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    The TTC has more than $2 billion worth of unfunded projects in its long-term capital plan, and the agency warns if a solution isn’t soon found, the cash crunch will affect service.

    According to a new report on the TTC’s 10-year capital budget, over the next decade the transit agency needs to spend $9.24 billion on work that includes state-of-good-repair maintenance, infrastructure upgrades and new vehicles.

    Projects totalling $2.27 billion have been designated as not funded.

    An additional $420 million worth of work has been identified as “capacity-to-spend” reductions, which means the TTC doesn’t expect to be able to spend the full amount budgeted for certain projects, mostly for logistical reasons.

    The 10-year capital plan doesn’t include expansion projects such as the Scarborough subway extension.

    TTC CEO Andy Byford acknowledged that the shortfall sounds “scary,” but he asserted the transit agency is “not in a bad place.”

    He said the TTC received “clear, unambiguous” direction from the city not to increase TTC spending beyond council’s self-imposed debt-ceiling, which limits the amount the city can borrow to fund long-term projects.

    That meant that the TTC had to prioritize some projects over others. Byford said that, while he would welcome additional funding, for the moment, the capital plan succeeds at “protecting things that we feel are most important.”

    The report will be debated by the transit agency’s budget committee on Tuesday. The list of unfunded projects includes $111.61 million for work related to installing an automatic train-control signalling system on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth), $162.14 million for upgrades to fire ventilation systems and $1.93 billion for the purchase of hundreds of new buses, subway cars and streetcars that will be needed.

    The TTC is also $69.78 million short on plans to increase the capacity of its subway infrastructure to handle more customers.

    “A long term funding strategy needs to be developed with the city by 2020 to avoid potential service impact(s) associated with not proceeding with these required capital investments,” warns the report, prepared by agency finance staff.

    Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21 St. Paul’s), who sits on the TTC board, said “not funding the full capital program simply will not do.”

    He called on other levels of government to help bridge the gap.

    “Public transit is a life blood of our city,” he said. “So we need the partnership of the provincial and federal government to make sure that it is fully funded . . . (in the awareness) that Toronto is growing at a rapid global pace.”

    Together the provincial and federal governments account for close to $3 billion in funding under the 10-year capital plan, or just less than one-third of the agency’s total needs.

    Even after deferring some projects to future years, the TTC’s 10-year plan would still breach the city’s debt-ceiling by about $97 million.

    The relatively small figure is related to a portion of the cost of a new subway maintenance-and-storage facility near Kipling station. The TTC is working with city finance staff to find funding for the project.

    Byford said that, while he’s confident the TTC’s capital plan isn’t on perilous financial footing, he’d like to see substantial changes to the current budget process; instead of the TTC seeking council approval for its spending each year, he’d like to set multi-year financial plans that guarantee long-term funding.

    “It’s difficult to run a multi-billion-dollar organization not knowing year-on-year what your budget is going to be,” he said.

    “It needs to be way more certain than that.”

    More than $2 billion in capital projects unfunded: TTCMore than $2 billion in capital projects unfunded: TTC

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    The Ontario government is spending $5.5 million on hydro ads amid its concerns about its hydro rate cut being overshadowed by “negative media coverage of rising electricity bills,” say documents obtained by the NDP.

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath accused the Liberals of trying to save their “political skin” and boost their standing in the polls with ads detailing the 25-per-cent rate cut — one that in the long run is estimated will cost Ontarians $21 billion.

    “The number is eye-popping,” Horwath said Monday of the price tag for the two-year advertising campaign. “The premier has allocated $5.5 million from the public purse to sell this boondoggle for bankers to the public.

    Read more:

    The truth about hydro in Ontario: a fact check

    “Can the Liberals tell us why they are more concerned about spending public money to save their own political skin than they are about helping families get relief from soaring hydro bills?” said Horwath, whose party obtained the documents via a freedom of information request.

    But Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said the ads for the Fair Hydro Plan provide information that Ontarians need to know, especially with winter on the way.

    “What’s also important . . . is that they know about the programs that are available, like the Ontario Electricity Support Program,” he said. “This is a program that has increased the refund that many families who qualify will get for it. We have prepared and have a budget to help 500,000 families through the OESP and we’re nowhere near that number yet.”

    So far, 232,115 people are receiving the additional hydro credits, though 300,000 have applied. The government is now working with other government ministries to automatically provide the rebates to those on social assistance.

    When asked why only some ads give details on the additional subsidies, Thibeault said it’s important for all families to be able to budget for the upcoming months.

    Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown blasted Premier Kathleen Wynne “for using taxpayers’ monies to advance the interests of the Liberal party.”

    “You’re supposed to use government advertising for a broader good,” Brown added. “What we don’t need is partisan vanity ads.”

    Horwath also noted that the ad campaign “has been funded — go figure — right through the 2018 election year.”

    With files from Robert Benzie

    Liberals spent $5.5 million in hydro ads to save ‘political skin,’ NDP allegesLiberals spent $5.5 million in hydro ads to save ‘political skin,’ NDP alleges

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    Charity the cow is being moooved.

    But where she will go, and when, is still up in the air.

    Markham councillors faced an udderly unique predicament Monday in deciding if they would let the city’s famous stainless steel cow statue on stilts — honouring a bovine that never actually stepped hoof in the city — stay put or be put out to pasture.

    After hearing from residents, who brought pictures of the statue from the vantage point of inside their homes, the majority of councillors voted to move Charity from its home on a small parkette on Charity Cres., to a location that has yet to be determined.

    It is also not clear when the 25 foot-high statue will be taken down.

    “What we voted is to remove it, to find a location and also to come back in October to get a report and to have it relocated by the end of 2017,” said regional councillor Nirmala Armstrong, after the meeting.

    Mayor Frank Scarpitti voted against relocating the statue.

    The statue called Charity: Perpetuation of Perfection, was donated and installed earlier this summer by local developer Helen Roman-Barber and has attracted hundreds of curious bovine art critics and lovers to the quiet suburb of Cathedraltown, near Elgin Mills Rd. and Woodbine Ave.

    Roman-Barber, said the statue of Charity, was to honour her father, developer Stephen Roman, who owned Romandale Farm, the land on which Cathedraltown now rests. It was also to honour his purchase of a 50-per cent share in Brookview Tony Charity — regarded as the greatest show cow of all time.

    Charity, who lived most of her life at the Hanover Hill Farm in Port Perry and is buried there, never visited Markham.

    The decision to move Charity came after a lengthy discussion with residents who expressed concerns about the “intrusive” nature of the public art piece, the lack of consultation before installation and the immense height of the cow located just a few feet from their homes.

    “The cow is terrifyingly close,” said resident Vic Lam, who showed council a picture of Charity from his 4-year-old son’s window. “It’s at eye level, which is absurd,” said Lam. “Imagine your child trying to sleep, and outside his window, at eye level, is a large chrome cow. It even gives me anxiety, let alone a child.”

    They all agreed the art should remain in Markham, calling it “good art in a bad location.”

    “In keeping Markham’s heritage and past, we are disrespecting the present,” said resident Joanna So, who lives on Charity Cres.

    “Honouring the past must not come at the expense of people who live here today. We ask the statue be made at a different location, for public viewing, so both honouring the past and the present can be achieved.”

    Stephen Chait, director of economic growth, culture and entrepreneurship for the City of Markham, said the artist behind the statue was not open to bringing it down off the stilts. And councillors said in previous discussions, Roman-Barber was not open to moving it.

    But councillors asked staff Monday to talk to her again.

    Ed Shiller, a spokesman for Roman-Barber said the developer “has made her position with regard to the statue of Charity clear from the beginning.”

    Roman-Barber has always maintained Charity belongs on Charity Cres.

    According to a memorandum signed between the town and the developer in 2016, Markham “reserves the right… to remove from public display or relocate the sculpture if deemed necessary or desirable by the city.”

    The city does have to consult with the donor prior to any final decision being made, but the “decision of the city shall be final,” the memo says, giving the donor the option to take back the sculpture, if they so wish.

    Ward 6 councillor Amanda Collucci says she still has concerns about the open-ended nature of the motion and will be pushing for clarity, when the matter comes back to council Oct. 17.

    “I don’t think it’s acceptable to leave it open. Where’s the deadline? We have to have a deadline. For the residents, it’s okay to have it there for up to six months, but one or two years, that’s not acceptable,” she said.

    But Charity Cres. resident Danny Da Silva is optimistic.

    “It looks like there is a great deal of support,” he said. “Now they (the councillors) see what we see, they feel what we feel, and I hope we can move forward and find it a proper home.”

    Ward 5 councillor Colin Campbell agrees.

    “Make it a tourist attraction where people can come and see it,” said Campbell. “I think we will work something out, and Ms. Roman-Barber will come around and put it in a place where everyone can enjoy it.”

    Markham's cow statue on stilts is getting ready to moooveMarkham's cow statue on stilts is getting ready to mooove

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    Two hooded and masked killers brandishing semi-automatic pistols sprayed their target with bullets as he was trapped inside a Scarborough apartment foyer waiting to be buzzed in.

