’s request to the auditor general that was provided to the Star claims Metrolinx officials “ignored the business-case analysis” in what the group described as a “political overruling” of the evidence.
The request notes that Kirby station is in the riding of Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, while Lawrence East is a part of Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack plan.
Del Duca and Tory have denied doing anything to improperly exert influence over the approval process.
The complaint also asks Lysyk’s office to “investigate whether a comprehensive analysis” should be carried out to compare the one-stop, $3.35-billion Scarborough subway extension that has been approved by council to a 24-stop LRT network proposed for the same area.
A comparison between the LRT proposal and the subway project, which is being built with $1.48 billion in provincial funds, has never been done by either the city or provincial government.
“This analysis would ensure that the contribution from the provincial government provides Ontario taxpayers with the best value for money,” the complaint reads.
The activist group has already filed a complaint with the city’s auditor general about a misleading briefing note about the Scarborough subway project authored by the TTC. The group is awaiting a report.
OTTAWA—The founder of the online news site The Rebel admits its content and management need more oversight in the wake of a string of controversies.
One reporter was fired, another founder quit and two other contributors resigned last week after the outlet came under intense criticism for its coverage of deadly riots in Virginia.
Ezra Levant is now admitting things need to change, saying he’s been a flawed leader who has made mistakes.
He says he’s going to bring in better oversight of both the business and editorial side of the operation and hire new journalists.
He’s also pledging greater transparency for the outlet’s finances, after two other former contributors levied a string of allegations over where The Rebel’s largely crowdsourced budget is actually going.
Levant detailed the proposed changes in a statement late Tuesday, following a memo last week where he sought to distance The Rebel from allegations it’s aligned with the so-called “alt-right.”
When David Salazar leaves the Canadian National Exhibition, his hands are incredibly moisturized and his whole body smells like butter.
“Your arms, your body is glistening,” said Salazar.
“Everything you eat, everything you handle, you can feel the butter on it.”
Salazar is the lead artist at this year’s butter sculpture exhibit at the CNE. So far he’s made a butter version of a High Park capybara and the infamous Ikea monkey— and he’s collaborating on a buttery Justin Trudeau cuddling two baby pandas.
Salazar crafts his high-calorie creations behind a glass screen in a refrigerated box, while fairgoers gawk and take photos.
It’s slippery and cold inside the sculpting fridge — about 10 C — but it smells delicious. As a butter lover, Salazar says it can take willpower to resist sneaking a taste.
“Of course I’m tempted! I love butter!” he said, laughing. During the Ex, Salazar will spend about six hours a day handling globs of unsalted butter, but he’s not sick of it yet. “So far I still butter my toast in the morning.”
By the end of the fair, there’ll be more than a dozen butter sculptures by 11 different artists in the box, said Salazar — including the rest of the capybara family and the doughnut-stealing raccoon who made headlines in 2015. The artists will use 2,700 pounds of butter in total, which all gets composted at the end, a CNE spokesperson said.
Salazar wears a coat and hat inside the chilly fridge — but the butter still seeps through his sturdy work gloves. When he pulls them off, his hands are shining and remarkably soft.
“It’s pretty funny working with butter. It’s a little surreal,” said Salazar, who says dealing with the cold is one of the hardest parts of butter art.
Butter sculptures are a long-running tradition at the CNE, dating back to the 1950s. Memorable past sculptures include Rob Ford reading a Margaret Atwood novel, Yoda and Toronto’s favourite dead raccoon— all created by Olenka Kleban, who organized this year’s show.
The theme this year is “Wild in the 6,” and features famous GTA animals. On Tuesday, Salazar started work on a giant hog — an homage to Hogtown. He first builds an internal frame out of wood and metal lath, before sculpting around it with dozens of kilograms of buttery goodness.
The unsalted butter comes in 25-kilogram boxes (nutritional information included), and has to soften for a day or two outside the fridge before it’s ready for sculpting.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sean Kosonic carved detailing into Justin Trudeau’s face using a small butter knife with “Spread Love” on it. He’s one of several artists working on Butter Trudeau over the course of the Ex, slowly adding details to perfect his creamy likeness.
“Chiselled faces are always easier,” said Kosonic, as he smoothed the prime minister’s buttery lips. “When someone has a good nose, it’s a good place to start.”
