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- 09/13/17--08:39: _Police officer expe...
- 09/13/17--03:00: _Toronto Parking Aut...
- 09/13/17--07:29: _6 die at Florida nu...
- 09/13/17--07:44: _Woman sexually assa...
- 09/13/17--13:54: _Judges to preside o...
- 09/13/17--12:25: _German right-wing p...
- 09/13/17--12:22: _A Russian plot used...
- 09/13/17--10:04: _Durham cop blames ‘...
- 09/13/17--11:58: _Shooter opens fire ...
- 09/13/17--07:59: _Olivier not as ‘str...
- 09/13/17--14:52: _Toronto to get 2,00...
- 09/13/17--13:08: _Fading NDP presence...
- 09/13/17--06:00: _Former federal Libe...
- 09/13/17--16:18: _Martin Shkreli’s ba...
- 09/13/17--17:55: _Caron says he’s the...
- 09/13/17--06:02: _Canadian incomes ju...
- 09/13/17--17:43: _Leafs president Bre...
- 09/13/17--15:52: _Kathleen Wynne and ...
- 09/13/17--19:35: _Trump and top Democ...
- 09/13/17--19:17: _Toronto doctor play...
- 09/13/17--08:39: Police officer expected to plead guilty to professional misconduct
- Andy Koropeski, vice-president of operations: $203,310: $2,230;
- Robin Oliphant, vice-president of finance: $203,310: $2,595;
- Remy Iomanaco, vice-president of design and construction: $203,310: $2,230;
- Ian Maher, vice-president of strategic planning and IT: $203,310: $2,230;
- Michael Konikoff, head of marketing: $185,000;
- Arlene Yam Fritz, head of human resources: $185,000.
- 09/13/17--07:29: 6 die at Florida nursing home that lost air conditioning after Irma
- 09/13/17--07:44: Woman sexually assaulted after mistaking vehicle for an Uber
- 09/13/17--13:54: Judges to preside over bail hearings at two courthouses
- 09/13/17--11:58: Shooter opens fire at Washington state high school killing 1
- 09/13/17--14:52: Toronto to get 2,000 market-rent and affordable units
- 09/13/17--06:00: Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Allan MacEachen dies at 96
- 09/13/17--17:55: Caron says he’s the NDP’s best bet to win back Quebec
- 09/13/17--17:43: Leafs president Brendan Shanahan believes in his players: Arthur
- 09/13/17--15:52: Kathleen Wynne and the politics of corruption: Cohn
- 09/13/17--19:35: Trump and top Democrats reach deal on young immigrants
A Toronto police officer found with a small amount of cocaine in his wallet is expected to plead guilty to professional misconduct at a disciplinary hearing later this year.
Dressed in a maroon suit jacket, Det. Const. Kirk Blake made a brief appearance before the Toronto police tribunal Tuesday, facing two counts of professional misconduct under Ontario’s Police Services Act.
Police prosecutor Insp. Domenic Sinopoli told the tribunal that Blake is expected to enter a guilty plea at a November hearing, although the officer did not enter a plea Tuesday.
Blake, who has 17 years with the Toronto police, was charged with one count of possessing a narcotic after the Guns and Gangs officer was found to have a small amount of cocaine in his wallet.
The discovery of the drug came about in September, 2016, after Blake left his wallet behind at the Scarborough courthouse, where he had been doing some computer work in his capacity as an officer.
The wallet was located by another Toronto police member and “found to contain a small clear plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance,” later determined to be cocaine, according to a police document outlining the misconduct allegations against Blake.
“It was further determined that you were not in lawful possession of the substance in the accordance with your duties as a police officer,” according to the document.
Blake was granted an absolute discharge after pleading guilty to the criminal charge.
The officer is accused of misconduct for allegedly acting in a disorderly manner or in a manner likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the Toronto police force.
The penalty for a conviction under the Police Service Act ranges from a reprimand to dismissal.
Blake will appear before the tribunal on November 21.
Wendy Gillis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The salaries of the two top players at the Toronto Parking Authority remain a secret despite all other senior executives voluntarily releasing their pay.
The parking authority released a list of salaries of senior management to the Star on Friday. The salaries of president Lorne Persiko and Marie Casista, vice-president of real estate and marketing — both of whom are currently on paid leave pending an investigation into a questionable land deal— were censored.
“Where there are individuals for which the information is not provided, the individual did not give consent to disclose,” said a letter from the parking authority accompanying the list of salaries. The only information provided about Persiko’s remuneration is that he is afforded a leased vehicle.
Persiko and Casista were put on paid leave after a damning auditor general’s report released in June concluded the parking authority was planning to overpay for a parcel of land in North York by more than $2.5 million.
The authority — which manages all Green P parking in Toronto — is currently under new direction from interim president Andy Koropeski. The board is now chaired by city manager Peter Wallace, who, in an extraordinary measure, was put in place by city council following the auditor’s report.
The Star has tried for more than a year to find out how much Persiko and other parking authority executives are paid. The city agency hired an employment law firm and spent more than $5,000 to thwart those requests.
Typically, the salaries of heads of city agencies and corporations can be found on the province’s public sector salary (Sunshine) list. The parking authority is exempt, the city has said, because even though it collects hundreds of millions on behalf of the city it receives no public funding.
In July, Mayor John Tory told the Star he believed the salaries should be public and asked staff to find a way to make that possible.
“All the money in the Toronto Parking Authority is public money,” Tory told the Star then.
Persiko did not return a request for comment Friday. Casista’s husband, Real Casista, told the Star on Friday that her salary was “personal information.”
The following annual base salaries and taxable benefits for 2016 were released by the authority Friday:
More than a year ago, the Star filed an access-to-information request for the salaries of Persiko and other top executives. The request was rejected by the parking authority on the grounds that salaries were “employment-related matters.”
The Star appealed that request to the province’s information commissioner, and a decision is expected in the fall. (A subsequent access-to-information request revealed the authority spent $5,346 in legal fees fighting the appeal.)
In the meantime, the authority released the above salaries voluntarily.
Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler released her report in June about the now-cancelled land deal. It followed a 10-month investigation by her office after concerns were raised by authority board member John Filion about a land deal at Finch Ave. West and Arrow Rd., near Hwy. 400.
Romeo-Beehler’s report found the parking authority would have overpaid $2.63 million for the nearly five-acre parcel.
The deal, she told council, resulted from a “hairball” of relationships and potential conflicts involving Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, the Emery Village BIA, a lobbyist working for the BIA, the TPA executives and a sign consultant working for the TPA.
Jennifer Pagliaro can be reached at (416) 869-4556 or email@example.com
Jennifer Pagliaro can be reached at (416) 869-4556 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jayme Poisson can be reached at (416) 814-2725 email@example.com
Jayme Poisson can be reached at (416) 814-2725 firstname.lastname@example.org
HOLLYWOOD, FLA.—Six patients at a sweltering nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning, raising fears Wednesday about the safety of Florida’s 4 million senior citizens amid widespread power outages that could go on for days.
Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, and added: “The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.” He did not elaborate.
“It’s a sad state of affairs,” Sanchez said. “We all have elderly people in facilities, and we all know we depend on those people in those facilities to care for a vulnerable elderly population.”
Gov. Rick Scott called on Florida emergency workers to immediately check on nursing homes and assisted living facilities to make sure the patients are safe. And he ordered an investigation into what he called an “unfathomable” situation.
“I am demanding answers,” he tweeted.
The home said in a statement that the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the AC.
Exactly how the deaths happened was under investigation, with Sanchez saying authorities have not ruled anything out, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. He also said investigators will look into how many windows were open in the nursing home.
Across the street from the nursing home sat a fully air-conditioned hospital, Memorial Regional.
The deaths came as people trying to put their lives back together in hurricane-stricken Florida and beyond confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm’s wake, including tree-clearing accidents and lethal fumes from generators.
Not counting the nursing home deaths, at least 13 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm had passed.
At least five people died and more than a dozen were treated after breathing carbon monoxide fumes from generators in the Orlando, Miami and Daytona Beach areas. A Tampa man died after the chain saw he was using to remove trees kicked back and cut his carotid artery.
In Hollywood, three patients were found dead at the nursing home early Wednesday after emergency workers received a call about a person with a heart attack, and three more died at the hospital or on the way, police said.
Altogether, more than 100 patients there were found to be suffering in the heat and were evacuated, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Patients were treated for dehydration, breathing difficulties and other heat-related ills, authorities said.
Nursing homes in Florida are required by state and federal law to file an emergency plan that includes evacuation plans for residents. Any plan submitted by the Hollywood centre was not immediately available.
Calls to the owner and other officials at the Hollywood home were not immediately returned, but the facility’s administrator, Jorge Caballo, said in a statement that it was “co-operating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome.”
Through a representative, Carballo told the SunSentinel newspaper that the home has a backup generator but that it does not power the air conditioning.
The nursing home was bought at a bankruptcy auction two years ago after its previous owner when to prison for Medicare fraud, according to news reports at the time of the sale.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates nursing homes, gives the Hollywood centre a below-average rating, two stars on its five-star scale. But the most recent state inspection reports showed no deficiencies in the area of emergency plans.
Florida, long one of America’s top retirement destinations, has the highest proportion of people 65 and older of any state — 1 in 5 of its 20 million residents. As of 2016, Florida had about 680 nursing homes.
As of Tuesday, the number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat had dropped to 6.8 million — about a third of Florida’s population. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. The number of people remaining in shelters fell to under 13,000.
Elsewhere around the state, a Coral Gables apartment building was evacuated after authorities determined a lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants.
And at the huge, 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, more than half the residential buildings had no power Wednesday afternoon. Rescue crews began going door to door in the 94-degree heat to check on people and hand out water, ice and meals.