    The images of Anthony Soares’ brutal execution Sept. 14, captured by a surveillance camera and released last week by Toronto police, were shocking, as was the revelation that the victim was a close friend of rap superstar Drake.

    No one disputes the Toronto-born rapper’s worldwide success as an international recording artist, producer and former teen actor in the TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation.

    But senior police officials are privately expressing dismay that “Toronto’s biggest champion” — as a city press release called him last year — has so far ignored a homicide detective’s request to encourage witnesses to step forward to help solve his friend’s killing.

    It was a case of déjà vu. Two years ago, after two people were shot to death during a Drake-hosted after-party at Muzik nightclub at Exhibition Place, the hip-hop singer was under intense pressure to denounce gun violence and appeal for witnesses.

    “Drake we need your voice to help #StopTheViolence in #Toronto,” said a post from CrimeStoppers.

    A statement posted 10 days later on his website was slammed on social media for not calling for an end to gun violence or urging potential witnesses to co-operate with police, fuelling online speculation that Drake wanted to keep his “street credibility” intact by not appearing to condone “snitching,” considered heresy in the hip-hop world.

    Some cited the lyrics in his song “No Tellin’ ” as a possible explanation. “Yeah, police comin’ round lookin’ for some help on a case they gotta solve, we never help ’em.”

    Drake has spoken against violence. In 2013, he tweeted his condolences to the family of the victims who died in a mass shooting at a barbecue on Danzig St., adding that senseless violence in Toronto has to stop.” He also rapped “told you no guns and you didn’t listen,” in a reggae tracked “No Guns Allowed.”

    On Tuesday, Toronto police Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux, who is in charge of the Soares’ homicide investigation, released the horrifying video at a news conference where he appealed to Drake to send out a tweet asking for people to come forward with information to help solve the murder.

    “Many of the family members have met Drake,” the veteran cop told reporters.

    “I certainly would encourage him through his tweets to encourage anybody within the community to come forward with regards to any information they have that may assist in solving his friend’s murder.”

    A few days later, there was still no mention of the homicide on Drake’s Drizzy Twitter feed.

    “I would hope if Drake was a real and true friend that he would encourage anyone with information that pertains to the murder of a close friend to share that information with the police with a mind to protecting the community and bring justice to the deceased’s family,” Giroux said in an emailed statement to the Star.

    Read more:

    Hundreds gather for funeral of Drake friend who was gunned down in Scarborough

    Police release security footage of Anthony Soares shooting

    Drake spoke out after two were killed at OVO Fest after-party in 2015

    It wasn’t that Soares’ death went unacknowledged by Drake, born Aubrey Graham.

    Soares’ photo appeared on the rapper’s Instagram account, with a message referring to him as “one of our family members.” Soares, who was 33, had a rap sheet with three gun possession convictions.

    “It was a honour to have shared years together and I will always keep your memory alive,” read the post beside the photo along with Fif, Soares’ nickname.

    Drake was one of the pallbears at Soares’ funeral on Saturday.

    Tattoo artist Inal Bersekov posted a photo of his tattoo of the dead man’s face, writing beside it he was “honoured to pay tribute tattooing FIF on my brother,” beside Drake’s Instagram handle.

    Asked to comment on Drake’s silence, Mayor John Tory said “every citizen” has a duty to help police solve crimes and keep our city safe. He pointed out a tweet was a “fairly simple request.”

    Last year, Tory stood at centre court at the Air Canada Centre to “proudly award the key to the city” to Drake, saying it was recognition of his role in drawing the eyes of the world to Toronto and for his contribution “to the city’s social harmony and well-being, especially as it relates to youth.”

    This year, a senior Toronto police officer, now retired, questioned why Drake had invited a young rapper who is facing firearms, assault and kidnapping charges along as his opening act on the European leg of his Boy Meets World tour.

    “I find it troubling,” now retired inspector Mike Earl told the Toronto Sun. “Here’s a guy (who’s) supposed to be on bail on serious charges. Why is he permitted to leave country and tour with somebody who is a literal mentor for the city’s youth?”

    The Jane and Driftwood rapper, who performs as Pressa, is 21-year-old Quinton Gardner. Last week he appeared in an online interview talking openly about his criminal history, including selling crack at his mother’s house. He returns to court Oct. 30.

    In January, Drake signed rapper Baka Not Nice, a longtime member of his inner circle, to his record label, OVO Sound.

    His real name is Travis Savoury, and he has convictions for armed robbery and assault. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman, drawing a six-month sentence. Procuring and human trafficking charges were dropped.

    After Savoury’s release, Drake again took to Instagram.

    “Something in the air today … a lot of good things happening at once. But this one means the MOST!!! Been waiting for 11 months!! Baka finally home!!!!!”

    Some online commentators weren’t impressed.

    “Do the Raptors know this is the company you keep?” read one posting, apparently referring to his involvement with the Toronto Raptors organization. In 2013, Drake was named the team’s “global ambassador.”

    “Drake supports a domestic abuser and criminal? Maple Leaf Sports must be so proud of their Raptors ambassador. What an example for today’s youth,” wrote another anonymous poster.

    A spokesperson for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment declined to comment on anything to do with Drake. Repeated attempts to contact Drake’s New York-based publicist, Melissa Nathan of Hiltzik Strategies, and his Toronto lawyers were unsuccessful.

    Members of Drake’s security detail have also been accused of using heavy-handed tactics.

    Toronto pop sensation Shawn Mendes “recently learned one crucial lesson: Don’t mess with Drake’s security,” People magazine’s website reported.

    The 19-year-old singer recalled on the Tonight Show this month how he tried to approach Drake at a recent Toronto concert by the Weeknd.

    “Next thing I know I’m in the middle of the Weeknd show with my arm hooked behind my back. Drake’s security guard has me completely at his mercy,” Mendes told host Jimmy Fallon.

    Mendes said he managed to make eye contact with Drake who ordered his hulking body guard to let go of Mendes.

    Two years ago, also in Toronto, an autograph seeker sued Drake alleging he had been assaulted by members of the star’s entourage. The lawsuit was “resolved” and no further details will be released, the man’s lawyer said in an email to the Star.

    Last year, Matt Small, a city worker and hobby photographer, was taking pictures of the cityscape on Toronto’s Polson Pier when he came into conflict with Drake and a member of his entourage when the pair demanded he erase photos of them leaving a helicopter.

    “He was in my face, saying, ‘You need to delete those pictures out of respect,’ ” Small told the Star in 2016. “I said, ‘You’re not respecting me right now, man, you’re in my face harassing me.’ ”

    A family doctor, who witnessed the heated encounter, corroborated the account with the Star.

    After friend's killing, police have questions about the company Toronto-born rapper Drake keepsAfter friend's killing, police have questions about the company Toronto-born rapper Drake keeps

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    When Hurricane Maria tore the roof off their house on the Caribbean island of Dominica, Sara Ouellette Subero, her two children and husband climbed inside a wooden closet to escape the trees and furniture the storm flung around.

    The family stayed there for four hours. Subero and her husband held tightly to their baby and five-year-old daughter as the closet was buffeted by blasts of wind.

    Once the hurricane passed through their resort, the family lived inside a car, the only dry place available to them. Just as the family’s food supply was diminishing, two helicopters from the governments of Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago came to their rescue.

    Subero and her two children made it home to Sturgeon Falls, Ont. Monday.

    Stephan Ricardo Subero, her husband who was born in Trinidad and raised in Venezuela, decided to stay in Dominica to salvage what he could of their property and possessions.

    “It’s all so overwhelming,” Sara Subero said Monday. “I didn’t know just how bad the devastation was until I was in the helicopter looking down. All the green, lush landscape was now just brown and black.”

    The Category 5 hurricane wrought havoc across the Caribbean island of Dominica last week, killing at least 15 people. The hurricane’s extensive destruction to homes and power left thousands stranded without shelter. With winds above 255 km/h, the storm silenced all communication and ripped trees from their roots, rendering the island stripped of foliage.

    Sara, 30, and her husband, Stephan, 33, moved from Sturgeon Falls, northwest of Algonquin Provincial Park, to Dominica in 2014. Their small resort once offered a simple, natural environment to travellers passing through the island.

    Read more:

    Ontario mother seeks help after Hurricane Maria leaves daughter stranded in Dominica

    Mother desperate for news of daughter after Hurricane Maria strikes Caribbean islands

    Parts of Puerto Rico nearing desperation as food, water and fuel supplies begin to run out

    Sara said the resort is now unrecognizable. Palm trees and pieces of ripped bark lie scattered across the muddy ground. Two buildings have completely disappeared from the property and the home where guests used to stay is filled with mud waist-deep, due to a landslide.

    “It didn’t look like home anymore,” she said. “The doors and windows had all flown off; we were able to walk through buildings, where the walls used to be.”

    The seven guests staying with the family when the hurricane hit were able to take the 27-kilometre walk to the capital city, Roseau, on Thursday. The Suberos were unable to do the same because of their small children. Mud, construction nails and debris lay across the roads and paths. The family had no choice but to stay in their car for five days with little food.

