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    OTTAWA—Ottawa says health programs for Indigenous peoples have “room for review” but is making no promises to halt a court case that has cost taxpayers $110,000 and counting — all to avoid paying a $6,000 bill for a teen’s braces.

    Jane Philpott, the former health minister recently appointed minister of Indigenous services, said through a spokesperson that “unacceptable” social and economic gaps facing Indigenous peoples, including health care, were the motivations in the establishment of her department.

    “As we move forward with the creation of this new department, we recognize that all programs and services for Indigenous peoples have room for review,” Andrew MacKendrick said in a statement.

    But the statement from Philpott’s office Friday was silent on the specific case that has raised the ire of critics, who say Ottawa is wasting tax dollars and falling down on its responsibility to look after the health of Indigenous children, all in a bid to avoid paying for a child’s orthodontic treatment.

    Read more:

    The long Liberal road to Indigenous reconciliation: Tim Harper

    Philpott urges doctors to help improve health of Canada’s ‘most vulnerable people’

    “It certainly gives me pause, as a lawyer, as a Canadian, as someone who works in this area, who cares about reconciliation,” said Toronto lawyer Sarah Clarke.

    Clarke has taken on the case — pro bono — of Josey Willier, a 16-year-old Indigenous girl from Alberta who suffered dental problems that caused her chronic pain.

    A dentist recommended orthodontic treatment, saying her problems will only worsen as she gets older to the point that she could require jaw surgery.

    The costs were not covered by the Alberta Health Insurance Plan, but the teen’s mother, Stacey Shiner, sought payment under a Health Canada program that provides coverage to First Nations and Inuit people.

    Yet while the teen was in pain, suffered headaches and took medication daily, Health Department bureaucrats determined that her condition was not serious enough to warrant braces, dismissing the initial application for coverage and all subsequent appeals.

    Despite the refusals, her mother went ahead and had the orthodontic work done.

    When her attempts to be reimbursed for her costs were rebuffed by the federal government, Shiner took the claim to Federal Court, facing off against Justice Department lawyers.

    In a May ruling, Federal Court Justice Sean Harrington dismissed the mother’s claim for a judicial review.

    “I find the decision that Josey’s condition was not covered by the policy was reasonable and that the procedure followed was fair,” he wrote.

    “The whole point of the dental policy is to benefit children. If there are those who think the policy does not go far enough, redress should be sought from Health Canada or Parliament, not the courts,” Harrington said.

    The family has appealed the case to the Federal Court of Appeal and Ottawa shows no signs of backing down.

    Clarke said they want to know if a child’s pain and suffering should have any bearing on whether the treatment is covered, especially since government lawyers did not dispute the teen’s discomfort in this case.

    “Decision-makers make mistakes. It happens all the time … the question becomes now that you have all this information and now that we’re all looking at this with hindsight … why are we still fighting about this?” Clarke said.

    Ottawa’s legal bill for the case — first revealed by CBC News — was $110,336 for the period from January 2016 to April 2017. The ongoing legal challenge means that tally will only grow.

    “That bill will go up. They have to review our factum, they’ve got to prepare their own factum, they need to prepare for the hearing, they need to attend the hearing. All of that costs time and money,” Clarke said.

    It’s a case that tests the boasts by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government about ensuring equality for Canada’s Indigenous peoples, said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society.

    “What I want to see is real change on the ground in children’s lives. Unfortunately so far there has been a lot of symbolism, a lot of statements but not a lot of action,” Blackstock said in an interview.

    It’s not an isolated case. The Star revealed in June that Ottawa had spent $707,000 in legal fees since January 2016 fighting a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order that insisted the government stop discriminating against Indigenous children in health and social services.

    The Liberals themselves last fall backed a motion in the House of Commons that called on the government to comply with that ruling.

    “I measure reconciliation at the level of children. What I see is this ongoing litigation,” Blackstock said.

    The decision to mount a legal battle made no sense, she said, either medically — to deter the teen from getting necessary orthodontic work — or financially for taxpayers.