He and Salazar are both graduates of OCAD University and don’t usually work in such a high-cholesterol medium. Kosonic is a metalworker, while Salazar sculpts with clay and works on public sculptures. The CNE butter artists are often OCAD grads and come from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Both Salazar and Kosonic like working with butter; it’s a fun, versatile material that’s a lot like clay, in a sense.
“We produce a lot of butter, so it’s nice to see what else we can do with it,” said Salazar, who last did butter sculpting in 2007.
As the artists work, people clamour outside the box, pointing and taking pictures. Many ask questions or share their memories of past exhibitions, and Salazar loves seeing kids react with glee.
People often bang on the glass, however, which gives him a lot more empathy for zoo animals.
“At times you feel like a monkey,” he said.
As he worked on the hog, a man stopped by to chat, fondly remembering seeing the butter sculptures as a child.
“I love them, they’re great,” said Steve Beattie. “I don’t know if it’s much to anybody else, but to me it’s part of the CNE. It’s our heritage.”
But not everybody shares his sentiment.
“That’s disgusting!” one man exclaimed as he walked by.
Probably a margarine fan.
A suspended Hamilton police officer awaiting trial after a 2015 Toronto police raid saw him charged with allegedly helping a drug trafficking organization is now facing 16 new criminal charges.
On Tuesday, Craig Ruthowsky, who worked on the Hamilton police department’s gangs and weapons enforcement unit, was charged with bribery, two counts of breach of trust, two counts of obstructing justice, public mischief, two counts of weapons trafficking, fraud under $5,000, trafficking marijuana, perjury, two counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, robbery and two counts of trafficking cocaine.
It was pre-arranged that Ruthowsky would turn himself in at a police station Tuesday morning and then appear in a Toronto court, where he was released on bail, said his lawyer, Greg Lafontaine.
The 43-year-old is already committed to stand trial on charges of corruptly accepting moneys, attempting to obstruct justice, trafficking cocaine and criminal breach of trust. That trial is set to begin Feb. 20, 2018.
Lafontaine described the newest charges, which will be tried separately, as “historical” from Ruthowsky’s time as a guns and gangs investigator in Hamilton before his suspension in 2012.
“They’re effectively more of the same,” he said, noting more “full-time criminals” have come forward since Ruthowsky’s criminal case has been in the news.
Ruthowsky was arrested in a June 2015 raid during Toronto police’s Project Pharaoh and accused of being part of a Hamilton criminal group connected to the Toronto street gang Monstarz. He was initially denied bail and spent five weeks in jail before being released.
Hamilton police confirmed the latest charges in a news release issued Tuesday afternoon but declined to comment further as the case is before the courts.
As part of his guns and gangs investigative work, Ruthowsky worked closely with informants in the criminal underworld. Lafontaine said dealing with people “at the bottom of the social barrel” was a hazard of the work Ruthowsky did and left him vulnerable to these types of accusations.
Ruthowsky was “disappointed” to learn of the new charges, but he and his legal team feel “confident” they will prove his innocence, Lafontaine said, questioning the credibility of Crown witnesses.
In an interview Tuesday, Mark Dobrowski claimed at least one of the new charges is related to allegations that Ruthowsky had an informant set him up with a gun in his former home.
Dobrowski claims he served 51 months in prison after police found a gun in his then Hamilton home on April 30, 2010. He was sentenced to four years, three months and 20 days on Nov. 5, 2010.
Dobrowski admits to being a former leader of the gang Original Blood Brothers and has a criminal record. “I was a bad person. I’m out of the lifestyle now,” he said.
He claimed Hamilton police officially informed him Ruthowsky had been charged Tuesday morning. “I lost a lot of time in my life … nothing can bring it back,” he said.
Ruthowsky remains suspended with pay.
Hamilton police first suspended him in June 2012 amid an investigation into allegations that he improperly disclosed licence plate information from the Canadian Police Information Centre.
He was charged with breach of trust and obstructing justice, but those criminal charges were stayed in October 2013 over concern that the case could identify an informant. The related disciplinary case was still pending when Toronto police burst through his door and arrested him in June 2015.
Ruthowsky’s former partner, Robert Hansen, was suspended and charged at the same time in 2012.
Hansen was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice after he encouraged an informant to plant a gun at a suspected drug trafficker’s home in 2012 and then lied to secure a search warrant.
Hansen was sentenced in June 2016 to five years in prison and resigned that August.