    “Everything we had was destroyed,” said Sara. “When we saw the helicopters approaching, we felt overwhelmed. It was shocking; we weren’t sure what to do.”

    Subero’s mother, Lynn Cockburn-Ouellette waited days to hear about her daughter’s fate after the hurricane hit. The last time she spoke to her, Sara was huddled between mattresses, hiding from the hurricane with her two children.

    Cockburn-Ouellette, who spent the entire week since the hurricane hit on her computer organizing rescue efforts and contacting consulates, said she organized a GoFundMe page to help the family rebuild all that they lost.

    “I know things were going to get worse if they stayed,” she said Monday. “When we saw them it was such a relief; I don’t even know what to say. This whole week was so worrisome.”

    Dominica was Hurricane Maria’s first major casualty as it carved its deadly path through the Caribbean, causing further destruction in the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The U.S. East Coast is expected to get hit on Monday with high winds and treacherous surf from the storm. Maria followed Irma, another deadly hurricane.

    Hurricane Maria survivor returns home to OntarioHurricane Maria survivor returns home to Ontario

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    The packed public meeting made clear the enthusiasm for a massive park decked over the rail corridor downtown remains strong a year after a surprise announcement.

    But details of how it will be built and developers’ competing interests remain sparse.

    The council chamber at city hall was at standing-room capacity only for a statutory public meeting Monday night on the city’s plan to build a 21-acre park from Bathurst St. to Blue Jays Way — what has been given the working title of “Rail Deck Park.”

    It has become a major promise of Mayor John Tory’s administration to see it built, though the path to funding and construction remain unclear. Early estimates suggested the park would cost at least $1.05 billion.

    “I am not going to make any pretense about being objective about this,” Tory told the full house. “I believe this is a bold idea and I’m going to tell you with every ounce of determination that I have: It will be built.”

    Tory said he is “confident” the private sector will “shoulder a big portion of the cost.”

    Amid questions about that cost and the city’s commitment to build the park no matter what, staff for the first time confirmed the park will have to be built in phases and identified a nearly 9-acre “priority” phase from just east of Portland St. to Spadina Ave. Future phases, staff said, could continue “over time.”

    Staff also clearly outlined for the first time that the majority of the air rights over the rail corridor — the space above the active railway lines that carry GO trains in and out of Union Station — belong to a mix of private groups, which includes a claim from a group of private developers who have proposed to deck over the space to build eight office and condominium towers.

    The estimated cost to acquire those air rights through either negotiations or expropriation — which the city has the power to do — has yet to be made public. Those answers weren’t available from staff Monday night.

    Councillor Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina), which contains the corridor, noted there are hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves that are dedicated to the creation of parks and that the city is currently under-collecting those fees from developers through provincial legislation.

    But even with an increase in what’s collected in parkland fees, it is unlikely to fully cover the cost to construct and maintain the massive park.

    Cressy said political will is required.

    “You get the city you pay for,” he said. “If we as Torontonians want to live in a great livable city ... then let’s, for goodness sake, pay for it and build it.”

    Those in the crowd agreed the park plan should move forward.

    “Over and over again wonderful plans are made out, money is spent on developing the plans, everything moves towards it and then it doesn’t happen. Toronto is lily-livered half the time,” said one woman, who had the final word.

    “Smarten up and be a proper city.”

    A further staff report on costs and a funding plan is expected in November.

    Much enthusiasm for Rail Deck Park plan that is short on detailsMuch enthusiasm for Rail Deck Park plan that is short on details

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    Judging by the reaction, it was like the world finally got its first glimpse of the Loch Ness monster, which just happened to be frolicking with Bigfoot.

    Though we already knew Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are very much in love and on a possible collision course with matrimony — get ready to set those alarm clocks again for 3 a.m. — seeing them together in public remained high on the bucket list of any royal watcher who doesn’t happen to chauffer a secret limo or make tea in a palace kitchen.

    Without photographic evidence, this courtship amounted to hearsay.

    This changed with a flashbulb flourish on Monday afternoon in Toronto when Harry and Meghan attended a wheelchair tennis event for the Invictus Games. They could have sauntered into a human sacrifice ceremony and nobody would have noticed, since every camera within a two-block radius of Nathan Phillips Square was zoomed in tightly on their grinning faces.

    Within minutes, the images hit the wires and surged across social media and a sight that once seemed as elusive as the Bermuda Triangle — Harry and Meghan are within kissing range — was made official.

    The Internet wobbled on its axis, as if stumbling upon grainy images that proved Donald Trump was covertly working for George Soros.

    Read more:

    Prince Harry, Meghan Markle make first public appearance together at Invictus Games

    Meghan Markle’s surprise appearance ‘with’ Prince Harry sets Royal watchers abuzz: Govani

    “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Officially Make Their First Joint Appearance Together,” declared Marie Claire, as the Associated Press issued a video alert and Fleet Street added emergency bandwidth to handle the dozens of uploaded images that zigged across the transom, promising to mesmerize millions around the world.

    Cosmopolitan offered readers a “Definitive Timeline” of the relationship. Vanity Fair noted the intimate whispering. The Daily Express seized upon the handholding. Harper’s Bazaar, gobsmacked and in an apparent state of commoner euphoria, simply tweeted out an “It’s official,” followed by a heart emoji.

    It’s possible two-thirds of People’s editorial staff needed first aid.

    The images of Harry and Meghan were the opposite of glamorous, which in these cynical times made them delightful. Here was Markle as Queen Victoria could have never imagined: in a white blouse and ripped jeans. Harry, meanwhile, did little to counter the growing view his sartorial inspiration remains a fictional auto mechanic who dreams of landing a Gap campaign sometime during the grunge era.

    But somehow it all worked. Somehow, it all felt right.

    In one sweet image, the couple giggle and walk in front of the 3D Toronto sign, appropriately sandwiched between the “R” and “O” in the background. In another, they are seated and staring at each other — or at least staring at the frantic images bouncing off their matching sunglasses and glowing teeth.

    The most striking feature in every image is the lack of pomp and circumstance.

    These are not photos you’d associate with Buckingham Palace. They seem more like something you’d find on an Instagram account that specializes in college fashion.

    This relationship appears to not be celebrity in nature or scope.

    Her body language says, “I love this bearded fool.”

    His body language says, “I adore this freckled goddess.”

    What becomes of all this remains to be seen. But for a few moments on Monday, in a city that may well factor into the couple’s long-range plans, it was hard not to feel happy for two kindred spirits who have managed to find each other while journeying across very different worlds. It was hard not to see them both as young people in love and old souls in sync.

    Casual, down-to-earth and blissfully unconcerned with what anyone thinks. If this is the future of the royal family, Harry and Meghan are pushing it in the right direction.

    Harry and Meghan's calm, casual connection might help push royals in right direction: MenonHarry and Meghan's calm, casual connection might help push royals in right direction: MenonHarry and Meghan's calm, casual connection might help push royals in right direction: MenonHarry and Meghan's calm, casual connection might help push royals in right direction: MenonHarry and Meghan's calm, casual connection might help push royals in right direction: MenonHarry and Meghan's calm, casual connection might help push royals in right direction: Menon

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues appear to have failed again to repeal Obamacare.

    Republicans’ last-minute push to transform the U.S. health system radically was effectively defeated Monday, when one of the senators who killed their previous bill, Maine’s Susan Collins, announced that she was opposed to this one, too.

    Collins was the third declared Republican “no” vote, along with Sen. John McCain and Sen. Rand Paul. The party can only afford to lose two members, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, co-author of the proposal, conceded earlier Monday that the bill would die if Collins was not on board.

    “It’s time for us to move on to tax reform,” Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy told the Baton Rouge Advocate.

    Cassidy said he would keep trying to repeal Obamacare, but he also said he would not make any more changes to try to win over opponents, BuzzFeed reported.

    His widely unpopular plan, known as Graham-Cassidy, would have left millions fewer people with insurance, imposed deep cuts on Democratic states in favour of some Republican states, made insurance pricier for people with “pre-existing” conditions, and, in the view of policy experts, created chaos around the country.

    Analysts said it was the most radical Republican plan to date. But Republicans, trying to meet a Sept. 30 deadline to pass the bill with just 50 votes, not the 60 needed thereafter, tried to ram it through the Senate.

    Collins said she was concerned about the “devastating” cuts the bill would make to the Medicaid program for low-income people, the weakening of protections for pre-existing conditions, and the likely premium increases for others. She also criticized the rushed process, which was McCain’s chief concern.

    Read more:

    John McCain says he can’t ‘in good conscience’ vote for GOP health bill, leaving it all but dead

    ‘Catastrophic’: Millions at risk, again, as Trump and Republicans push new health bill

    Jimmy Kimmel slams Bill Cassidy, Trump over GOP health-care bill

    The apparent collapse of Graham-Cassidy deepens a major embarrassment for Trump and his party. Republicans had promised for seven years to eradicate Barack Obama’s signature policy. Trump himself ran on a repeal pledge, claiming it would be “so easy.”