    New Democrat MP Charlie Angus said it’s “absolutely perverse” that the federal government devotes time and money to blocking health services to Indigenous children.

    “This is the real face of reconciliation,” said Angus.

    “We have a government that goes out and tells Canadians that they’re building a brand new relationship. But they’re following the same pattern that’s gone on for decades, which is to deny children rights and fight them in court all the way if necessary.”

    With files from Julien Gignac

    Ottawa racks up $110,000 in legal bills to avoid paying for teen’s $6,000 bracesOttawa racks up $110,000 in legal bills to avoid paying for teen’s $6,000 braces

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    A high-stakes dispute over the minimum wage is a testament to how our elites play policy games with the lives of working people.

    The ideological divide is not just right versus left and business versus labour. At its core, the disagreement pits economists against themselves.

    We have dialed up the minimum wage to maximum volume, leaving low-wage earners as a political afterthought. Dangling on the poverty line at $11.40 an hour.

    On one side, big bank economists and business mouthpieces are warning of an economic cataclysm if Ontario hikes the minimum wage to $14 an hour next year, and by another $1 the year after that. TD Bank and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce are leading the charge, relying on muscular rhetoric disguised as rigorous research.

    The chamber’s predilection for alarmist predictions is entirely predictable, coming from a group whose president is a former Progressive Conservative candidate, whose vice-president worked in the PC leader’s office, and whose members want to be dragged kicking and screaming into the age of the living wage. They joined up with other like-minded groups to hire a dubiously dismal economic forecasting group that claimed 185,000 jobs were “at risk.”

    TD Bank came up with its own estimate of 50,000 to 150,000 jobs lost by the end of the decade, noting its own “rough estimates are consistent” with those of others — even though they aren’t. The impact will be “acerbated” by the speed of the wage hikes, the bank added gravely.

    (That conclusion sent me speedily to my dictionary. Acerbated is defined as exasperated — not to be confused with exacerbated, which means worsen. This is why muddled bank economists leave me puzzled.)

    On the other side, university economists and big labour have led a counterattack in defence of an increase. They point out that business is relying excessively on econometric modelling at a time when the model is badly broken.

    Recent empirical research shows the impact of past wage hikes has been relatively neutral, retrospective proof that is surely more persuasive than speculative modelling that tries to predict the future with improbable precision.

    Caught in the middle is the legislature’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO), which warned that 50,000 jobs could be at stake from paying poor people more. The FAO is supposed to keep a close eye on the government’s financial accounting and accountability — notably “the province’s finances, including the budget, and trends in the provincial and national economies.” Why the FAO, on its own initiative, opted to speculate on minimum-wage policy — as opposed to fiscal facts — is an interesting question for a fledgling organization that has repeatedly been proven wrong in its deficit predictions.

    The bigger problem with the FAO and TD researchers is that they recycle outdated data and unreliable models to forecast typhoons on the horizon, ignoring the evidence in front of them. What does the rest of the economic world really think will happen, plus or minus?

    “One constituency that has mostly declined to join this chorus of boos has been professional economists,” noted a distinguished group of them in a recent commentary (full disclosure — one of the authors, Lars Osberg, taught me labour economics at university). They cite recent hikes in the U.S. with “no credible evidence that this clear trend in labour policy is hurting job creation.”

    The reason? It turns out that high-wage employers benefit from reduced turnover, lower recruitment costs, and greater productivity. That’s why more than 40 economists also signed an open letter cautioning against “fear-mongering that is out of line with the latest economic research” that shows a negligible “disemployment” effect.

    “There is no consensus against raising the minimum wage among our profession; indeed, the emerging understanding is quite the opposite,” they conclude.

    At a time when the provincial unemployment rate has plunged to the lowest level in 16 years — 5.8 per cent last month — business interests want us to believe that we can’t afford it? To put the doomsday scenarios in perspective, Statistics Canada reported Ontario has gained 154,000 jobs in the past year.

    Another bank, RBC, predicts Ontario’s economy will expand “at a rapid clip” after years of strong growth that has led the country and much of the industrialized world. If not now on wages, when?