“These people are basically prisoners in their own homes,” said Pembroke Pines City Manager Charlie Dodge. “That’s why we are camped out there and doing whatever we can to assist them in this process. And we’re not leaving.”
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson called the six deaths in Hollywood “an inexcusable tragedy” and called on authorities to get to the bottom of it.
“We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our seniors safe during this difficult time,” he said.
In the battered Florida Keys, meanwhile, county officials pushed back against a preliminary estimate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 25 per cent of all homes in the Keys were destroyed and nearly all the rest were heavily damaged.
“Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses,” said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers.
The Keys felt Irma’s full fury when the hurricane roared in on Sunday with 209 km/h winds. But the extent of the damage has been an unanswered question for days because some places have been unreachable.
In Marathon Key, a Publix grocery store opened under police guard on Tuesday, but residents could buy only 20 items each, and no cigarettes or alcohol allowed, said 70-year-old retiree Elaine Yaquinto.
She said she had yet to see any state or federal agencies or utility companies working on the ground yet. Her home had no electricity or running water, apart from a trickle of cold water that was good enough for a shower.
“It made me feel like normal,” she said.
U.S. President Donald Trump plans to visit Naples, on Florida’s hard-it southwestern coast, on Thursday.
At the Hollywood nursing home, Jean Lindor, a kitchen worker, said through a Haitian Creole translator that the air conditioner had not been working since the storm and it had been hot inside.
Paulburn Bogle, a member of the housekeeping staff, said the place had been hot but manageable the past few days. The staff used fans, put cold towels and ice on patients and gave them cold drinks, he said.
Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak said his office had received the bodies of at least three of the victims — two women age 71 and another who was 78 — for autopsies.
“They were sick already. It’s going to be tough to tell how much was the heat and how much of it was they were sick already,” Mallak said.
Flora Mitchell arrived at the home trying to find out what happened to her 58-year-old sister, Vonda Wilson, a stroke patient who lived there for about 10 years. She said she last heard from her sister two days ago and found out the air conditioning was not working.
“We need to know what happened to her,” she said. “They haven’t told us anything.”
Police are appealing for witnesses after a 19-year-old woman was allegedly sexually assaulted early Sunday.
The woman was in the area of King St. W. and Portland St. around 1:30 a.m. Sunday when she was involved in a physical altercation with one other woman, police say. While one of the women left the scene after the altercation, the other remained.
Shortly after, a white SUV pulled up with two men inside. The 19-year-old entered the vehicle, mistaking it for an Uber.
Once inside the vehicle, the woman was sexually assaulted by one of the men, police say.
The woman was later dropped off in the area of Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E. around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
Police are looking for anyone with video footage of the altercation at King St. W. and Portland St., or that may have witnessed the woman exiting the vehicle at Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E.
The vehicle in question is described as a white, 2009 Ford Escape with tinted windows, fog lights, and a license plate beginning with the letter “C.”
Police are looking for anyone with video footage of the altercation at King St. W. and Portland St., or that may have witnessed the woman exiting the vehicle at Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E.
Witnesses can contact Toronto police at 416-808-3300.
A provincial court pilot project that has judges presiding over bail hearings at two of Ontario’s busiest courthouses has lawyers once again questioning the role of justices of the peace.
In an effort to speed the court process, the Ontario Court of Justice announced last week that judges would take over bail hearings at College Park in Toronto as well as the Ottawa courthouse.
The move comes as governments and courts continue to grapple with the effects of a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision that set strict timelines to bring criminal cases to trial.
The pilot project, expected to last 18 to 24 months, “is exploring whether the introduction of judges’ criminal trial experience at the earliest stage of the criminal court process could reduce time to final disposition,” said court spokesperson Kate Andrew.
“All judges at the Ottawa and College Park courthouses will participate in the bail project and will be scheduled to preside in bail court as well as in trials, judicial pre-trials and all other regular judicial responsibilities.”
Unlike someone looking to become a judge, a person does not need a legal background to qualify for the role of justice of the peace. Aside from presiding in bail court, JPs, who earn significantly less than judges, sign off on search warrants and preside over brief court appearances and matters involving provincial offences.
JPs will continue to handle bail hearings in courthouses other than College Park and Ottawa, Andrew said.
The court’s pilot project has prompted lawyers to question why JPs preside over bail in the first place, pointing out that it’s a critical step in the court process in which a person’s liberty is at stake when they have not yet been convicted of a crime.
Many criminal defence lawyers have long complained about the fact that such an important task is being placed in the hands of individuals who do not necessarily have a legal background.
Some have blamed JPs as one reason why jails are overcrowded with inmates who are awaiting trial.
Others see it differently.
“Putting experienced judges in bail court isn’t a solution to ensuring speedier justice,” said criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown, a Toronto director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. “While it is preferable to have our bail courts staffed with jurists who possess criminal law backgrounds, the answer is to hire more justices of the peace who possess that skill set.”
While the court has said judges will continue with their regular duties on top of presiding in bail court, lawyers have expressed concern that the pilot project will still lead to delays at the trial stage if judges have to be moved around to accommodate bail hearings.
Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said that there were times when it could take up to a week to get a bail hearing at the courthouse in that city, “which is unacceptable,” but it could take months, if not more than a year, to get a trial date.
“The role of justices of the peace should be examined,” he said. “I think there should be an acknowledgement that justices of the peace play an important role in the justice system . . . , but I think there should be no scared cows about what that role actually should be.
“If you take a step back and think about it, it is rather shocking that you would rather have people without legal degrees, without the type of experience that judges by definition need to have, making decisions about police searching your house and about whether someone remains in custody or is released pending trial.”
Spratt said that a complete re-orientation of the justice system is required in order to reduce court delays, including examining the use of the criminal law in dealing with people who are in poverty, or have mental issues and addictions.
James Morton, former counsel to the Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario, told the Star that part of the reason for having judges conduct bail hearings could be a current shortfall on in the number of JPs.
But he also acknowledged that there have long been calls from some groups for judges to preside over bail, and that could have played a role in the court’s decision on the pilot project.
“Justices of the peace know the law perfectly well and can make the decision just as well, to my thinking, as any judge can,” he said.
“Regardless of anything else, the length of time a bail hearing takes is really not contingent on the judge of the justice of the peace hearing it; it’s contingent on the Crown putting in whatever material they have, the defence calling sureties, whether they’re arguing over the form of release.”
Court delays are expected to be at the top of the agenda of the two-day federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers’ meeting, which begins Thursday in Vancouver.
The issue was put front and centre last year when the Supreme Court ruled in a case known as R. v. Jordan that cases that take longer than 18 months in provincial court, and 30 months in Superior Court, must be tossed unless the Crown can prove there were exceptional circumstances for the delay.
Bail has been among the areas targeted by Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi as in need of an overhaul to speed up the court process. There have been calls for federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to push for Criminal Code amendments that would scrap preliminary inquiries in most cases.
Wilson-Raybould’s parliamentary secretary, Marco Mendicino, told the annual Opening of the Courts ceremony in Toronto Tuesday that change is expected to be announced at the meeting in Vancouver.
“There, we hope to adopt a suite of legislative and policy proposals whose purpose will not only be to reduce court delays, but even more so, to break free from the culture of complacency which has beset our justice system, as laid bare in Jordan.
“It is time to act,” he said in his remarks.
Naqvi told the ceremony, which included the chief justices from all three levels of court in Ontario, as well as a number of other judges, lawyers and dignitaries, that the Ministry of the Attorney General will soon be releasing a new policy for Crown attorneys on bail.
“Too many of the people in our province’s correctional facilities are on remand,” he said.
“Too many are vulnerable, low-risk people, or those with mental health and addictions issues.
“And far too many, a disproportionate number, are racialized or Indigenous.”
PFORZHEIM, GERMANY—A nationalist party that wants Germany to close its borders to migrants, give up the euro and end sanctions against Russia is predicted to enter parliament for the first time, propelled by voters’ anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to admit over a million refugees since 2015.
Alternative for Germany, or AfD, is forecast to take between 8 and 11 per cent of the vote on Sept. 24, giving it dozens of lawmakers in the national parliament. Some polls even project that it could even place third behind Merkel’s party and the centre-left Social Democrats.
If the predictions are correct, it would be the first time in 60 years that a party to the right of Merkel’s conservative Union bloc has attracted enough votes to enter the Bundestag.
“It’s quite an achievement for a right-wing party to clear the 5 per cent minimum threshold,” said Gideon Botsch, a political scientist at the University of Potsdam near Berlin.
AfD’s poll numbers are all the more remarkable because the party has become increasingly extreme since its founding in 2013, according to Botsch.
“German voters haven’t wanted to vote for a right-wing party in recent decades,” he said. “Germany’s Nazi history is obviously one of the reasons for that.”
At an election rally last week in the southwestern city of Pforzheim, a mostly male, middle-aged audience gave a standing ovation to party co-leader Alexander Gauland, a 76-year-old former civil servant. Gauland, a former member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, sparked controversy last year by saying that Germans don’t want to live next to a black football player.
He made headlines again recently for suggesting that the government’s integration czar should be “disposed of” in Turkey, from where her family emigrated before she was born.
In Pforzheim, Gauland touched on a subject the party’s supporters are particularly anxious about: the influx of migrants from Muslim-majority countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Only if we defend Europe against a new Islamic invasion,” he told the crowd, “do we have a chance to remain a majority in this country and survive.”
Gauland’s anti-Islam comments fell on fertile ground in Pforzheim, which is located at the northern tip of Germany’s Black Forest. His party achieved a surprise victory there in last year’s regional election. It now has seats in 13 state assemblies and the European Parliament.
Observers say AfD benefited from Pforzheim’s large population of so-called Russlanddeutsche — ethnic Germans who emigrated from the former Soviet Union and hold more conservative views than the general population.