    The legislative disaster could hurt Republicans in the 2018 elections. But it could conceivably help, sparing them from the wrath of people who would have been harmed if the bill passed.

    Activists, many with disabilities, had swamped Capitol Hill earlier Monday, chanting to disrupt the one committee hearing on the bill. People in wheelchairs affiliated with activist group ADAPT were dragged away as cameras rolled.

    The bill was opposed by virtually every interest group, from the insurance industry to the seniors’ lobby to groups representing patients, doctors and nurses. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, whose baby boy has a heart defect, galvanized the opposition with a series of furious monologues.

    The emergence of Graham-Cassidy prompted Republicans to abandon bipartisan negotiations to fix Obamacare.

    Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said his party wants to reignite the talks.

    It is possible Republicans will try to revive the repeal drive at some point later in the year or early next.

    Trump, Republicans appear to fail again as third senator comes out against Obamacare repealTrump, Republicans appear to fail again as third senator comes out against Obamacare repeal

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    Twenty years is not long in the life of a city, but two decades after amalgamation, Toronto isn’t the place it used to be. Even if then premier Mike Harris’s intentions were good — highly doubtful — the results are anything but.

    Its post-amalgamation politics dominated by suburban careerists, its bureaucracy demoralized, its residents cynical and hunkered down, Toronto has chosen to fight against the global shift to more progressive and humanistic forms of urbanism. The city, historically an agent of change — cultural, social, intellectual, economic — now tries to avoid it.

    Though our mayor depends on the “old city” to get elected, amalgamation allows him to ignore downtown and the urbanism it embodies and instead wrap himself in the mantle of Fordism and its right-wing agenda of car dependency and suburban resentment. His main focus is congestion. His greatest hope is to eliminate double parking during rush hour.

    So who better to manage Toronto’s long decline into civic obsolescence than the current mayor? With the last remaining jot of ambition now carefully squeezed from city hall, Toronto has reached a point where few seem bothered about the city’s march toward self-induced irrelevance.

    The metaphor for our time is a discredited subway to Scarborough. For those who keep track, it’s actually the city’s second exercise in transit futility on such a grand scale. The first, the Sheppard line, which loses money with every passenger, opened in 2002 under Toronto’s first post-amalgamation mayor, Mel Lastman.

    The obvious transit priority, of course, is the downtown relief line. It was first proposed more than a century ago but won’t get built because it doesn’t run through Etobicoke, Scarborough or North York. Though it would enhance transit across the whole city, it is seen as favouring downtown Toronto, which gets all the goodies while our postwar bedroom communities languish in low-density isolation.

    When elected mayor of Toronto, Lastman’s only promise was not to increase property taxes. After serving 10 terms as mayor of North York, he knew that would be enough to get elected. With the exception of David Miller, mayor from 2003 to ’10, that strategy has served our chief magistrates well. But you get what you pay for; in Toronto, that’s not much.

    It doesn’t help that the city is controlled by a provincial government unable to distinguish its crass political interests from those of the larger community. There’s no better example than the careful excision of reality from transit planning in Toronto. Municipal and provincial politicians see transit as a vote-getting scheme.

    Cash cow one day, sacrificial lamb the next, the city lurches from crisis to crisis. Though the mayor has spoken bitterly of having to go to Queen’s Park like a boy in short pants asking for more, he has been conspicuously unwilling to look to Torontonians for those funds.

    Mostly, though, politicians’ response to a proposal depends on where they come from. Last year, when the possibility of building a park over the railway tracks south of Front St. W. was raised, downtowners loved it, suburbanites didn’t. Local Councillor Joe Cressy said it was, “well worth the investment.” Scarborough Councillor Jim Karygiannis wondered, “what is it going to do for my constituents and the people in Scarborough?” North York’s Giorgio Mammoliti dismissed it as “a glorified dog poop park . . . (where) the rich can walk their dogs.”

    Recent suggestions that the city find a way to display an important archeological find almost two centuries old prompted municipal bean counters to sputter and grow red in face.

    No surprise, then, that Toronto’s relationship with mediocrity has been internalized by the public, politicians and pundits alike. The city that prides itself on civic parsimony has forgotten the difference between expenditure and investment, cost and value. Besides, Toronto is too poor to pay the price of excellence.

    Amalgamation has achieved its unspoken purpose; the elimination of civic ambition. Dominated by city-deniers like the late Rob Ford and his dubious older brother, Doug, Toronto has grown so suspicious of its own urbanity that it can’t build a six-storey condo, or install a bike lane or a traffic light without the sky falling in. Little wonder Toronto remains dependent on infrastructural investments made between the 1950s and ’80s.

    Ironically, while Toronto is busy suburbanizing, suburban communities from Markham and Mississauga to Burlington and Brampton are trying desperately to transform themselves into cities. They can see the future, even if Toronto can’t.

    Christopher Hume’s column appears weekly. He can be reached at

    How amalgamation eliminated Toronto's ambition: HumeHow amalgamation eliminated Toronto's ambition: Hume

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    THUNDER BAY—Sometimes the sorrow seems endless, but the city of Thunder Bay came together on Monday at an unprecedented meeting to express their thoughts on racism, policing and fear in their community.

    The body of Dylan Moonias, a 21-year-old First Nations man, was pulled from the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway in Thunder Bay on Saturday, according to Pearl Achneepineskum. His body has been flown to Toronto for a post-mortem.

    “The worst part is the unknown. Not knowing what happened,” Achneepineskum said from her home in Ogoki Post, Marten Falls First Nation, about 500 km north of Thunder Bay on the Albany River.

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    Achneepineskum is the sister of Chanie Wenjack, who was 12 years old when he ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora in October 1966 only to be found frozen to death on the railway tracks as he tried to walk home, a journey of nearly 1,000 kilometres.

    Wenjack is the inspiration behind musician Gord Downie’s multimedia project, Secret Path, which includes an album and graphic novel.

    Moonias — the grandson of Pearl’s sister, Lizzie — had recently just returned from Agnes Wenjack’s funeral in Geraldton, Ont. Agnes, who died Sept. 1, was the mother of Chanie, who inspired a generation of Canadians 50 years after his death to learn about Canada’s devastating residential school history.

    The discovery of Moonias’ body came just days before the Office of the Independent Police Review Director held a public meeting in Thunder Bay Monday night to discuss its ongoing investigation into allegations of systemic racism into the policies, practices and attitudes of the Thunder Bay Police Service as they relate to death and missing person investigations involving Indigenous people.

    OIPRD director Gerry McNeilly told the crowd of nearly 200 people that the investigation they were conducting was “unprecedented” in scope and breadth. The OIPRD review, which began last November, was prompted by a complaint by the family of Stacey DeBungee, a Rainy River First Nation man whose body was discovered in the river in 2015.

    Both DeBungee’s family and Rainy River Chief Jim Leonard felt his death was not properly investigated and the police were too quick to dismiss the case with no foul play suspected. Private investigators later discovered DeBungee’s bank card was used hours after his death.

    Questions about how the police handle missing persons and death investigations have been swirling since the deaths of seven First Nations students who died from 2000 to 2011 while living hundreds of kilometres from home so they could attend high school. An inquest into the students’ deaths wrapped up at the end of June 2016, and 145 recommendations were made on how to, among other things, make Thunder Bay safer for Indigenous students.

    But this past May, Thunder Bay was jolted by the deaths of Tammy Keeash, 17, and Josiah Begg, 14, whose bodies were also found in the city’s waters. Their deaths are currently being investigated by York Region police, at the behest of the Ontario Chief Coroner’s office as Indigenous leaders say they have lost trust in the Thunder Bay police.

    McNeilly said his review team has met with 100 individuals, First Nations leaders and communities, members of police and police leadership. “The Thunder Bay Police Service has co-operated fully with our review and I thank them,” McNeilly said.

    “As part of our investigation we are conducting a detailed death review of 30 case files. These cases mostly involve Indigenous people but we are also looking at deaths of non-Indigenous people for comparative purposes,” he said.

    Another nine cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls are also being re-examined by the OIPRD.

    At the meeting, McNeilly said he asked everyone . . . to talk about the problems in Thunder Bay so we can get some resolution so Thunder Bay can move forward.”

    Round tables were set up in the community hall and citizens were given time to discuss a series of questions they want answered by the OIPRD review.

    One Indigenous man at the meeting, which the OIPRD asked the media not to record, said “How can we solve the problem? It is not us.”

    Another man asked the room to give a round of applause for the Thunder Bay police because they are working hard to earn trust and work together with Indigenous people, not against them.

    “Sometimes you don’t what it feels like to put on that uniform, it’s a very brave thing to do,” he said.

    Another Thunder Bay Indigenous resident said those living on the streets and in the shelters need to have a private meeting with the OIPRD. “My heart has always been on the ground . . . the politicians need to stand back and let our people talk,” she said.

    Thunder Bay reels as body of Indigenous man pulled from riverThunder Bay reels as body of Indigenous man pulled from river

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    BEIJING—Warning there would be “no winner” in the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, China on Tuesday urged North Korea and the United States to stop their escalating war of words and sit down for talks on cooling the recent spike in tensions.