    Target, the American retailing giant, announced Monday it will raise its base wage to $11 ($13.71 Canadian) next month, and $15 (Canadian $18.70) by 2020. What are we waiting for — Walmart?

    A New York Times analysis speculated that Target may be “trying to convince consumers that it is a good corporate citizen before lawmakers try to push up the timeline for minimum wage increases.”

    Would that our own business sector were wise to those prevailing winds.

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

    Why business and banks hate the minimum wage: CohnWhy business and banks hate the minimum wage: Cohn

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    Toronto police have identified a man who died after being shot in the chest Friday night behind Sheridan Mall, the second fatal shooting at the North York mall in the last month.

    John Trevor Paul, a 32-year-old from Toronto, was found with a life-threatening gunshot wound at the rear entrance of the mall at Jane St. and Wilson Ave. just before 8 p.m. He died from his injuries in hospital.

    Paul is Toronto’s 43rd homicide victim of 2017.

    Police are now searching for four suspects, said Toronto police Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook.

    The shooting happened a month after Jovane Clarke, 22, was shot and killed inside the same mall as shoppers scurried for safety. Police said Clarke was being pursued by four people, two of whom opened fire.

    Two days later, on Sept. 2, Awad Hurre, 44 was shot and killed in an apartment complex at Tandridge Cres. and Arcot Blvd., not far from the mall. Police said they were looking for links between the two fatal shootings as Clarke also lived in that same apartment building,

    Toronto police Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu said it is too early in the investigation to say whether the latest incident is related to the two previous shootings, however, police are looking into all possibilities.

    With files from Annie Arnone and Bryann Aguilar

    Man shot dead outside Sheridan MallMan shot dead outside Sheridan Mall

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    On paper Che Marville was a stellar election candidate, and she was certainly no stranger to high-profile politics.

    The prominent health and wellness advocate and mother of four has held leadership positions for the provincial and federal New Democrats and has a York University degree in political science. Politics even runs in the family — her uncle is Ovid Jackson, a former Liberal MP.

    That’s part of why the longtime Oakville resident decided to carry the NDP’s banner — albeit unsuccessfully — in the 2014 provincial election and again federally in 2015.

    But Marville won’t be making another bid for public office anytime soon, mirroring a trend among would-be female politicians that a one-of-a-kind research project seeks to analyze with data that suggest as women and racialized minorities chug through the political pipeline — from aspirant to candidate to MP — their prospects narrow, whereas the opposite occurs for white men.

    For women, the toughest hurdle is at the nomination level, the first checkpoint into the political realm.

    Racialized minorities come up against barriers further along, beginning at the candidate selection stage.

    That’s according to Erin Tolley, who teaches political science at the University of Toronto.

    Tolley is among the first to map the race and gender of more than 800 people vying for a political party’s nomination ahead of the 2015 vote in 136 of the country’s most diverse ridings, where racialized minorities make up at least 15 per cent of the population, half of which are in Ontario. (Her tally uses Statistics Canada’s definition of “visible minority” and therefore does not include Indigenous nomination contestants or candidates.)

    Wannabe politicians must first successfully compete for their choice party’s nomination in order to become the candidate in an election.

    Though Tolley’s project is still in the works, early findings suggest political parties aren’t doing enough to diversify the pool of candidates.

    “The dynamics for women and racialized minorities are different,” she said. “That’s important for parties to know because they therefore need to have different strategies if they want to attract and want to run women or racialized minority candidates.”

    Women make up 52 per cent of the population, but only accounted for 33 per cent of nomination contestants across those 136 ridings. The proportion of female election candidates ticked up slightly, to 36 per cent, and 31 per cent of elected MPs in those districts were women.

    That suggests women are less likely to throw their hat in the ring, but once they do, they fare well.

    “Maybe women don’t want to run, they don’t want to be called ‘Barbies,’ for example,” Tolley said, citing veteran MP Gerry Ritz’s now-deleted and apologized-for recent tweet that referred to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as “climate Barbie.”

    Tolley put the onus on political parties.