One such voter, Waldemar Meister, said he thinks AfD is the only party that listens to ordinary people’s concerns.
“We’re lied to, we’re deceived (by the other parties),” he said.
According to Timo Lochocki, a Berlin-based researcher at the German Marshall Fund think-tank, AfD’s success is partly due to the disillusionment voters feel with Germany’s established political parties. The development mirrors Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump, whose election AfD enthusiastically endorsed.
Nico Siegel, head of the infratest dimap polling agency, said more than half of people who vote for AfD say they did so out of dissatisfaction with other parties, drawing votes from all the others.
“The AfD is like a vacuum cleaner for those unsatisfied with the other parties,” he said.
Like populist politicians and parties elsewhere, AfD portrays itself as the lone voice of the people and all others, from mainstream politicians to journalists, as enemies or even traitors. It also enjoys good ties with Moscow.
The party has created a formidable social media machine with which to stoke outrage against migrants, Merkel and the media. It has by far the highest number of Facebook followers of all German political parties, and members avidly use Twitter to share news about crimes if they are committed by migrants.
Although the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Germany has dropped sharply since 2015, the issue remains at the top of the political agenda partly due to the absence of other major problems in the country, Lochocki said.
Germany’s unemployment is low, wages are rising and Merkel has absorbed most of her left-wing rivals’ political positions — from phasing out nuclear power to allowing same-sex marriage and easing immigration rules.
“Merkel has lost credibility among conservatives,” said Bernd Lucke, one of the founders of AfD who left the party in 2015 after losing a leadership battle. Lucke said many German conservatives are unsure who they’ll back this time round.
Recent opinion polls show almost half of German voters are still undecided.
Some in AfD fear the party’s unwillingness to clamp down on extreme nationalist rhetoric and veiled anti-Semitism could end up costing it precious votes.
“Germans would rather vote for nuclear war than for Nazis,” AfD’s regional head in North Rhine-Westphalia state, Marcus Pretzell, told The Associated Press in May.
This week, the party closed ranks around co-leader Alice Weidel following media reports that she had expressed racist views in a private email four years ago.
Senior AfD figures dismissed the report in the weekly Welt am Sonntag, which quoted from an email Weidel allegedly sent to an acquaintance in which she claimed the government was trying to cause “civil war” by systematically flooding German cities with Arab and Roma migrants.
Another report on Wednesday threatened to embarrass the party further. Weidel’s lawyer told Die Zeit newspaper that while Weidel had been friends with a Syrian asylum-seeker and had her over to visit, the newspaper’s report that she had employed the woman under-the-table as a housecleaner last year was untrue.
AfD later issued a statement reiterating that Weidel never employed the asylum-seeker.
Botsch, the political scientist, said it’s conceivable AfD might again fail at the last hurdle — like it did in 2013, when it ended up with 4.7 per cent of the vote.
On the other hand, if the party comes in third and Merkel’s Union bloc continues its coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats, AfD could end up being the biggest opposition party, with special privileges in Parliament.
“That will put AfD in a very strong position, but a lot depends on whether it can behave professionally,” Botsch said.
The notice went out on Facebook last year, calling citizens of Twin Falls, Idaho, to an urgent meeting about the “huge upsurge of violence toward American citizens” by Muslim refugees who had settled there.
The inflammatory post, however, originated not in Idaho but in Russia. The meeting’s sponsor, an anti-immigrant page called “Secured Borders,” was one of hundreds of fake Facebook accounts created by a Russian company with Kremlin ties to spread vitriolic messages on divisive issues.
Facebook acknowledged last week that it had closed the accounts after linking them to advertisements costing $100,000 (U.S.) that were purchased in Russia’s influence campaign during and after the 2016 election. But the company declined to release or describe in detail the pages and profiles it had linked to Russia.
A report by the Russian media outlet RBC last March, however, identified the Secured Borders page as the work of the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg firm that employs hundreds of so-called trolls to post material in support of Russian government policies. A Facebook official confirmed that Secured Borders was removed in the purge of Russian fakes.
The Secured Borders page, a search for archived images shows, spent months posing as an American activist group and spreading provocative messages on Facebook calling immigrants “scum” and “freeloaders,” linking refugees to crime and praising U.S. President Donald Trump’s tough line on immigration. The page attracted more than 133,000 followers before it was shut down.
It also promoted the Aug. 27, 2016, meeting in Twin Falls, called “Citizens before refugees,” which was first reported by The Daily Beast. The call came amid incendiary claims linking Muslim refugees in Twin Falls to crime that circulated on far-right websites last year. In May, Alex Jones, of the conspiracy site Infowars.com, retracted a claim that the Twin Falls yogurt company Chobani, which had made a point of hiring refugees, had been “caught importing migrant rapists.”
Shawn Barigar, the mayor of Twin Falls, said that the City Council chambers, where the supposed meeting was called on a Saturday, were closed that day and that officials did not recall any gathering. But he said that after two years of “robust debate” over the city’s refugee resettlement program, which dates to the 1980s, it was “kind of surreal” to discover that Russia had joined in.
“I kind of thought, ‘Well, that’s an interesting twist,’” Barigar said. He said the program “represents our core values as a community — welcoming others and learning from one another.” He said immigrants had not caused disproportionate problems there.
The multifaceted Russian information operation targeting the presidential election had many elements, including the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails, regular attacks on Hillary Clinton by the RT television channel and the online news site Sputnik, and the creation of fake accounts on Facebook and Twitter. But the Twin Falls post is the first example to come to light of Russian agents actually trying to conjure a political rally on American soil.
Facebook officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they had found a small number of additional events announced by the Russia-created pages and were looking for more. They declined to give examples.
The new revelations stepped up pressure on Facebook to make public more of what it knows about the Russian propaganda operations.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that he wanted Facebook and Twitter to testify in public session about the Russian use of their sites.
Warner called Facebook’s closed briefing for his committee and its House counterpart last week “just the tip of the iceberg.”
“We’re seeing more evidence of additional ads and how they are used to manipulate individuals,” he said.
Calling social media “the wild, wild West,” Warner said that getting a handle on the 2016 experience with Russian intrusions was critical because “the amount of advertising and use of these social media platforms in elections is only going to go exponentially up.” He said Twitter representatives would brief the committee soon.
Facebook said last week that the 470 “inauthentic accounts and pages” it had linked to Russia and removed had bought about 3,000 ads between June 2015 and May this year. Though some ads mentioned the presidential candidates or the election, most “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights,” wrote Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has long been concerned that the United States might be inspiring pro-democracy movements inside Russia and on its periphery, including in Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic republics.
Jonathon Morgan, a former State Department adviser who has studied Russian online operations at his company, New Knowledge, said the Facebook activity underscored that the broader Russian goal went beyond attacks on Clinton or support for Trump in last year’s election.
“This is more about destabilizing democracy and pitting us against each other to limit the influence of the United States on the world stage,” he said.
Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent, now with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, who has studied the Russian influence campaign, said that beyond damaging the American image, Putin had reasons to court particular subgroups.
“If he’s successful, it gives him an indigenous U.S. audience in support of his policies,” Watts said. “It also gives him leverage in talking to President Trump: ‘Why don’t you stop interfering in Ukraine, and we’ll leave your domestic audience alone.’”
The potential influence of the Russia-linked Facebook ads depends in part on how they were targeted. While $100,000 is tiny compared with Facebook’s billions in quarterly advertising revenue, digital advertising experts said that even a little money could go a long way with Facebook advertising.
“In a world of microtargeting, where you can home in on individuals down to the Zip code, $100,000 can go a lot further than one would realize,” said Jason Kint, chief executive of Digital Content Next, an advertising research trade organization.
A group like Secured Borders may test hundreds of Facebook posts to see what content resonates with people, closely monitoring the number of likes, shares and clicks a post receives. If a post happens to take off, the group can pay to promote the post, effectively placing it in front of millions of people.
The issue is a thorny one for Facebook, whose business is almost entirely based on advertising. Executives at the social giant are deeply concerned at the federal government’s recent inquiries into how the company’s advertising works. Its advertising is not subject to the same regulations put on political print, radio and television ads.
The Russian campaign’s use of Facebook has distressed some employees, according to internal communications. In an excerpt from a company discussion board that was shared with The New York Times, Facebook employees pressed their bosses to be more open.
“Why are we only writing about this now?” one employee wrote, noting that last week’s Facebook disclosure came after months of news reports about the Russian influence campaign. Other workers asked for examples of the ads in question and for details on what the company described as the “geographic targeting” of some ads — specifically, whether they targeted swing states.
Stamos, the company’s security chief, declined to disclose more information. “There are complicated legal issues about what we can share with various interested parties,” he wrote on the discussion board. “I can’t go into more details than that at the moment.”
A veteran Durham police officer has come out swinging as he fights charges of discreditable conduct relating to allegations he made homophobic comments during an exchange with potential recruits.
The pursuit of Police Services Act charges against Sgt. Tom Andrews is a waste of resources, the officer’s lawyer, Bernie O’Brien, said as a disciplinary tribunal began on Tuesday morning in Whitby.
“This is a Durham police management issue that’s gone amok,” O’Brien said. “We think this is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”
O’Brien said Tuesday he’ll file an application to have the prosecution of Andrews declared an abuse of process. He’s also seeking removal of the prosecutor assigned to the case.
The allegations against Andrews relate to April of this year when he was acting as staff sergeant in Oshawa. A notice of hearing from the service says Andrews, asked to speak to two recruits, used vulgar and discriminatory language when he warned them about maintaining stellar reputations as officers.
According to the notice, Andrews told the recruits, “You can sleep with a thousand women and you’re a king. But you fellate one man and you are a c---s----- for life.”