    The comments from foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang reinforce China’s position that all sides should avoid provoking each other following biting new United Nations economic sanctions on North Korea and a new exchange of threats between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

    “A war on the Korean Peninsula will have no winner, which will also be a tragedy for regional countries,” Lu told reporters at a daily briefing. “Given our consistent opposition to the war and chaos on the peninsula, we totally disapprove of an escalation of the war of words between the U.S. and North Korea.”

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    Lu’s remarks came after North Korea’s top diplomat on Monday characterized Trump’s tweet that Kim “won’t be around much longer” as a declaration of war against his country by the United States.

    However, Lu noted that the Trump administration denied that it had declared war on North Korea and said the U.S. remained committed to eliminating nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula through peaceful means.

    China accounts for about 90 per cent of North Korea’s foreign trade and is under constant pressure from the U.S. and others to tighten the screws on its neighbour and former close Communist ally.

    Beijing has responded by voting in favour of increasingly harsh U.N. resolutions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs and announced Saturday that it will limit energy supplies to North Korea and stop buying its textiles as dictated by the latest sanctions.

    China urges North Korea, U.S. to cool it, adds there’s ‘no winner’ if war breaks outChina urges North Korea, U.S. to cool it, adds there’s ‘no winner’ if war breaks out

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    The first time a police officer pulled a gun on DeMar DeRozan he was 15, he thinks; he and two friends were just riding bikes. Kyle Lowry had it happen too: he was 13, maybe, and he says they were just being kids. Fred VanVleet was 13 when he and his teenage older brothers were pulled over for speeding, and the police officer just pulled the gun out, didn’t point it at them, just held it as they spoke. VanVleet never forgot.

    As sports has been pulled into the gasoline-and-matches soaked orbit of the President of the United States, the arguments are by their nature bigger, balder, stupider. Athletes are following Colin Kaepernick, and are protesting the flag! The anthem! The troops! The United States itself! So much yelling, so much anger, so much dishonesty. There’s a lot of pushpin, bumper-sticker patriotism going around.

    But media day in the NBA was full of thoughtful reactions: LeBron James speaking eloquently and at length, and San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich too — “we have no clue what being white means” — and Washington’s John Wall, and more. It was a remarkable day in the NBA.

    It was remarkable in Toronto, too. There was a lot to listen to. DeRozan, the Raptors all-star, grew up in Compton, Calif.

    “I’ve had friends killed by police officers,” says DeRozan. “A couple days after being at my house, when I was young, and even recently. And it sucks, because even myself, I drive a nice car and I’m still being questioned: How you get this car? Do you do this, do you do that? And it’s not fair at the end of the day because I always think about, I have my kids in the car. You see all these incidents on the internet, with these officers doing things to people and it’s caught on camera, and they still have no repercussions. And they still get up the next day like, it’s just another day.”

    Lowry, his fellow all-star, gets told this story. He nods.

    “Yeah, it’s happened to me,” says Lowry, who grew up in north Philadelphia. “I haven’t been pulled over too many times, but I’ve been asked that question enough. ‘Whose car is this?’ It’s mine. And knowing that you really want to say: FU, this is my s---, I paid for it, I’ve earned this. You can’t. Because you know it might not be the right thing to say. You don’t know how that cop’s day is going. They’re not all bad cops out there. There are many amazing patrolmen, patrolwomen out there. But you have to be careful, you do have these thoughts. You have to think: I have to be careful, and watch my ass.”

    VanVleet grew up in Rockford, Ill., and lost his father to gun violence at age 5. His white mother tried to teach him, as best she could.

    “I learned early on that when a cop pulls you over you turn the music off, you take your hat off, you take your glasses off, you put your hands on the wheel,” says Van Vleet, whose stepfather was a Black police officer. “Or, before he gets there, you have your registration ready so that when he gets there, you don’t have to reach. If you don’t feel comfortable, you say, I don’t want to grab it.”

    Norman Powell grew up in San Diego. People don’t think San Diego is tough, but Norm says south San Diego, where he grew up, was.

    “It was always: no sudden movements, be polite, be kind, always show your hands,” says Powell. “Like a safety protocol.”

    They say Canada feels much safer, for the record. But they are millionaires, even famous, and they still worry if blue and red lights flash in the rearview mirror at home. They learned how to be careful from their parents, because their parents grew up Black in America, too.

    “It’s no secret: in urban cities and places, you’re taught a fear of the police from day one,” says veteran swingman C.J. Miles. “Even if you haven’t done anything wrong. I wasn’t a criminal, but at the same time you see the police and think, I have to get to a different place.”

    “Yeah, I could go on for days with that,” says DeRozan, asked about the LAPD. “It was tough when it came to the police. Seeing ’em, not wanting to look ’em in the eye, because you didn’t want to get questioned. You see ’em, you go in the house. It’s the way we grew up, to where it became like we was hiding or running from something, even if you didn’t do anything, just because you didn’t want to get hassled or get harassed for something you didn’t do.”

    “I can remember nights of walking down the street and getting pulled over, or driving with a group of my friends and being suspected of being gang members, or on Halloween, we were trying to beat the crossing light and a police car pulls up and tells us to get on the ground,” says Powell. “You know? Don’t move. We weren’t doing anything. Tenth grade. It was Halloween, and we were told to get on the ground. We were judged on our appearance, on our look. It’s reality. And you deal with it.

    “But it’s always been a worry. It’s still a worry for me now, when I go back home.”

    That’s what Kaepernick was protesting, and it became what hundreds of NFL players were protesting. Beyond Donald Trump, the buffoon, that’s what NBA players are talking about, with the support of the league and of management.

    “My reaction is I like the players’ reaction,” said Raptors president Masai Ujiri. “I like LeBron’s reaction. I like (Steph) Curry’s reaction. I like Kobe (Bryant’s) reaction.”

    So when people talk about politics, about unity, about having a platform and a voice, what they are saying is this: America should treat Black people — or a great number of other visible minorities, while we’re on the subject — the same way whites are treated when it comes to law enforcement, sentencing, everything. They have seen the videos of Philando Castile, of Tamir Rice, of Alton Sterling, on and on. Coach Dwane Casey grew up in segregated Kentucky schools until the fourth grade, and he feels like America is sliding back to where it was in the 1960s. This is where they are.

    “It’s crazy and it’s sad that I didn’t know until I got older,” says VanVleet. “Because you’re used to it. You think it’s normal for cops to stop you for no reason. You think it’s normal for people to discriminate. As Black people we have become accustomed to it, to deal with it.”

    We should listen to them. The Raptors say they haven’t decided if or how to make a statement, but we should listen to why they would, why it’s about more than some loudmouth bum of a president. NBA players want that to change: for themselves, and for their children. Of course, their parents did too. That’s why they taught them to fear the police, to watch out, to be careful. Because they loved their children, and wanted them to be safe.

    Raptors' DeRozan, Lowry know where the need to protest comes from: ArthurRaptors' DeRozan, Lowry know where the need to protest comes from: Arthur

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    Alarming standardized test results for high school students in applied courses are raising questions at Canada’s largest school board about how some of its most at-risk youth are being taught.

    Only 28 per cent of Grade 9 students taking applied math at the Toronto District School Board met the provincial standard in math skills in 2016-2017, according to Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) data released last week.

    That’s down from 32 per cent the previous year and compares with an 80-per-cent success rate for those in the academic stream.

    Evidence of a growing gap — the most pronounced among the 10 GTA boards — comes on the heels of several reports that call for an end to academic streaming and argue the practice is discriminatory, sends the wrong message, and limits choices down the road for kids barely in their teens.

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    “Absolutely, we are concerned,” said Manon Gardner, TDSB executive superintendent of teaching and learning. “Obviously those are not the numbers we want for our students. We are looking deep into this in terms of what can we change.”

    One in four Grade 9 students in the Toronto board — a total of almost 4,000 kids — were enrolled in applied math last year, so the fact that almost three-quarters were below the provincial standard — of roughly a B — means a substantial number may be falling through the cracks.

    Province-wide numbers for the nearly 35,000 Grade 9 kids in applied math are also dismal, with 56 per cent of them failing to meet the Ontario standard versus 83 per cent of academic students.

    At Peel District School Board, the second-largest board, 39 per cent of students in applied were successful versus 84 per cent in academic classes.

    The gulf is worrisome, says Mary Reid, professor at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

    No matter what people think of standardized testing, “this is statistically significant and we can’t ignore it,” says Reid. “These are alarming results.”

    Math isn’t the only area of concern. All Grade 10 students in Ontario write a literacy test and must pass in order to graduate. But the success rate for students enrolled in applied English has declined over the past five years, with only 44 per cent passing in 2017 — versus 92 per cent of those in the academic stream. Students who fail are enrolled in a literacy course and can retake the test.

    At the TDSB, 39 per cent of applied students taking the literacy test for the first time passed, versus 87 per cent of academic students.