Darren Mork, the man targeted by Hansen, filed a $1.5-million lawsuit against him and Hamilton police. Mork’s lawyer, Nick Cake, said they are working toward setting a trial date.
Anyone with information about the Ruthowsky case is asked to contact Det. Troy Ashbaugh at 905-546-4951.
Fines for rule-breaking realtors should be double what they are now so the potential penalties keep pace with the province’s rising housing market, says the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).
Last year, realtors found guilty of violating the code of ethics faced an average fine of less than $6,000 from the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), the industry regulator.
The existing penalties were set when the average resale Ontario home cost $211,000. That has now increased to $619,000. It is $759,000 in the Toronto area.
“For those who willingly break the rules, these fines are ‘the cost of doing business,’” said OREA.
In a discussion paper published Tuesday, OREA recommended fines be doubled for violating the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA) Code of Ethics. That would put the maximum penalty for salespeople at $50,000, while brokers and brokerages would face fines of up to $100,000.
The discussion paper is meant to elicit feedback from OREA’s 70,000 members to the Ontario Liberal government’s two-part review of the real estate act.
New rules are expected in the fall for agents who represent both a buyer and seller in a single transaction. But a more comprehensive review will continue next year.
“The act is 15 years old. A lot has changed since 2002,” said Matthew Thornton, OREA vice-president of public affairs and communications.
He said the review is an opportunity to look at how the industry can “make sure it’s representing best practices that are in place in other provinces, that it is strengthening consumer protection and really just modernizing it.”
In addition to the higher fines, OREA says RECO needs to be able to order realtors to return profits made through breaches of the act.
“Fines may not cover the entire fee earned as a result of unethical activity. In other words, even under a system of higher fines registrants could still profit from unethical behaviour,” said the OREA paper.
It also wants RECO to have the authority to revoke or suspend a realtor’s registration to practise, a finding that can be overturned by an appeals tribunal under the current system.
In an emailed statement from RECO registrar Joseph Richer, the regulator also supports higher fines and the ability to make realtors repay profits achieved by unethical practices. It also agrees with the need to have the authority to revoke registrations.
There were 70,284 registered realtors in Ontario in 2014 and 73,751 in 2015. But that number shot up to 78,780 last year, according to OREA. Of those, 48,117 were real estate salespeople.
The number of inquiries (for information) was down last year to 25,497 from 26,346 in 2015.
Earlier this month, OREA officials held an online town hall pledging to hold RECO to account for industry standards and practice.
The Ontario association is rebranding itself since RECO awarded its core mission as an industry education provider to Humber College.
OREA will issue three more white papers before the end of the year on education and realtor ethics.
Continuing education is a particular concern, said Thornton. Agents have to take a $44 online course every two years to maintain their registration.
“The sentiment in the industry about continuing education is that the process that RECO is offering is not where it should be,” he said.
Most registered realtors pay a $390 annual fee to RECO and $110 annually to OREA.
The province and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. are trying to block a ruling that orders former premier Dalton McGuinty, his finance minister and other senior officials to answer questions under oath about the 2012 cancellation of a lucrative slot machine revenue-sharing program.
The case centres around a $65-million civil claim by a group of horse breeders who argue they’ve been unfairly cut out of revenues from slot machines at racetracks. A 1998 slot agreement allowed for money from the machines to be shared among the province, horse breeders and racetracks annually.
But the province announced on March 12, 2012, it was ending the plan with a year’s notice, opting to reallocate slot revenues for health care and other government initiatives.
The breeders allege that before an important February 2012 cabinet meeting on the revenue-sharing plan, some powerful people met secretly and resolved to get the slots deal axed.
The breeders say they launched their claim after the province and OLG paid $80 million in compensation to track owners, but refused to discuss compensating breeders. The breeders say that before the cancellation they’d been encouraged by the province to keep breeding horses.
The matter is being heard in the Superior Court of Justice in Guelph by Justice Michael Emery.
The suit against the province includes claims of breach of contract, negligence and unjust enrichment. The province and OLG are trying to have the suit tossed out, claiming in statements of defence that they’ve done nothing improper.
Earlier this month, over objections from the province and OLG, Emery ordered that McGuinty, former finance minister Dwight Duncan and 11 others including their chiefs of staff, economist Don Drummond and Rod Seiling, the former chair of the Ontario Racing Commission, give evidence under oath relating to the cancellation of the revenue-sharing.