    “Political parties don’t do sufficient work to identify women candidates and encourage them to run,” she said. “Frankly, not enough fingers are pointed at political parties. We don’t need to change the electoral system to get women into politics. All parties need to do is nominate more women. It’s actually pretty simple.”

    Racialized minorities don’t experience the same obstacle.

    According to the data, minorities declare their candidacy in proportions that match their presence in the population. However, by the time Canadians go to the polls the share of MPs of colour is far below that.

    “They want to be nomination contestants, but then the party is less likely to select them, and voters are even less likely to select them,” Tolley said.

    Across the 136 ridings, racialized minorities comprised 38 per cent of the population and 37 per cent of nomination contestants. That dwindled to 33 per cent of election candidates, and to 29 per cent of MPs — an eight-point gap between the number of hopeful nominees and those who won a seat on the Hill.

    A contributing factor is one Tolley has previously explored — that minority candidates tend to compete against each other in battleground districts.

    That’s because racialized minorities are more likely to run, and win, in more diverse ridings, Tolley said. For instance, three candidates of colour may vie for their party’s nomination in an ethnically-rich district, and split the ballot.

    “So, you have this big pool of people who are interested, but they’re competing against each other, essentially cancelling each other out — and that’s happening at each level,” she explained.

    As for white men, their political possibilities widen.

    Thirty-nine per cent of nomination contestants in those diverse ridings were white men, and they comprised 40 per cent of candidates on the ticket. Nearly half, 48.5 per cent, of those who won a seat were white males.

    Marville’s aversion to entering the political arena again is to the “corporate mentality” of a campaign. She isn’t hanging up her hat because of back-to-back losses but rather what she considers a “laziness” that is endemic to all major parties and that stifles grassroots democracy, citizen engagement and diverse voices.

    “A (political) party’s structure is not designed to really reach as many people as possible. It is designed to reach those who are already engaged and to put forward a brand and to put forward a strategic campaign . . . That doesn’t seem like politics to me,” Marville said.

    Marville was acclaimed twice but said she was never naive about her prospects. She ran and lost in Oakville, which has never in its history elected a New Democrat to Queen’s Park or Parliament Hill. Marville said she was asked to run where she may have a better shot, but she refused because she wanted to represent her neighbours and community.

    What institutional obstacles may impede women and minorities in politics is what the second phase of Tolley’s research seeks uncover.

    On election day, and broken down by the three main political parties in those 136 ridings, 47 per cent of the NDP’s candidates were women. The Conservative ticket comprised 24 per cent women, while the Liberal party had 36 per cent female candidates.

    Meanwhile, 35 per cent of Tory contenders, 38 per cent of Grit candidates and 27 per cent of NDP contestants had racialized minority backgrounds.

    Each party tailors its own recruitment process.

    The NDP sets a 50-per-cent target for female election candidates, falling shy of its goal in 2015 with 43 per cent overall, also the highest in the party’s history.

    But quotas don’t automatically translate to proportional representation on the Hill, noted Marit Stiles, president of the federal NDP who is herself running for a provincial seat in Davenport next year.

    “When it’s a winnable riding, what you see is, largely, a lot of men in powerful positions that want to run there,” she said, adding that’s something all parties grapple with.

    “How do we ensure that we are putting those (diverse) candidates in ridings where they can win, (that) they’re not fringe ridings where we don’t have a hope in hell,” she said.

    Anna Gainey, president of the federal Grits, said she doesn’t anticipate implementing hard targets for that very concern. Instead, she trumpeted the Liberals’ “Invite her to run” initiative.

    According to the party, nearly one-quarter of female nomination contestants and candidates said they chose to run in 2015 at least in part because of that campaign, in which average Canadians could nominate women they thought would make good public servants that the party would then reach out to.

    The Tories maintain a merit-based approach, said spokesman Cory Hann.

    “We of course encourage women and people of all kinds of backgrounds to seek out nominations in our party, but the membership ultimately chooses the candidate they want to represent them — that is democracy,” Hann said.