The comment, made in front of an officer who’s openly gay, was “unprofessional, inappropriate and harmful to those who did and would have heard them,” the notice states.
The complaint that led to the charges, however, was not made by the recruits or other officers in the office at the time Andrews made them. A third party filed the complaint after hearing about the exchange, O’Brien confirmed.
Andrews denied the comment was homophobic; he attributed the resulting charges to “political correctness.”
“I used an analogy in a teaching environment,” Andrews said. “Rather than talking and resolving third-party concerns like this, I guess it’s easier to just call the lawyers and get out the taxpayers’ chequebook.”
O’Brien said Tuesday that Andrews has been assigned to administrative duties. He is not authorized to employ use of force tactics and is barred from performing paid duty, restrictions that will cost the veteran officer $40,000 in wages, O’Brien said.
“He was taken out and put in the penalty box,” O’Brien said. “It’s unfair. It’s undignified.”
O’Brien will seek removal of the firm of Ian Johnstone, a longtime prosecutor for Durham police, from the case. He cited an instance in 2012 when Johnstone filed a personal complaint about a remark made by Andrews that led to disciplinary action.
“The justification is the perception of a fair and impartial hearing,” O’Brien said later.
O’Brien will also apply to have the disciplinary action by police brass declared an abuse of process.
Alex Sinclair, acting as prosecutor during Tuesday’s hearing, rejected O’Brien’s assertion that the comments in question were harmless.
“That theme I simply can’t agree with,” Sinclair said. “When you make homophobic comments in the workplace, that’s a serious issue.”
A number of officers attended the tribunal to show support for Andrews. Brad Durst, vice-president of the Durham Regional Police Association, said Andrews has “the full support of the association.”
“I’ve known Tommy for 25 years,” said Durst. “He is truly the hardest-working, most dedicated officer.”
The tribunal has been adjourned to Oct. 31.
ROCKFORD, WASH.—A shooter opened fire at a high school in Washington state Wednesday, killing one person and injuring at least three others, authorities said.
Brian Schaeffer of the Spokane Fire Department told reporters that one person died at Freeman High School in the tiny town of Rockford, south of Spokane, and three injured victims were taken to a hospital.
Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital received three pediatric patients, spokesperson Nicole Stewart said. They were in stable condition, and family members were with them, she said.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said at the scene that the shooter was in custody, The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported.
Worried parents rushed to the school in the town of about 500 people near the Idaho border, about 40 kilometres southeast of Spokane. The two-lane road into town was clogged as people sped to the school.
Cheryl Moser said her son, a freshman at Freeman High School, called her from a classroom after hearing shots fired.
“He called me and said, ‘Mom there are gunshots.’ He sounded so scared. I’ve never heard him like that,” Moser told the newspaper. “You never think about something happening like this at a small school.”
Ambulances and a Lifeflight helicopter were sent to the school.
Stephanie Lutje told The Associated Press that she was relieved to hear her son was safe after his high school near Freeman was put on lockdown. She commended the school district for its communication with parents.
“It’s been amazing, within probably 15-20 minutes of hearing about it, I’d already received a phone call, I’d already received a text message saying that their school is OK,” she said.
She still worried for others she knew, including a co-worker who had yet to hear from her son, a sophomore at Freeman.
“My stomach’s in knots right now,” she said.
Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement that “all Washingtonians are thinking of the victims and their families, and are grateful for the service of school staff and first responders working to keep our students safe.”
SUDBURY—Premier Kathleen Wynne says a would-be byelection candidate simply wasn’t up to the job — and was offered a chance to get more involved in the party in an effort to let him down easy.
The details came in her long-awaited testimony to the Election Act bribery trial of the premier’s former deputy chief of staff, Patricia Sorbara, and Sudbury Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed.
The pair are charged with offering Andrew Olivier, a mortgage broker and the party’s 2014 provincial election candidate, jobs or appointments to abandon his efforts to become the Liberal nominee in an unexpected byelection early the following year.
“I didn’t say this to him . . . he hadn’t been a great candidate,” said Wynne, the first Ontario premier in recent memory to testify at a trial that opposition parties are calling a test of Liberal “corruption” with a provincial election next June.
Wynne strode past a phalanx of reporters, TV cameras and radio microphones on her way into the courthouse, spending almost four hours in the witness box. On her way out of the building, a handful of protesters weakly chanted, “liar, liar, pants on fire.”
“He had not been able to pull the team together . . . there was some concern,” the premier said of Olivier, who placed second in 2014 as the Liberals won a slim majority but lost Sudbury to the NDP after holding it for 18 years.
Wynne’s preferred candidate for the February 2015 byelection — called after New Democrat MPP Joe Cimino suddenly quit for family reasons — was defecting Sudbury New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault, now her energy minister.
That’s why Wynne, who was once passed over for a party nomination in 1999, felt it necessary to reach out to Olivier to ask him to support Thibeault and stay involved in the party.
“I thought it was a decent thing to do . . . this was a difficult moment for him,” she said of Olivier, who subsequently released recorded conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara that prosecutors allege were illegal job offers.
The defence has argued that Thibeault had privately agreed to become the candidate before the conversations Olivier had with Sorbara and Lougheed.
Olivier, who is quadriplegic, tapes some calls and conversations because he cannot take notes.
Wynne testified her own conversation with Olivier — which was not recorded — made it clear there was a “process” he could go through to take various positions in the party, such as seeking an elected spot on the executive, serving on volunteer committees or seeking a public appointment.
“These were not things that would happen immediately,” Wynne testified under examination by Crown prosecutor Vern Brewer, describing her phone chat with Olivier on Dec. 11, 2014 as “awkward” because he was not signalling whether he would back Thibeault.
Olivier subsequently ran as an independent in the byelection and placed third behind Thibeault and a New Democrat.
The next call from the Liberal hierarchy to Olivier was by Sorbara, the following day. Lougheed had talked to him an hour or two before Wynne.
“My recollection is Pat was going to follow up with Andrew,” Wynne added. “Beyond that, there was no instruction.”
On the tape of that conversation, Sorbara said, “we should have the broadest discussion about what it is that you would be most interested in doing, whether it’s a full-time or part-time job in a (constituency) office, whether it is appointments or commissions . . . .”
In his talk with Olivier, Lougheed stated: “The premier wants to talk. They would like to present you options in terms of appointments, jobs, whatever, that you and her and Pat Sorbara could talk about.”
Under cross-examination by Lougheed lawyer Michael Lacy, Wynne replied “I did not” when asked if she gave “scripts” to Sorbara and Lougheed but said there was a “shared understanding” that the approach was aimed at keeping Olivier involved in the party.
“The words chosen by Mr. Lougheed may not have been perfect words,” Lacy said.
The trial is expected to continue into October.
Sorbara and Lougheed face maximum fines of $25,000 and two years less a day in jail for the alleged infractions, which are under a lesser category of provincial offences and not under the Criminal Code.
Sorbara faces a second count of inducing Thibeault to be the candidate. The Crown says he asked for income replacement through the campaign if he jumped from federal politics to the provincial Liberals and for jobs for two of his NDP constituency office staff.
Wynne testified that Sorbara had a say in how party funds were spent in the byelection.
“My understanding is she would have.”
Toronto is moving forward with the development of 2,000 market-rent and affordable rental housing units, through a provincial agreement to unlock surplus land across the city.
“There are far too many people who need to live in this city, who we need to have live in this city, who we want to live in the city, who would have an income that wouldn’t allow them to live affordably in this city,” said Mayor John Tory.
The rental properties will be built on two lots in the West Don Lands, as well as the site of a multi-level parking lot on Grosvenor St. and the old provincial coroner’s office, on Grenville St.
Tory’s remarks were made during a press conference with provincial Housing Minister Peter Milczyn, at one future site, near St. Lawrence Market, on Wednesday morning.
The land will go up for sale on Thursday and developers will be invited to submit proposals, with the understanding the property must be used for affordable and market rent housing.
The province will profit from the sale but the expectation is the land will sell for less than it would if it was put on the market with no restrictions, said Milczyn.
They hope to have the first round of proposals within a month and work could begin on one site as early as next spring, he said. The decision to unlock the property was announced in late April.
Milczyn said at least 30 per cent or 600 rental homes will be affordable. In Toronto, affordable is defined as rental units costing at or below the average rent across the city.
The remaining 1,400 will be at the “low end” of market rent, or the average rent for similar-sized properties across the city.
“So all of these units, compared to some of the other buildings that are around us, will be more affordable than you would otherwise see in the city,” he said.
At least one in 10 of the new units will be designed for large families, he said.
“Families should be able to live in these communities,” said Milczyn, who said more announcements about surplus provincial lands are coming.
The city will be waiving $27.9 million in fees, charges and property taxes to support the development of the 600 affordable units, through the city’s Open Door Program.
Kenneth Hale, director of legal service with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, said one concern is according to federal and provincial agreements, affordable housing is defined as less or equal to 80 per cent of market rent.
“Eighty per cent of Toronto rent is not affordable to the people who need housing most in this city,” said Hale, particularly people receiving social assistance.
“There doesn’t seem to be any clear programs that tie future subsidies to these developments,” said Hale.
“When they say affordable housing who is it going to be affordable to?”
In Toronto, more than 181,000 people are on waitlists for affordable housing.
Tory, on Wednesday, said the city has “great plans to do more” and people should “stay tuned for us making more land available,” for affordable housing.
“I can assure you from our end that we are doing everything we can to move these projects forward quickly,” said Tory.
Councillor Ana Bailao, the city’s housing advocate, said the development will “serve an important need,” by providing safe, affordable and long-term housing for families and workers in the downtown.