    Reid says the disparity between test results for kids in university-bound academic courses and the more hands-on applied level amount to “a real inequity” and a failure of the system because education is supposed to be “about closing the achievement gap.”

    The troubling findings this month came in the wake of an announcement by the province that it plans to re-examine its curriculum and assessment process.

    Meanwhile, the trend in applied is becoming significant enough that the EQAO chose to highlight it when releasing the first wave of data last month, said chief executive Norah Marsh.

    The gap “creates a lot of questions as far as what’s happening for those students,” she said.

    Tracking students through tests in Grades 3, 6 and 9 shows that putting them in separate streams can have negative consequences.

    For example, kids who didn’t meet the standard in Grade 6 were more likely to be successful in Grade 9 if they took the academic course, she said.

    She added that students receiving special-education supports, who made up 41 per cent of Grade 9 applied math classes, are also more successful in academic courses if they receive appropriate accommodations.

    Eighty-one per cent of special-ed students in Grade 10 academic English passed the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, she said, versus 36 per cent of special-ed students in the applied course.

    The latest EQAO results follow a series of reports raising concerns about the impact of streaming, including one from the research and advocacy group People for Education two years ago that cited a widening achievement gap and found kids in applied courses are less likely to graduate or go on to post-secondary.

    Last month, the advocacy group Social Planning Toronto highlighted the lack of guidance and information families receive about streaming, which disproportionately impacts racialized students and those from low-income families. And an earlier report from York University found Black youth are twice as likely to be in applied courses as other racial groups.

    Rising concerns have led to a growing number of TDSB high schools starting to “de-stream” by gradually eliminating applied level courses for Grade 9 and 10 students and instead placing most in the academic stream.

    Schools like C.W. Jefferys Collegiate, the first to launch a de-streaming pilot in 2014, have seen achievement levels rise across the board when all students are supported and expected to succeed in academic courses.

    Jefferys has removed all Grade 9 applied courses except math, which is next on the list. But EQAO results show progress is well underway, with 80 per cent of kids in applied math meeting the provincial standard last year, up sharply from 52 per cent in 2016 and 41 per cent the previous year.

    This year Oakwood Collegiate Institute became the first high school to end all Grade 9 applied courses at once, a process generated by teachers and involving co-ordination with feeder schools to ensure students who would have been headed for applied get all the support they need, according to principal Steve Yee.

    Gardner says in the past two years the TDSB has redirected about 5 per cent of students headed towards applied into academic courses instead, with up to 16 high schools in different phases of de-streaming this year.

    Education experts like Mary Reid say eliminating streaming is the way to address the problem.

    “You teach to the academic curriculum, and you get rid of labels,” says Reid, adding that research shows all students do better in mixed-ability groupings, but streaming does the most harm to those who are struggling.

    Educators raise alarm over declining scores for applied studentsEducators raise alarm over declining scores for applied students

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    After hearing anguished, exasperated pleas from Toronto drug users and overdose prevention workers, public health board members voted Monday to step up efforts to save lives in the ongoing opioid crisis.

    Ontario’s health minister, however, has already rejected one key call — that the province declare the surge in opioid overdoses and deaths an “emergency” under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

    The health board voted unanimously to ask for the emergency designation after Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, said that, in B.C., such a designation improved access to overdose data and helped “create (new) overdose prevention sites” in that province.

    An emergency designation in Ontario, she said, could trigger “a smoother flow, per se, of dollars” to do likewise here, but acknowledged the province would still have ultimate control over the timing and distribution of roughly $300 million it has so far pledged to help reduce overdose deaths.

    At Queen’s Park hours earlier, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins told reporters that declaring a state of emergency is unnecessary because it “would not provide me with opportunities or powers that I don't already have. I feel confident in my current ability to work, in collaboration with partners, to address the public health crisis that is the opioid crisis.”

    Hoskins added he is “confident that we've got the tools that we need — but we've got a lot of work to do, and it’s multi-faceted,” suggesting more funding could be coming to reverse a spike in overdose deaths seen across Canada since fentanyl, a highly toxic painkiller, started hitting the streets.

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    Councillor Joe Cressy, the head of Toronto’s drug strategy, told fellow health committee members that “the province has to treat this more seriously than it has . . . this is an emergency thus they have to call it an emergency.”

    The word itself is not important, he said, but discussions with B.C. authorities suggest the designation could bring urgency to an response to the overdose crisis that he, along with the drug users and harm-reduction workers, say is already years behind, at the cost of Torontonians’ lives.

    Other measures approved by the health board include having de Villa look at adding more safe-injection sites in Toronto — there is currently an illegal volunteer-run site in Moss Park, a city-run one on Victoria St. near Ryerson University, with two more set to open in community health centres in late October — and adding safe-inhalation so that people can smoke crack and other drugs with medical help nearby and without fear of arrest.

    Safe inhalation happens at Moss Park but is currently not allowed under the Health Canada rules being followed for the other sites.

    De Villa is going to report back with her “best possible health advice” on the issue of fully decriminalizing drugs — she has already said Canada’s current crime-based approach has failed and a health-based approach should be considered. And, if city council agrees, she will be designated Toronto’s “overdose co-ordinator with authority to direct and co-ordinate city’s response across divisions and agencies.”

    Amy Wright, a harm reduction worker who lost a brother to suicide after he struggled with addiction, told the committee that when the phone rings she always expects to hear that another family member has died from overdose. She has called the public health threat “a huge crisis.”

    “I am praying for this city to do something, there needs to be a mass shift in how we view substance abuse,” she said.

    Olympia Trypis, a 22-year-old peer mentor in the youth shelter system, cried as she described the stigma of drug use. She fears that an overdose will end her life, or that she’ll be arrested or robbed of her drugs She believes that politicians follow the public, and aren’t going to lead change.

    “I am just begging you to be a hero because every day at the site I see heroes,” she said, referring to volunteers who ensure people can use drugs safely and rescue those who start to overdose.

    “We need the public to push you guys to be leaders so you guys can decriminalize drugs that are killing people.”

    With files from Kristin Rushowy

    Public health board members call on Ontario to declare opioid crisis state of emergencyPublic health board members call on Ontario to declare opioid crisis state of emergency

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    A North York recycling plant that employed low-wage temporary job agency workers for years has been ordered to pay $1.33 million in fines and back pay to workers for violating the City of Toronto’s fair wage policy.

    Canada Fibers Ltd. has two seven-year contracts to process blue bin recyclables for the city, worth a combined total of more than $264 million. Their contracts stipulated that all workers, including temp agency employees, were to be paid $12.34 an hour with pay increases tied to inflation, according to Fair Wage Office manager Mark Piplica.

    In 2015, a series of Star reports highlighted the story of “perma-temp” Angel Reyes, then a 61-year-old father of three who worked at the company for years at minimum wage — which at the time was $11 an hour.

    The city’s Fair Wage Office subsequently launched a two-year investigation into Canada Fibers and found that some 1,600 workers were owed money for being paid below agreed-upon rates.

    “We’re actually really close to finalizing all of the distribution (to workers),” said Piplica, who told the Star most employees owed money were hired through temp agencies.

    “Many workers, they’re going to get some money,” said Reyes. “That’s a beautiful thing.”

    Piplica said the investigation was complex because Canada Fibers has multiple locations, but said the company co-operated fully and will now be using directly-hired employees to process city recycling.

    “To their credit, they’ve stepped up,” Piplica said.

    A spokesperson for Canada Fibers said in a statement to the Star that the company was “pleased that it has now reached a fair and reasonable resolution with the city on the applicability of wage regulations to its Arrow Road facility.

    “Specifically, Canada Fibers has agreed to pay approximately $1.2 million in good faith payments to employees, with approximately $135,000 as an administration fee to the City of Toronto,” the statement said.

    “Canada Fibers continues to believe it has been in full compliance with all city regulations in the work that it does for the City of Toronto. In the interest of the company’s long-term relationship with its business partner, the city, and to stop analyzing and reanalyzing the facts of the dispute, Canada Fibers has agreed to conclude the review and make good faith retroactive payments to applicable employees,” it added.

    “We’re glad to see the Fair Wages Office investigated and temp agency workers hopefully will be able to recoup their lost wages,” said Mary Gellatly of Parkdale Community Legal Services.

    “But we have concerns about Canada Fibers’ use of temp agency workers when it was in a long-term contract with the city to do Toronto’s curbside recycling.”

    After speaking out to the Star, Reyes lost his temp job at Canada Fibers — but was subsequently offered a permanent job by a reader.

    Read more:

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    The Star has reported extensively on the growth of the temp agency industry, and statistics show there are now more temp agencies operating in the GTA than seven Canadian provinces combined.

    The city investigation found Canada Fibers was using five different temp agencies to staff its facilities. Businesses with municipal contracts are responsible for ensuring all subcontractors — including temp agencies — abide by the city’s fair wage guidelines.

    Gellatly said the investigation highlights why proposed provincial legislation to make it illegal to pay temporary or part-time employees less for doing the same work as permanent counterparts is so important.