    Why Canada’s political pipeline leaves little room for anyone but white menWhy Canada’s political pipeline leaves little room for anyone but white men

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    BRANCHBURG, N.J.—U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday lashed out at the mayor of San Juan and other officials in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, contemptuous of their claims of a laggard U.S. response to the natural disaster that has imperiled the island’s future.

    “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help,” Trump said in a series of tweets a day after the capital city’s mayor appealed for help “to save us from dying.”

    “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” Trump wrote from his New Jersey golf club.

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    The tweets amounted to a biting response to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who had accused the Trump administration of “killing us with the inefficiency” after Hurricane Maria. She implored the president, who is set to visit the U.S. territory on Tuesday, to “make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.”

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    “We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” Cruz said at a news conference, her voice breaking with rage. “I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying.”

    Trump has pledged to spare no effort to help Puerto Rico recover from Maria’s ruinous aftermath, and tweeted that military personnel and first responders have done “an amazing job,” despite having “no electric, roads, phones etc.”

    Puerto Rico, he said, “was totally destroyed,” and “10,000 Federal workers now on the island are doing a fantastic job.”

    Natural disasters often bring the country together. But Trump used Twitter to accuse Cruz of partisan politics.

    “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” the president charged, without substantiation.

    Critics have accused Trump of showing more concern for the people of Texas and Florida, whose lives were also upended by major hurricanes this season. Trump repeatedly praised those citizens as strong and resilient, declaring at one point that Texas could “handle anything.”

    Thousands more Puerto Ricans have received water and rationed food as an aid bottleneck has begun to ease. Telecommunications are back for about 30 per cent of the island, nearly half of the supermarkets have reopened at least for reduced hours and about 60 per cent of the gas stations are pumping. But many remain desperate for necessities, most urgently water, long after the Sept. 20 hurricane.

    Trump is scheduled to spend an hour Saturday checking in by phone with FEMA Administrator Brock Long, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, and other local officials. He’ll also speak with the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, which have received less attention, but were also ravaged by the storms.

    Trump’s Saturday tweets are the latest example of his insistence on “punching back,” even against those with far less power. After a deadly terror attack in London in June, Trump singled out London Mayor Sadiq Khan, suggesting he wasn’t taking the attacks seriously enough in a tweet that misconstrued Khan’s words.

    During his campaign, Trump also picked fights with a Gold Star family and a former beauty queen who publicly supported his Democratic rival.

    Cruz declined to engage in the tit-for-tat, instead calling for a united focus on the people who need help. “The goal is one: saving lives. This is the time to show our ‘true colours.’ We cannot be distracted by anything else,” she tweeted, along with photos of herself meeting with residents and rescue workers, wading hip-deep through a flooded street and comforting an elderly woman.

    Trump said Friday that Puerto Rico is “totally unable” to handle the catastrophe on its own. “They are working so hard, but there’s nothing left,” he said. “It’s been wiped out.” He said the government is “fully engaged in the disaster and the response and recovery effort.”

    Yet even in voicing solidarity and sympathy with Puerto Rico, he drew attention again to the island’s debt burden and infrastructure woes, leaving doubt about how far Washington will go to make the U.S. territory whole.

    “Ultimately the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort — it will end up being one of the biggest ever — will be funded and organized, and what we will do with the tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island,” he said. “We will not rest, however, until the people of Puerto Rico are safe.”

    During this season’s trio of monster hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, Maria — Trump and his administration have drifted into the perilous territory of premature self-congratulation in the face of unfolding catastrophe, seemingly unmindful of the “Brownie moment” that scarred George W. Bush’s presidency.

    Bush famously told his emergency management director, Michael Brown, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” during what proved to be a tragically inept federal response to deadly Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

    Trump has repeatedly boasted about the positive reviews he said his administration was getting from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for its relief effort, even as people in remote towns struggle to find food, water and other basics. Then Trump’s acting Homeland Security secretary, Elaine Duke, called the federal relief effort a “good-news story” because of “our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths.”

    “Let me clarify,” she said Friday upon her arrival in Puerto Rico to survey the damage. She said she meant “it was good news that people of Puerto Rico and many public servants of the United States are working together.”