Tory and Bailao praised late councillor Pam McConnell, who passed away in July and was devoted to social justice and the creation of affordable housing. Bailao said McConnell’s vision of an inclusive city was a powerful reminder that equality is a shared responsibility.
Next week, Bailao will be presenting information on the creation of an additional 298 units, in seven developments, run by not-for-profit, co-operative and private sector organizations, to the city’s affordable housing committee.
The city will be investing a further $22.4 million in “capital funding and fees, charges and property tax relief,” also through the Open Door program, said Bailao, in a release.
The city will, for the first time, meet and exceed an annual target to approve more than 1,000 affordable units annually, she said.
On Monday, Tory and Milczyn announced that Toronto will get $90 million in provincial funding, over three years, to help end chronic homelessness.
Those funds come from a $200 million commitment in the last budget, to be spent over three years, and earmarked to reduce homelessness across Ontario.
Other municipalities will receive details on funding in the fall, said Milczyn.
MONTREAL—For a taste of the challenges that could await Thomas Mulcair’s successor in Quebec consider the following: On Tuesday, Longueuil-Saint-Hubert MP Pierre Nantel told le Devoir that he and possibly others might prefer to sit as independents than to serve in the House of Commons under any of the non-Quebec candidates vying for the NDP leadership.
In an open letter published Thursday, Nantel — who currently serves as the party’s heritage critic — writes that it was Jack Layton’s promise of a party respectful of Quebec’s national character that drew him along with many of the province’s voters to the NDP in 2011.
From his perspective, the fact that Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Jagmeet Singh have all spoken out against Quebec’s plan to prevent individuals wearing face coverings from dispensing or receiving public services amounts to a breach of that promise.
The bill currently debated in the National Assembly would essentially impact the minority of Muslim women who wear the niqab and the burka.
MP Guy Caron — the only Quebec candidate in the running — has said that while he disagrees with the bill he would, as federal leader, respect the will of the National Assembly on the matter.
Ashton, Singh and Angus have argued that Quebec’s secular character should not be affirmed at the expense of constitutionally protected religious freedoms.
In his letter, Nantel warns that under a leader set on a collision course with the National Assembly on secularism the NDP could lose its tenuous connection with nationalist Quebecers and, by the same token, set the cause of federalism back in the province.
Nantel will support Caron in the leadership vote, but there is more at play here than the jostling that often attends the last stretch of a competitive political contest.
Indeed this MP’s crisis of confidence in some of his party’s values predates the entry of any of the current leadership aspirants in the campaign to succeed Mulcair.
In the last campaign Nantel was one of a handful of Quebec New Democrat candidates who broke ranks and came out in support of the proposed Conservative niqab ban at citizenship ceremonies.
Back in January, the local media in Nantel’s Montreal South Shore riding reported that he was considering a run for the Parti Québécois in next year’s Quebec election. On Wednesday he described that scenario as “hypothetical.”
Nantel is a popular, hard-working MP. He would be a catch for a momentum-hungry PQ for more reasons than one.
His federal riding includes much of the provincial riding of Vachon. That happens to be the seat currently held in the National Assembly by Martine Ouellet, the latest leader of the Bloc Québécois. She is expected to vacate it to run federally in 2019.
In the last federal election, Nantel kept his federal seat with a slim 700-vote majority. The Bloc won a solid 27 per cent of the vote. If he were to make the jump to the provincial arena and a solid PQ riding, he would in the process provide Ouellet with as clear a federal run in Longueuil-Saint-Hubert in 2019 as she could hope for.
In terms of raw politics this could be described as a win-win quid pro quo.
That being said, there is more to Nantel’s lament than an isolated case of positioning in the possible hope of a more promising political future under a different banner.
There is a widespread fear among the party’s rank-and-file in Quebec that the nationalist-friendly terms set out by Layton and Mulcair to bring the province under the NDP tent will become moot under a less Quebec-savvy leader. And that as a result, the province’s New Democrats will no longer be competitive.
In his letter Nantel readily admits that, in contrast with Caron, he is not a lifelong NDP supporter but rather a Layton convert. But the New Democrat predicament in Quebec is that the party has more supporters like Nantel than like Caron.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals assume that they would benefit from a fading NDP presence in Quebec. That assumption is almost certainly right when it comes to ridings like Mulcair’s Outremont that happen to be home to a diverse and solid federalist constituency.
But in other areas of the province, it could give a breath of life to a moribund Bloc Québécois.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
He was a giant of his time, a classic of his political type as regional godfather and an architect of some of the social programs on which Canadians still define and pride themselves.
Allan Joseph MacEachen — known as “Allan J.” across his native Cape Breton Island; if you called him anything else you outed yourself as a come-from-away — died this week at 96.
And for once the frequently uttered epitaph is true. His like is not apt to pass this way again any time soon.
“Allan J. was the pre-eminent parliamentarian of his time,” Bob Rae, former MP and Ontario premier, told the Star.
“He will deservedly be remembered for his deep commitment to social justice, to the economic development of his region and the whole country and to Parliament itself.”
Sean Fraser, Liberal MP for the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova, told the Star that MacEachen “was just a larger-than-life character. He’s peerless in Canadian politics.”
MacEachen held just about “every position there is to hold,” Fraser said. “And he did more with those positions than can reasonably be expected of a human being.”
Allan J. was an MP and senator for more than 43 years, starting out at the progressive heart of the Pearson government in the 1960s and using his vast parliamentary skills, University of Toronto professor Nelson Wiseman told the Star, to engineer the downfall of the Joe Clark government in 1979 and his considerable powers of persuasion on the Liberal caucus to enable Pierre Trudeau’s return as leader — after his dalliance with resignation.
“Allan MacEachen was a very, very shrewd tactician, and it’s actually because of him that Pierre Trudeau came back into power in 1980,” Wiseman said.
MacEachen was born in 1921 in Inverness, N.S., and grew up during the Great Depression. His father worked in the Cape Breton coal mines for 46 years, and when he left, his son once recalled, “he left with nothing; he had no pension.”
But MacEachen found education to be the great equalizer. He attended St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and graduated in 1944 before studying economics at M.I.T.
He was first elected in 1953 at just 33, was defeated in 1958 and re-elected in 1962.
His first cabinet portfolio was as Lester Pearson’s labour minister. Then, in 1966, as minister of national health and welfare, he helped implement medicare in Canada, widely regarded as his greatest achievement.
He told the Commons “this effort springs not only from a deepening of our humanitarian concern for our fellow citizens, but from a realization that we cannot afford the social and economic consequences of our failure to do so. In an industrial country such as ours, we cannot afford the loss to the economy stemming from ill health.”
MacEachen, said Rae, “was at the heart and centre of the Pearson government — whose social and economic policies remain an integral part of the policy architecture of our country.
“The Canada Pension Plan, medicare, manpower changes, regional development, immigration changes — Allan J. was instrumental in making these happen.”
In 1968, MacEachen ran for the Liberal leadership, but lost badly and ended up in debt. He was shuffled sideways, then downward for a time by Pierre Trudeau. He considered quitting politics, but friends convinced him he would be letting down Cape Breton.
For all MacEachen’s accomplishments during the Pearson years, he was what former Star columnist Richard Gwyn once called “a late-blooming media star.”
By 1972, MacEachen had been on Parliament Hill for almost 20 years in various capacities, but cultivated a sort of shaggy, bearish demeanour that was clever camouflage for his shrewdness.
He was an intensely private bachelor, with a reputation among some colleagues for brooding and melancholy. And it was the Clark-Trudeau dramas of 1979-80 in which he jumped to national prominence, Gwyn wrote.
In his memoirs, Pierre Trudeau wrote that MacEachen had great strategic sense, lived and breathed politics and was “the kind of man I respected because he had no ulterior motives.
“He said what he thought, and the reasons he would give were always his real reasons.”
Trudeau’s confidence in MacEachen was reflected by the late Liberal cabinet minister, Eugene Whelan, when he wrote in his memoir of having his knuckles rapped by the PM after speaking out critically on financial affairs while MacEachen was minister.
“You can say anything you like about the banks, but leave MacEachen out of it,” Whelan reported Trudeau telling him.
MacEachen, who retired from the Senate in 1996 after 12 years in the upper chamber, led the infamous Liberal protests there in the late 1980s over the Progressive Conservative government’s free-trade treaty with the United States.
At MacEachen’s Senate retirement, colleague Sen. Anne Cools described the country’s first deputy prime minister as a true son of Cape Breton, whose parents spoke Scottish Gaelic at home.
“His Scottish racial ancestry is revealed in his physical build and his stalwart features. He is a handsome man with great serenity and poise. He has the countenance of one who understands human beings and the human condition.
MacEachen enjoyed solitude, she said. His face was inscrutable when necessary. “He is a complex man.”
Richard Gwyn concurred.
“The only way to understand him is to understand Cape Breton,” Gwyn wrote in The Northern Magus, a biography of Pierre Trudeau.
“That tribal, private, tightly knit kingdom peopled by cynical romantics and canny innocents, peopled that is to say by Catholic highland Scots, given to beholding the Hebrides in dreams.
“MacEachen is happiest in the past, which to him is part of the present. He speaks Gaelic fluently and visits Scotland regularly to revivify his roots. To his Cape Breton tribe, he is shepherd and icon combined.”
And for all the titles he held — for all the landmark accomplishments — his “reputation at home was for service to his constituents,” said Fraser.
He recalled an oft-told tale of how, as external affairs minister, MacEachen was attending a Middle East peace conference. He wanted the schedule changed so he could leave Thursday in order to get home to Cape Breton to deal with constituents.
He was told by other participants that changing the agenda was no small inconvenience.
“He said to the U.S. secretary of state, ‘The difference between your political system and mine is if I don’t get back for this weekend for my meetings at home, we don’t get to have this meeting next year.”