    “This is why the Bill 148 provision for equal work for equal pay for temp agency workers is so important — for workers not covered by fair wages policy at the City of Toronto,” she said.

    “We need to see improvements so the equal pay provisions really can be enforced,” she added.

    Piplica said temps who worked at Canada Fibers could contact his office directly if they believe they might be eligible for back wages.

    “It’s a good news story all around,” he said.

    Recycling plant ordered to pay $1.33M in fines, back wagesRecycling plant ordered to pay $1.33M in fines, back wages

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    WASHINGTON—The vice-president of the United States has some less-than-complimentary words for Canada’s health-care system, which he accuses of certain “failings.”

    Mike Pence made the remarks in an interview last week with Alaska radio station KFQD.

    He was being asked about the Republican health legislation struggling to get through Congress.

    Republicans appear to be wrestling to get a bill that would repeal Obamacare through the legislature before a procedural deadline later this month — and the effort is in deep trouble.

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    Pence warned that if the legislative effort collapses, the U.S. will be on a course for something similar to Canada.

    That’s because the Democratic party is starting to rally to an unprecedented degree around the idea of single-payer health care as a long-term solution to the U.S.’s endless health debates.

    “We have a clear choice here,” Pence said.

    “You know, somewhere in between where I’m sitting in Washington, D.C., and Alaska, is a place called Canada. I probably don’t need to tell the people in Alaska about the failings of national socialized health care because it’s right in our neighbour and you see the results every day.

    “Look, we’ve got a choice: It’s between big government, Washington, D.C., solutions that ultimately, I believe, will collapse into single-payer health care — or whether or not we’re going to repeal the (Obamacare) individual mandate.”

    Canada’s health system is known to suffer from long wait times, especially for elective procedures. On the other hand, Canadians not only have longer life expectancies, but also spend far less on health care than Americans according to World Bank data.

    The Trump administration has just received a fresh round of bad news about its health-reform effort: After John McCain, Susan Collins became the latest senator Monday to say she opposes the Obamacare repeal bill, almost certainly dooming it.

    The Congressional Budget Office attempted to assess the bill, and released a preliminary report Monday. It said the legislation would end health coverage for millions, but reduce federal spending by more than $133 billion (U.S.) over a decade.

    But the non-partisan watchdog said it needed more time to properly analyze the bill — time it doesn’t have, because of the Republican rush to get a bill passed.

    U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence blasts ‘failings’ of Canadian health systemU.S. Vice-President Mike Pence blasts ‘failings’ of Canadian health system

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    WASHINGTON—The U.S. ramped up its response Monday to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, even as President Donald Trump brought up the island’s struggles before Hurricane Maria struck — including “billions of dollars” in debt to “Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”

    The Trump administration has tried to blunt criticism that its response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of its efforts in Texas and Florida after the recent hurricanes there.

    Read more: Parts of Puerto Rico nearing desperation as food, water and fuel supplies begin to run out

    Days after the Category 4 storm slammed into Puerto Rico, many of the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory were still without adequate food, water and fuel. Flights off the island were infrequent, communications were spotty and roads were clogged with debris. Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month.

    Trump himself pointed out some differences between the two states and the island in a series of tweets Monday night.

    “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.”

    Trump also noted that the island’s electrical grid was already “in terrible shape.” Still, he promised, “Food, water and medical are top priorities—and doing well.”

    In Washington, officials said no armada of U.S. Navy ships was headed to the island because supplies could be carried in more efficiently by plane. The Trump administration ruled out temporarily setting aside federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo, saying it wasn’t needed. The government had waived those rules in Florida and Texas until last week.

    Though the administration said the focus on aid was strong, when two Cabinet secretaries spoke at a conference on another subject — including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose agency is helping restore the island’s power — neither made any mention of Puerto Rico or Hurricane Maria.

    Democratic lawmakers with large Puerto Rican constituencies back on the mainland characterized the response so far as too little and too slow. The confirmed death toll from Maria jumped to at least 49 on Monday, including 16 in Puerto Rico.

    “Puerto Ricans are Americans,” said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., who travelled to Puerto Rico over the weekend to assess the damage. “We cannot and will not turn our backs on them.”

    Trump himself was expected at the end of last week to visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, after they had been ravaged by Hurricane Irma. But the trip was delayed after Maria set its sights on the islands.

    The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, and White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert landed in San Juan on Monday, appearing with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello at a news briefing. Though Rossello had urgently called for more emergency assistance over the weekend, he expressed his gratitude for the help so far.

    The governor said the presence of Long and Bossert was “a clear indication that the administration is committed with Puerto Rico’s recovery process.”

    Long said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We realize that.”

    Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made no mention of Puerto Rico or the hurricane during a joint appearance before the National Petroleum Council, a business-friendly federal advisory committee. News reporters were not allowed to ask questions.

    Perry had travelled with Trump to Texas and Florida following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

    Energy Department crews are working in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, co-ordinating with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, FEMA and a team from the New York Power Authority, among others. An eight-member team from the Western Area Power Authority, an Energy Department agency, assisted with initial damage assessments in Puerto Rico and has been redeployed to St. Thomas. A spokeswoman said additional responders would go to Puerto Rico as soon as transportation to the hurricane-ravaged island could be arranged.

    Zinke’s department oversees the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with other territories.

    The federal response to Maria faces obvious logistical challenges beyond those in Texas or Florida. Supplies must be delivered by air or sea, rather than with convoys of trucks.

    FEMA said it had more than 700 staff on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They were helping co-ordinate a federal response that now includes more than 10,000 federal personnel spread across the two Caribbean archipelagos.

    In Puerto Rico, federal workers supplied diesel to fuel generators at hospitals and delivered desperately needed food and water to hard-hit communities across the island. Cargo flights are bringing in additional supplies, and barges loaded with more goods are starting to arrive in the island’s ports.

    San Juan’s international airport handled nearly 100 arrivals and departures on Sunday, including military and relief operations, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The Pentagon dispatched the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, which provided helicopters and Marines to help with the relief effort onshore.

    However, the Trump administration said Monday it would not waive federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo as it had following Harvey and Irma. The administration said it will continue to enforce the Jones Act, which requires that goods transported between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagged ships.

    Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said the agency had concluded there were already enough US-flagged vessels available.

    On Capitol Hill, congressional leaders were talking about how to pay for it all. Puerto Rico was already struggling from steep financial and economic challenges before Maria made landfall.

    Last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi joined with President Barack Obama to help recession-ravaged Puerto Rico deal with its debt crisis. After the devastating storm, Puerto Ricans will now be eligible to benefit from the same pots of federal emergency disaster aid and rebuilding funds available to residents in Texas and Florida.

    Lawmakers approved a $15 billion hurricane relief packaged after Harvey hit Texas, but billions more will likely now be needed to respond to Maria.

    Ryan said Monday that Congress will ensure the people of Puerto Rico “have what they need.”

    Singer Marc Anthony, meanwhile, had some scathing words for Trump, pleading with the president to forget about football and focus instead on hurricane-hammered Puerto Rico.

    Anthony tweeted on Monday night: "Mr. President shut the f--- up about NFL. Do something about our people in need in #PuertoRico. We are American Citizens too."

    The 49-year-old singer was born in New York, but his parents are from Puerto Rico, which was hit hard by Hurricane Maria.

    Anthony is one of many entertainers with Puerto Rican roots trying to summon support. "Hamilton" star Lin-Manuel tweeted that he's "texting every famous Puerto Rican singer I know and several I don't."

    As millions struggle for food, water and fuel after Hurricane Maria, Trump tweeted how Puerto Rico is billions in debtAs millions struggle for food, water and fuel after Hurricane Maria, Trump tweeted how Puerto Rico is billions in debt

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    On Tuesday morning, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) announced new legal action that called for an end to the practice of segregation in the Ontario prison system to protect the human rights of prisoners with mental health disabilities.

    The OHRC has filed for an expedited application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), alleging that the Ontario government breached the Chrstina Jahn v. Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) settlement -- a legally binding agreement made in September 2013.

    In it, the provincial government agreed to prohibit segregation for people with mental health disabilities, and increase inmate access to mental health services.

    The OHRC is requesting for the same reforms to be made now with a sense of urgency, said OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane.

    “This is a matter of life or death,” said Mandhane, “We feel like another death in these circumstances is entirely predictable and could happen next week, next month.”

    “The government chose to enter the Jahn settlement,” she said. “Having made that choice, they need to be accountable for what they have chosen to agree to.”

    Yusuf Faqiri, brother of Soleiman Faqiri, who died after a violent encounter with a dozen correctional officers while in solitary confinement, was present at the announcement to support OHRC’s decision.

    “There has to be accountability for Soleiman’s needless death,” said Faqiri, “because we don’t want another Soleiman.”

    Ontario Senator Kim Pate was also at the announcement asking the government to act on the issue.

    “Segregation in this country has been in a state of being examined for more than 4 decades in my own lifetime,” said Pate. “Any attempts to reduce and monitor it have failed...we must end this practice and end it now.”