    Cruz responded, “This is a people-are-dying story.”

    ‘They want everything to be done for them’: Trump lashes out at desperate Puerto Rico officials‘They want everything to be done for them’: Trump lashes out at desperate Puerto Rico officials

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    The happy couple — event planner Esther Katzman and food writer Suresh Doss — were expected to host the perfect wedding.

    Indeed, a month before the big day, every detail was in place — the remote Niagara estate was booked, the elaborate vanilla-ginger and chocolate-hazelnut cakes were ordered and the embroidered parasols from India were ready to be hung in the dining tent.

    And then their caterer ghosted them.

    “I’ve worked with chefs in the past and knew that a lot of them didn’t check emails and preferred to keep their head down,” Doss said. “But when it came down to the three and four weeks before the wedding, we were in a bit of a panic mode,” he admitted.

    “The first thing people said to us when we were sending invites was that the food and drinks were going to be amazing,” said Katzman, 31, a senior account manager with event and marketing company Mosaic. “I had people ask if they could buy a ticket to the wedding.”

    But with the wedding less than a month away, they had no food to serve their 128 guests.

    “The anxiety was growing and I told Esther that we needed to make a drastic decision,” said Doss, 39. He called off the original caterer and with the last-minute help of a few of the city’s best chefs and old friends in the food industry, the race wason to create a multi-course feast for 130 guests at a remote backyard venue in just 12 days.

    Doss is the print editor of the Toronto edition of Foodism magazine and the new host of a weekly food segment on CBC’s Metro Morning that explores the GTA’s multicultural food spots. He leads private food tours introducing diners to international cuisines at family-run restaurants tucked away in the vastness of GTA’s suburbs. So, while food is an important part of most weddings, the pressure to have good food was paramount.

    In late July, after the caterer fell through, Doss ran into his friend Carl Heinrich, chef and co-owner of downtown’s farm-to-table restaurant Richmond Station. The chef casually offered to help any way that he could. Days later,Doss fired off a late-night email to Heinrich asking if he could cater the event, which happened to be taking place on one of the busiest wedding weekends of the summer.

    “We didn’t have the staff to do it, maybe if he asked us six months ago, but I told him I’ll see what I could do,” Heinrich said. He was keen on making sure there would be food at their wedding. After calling around to different chefs and caterers without any luck, Heinrich stepped up.

    “When a friend needs help, I’m going to do what I can,” Heinrich said. “He’s always been supportive of my career, so we turned it into a collaborative food event, which is always fun for a chef to do.”

    Heinrich rounded up Richmond Station’s general manager Jenn Hornak and three chef friends who happened to be free that weekend: Jesse Vallins of the Maple Leaf Tavern, Heinrich’s fellow Top Chef Canada Season 2 competitor Trista Sheen and his former sous chef, Alex White, now the chef at Niagara College’s Benchmark restaurant.

    The chefs divided and conquered, hashing out a menu of dishes that could be assembled quickly on site using ingredients they already had, or could easily source such as carrots, fennel, zucchini and radish from Heinrich’s bounty grown at the 100-acre organic farm, called the New Farm near Creemore, Ont.

    Eight days before the wedding, Heinrich emailed the couple the first draft of the menu — including quinoa and corn lettuce wraps with soybean hummus, scallop crudo, duck liver pate on toasted brioche, and pork and rabbit terrine to start. Doss and Katzman were elated with the menu that spoke to their love of local produce and tapas-style dining.

    With the main menu attended to, the Sri Lankan-born Doss concentrated on finding a caterer to make hoppers, sweet and savoury crepes made from a batter of rice flour and coconut and cooked in a wok.

    “We kept striking out because a lot of these guys aren’t used to cooking on such a big scale or could make the drive to Niagara.”

    So once again he turned to a chef friend, this time it was Johnne Phinehas, chef and owner of downtown’s Saffron Spice Kitchen, a kothu roti takeout spot.

    “He had a friend who could do it, and we had a three-way phone conversation where Johnny acted as the translator since I wasn’t completely fluent in Tamil,” he says.