Fraser said MacEachen’s impact on Canadian politics will continue for years because of the leaders he groomed as they passed through his office and under his influence.
“When I was student union president at St. F.X. (Francis Xavier), the president of the university had worked in his (MacEachen’s) office.
“When I was deciding to go to law school, the two people who convinced me that it was a good idea . . . they both got their start in law and politics working for Allan MacEachen.
“The people that are around Ottawa now who have worked alongside him include Ralph Goodale and Gerry Butts.
“This man had his fingers on the careers of so many talented people that he’s going to continue to influence Canadian politics for a generation after he’s gone.”
In fact, MacEachen — whose stamp of approval mattered until the end of his days — helped in the election of 2015, Fraser said.
“He had a home in Antigonish until he passed and he had a big red sign in the middle of town for me during the last election.”
Still, it might be Bob Rae who hit on the most important of Allan J.’s legacies.
Rae met MacEachen when he was a young guide in the House of Commons in the summer of 1966 and the MP was already a parliamentary veteran.
“I saw him perform brilliantly in an emergency debate on back-to-work legislation. When I was first elected to the House in 1978, he was friendly, but didn’t give me any leeway in debate. I was his critic when he was finance minister.
“When I was thinking about running for the Liberal leadership in 2006, he called me out of the blue and said he wanted to help. Given my often barbed comments about him I was taken aback. I went to see him, and we talked it through. I asked him to co-chair my campaign, which he generously did.”
MacEachen was a scholar who remained, Rae said, “a student of economics, politics and philosophy his whole life.”
He had been “made frail by a series of strokes, but kept reading, engaging and talking things through as best he could.
“His was a life of service,” Rae said. “And he was loved by many, including me.”
NEW YORK—A judge jailed former pharmaceuticals company CEO Martin Shkreli on Wednesday after finding that he violated his bail on a securities fraud conviction with a social media posting she agreed posed a threat to Hillary Clinton.
Defence attorneys had argued at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn that the post by Shkreli, offering a $5,000 (U.S.) bounty to anyone who could grab him one of Clinton’s hairs while she’s on a book tour, was political satire. But U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto didn’t see the humour, saying the offer could be taken seriously by fellow Clinton detractors.
The Clinton offer could be viewed as “a solicitation of an assault,” the judge said before revoking Shkreli’s $5-million bail.
“This is not protected by the First Amendment,” the judge said. “... There’s a risk that somebody may take him up on it.”
The government had told the judge that the message had alarmed the Secret Service detail that protects Clinton, a Democratic former presidential candidate and first lady. It also argued that it fit a pattern of veiled threats against female journalists who rebuffed Shkreli’s social media advances and of taunts aimed at prosecutors in his case.
On Monday, Shkreli, often called the Pharma Bro, wrote to the court apologizing for his behaviour, saying, “I am not a violent person.”
But for the judge, it was too little, too late.
“He doesn’t have to apologize to me,” she said. “He should apologize to the government, the Secret Service and Hillary Clinton.”
Shkreli watched in silence as the hearing unfolded and sometimes put his head down and appeared to scribble notes. After the judge’s ruling, he remained expressionless as deputy U.S. marshals led him out a side door of the courtroom without handcuffing him.
Defence attorney Ben Brafman said outside court he was disappointed in the judge’s decision.
“We believe the court arrived at the wrong decision, but she’s the judge and right now we will have to live with this decision,” he said.
Shkreli, who is best known for hiking up the price of a life-saving drug and for trolling his critics on social media, was found guilty last month on charges, unrelated to the price-fixing scandal, that he cheated investors in two failed hedge funds he ran. The defence had argued that investors got their original investments back and even made hefty profits.
Since his 2015 arrest, Shkreli’s attorneys have tried and failed to get him to tone down online antics they feared would taint his jury and, after his conviction, hurt his chances for a lenient sentence by giving the court the impression he wasn’t taking his situation seriously. Along with the Clinton flap, reports surfaced that he was trying to auction off what he claims is a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album he bought for $2 million.
For now, Shkreli will await his Jan. 16 sentencing at a federal jail in an industrial part of Brooklyn instead his Manhattan apartment, which was a familiar backdrop for his live-streamed bluster. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, though the term could end up being shorter under federal sentencing guidelines.
The government sought to get Shkreli locked up as a danger to the community amid the fallout from his social media post, which read: “The Clinton Foundation is willing to KILL to protect its secrets. So on HRC’s book tour, try to grab a hair from her. I must confirm the sequences I have. Will pay $5,000 per hair obtained from Hillary Clinton.”
The defence insisted it was merely a tasteless joke comparable to some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s derisive comments.
“Indeed, in the current political climate, dissent has unfortunately often taken the form of political satire, hyperbole, parody or sarcasm,” the defence’s court papers said. “There is a difference, however, between comments that are intended to threaten or harass and comments — albeit offensive ones — that are intended as political satire or strained humour.”
NDP leadership candidate Guy Caron says if elected prime minister he would approve pipeline projects only after the National Energy Board is reformed and First Nations whose lands were involved gave their consent.
Pipeline politics is one of the first issues the new leader of the NDP will have to confront next month, and it’s a tense one. Two NDP premiers, Rachel Notley of Alberta and John Horgan of B.C., stand opposed to one another over it. But Caron told the Star’s editorial board Wednesday he’s no stranger to a challenge.
“I was the least known candidate in the race,” Caron said of the beginning of his campaign. “My goal was to be a competitor, and I’d say I’m exactly where I wanted to be.”
Caron believes that for the party to climb out of its third-place position in Parliament, it needs to win back the seats it gained in Quebec with the 2011 “orange wave” led by the late Jack Layton.
“That, for me, is unavoidable,” said Caron, the only leadership candidate from Quebec.
He argued he’s the only leadership candidate who understands Quebec politics and believes he is bringing forward a plan to “move the party in a different direction” after learning from previous NDP strategies that failed to garner enough support to gain power.
While NDP platforms typically focus on implementing universal programs such as pharmacare and daycare, they’re conspicuously absent from Caron’s platform, which focuses instead on tax reform and basic income.
He called universal programs a “priority” but said he wanted to build his platform around actionable items for the first NDP budget, rather than programs that depend on “lengthy negotiations with the provinces.”
Caron said if he became prime minister he would bring provinces together to discuss best practices on these issues — Quebec, for example, has a universal daycare program in place.
Meanwhile, he said he’s bringing “bold” ideas about tax reform and social safety nets to the table.
He said the tax reforms he proposes would bring in $31 billion in additional federal revenues, an amount he admits is “ambitious,” especially given the backlash the Liberals are getting for their more modest tax proposals.
But Caron said he’ll be able to sell his plan to Canadians because it’s “all about merit.”
He plans to amp up taxes on what he calls “unproductive capital” — such as income from investments and a wealth tax — while bringing more Canadians into the lowest tax bracket for labour income.
“I don’t want to make everybody equal, but I want to use the tax system to level the playing field,” Caron said.
That’s also what Caron hopes to accomplish with his basic income proposal — a unique component of his platform that has also garnered the most opposition from opponents.
The term basic income covers a range of policies that involve the government making guaranteed payments to some, or all, of its constituents. Caron called Canada’s guaranteed income supplement and child-care benefit forms of basic income already in place.
The idea’s detractors on the left, fellow candidate Niki Ashton for one, fear its implementation will pave the way for the dismantling of traditional social supports, including welfare and universal programs.
Caron insists he won’t allow that to happen. He’s proposing that anyone living below the low-income cut-off in their region — including students, Indigenous people and veterans — receive basic income payments in conjunction with existing social programs.
“It won’t work if provinces are using it to off-load their expenditures,” he said, adding he would end the program in provinces that used a federal basic income program in this way.
He cited a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimate that his proposal would cost $30 billion to $35 billion. In the long run, he believes the price tag will be worth it.
“When you eliminate the stress of the need to survive,” he said, rates of crime, hospitalization and divorce can also be expected to drop.
He said he knows his lofty plans will be met with opposition, but defended them as the right direction for a deflated NDP.
When the NDP was the official Opposition under current leader Tom Mulcair it was widely viewed as a parliamentary success, he said. Caron insists that to get out of that rut the party needs both an ambitious plan and a leader who will unite Canadians — including Quebecers.
After growing up in a middle-class home in Edmonton, Patricia Huculak moved to Toronto 11 years ago to escape a violent spouse and has struggled with poverty and homelessness ever since.
But things are finally looking up for the 47-year-old single mother. In July, Huculak began receiving a $500 monthly housing allowance through a recently beefed-up federal-provincial homelessness prevention program that has allowed her to rent a one-bedroom apartment close to public transit.
Next week, she will graduate from a 12-week advocacy program that has given her the confidence to apply for a well-paying job with the city of Toronto as a street outreach worker where she hopes to put her life experience to work helping others.
And her daughter Alicha, 13, a budding track star, is trying out for a girls basketball team that plays competitively throughout southern Ontario.
“It used to be every day getting up and asking where am I going to get the next meal and how am I going to get shoes for my daughter?” says Huculak. “But I’m breathing a little easier. For the first time in a long time I have hope.”
Canadian incomes have risen by more than 10 per cent over the last decade, fuelled by a booming resource sector, while the number living on low incomes is rising in Ontario where growth has been sluggish, Statistics Canada says.
However, the agency cautions that census results do not account for the sharp drop-off in oil prices that hit the economy and stalled the resource sector in 2015 and 2016. As well, the Ontario economy has started to rebound, showing strong growth in the first quarter and low unemployment.
New data from the 2016 census reveals that the median income of Canadian households rose to $70,336 in 2015, up 10.8 per cent from $63,457 in 2005.
The jump is attributed to high resource prices that attracted investment and workers to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, pumped up the construction sector and saw wealth filter through the economy, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.