    Paul Champ, the lawyer who represented Jahn in the 2013 settlement, was also present to support the decision to apply for a tribunal into the issue. “[The government is] not disputing the facts,” he said, “the question is what are they going to do to try and fix it... there hasn’t been effective change.”

    In May 2017, Howard Sapers, the Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform to the Ontario government, released a report that found that segregation continues to be the default tool used to manage inmates with mental health disabilities. His recommendations to change this have not been implemented, said Mandhane.

    “Even the most well intentioned correctional officer will tell you they put them there because it’s the easiest place to watch them,” said Pate.

    Champ is representing Cleve Geddes, an inmate at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre who reportedly hanged himself in February. Geddes, reportedly diagnosed with schizophrenia, was waiting for a mental health assessment, similar to Soleiman Faqiri.

    If the expedited application is accepted, a human tribunal hearing is expected in the next 45 days--a process which normally takes 6 months to a year. The OHRC hopes to continue conversations with the government in the meantime.

    In a statement Minister Marie France Lalonde of the MCSCS also committed to continue working with the OHRC. The Minister said that the ministry had moved forward with some of the recommendations, including an inmate handout, screening tool and a report that provides advice on improving access to mental health services for female inmates.

    “However, we know that we have a lot more work to do,” said Lalonde. “We continue to take immediate and decisive action to ensure that we are both safeguarding human rights and ensuring the safety of those placed in our custody.”

    Mendhane, Pate, and Champ, however, question the government’s commitment to reform.

    “The Sapers report is a clear breach of the Jahn settlement,” said Mendhane. “We won’t be arguing about the facts [with the government], but what the settlement looks like.”

    Human Rights Commission calls on province to end segregation for prisoners with mental health disabilitiesHuman Rights Commission calls on province to end segregation for prisoners with mental health disabilities

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    WASHINGTON—At least six of U.S. President Donald Trump’s closest advisers occasionally used private email addresses to discuss White House matters, current and former officials said Monday.

    The disclosures came a day after news surfaced that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, used a private email account to send or receive about 100 work-related emails during the administration’s first seven months. But Kushner was not alone.

    Stephen Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, and Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, also occasionally used private email addresses. Other advisers, including Gary Cohn and Stephen Miller, sent or received at least a few emails on personal accounts, officials said.

    Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter, who is married to Kushner, used a private account when she acted as an unpaid adviser in the first months of the administration, Newsweek reported Monday. Administration officials acknowledged that she also occasionally did so when she formally became a White House adviser. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with reporters.

    Officials are supposed to use government emails for their official duties so their conversations are available to the public and those conducting oversight. But it is not illegal for White House officials to use private email accounts as long as they forward work-related messages to their work accounts so they can be preserved.

    During the 2016 presidential race, Trump repeatedly harped on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private account as secretary of state, making it a centerpiece of his campaign and using it to paint her as untrustworthy.

    “We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office,” Trump said last year. His campaign rallies often boiled over with chants of “Lock her up!”

    The FBI closed its investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information and recommended no charges. But even after becoming president, Trump has prodded the Justice Department to reinvestigate.

    While the private email accounts spurred accusations of hypocrisy from Democrats, there are differences. Clinton stored classified information on a private server, and she exclusively used a private account for her government work, sending or receiving tens of thousands of emails. The content and frequency of the Trump advisers’ emails remain unknown, but Trump administration officials described the use of personal accounts as sporadic. The emails have not been made public.

    “All White House personnel have been instructed to use official email to conduct all government related work,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Monday in response to questions about the emails. “They are further instructed that if they receive work-related communication on personal accounts, they should be forwarded to official email accounts.”

    The acknowledgment of private email use came as the White House is responding to a wide-ranging Justice Department request for documents and emails as part of the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling. The use of private emails has the potential to complicate that effort, but White House officials said they were confident in the process.

    “I am dealing with honorable professionals and getting what I need,” said Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer leading the response to the investigation. “I am doing all I can to ensure the special counsel receives the materials they request.”

    It is not clear why even sporadic use continued after a campaign in which email habits became a source of controversy. A former administration official noted, though, that in many cases, people received emails to their personal accounts. In some instances, officials used their private accounts to talk with reporters.

    Most of Trump’s aides used popular commercial email services like Gmail. Kushner created a domain, , in December to host his family’s personal email. That domain was hosted by GoDaddy on a server in Arizona, records show.

    Priebus and Bannon did not respond to messages seeking comment. A person close to Bannon insisted he almost never used his private email for work purposes. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a question for comment about the current officials.

    James Norton, a former senior homeland security official during the George W. Bush administration, said private accounts pose security risks — a criticism often raised against Clinton.

    “These private email accounts become targets of phishing attacks or other types of ways of collecting information,” he said. “It’s an issue not only for the person who owns that account, but the person who is receiving the emails. It is introducing risk into the system.”

    Richard Painter, a chief White House ethics lawyer under Bush who is now the vice chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, said there is often a “gray area” over what is considered official business. But, he said, “If it has anything to do with the president’s policy, including defending the president’s policy to the press, it’s very difficult to escape that being official.”

    “I think Kushner was sloppy to do this,” he said. “I think Hillary was sloppy. I don’t think any of it was criminal.”

    The special counsel, Robert Mueller, is leading the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and whether anyone around Trump was involved. Mueller’s team has the power to subpoena a company to turn over customer emails.

    White House officials hope it does not come to that. They have been hurrying to provide Mueller with the documents he has asked for. Cobb has described it as “full cooperation mode.” He has reminded White House aides to search their private accounts for records to give to Mueller.

    The White House views such cooperation as its best chance to escape the glare of a special counsel investigation that also touches on Trump’s actions as president.

    The private email accounts immediately triggered questions in Congress. Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy who was among those who most vociferously criticized Clinton’s email use, sent a letter to the White House and federal agencies asking about the Trump administration’s personal email use.

    Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked the White House to make sure that none of Kushner’s emails are deleted.

    “Before requesting copies or calling for the public release of all official emails you sent or received on your personal email account,” Cummings wrote, “I first request that you preserve all official records and copies of records in your custody or control and that you provide the information requested below.”

    “Your actions in response to the preservation request and the information you provide in response to this letter will help determine the next steps in this investigation,” he added.

    Cummings noted that Trump administration officials had previously said that senior White House officials did not use multiple email accounts. And he reminded the White House about the grilling Clinton received from congressional Republicans over her email practices.

    Both political parties have fought for years over the use of private email accounts. Long before Clinton’s emails were a campaign issue, Democrats criticized members of the George W. Bush administration for the practice.

    At least 6 advisers to Donald Trump have used a private email account, an issue he hammered Hillary Clinton overAt least 6 advisers to Donald Trump have used a private email account, an issue he hammered Hillary Clinton over

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    Premier Kathleen Wynne insists the province will not let Ontario cities go to pot once the federal government legalizes marijuana next July.

    Wynne emerged from a meeting Tuesday with Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area mayors and regional chairs promising a clampdown on illegal storefront “dispensaries” and vowing to help municipalities cope with weed.

    “The federal government’s legalization of cannabis of course has implications for the province as we move to administer the rules,” the premier told reporters.

    “But the legalization of cannabis by the federal government also has implications for municipalities and that was the conversation today. We made it clear that we will work with municipalities.”

    Wynne admitted there are still many questions Ottawa must answer — including how marijuana will be taxed — before Queen’s Park can finalize any plan to aid cities with the new costs.

    “One of the mayors said … ‘will there be licensing fees that we’ll have access to?’ Will there be the opportunity for municipalities to raise their own revenues? What will be the resources that will flow from the provincial level to the municipal level?” she said.

    “And quite frankly those issues are not all worked out, but they raised them and so that’s an important piece of this. The issues around zoning were raised as well and so we need to work out exactly what those regimes will be.”

    It was the premier’s first meeting with the mayors and chairs since the province announced earlier this month that recreational marijuana would only be sold by the LCBO at up to 150 standalone stores or online.

    Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said he would be convening an “enforcement summit” with municipal leaders later this fall to discuss the outlaw shops.

    “We’ve been very clear from the very beginning that these pot shops are illegal today and they will remain illegal once legalization takes place,” said Naqvi.

    “We will bring our ministers, municipal partners, our law enforcement partners, our police services so that we can determine, as one, as to what is the best way to make sure that these illegal stores are not in our communities,” he said

    Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey said she was encouraged by what she heard from the province.

    “There’s a lot of moving pieces to this (federal) legislation,” said Jeffrey.

    “At the end of the day, the rubber hits the road at municipalities. Obviously the federal government is moving forward on it. We want to be responsible and thorough,” she said.

    “The premier is interested in our feedback on how to make this work in the future.”

    Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua praised Wynne’s “measured approach” but cautioned the federal government will have to step up.

    “It’s obviously a cultural shift in our country. It’s going to require attention, but I think the premier has struck the right chord on this one,” said Bevilacqua.

    “There should be some costs attached … so they have to find ways to get that funding to the local municipalities because, as always, those are costs we bear.”

    Wynne promises to work with mayors on marijuana legalizationWynne promises to work with mayors on marijuana legalization

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