    Two days before their big Niagara bash, the hopper station consisting of a half dozen mini woks and butane camping stoves was confirmed.

    On the day of the wedding, all the food stations were ready. Guests parked on the side of the dusty country road and walked across the sprawling lawn of the venue, where the chefs were at their stations, grills fired up and coolers unpacked.

    “Carl showed up the day before to survey the venue and, with the exception of showing him where to put the garbage, we basically had no contact till it was time to eat,” Doss said. “As soon as I saw him and the other chefs pull up, we knew we didn’t have to worry about the food.”

    It was the wedding feast of their dreams.

    “Everyone started their conversation with me by saying how the food was amazing and that I had to try this or that.”

    A sangria dispenser awaited guests at the bar along with wine and beers and ciders made for the couple by Oast House Brewers and West Avenue Cider.

    Meanwhile, guests were welcomed with platters of pintxos and tapas: polenta fries with marinara sauce, grilled vegetables, salt cod on crusty bread, rabbit and pork terrine.

    There were grilled sausage coils from Vallins, Heinrich and Sheen worked another grill serving bites of thinly-sliced charred skirt steak with chimichurri and flaky Sous-vide trout with corn puree.

    A vegetable station offered wraps and beet salads, lighter fare than the late-night poutine truck White arranged from Niagara College.

    The dessert buffet included the ginger-vanilla and chocolate-hazelnut cakes, marshmallows, meringues and pâte de fruits made by Michelle Edgar of the Sweet Escape patisserie in the Distillery District. Platters of burfi, a dense and milky South Asian confection typically served at celebrations, from Al-Karam Sweets in Scarborough, rounded out the dessert table.

    “There was a point when the sun was going down and I was looking out on the yard, seeing people at the bar and at the tables with a glass in one hand and a plate of food in the other and we were relieved and honoured that Richmond Station was able to pull everything together,” Katzman said.

    Guests feasted and drank, celebrating the union, unaware that the wedding of two of the most food-obsessed people they knew almost didn’t have any food on the table.

    The couple did concede there was still one hitch that night: they forgot to put out the takeout food boxes for their guests.

    How Toronto's chefs came together to save a weddingHow Toronto's chefs came together to save a wedding

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    There are eternal optimists. Then there are stubborn optimists.

    After his talk in Toronto on Friday, Barack Obama pleaded for optimism, even though his own is now “leavened by the recognition that progress can reverse itself.”

    What other option is there, really?

    “In many ways this is both the worst of times and the best of times,” the 44th U.S. president said in a youth-focused talk to more than 2,000 people (my estimate) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

    “If you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you didn’t know ahead of time who you were … you’d choose right now. This moment.”

    That kind of inspiring message was what a group of youngsters from Etobicoke/Rexdale had come to hear after community organizer Marcia Brown, who runs youth program Trust 15 persuaded the organizers Canada2020 for free tickets so the students being groomed for leadership would see their hero.

    When I asked them what they were looking for, the word “inspiration” popped up every time. One student said “empathy.”

    “There’s not a lot of empathy going around the world,” said 16-year-old Devang Ghosh. “Barack Obama is the perfect example of someone who portrays empathy. I want to be like him.”

    Read more:

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    Toronto is becoming a sanctuary city for U.S. politicians: Menon

    For them, there was more from Papa O.

    “Despite all the challenges that we face, despite all the bad news that we see flashing across our screens, if you ask yourself when has humanity across the board been wealthiest, healthiest, most educated, most tolerant, least violent, the moment would be now.”

    But what about the bad news, the xenophobia, the racism, the broken promises on climate change, the threat to walk away from NAFTA?

    He kept it classy.

    Zero was the number of times Obama mentioned Donald Trump in his 60 minutes with the audience (except in passing, once, as in “Obama-Trump voters”).

    For four years, but especially in the waning weeks of his second term, I waited for Obama to rise up and throw off the yoke of having to appear in control lest he trigger the angry Black man stereotype. I waited for him to pull off a Martin Luther King-like speech from the conclusion of the Selma March of 1965, to rise up and inspire and warn of the dangers of what Trump stood for.