The picture wasn’t so rosy in Ontario, where the downturn in the manufacturing sector slowed income growth and the proportion of low-income residents has been on the rise.
The median income in Ontario was $74,287 in 2015, up just 3.8 per cent over the last decade, the slowest growth of any province or territory during that time.
That’s attributed to the gutting of the manufacturing sector and the loss of 318,000 jobs, down 30 per cent since 2005.
From 2005 to 2015, almost every metropolitan centre in Ontario saw below average income growth, compared to the booming Prairies, where incomes rose above average. The Greater Toronto Area had a median income of $78,373 in 2015, up 3.3 per cent. In the GTA, Oakville had the highest median income at $113,666. The City of Toronto had the lowest at $65,829.
The last decade has also seen a rise in low-income rates in Ontario’s urban centres, led by London (17 per cent, up from 13 per cent) and Windsor (17.5 per cent, up from 14 per cent). The Toronto region’s low-income rate rose to 15.6 per cent from 14.1 per cent a decade ago.
Across Ontario, 14.4 per cent of residents — some 1.9 million people — were low income in 2015, an increase from 12.9 per cent in 2005.
Nationwide, the low-income rate edged up slightly over the decade to 14.2 per cent in 2015, from 14 per cent. For children, the low-income rate was also stable but higher at 17.1 per cent, up slightly from 17 per cent in 2005.
“We see a relative stability in low income. That means in this period of growth, people aren’t falling further behind. But they aren’t necessarily catching up either,” Andrew Heisz, assistant director of income statistics division at Statistics Canada, said in an interview.
“A decline in the low-income rate is possible if incomes of lower-income persons are rising faster than the median. But that hasn’t been the case here,” he said.
(Statistics Canada defines a low-income household as one having less than half of the median income of all households. For a one-person household, the after-tax low income measure was $22,133 in 2015. For a family of four it was $44,266.)
That means 4.8 million Canadians were living in low-income in 2015, some 1.2 million of them children, including almost 490,000 in Ontario.
Lone-parent families such as Huculak’s and those with more than one child are more likely to be low-income, according to Statistics Canada.
However, Statistics Canada says that the proportion of low-income children has been dropping since the mid-1990s, thanks in part to government programs. The average child benefit received by families has nearly doubled since the mid-1990s, the agency says.
“We know from other research that government transfers are important for reducing people in low income. More progressive transfers, such as child benefits, play an important role in reducing the low income rate among families with children,” Heisz said.
At the other end of the age scale, a larger proportion of Canadians 65 years and older were low income, rising to 14.5 per cent in 2015 from 12 per cent in 2005, according to Statistics Canada.
Peter Milczyn, Ontario’s minister responsible for poverty reduction efforts, said while the province’s economy is strong “we know it’s not growing equally for everybody.”
He noted the government’s efforts “to help people at the lower end of the income spectrum to be able to afford a lot of the important things in their lives,” such as more rental housing, affordable housing, a coming boost to the minimum wage, free tuition grants for post-secondary students, as well as pharmacare for youth.
“There’s also the basic income pilot that we are testing out in three communities as another measure to look at how we can support lower-income Ontarians,” he said. “But we also know that our economy is growing — we have job growth.”
He said the fact that one-third of new college and university students are receiving the full tuition grants “are a strong signal that we are providing the tools to people to increase their skills so they can better participate in our economy.”
But provincial opposition parties used the census results to blast the Ontario Liberal government’s 13-year record.
“This report shows what families already know — they’re being squeezed,” said NDP economic development critic Catherine Fife. “Household costs have gone up under Kathleen Wynne, but wages are being held back.”
Jean-Yves Duclos, the federal minister of families, children and social development, said the census showed the needs across Canada “to work toward more resilient economies.”
Duclos touted the Liberals’ Canada Child Benefit for helping ease child poverty. He also cited initiatives on affordable housing, early learning and child care investments, “which are going to benefit all families . . . , but, particularly, lower-income families.”
Pedro Barata of United Way Toronto and York Region said Huculuk’s experience with a housing allowance shows how government policies can fight poverty.
“What low-income Canadians need is support to close the gap between the rising cost of rent and the fact that their incomes are stuck,” said Barata, a member of a national alliance advocating for a national portable housing benefit.
“We need significant investment in real measures that will tangibly create better outcomes for Canadians and a portable housing benefit is a piece that gets right at the heart of that challenge and would really move us forward,” he said.
Current consultations on a national anti-poverty strategy should result in clear goals, timelines and public investments, added Anita Khanna of Campaign 2000, a national coalition of organizations working to end child poverty. Indexing the Canada Child Benefit is key to ensuring progress isn’t lost to inflation, she added.
With files from Tonda MacCharles and Kristin Rushowy
With files from Tonda MacCharles and Kristin Rushowy
Brendan Shanahan likes to tell the story about getting drafted by the New Jersey Devils at 18, and how then-scouting guru David Conte asked him why they should draft him, and Shanahan said, “Because I’m the youngest of four Irish boys, and when there’s one potato left on the table I get it.” Shanahan thinks Conte might have polished his teenaged quote over the years, but the message stayed pleasingly simple, and on brand. You can have talent, but in hockey, it has to be married to will.
On Thursday, the Toronto Maple Leafs open their 101st season, and it could be special. The Leafs rocketed from 30th to the playoffs last season, spent more time holding a lead that any team other than the Presidents’ Trophy winners, and took that exact team to six games and were dead-close until the very last push. Auston Matthews is a superstar right now, and while Mitch Marner and William Nylander would be the best young player on a hell of a lot of other teams, one of them ranks third on this one. The Leafs might have the best crop of young talent in the league. Everyone knows what’s possible here.
“You see what it could be,” says Shanahan, over lunch at a downtown restaurant. “But it always evolves. That’s the fun part of sports, the unpredictability of sports. There’s always going to be challenges thrown at individuals, and thrown at the team. So you see potential, but potential doesn’t mean anything unless you’re constantly trying to meet it.”
The Leafs president has struck this same cautious tone in various interviews, because this is just the start of things. Nobody knows how this team will respond to higher expectations, or to a league that takes them more seriously. Shanahan started as an 18-year-old whose name rang out in his high school hallways while he was absent, in the NHL; his youngsters are starting their careers, too. The tests are just beginning.
And the Leafs have to prove their potential, game in, game out. Shanahan looks at the young players reinvigorating the league right now, and sees a byproduct of the league’s rule changes in 2005, which he helped spearhead: He sees a generation that wasn’t practicing hooking and holding at practice, and had coaches encourage skill and speed. And he also knows that in hockey, talent needs more than talent.
“The hardest thing to assess when you’re meeting these 17, 18-year-old draft prospects is will,” says Shanahan. “And that is not necessarily something that you learn in an interview room. Because you are going up against the other best players in the world. And often the margin between one team’s group of players and another are so narrow that it really comes down to will and grit, in that moment.
“I think you have an idea (with young players), but you have to get to those places to really see. You know?”
Toronto got some of that last season. The necessary wins down the stretch; the dead-legged loss in Game 82 to Columbus that kept them away from a tantalizing first-round series with Ottawa, on a side of the bracket with Montreal and the Rangers. The playoff series against Washington, where the Capitals only opened a clear gap in the third period and overtime of Game 6.
“My sense of it was, they didn’t want to get to Game 7,” says Shanahan. “And they had the experience that even if wasn’t the end of the marathon, it was time for a kick. And that was the (Justin) Williams and the (T.J.) Oshies and their playoff experience. I really thought in that moment, yeah, their playoff experience showed in that overtime.”
Shanahan believes in those moments, and their importance. It’s one reason that privately, he pulled so hard for this team to make the playoffs last season.
“I wouldn’t say (I value) playoff performance so much as big-game performance,” says Shanahan. “And obviously in the playoffs they’re all big games, but if you break it down even further, big moments in games. I just think that there are players who consistently find ways to step up in big moments or big games that do it over a lifetime. If you go back and track their midget and bantam and pee-wee statistics, and not just in hockey but in other sports, there are certain athletes that get to that moment where they shrink and others, where the world sort of slows down for them, and the distractions become quiet for them. It’s just something they were born with in their brain.
“You can still be that guy and have a bad series or have a bad game or have a bad season. But you look for patterns over time. (Last season), I was very pleased. I saw a group of people really embracing the moment that they were in, rather than shrinking from it.”
So now the Leafs start their 101st season. Shanahan hates to single out his players, to talk them up too much, but one thing he says is, “One of the things that’s impressed me about Auston — and all the rookies we had last year — is they didn’t play like rookies, and they didn’t prepare like rookies, and I think they spent this entire off-season preparing like veterans. I’m happy we have him. I think he’s a fantastic person, and player, and teammate.”
What he won’t say is Matthews unlocks everything else, and with him the window is open again, truly open. They should have a chance to win the division, to start. They should have a chance to do great things. In the language of the Shanahan brothers, there is one real potato in this sport. They could get it. That’s where they are.
“When you go up against the best players in the sport, you get revealed for who you are and what you are,” says Shanahan. “You find out. You find out.”
Here come the Leafs.
Kathleen Wynne wasn’t on trial Wednesday in a Sudbury courtroom. But as the first sitting premier to appear on the witness stand, Wynne faced her own trial by fire.
Equally, Hillary Clinton wasn’t on trial in a congressional hearing room, or in an abortive FBI probe last year. But we know how that ended on the campaign trial.
Legally, Wynne could have dodged this week’s courtroom confrontation. Like all MPPs, she enjoys parliamentary immunity from judicial obligations.
Politically, however, the premier had every reason to waive those rights. By agreeing to testify in the bribery trial of her former top campaign aide and a local party loyalist, Wynne wanted to show in a provincial courtroom that she had nothing to hide.