But this week the province and OLG filed a motion seeking leave to appeal Emery’s decision, and in the meantime, a stay of the summons that calls on McGuinty and the others to give evidence.
In their motion, set to be heard at Divisional Court in Toronto, the province and OLG argue in part that Emery didn’t apply the proper legal test when it came to their bid to quash the breeders’ requests for McGuinty and the others to come forward.
Emery had suggested that the onus was on the province and OLG to prove the summonses should be quashed, which effectively reversed the onus in established case law, lawyers for the province and OLG argue in their latest motion.
Jonathan Lisus, a lawyer for the breeders, said Tuesday that Emery applied the law correctly and gave a “balanced sensible decision” that the witnesses being asked to come forward were connected to the decision to cancel the revenue sharing, and therefore have relevant evidence to give to the court.
In an email, Tony Bitonti, an OLG spokesperson said “as the matter continues to be before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment.”
Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson Emilie Smith issued a similar statement.
Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix with a call for unity, saying, “What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America and tonight, this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs that perpetrated hatred and violence.”
But he quickly trained his ire on the media, shouting that he “openly called for healing unity and love” in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville and claiming the media had misrepresented him. He read from his three responses to the violence — getting more animated with each one.
Democrats and fellow Republicans had denounced Trump for placing blame for the Charlottesville violence on “both sides.”
Trump spoke after Vice-President Mike Pence and others called repeatedly for unity.
Housing Secretary Ben Carson and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., were among the openers. Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham, led the rally-goers in prayer, saying, “We’re divided racially, and we’re adrift morally.”
Outside the Phoenix convention centre, shouting matches and minor scuffles erupted between Trump supporters and protesters gathered near the site of his latest campaign rally. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton had asked Trump to delay his political event to allow for more time of national healing after Charlottesville.
Trump teased a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio, asking the crowd what they thought of him. Loud cheers erupted. The former Maricopa County sheriff is awaiting sentencing after his conviction in federal court for disobeying court orders to stop his immigration patrols.
“So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked. “I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine.”
Earlier, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wouldn’t discuss or take action on a pardon “at any point today,” even though the president had told Fox News he was considering it.
Trump said at the rally that the only reason he wouldn’t make a move from the stage was to avoid controversy for the moment.In the comfort of his most fervent fans, Trump often resurrects his freewheeling 2016 campaign style, pinging insults at perceived enemies such as the media and meandering from topic to topic without a clear theme.
Neither of Arizona’s two Republican senators appeared with Trump.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a conservative, has been a frequent target of Trump’s wrath.
The president tweeted last week: “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Flake has been on tour promoting his book that says the Republican Party’s embrace of Trump has left conservatism withering.
Ward planned to attend Trump’s rally, sparking talk that the president could take the politically extraordinary step of endorsing her from the stage over an incumbent Republican senator.
In a modest but telling swipe at Ward and, by extension, at Trump, the Senate Leadership Fund, a political committee closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is spending $10,000 on digital ads that say of her, “Not conservative, just crazy ideas.”
Arizona’s other senator, John McCain, is undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer. Trump has been critical of McCain for voting against a Republican health care bill.
Tuesday’s events put Trump in more comfortable political territory than in recent days.
He began his Arizona visit with a brief trip to the southern edge of the country.
While touring a Marine Corps base in Yuma that is a hub of operations for the U.S. Border Patrol, Trump inspected a drone and other border equipment on display in a hangar.
Trump shook his head as he was shown a series of everyday objects, such as a fire extinguisher, that had been refashioned to secretly transport drugs across the border. Afterward, he spent about 20 minutes greeting service members in the gruelling, 106-degree heat, signing caps with his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan and posing for selfies on the tarmac just steps from Air Force One.
Upending a campaign vow to end the country’s longest war, Trump on Monday announced in a national address a plan to maintain to a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Senior U.S. officials said Trump’s strategy may involve sending up to 3,900 more troops, with some deployments beginning almost immediately.
Some of Trump’s core voters had already been unhappy about the recent ouster of conservative Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist.
Bannon had made it his mission to remind Trump of what his most fervent supporters want from his presidency. Some conservative strategists have openly worried that without Bannon around, Trump will be too influenced by establishment Republicans on issues such as Afghanistan policy.