But she had everything to defend in Ontario’s broader court of public opinion this week — not least her political reputation.
Wynne took a personal gamble, albeit with little downside. In our parliamentary system, a premier is practiced at the alternating rituals of Question Period and news conferences, which tend to be more challenging than the plodding crown prosecutors she faced in Sudbury.
Yet if the political risk was manageable, the potential upside isn’t so measurable for a premier trying to rebuild her reputation. In our legal system, an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty; in our political system, a premier is presumed corrupt until proven otherwise (even if she is not personally on trial).
It is unsurprising that politicians are not given the benefit of the doubt, given that they are prone to say with a straight face that their baloney is filet mignon. That said, the premier’s utterances were delivered under oath Wednesday, so there is more reason to take Wynne at her word, if only this once.
In truth, there were no surprises in her testimony, because few of the facts in this convoluted tale are in dispute. The cognitive dissonance comes in the context, in how you connect the dots and distinguish them from false leads.
Our accompanying news coverage lays out the background to the seemingly sordid story of attempted bribery: A failed candidate in the 2014 general election, Andrew Olivier, wanted to run again in a 2015 byelection until the premier sidelined him by settling on a more electable candidate, Glenn Thibeault.
In the aftermath, the premier’s team tried to pacify Olivier by dangling the prospect of an appointment if he would support Thibeault in a show of party unity. Their mistake was to go out of their way to console Olivier, a quadriplegic who records his calls because he cannot take notes.
And so a scandal was born: Olivier taped top Liberal campaign aide Pat Sorbara suggesting he consider the appointment process, and recorded local Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed doing the same.
When he posted the embarrassing recordings on Facebook, the opposition — which knows precisely how politics is played — pounced by filing an OPP complaint. Once the cops were on the scent, the story seemed to stink.
At first, they laid criminal code charges. When the cops and crown realized the chances of a conviction were remote, they downgraded the case to lesser provincial offences under the barely understood and rarely invoked Election Act — relying on wording clearly intended to guard against greedy land developers buying off dissidents with handsome bribes, not party leaders ridding themselves of losers.
That Olivier was never given any concrete offers, merely invited to go through the application process — for unpaid volunteer positions or a constituency assistant job that typically pays a whopping $35,000 a year — has been lost in all the bribery hyperbole. In reality, Olivier couldn’t be bought off because he had already been ruled out for the nomination, once the premier decided to appoint Thibeault using her power under the party constitution.
Which makes the whole muddle moot. Chicanery isn’t bribery.
Just ask Mike Duffy, who was excommunicated by his fellow senators and excoriated by his former media colleagues, before being exonerated by a judge who mocked the police case.
To borrow a hockey analogy, and as much as I oppose fighting in the NHL, imagine if a losing coach filed assault charges every time an opposing player threw a sloppy punch. When you criminalize the competitiveness of the political game, and when you weaponize the Election Act, you arrive at the absurdity that is Sudbury.
No one can predict a judge’s verdict. But this is a case that should never have gone to court, and may one day come back to haunt the opposition PCs as they deal with a similar mess of their own making in Hamilton — involving an embarrassing recording, a police investigation and litigation over a disputed nomination.
Let the games begin — cops and robbers and politicians chasing their tails. But don't our police and prosecutors have real criminals to catch?
Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. email@example.com , Twitter: @reggcohn
Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. firstname.lastname@example.org , Twitter: @reggcohn
WASHINGTON—Democratic leaders on Wednesday night declared that they had a deal with President Donald Trump to quickly extend protections for young unauthorized immigrants and to finalize a border security package that does not include the president’s proposed wall.
After a White House dinner with the president, the Democrats — Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California — released a joint statement that appeared aimed at ensuring that the president would follow through after their discussions on the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
“We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the president,” the statement said. “The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
In its own statement, the White House was far more muted, mentioning DACA as merely one of several things that were discussed.
“President Donald Trump had a constructive working dinner with Senate and House minority leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, as well as administration officials to discuss policy and legislative priorities,” the statement said.
“These topics included tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure and trade. This is a positive step toward the president’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans. The administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle.”
A White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private dinner insisted that the president had stressed his interest in seeing the border wall funded. The wall was a key campaign pledge, but Democrats are vehemently against it.
According to a person briefed on the meeting, the president said at the dinner that he was not tethering wall funding to the DACA solution. Trump recently began to wind down DACA, which has provided protection from deportation for roughly 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants. But he has been torn about it, and he has made clear he would like a legislative fix.
The president is pursuing a bipartisan patina as he heads into the fall legislative season with few major achievments in his first eight months in office.
The meeting Wednesday night was described as a follow-up to one that Schumer and Pelosi held in the Oval Office last week with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, at which Trump astonished — and undercut — his own advisers by leaping at a deal offered by Democrats to attach a stopgap spending bill and debt-ceiling increase to a package of recovery aid for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.
WASHINGTON–One by one, an American doctor, American nurse, American mother and American businessman explained to the cameras why their country’s health system is a disaster.
Then Bernie Sanders called up the Canadian standing behind him. She had a kind of magic trick to perform.
Dr. Danielle Martin, a family physician from Toronto, described a glorious place, “just north of your border,” where everyone is covered, costs are lower, outcomes are better, and people have no idea what it’s like to cough up cash for the privilege of delivering a child.
Martin revealed her OHIP card.
“I just handed over this card, my Canadian health-care card, to my doctor. And that was it,” Martin said.
Some of the Sanders devotees sitting in the packed room on Capitol Hill murmured appreciatively, as if she had just conjured a rabbit.
“I wish that all of my American neighbours could experience the same simplicity in their moments of need,” Martin continued. “And I hope that the American people will seize this opportunity to declare to each other, and to the rest of the world, that you do believe access to health-care is a human right.”
The occasion was momentous: Sanders, joined by high-profile Democratic colleagues in the Senate, was introducing a “Medicare for All” bill to transform the U.S. health system from a patchwork of private and public insurance to a government-run single-payer system like Canada’s.
“Health-care in America must be a right, not a privilege,” he said. “Today we begin the long and difficult struggle to end the international disgrace of the United States, our great nation, being the only major country on earth not to guarantee health-care to all of our people.”
Sanders, the Vermont social democrat who lives near the border, has made Canada central to his initial pitch. He extolled Canada’s single-payer system in a New York Times op-ed on Wednesday morning and then at the rally on Wednesday afternoon.
“You know, I think it is high time that we started taking a look at what countries around the world were doing in providing quality care to all of their people in a far more cost-effective way than we do. And one of the examples of a single-payer system that is working well, that is popular, is the Canadian system,” Sanders said in introducing Martin.
Martin, a vice-president at Women’s College Hospital and the former chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, came to the senator’s attention with the moment that made her an internet sensation.
Testifying before a Sanders-chaired U.S. Senate committee in 2014, Martin trounced an ill-prepared Republican senator who peppered her with negative questions about Canadian care.
The video has been viewed millions of times. Sanders’s aides have kept in touch, and they invited her back to town for his big day.
Sanders is still years, perhaps decades, from a realistic chance of a legislative victory. But the Wednesday scene showed just how much has changed in two years.
Sanders campaigned on single-payer care during his 2016 campaign. Under Barack Obama, however, Democrats lined up behind the significant-but-incremental changes of the president’s Affordable Care Act, relegating Sanders to his regular place on the left-wing fringe.
His position is fast become the party standard.
Unsettled and energized by U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare, and dismayed that more than 25 million people remain uninsured, much of the Democratic base is agitating for a true universal system. And now some of their most prominent elected officials are falling in line behind a proposal Hillary Clinton said will “never, ever come to pass.”
Sanders’s bill has quickly gained 16 Senate co-sponsors. Though almost all of them represent liberal states, they amount to a third of the Democratic caucus.
“People who are angry at Trump’s election, a lot of Democratic base folks, are saying, ‘We demand this. We’re tired of tinkering with this, we want to fix it.’ So they’re putting huge pressure on their senators,” said Minnesota State Sen. John Marty, the leading proponent of single-payer there. “And these senators are saying, ‘Oh, what am I going to do? Keep defending a broken system when my folks are saying we want something better and I know the broken system can’t be fixed?’”
Joining Sanders on Wednesday were four senators thought to be contemplating their own runs for president: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker.
"I love my northern neighbour,” Booker said, “but it is embarrassing to me to have a Canadian stand here in the capital of the United States of America and talk about a system that takes care of their children better than we take care of our children."
Sanders would create a system far more generous than Canadian provinces offer. Unlike OHIP, it would offer full coverage for vision and dental care, and partial coverage for prescription drugs, to everyone including illegal immigrants.
The cost, therefore, would be higher. Sanders did not say how he would pay. His bill has no chance of passing under a Republican-controlled Congress, and he described it as a mere first step in a consultative process.
Two-thirds of Americans currently have private insurance, with more than half covered through their employers. Sanders proposes a politically perilous forced transfer of these people onto the government Medicare program currently reserved for seniors.
An unscripted moment soon after the Wednesday speeches underscored just how hard it may be to combat fears about what many Republicans describe as socialized, or socialist, medicine.
As Martin spoke to the media, a Maryland man wearing a pro-Sanders t-shirt approached her to tell her about someone he knew in Canada who had waited more than a year for a hip replacement.
The Canadian system has problems, she told him, but wait times can be improved without leaving people uninsured.
“There’s nothing about a publicly funded, single-payer system that necessarily leads to waits,” she said.
Some Republicans are still attempting to repeal Obamacare, and Trump applauded their effort, without endorsing their specific proposal, in a Wednesday statement. Press secretary Sarah Sanders called Bernie Sanders’s proposal “a horrible idea.”
“I can’t think of anything worse than having the government be more involved in your health care instead of less involved,” she said.