    But, as the author Ta-Nehisi Coates has written, Obama was too optimistic to even consider the possibility of a Trump win.

    Even on Friday, Obama insisted on focusing on working class voters and “hearing what they have to say,” although polls show that most white voters of all ages, genders and education levels backed Trump.

    I waited, again, for him to take the gloves off — yes, you can, man. He never did.

    No-drama Obama was not just a presidential veneer. I can’t tell if it is iron will or born of detachment or if he just floats on moral ether outside our grasp. It is him. I find that at once immensely admirable and incredibly unsatisfying.

    Oh, he alluded to the toxicity of today plenty of times. Once he said, “If leaders are promoting our worst impulses rather than our best, nations can turn on themselves.”

    Another time, “I’m an old-fashioned guy. I like the Enlightenment and reason and logic and facts.”

    Perhaps the snarkiest remark, if you can call it that, was when he spoke about his beloved health-care legacy. “You (Canada) don’t seem to be having a debate about your health-care system. We’re on our 62nd vote to repeal and replace it with something.”

    Among the five ideas he outlined to “rearrange our politics,” the first three were: focus on economic equality; work on international co-operation, especially on climate change; and harness diplomacy and nurture alliances to deal with threats such as North Korea.

    I found the last two of particular interest. They were on immigration and information bubbles.

    “We’re going to have to work to rebuild consensus to openness to immigrants and refugees,” he said. “In America, immigrants start about 30 per cent of all new businesses. But what we also have to recognize is that new immigrants can, in some circumstances, in certain markets, compete for services and construction jobs that previously had gone to low wage workers in those areas … And when folks feel that immigration is not orderly or fair, then it puts at risk our ability to sustain our future as a nation of immigrants.”

    See, there it was again. That gentle push to look at it from the other guy’s point of view. He’s right, of course. That is what we need right now. Is that what we want to hear right now? That brings us to point No. 5.

    “The fact that we are so connected also makes it easier for us to retreat into our own information bubbles, to listen to people who think just like we do, to never challenge our own assumptions.

    “We’re going to have to find ways to push back on propaganda, to cultivate and lift up independent journalism, but also to train ourselves to listen to those with whom we disagree to ultimately work to bridge differences.”

    For the youth listening, his words filled them with hope.

    For 15-year-old Hailey Toussaint, “to see him in person, the first Black president, is very inspirational because to me he also represents change.”

    For Jason Owusu, 21, “Now that I get the chance to actually see him and hear him talk, I feel like it’s going to really inspire me and get me to drive myself even more.”

    For youth like them, Obama urged active citizenship.

    “I’ve often said the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, quoting Dr. King, but it doesn’t do so on its own. It requires those of us of good will to grab hold of that arc and pull it in the direction of justice.”

    Towards the end, Obama acknowledged his optimism is hard earned. “It is not a naiveté. It is an optimism that is based on the record of human achievement and progress. But it is leavened by the recognition that progress can reverse itself. It can go backwards … If people are unwilling to try to build trust with those who look differently or worship differently or love differently than they do, then you get less done.

    “We haven’t evolved so much that the possibilities of what we saw during World War II couldn’t recur.”

    Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar.

    Obama’s eternal optimism was on display in Toronto: ParadkarObama’s eternal optimism was on display in Toronto: Paradkar

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    Half of Ontarians believe recreational marijuana should be regulated like alcohol, a new poll suggests.

    Forum Research found 50 per cent of respondents want the government to treat cannabis like alcohol.

    That’s encouraging news to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s administration, which will restrict the sale of legalized weed to 150 standalone LCBO-run stores

    “It seems the government’s marijuana plan may be on point,” said Forum president Lorne Bozinoff.

    The province runs the 660-store Liquor Control Board of Ontario retail chain, which has a monopoly on the sale of spirits. The LCBO also sells beer and wine, though both are available at private outlets, such as select supermarkets, specialty wine kiosks, and Beer Store outlets.

    About a third — 32 per cent — of those polled said marijuana should be regulated like tobacco, which is sold mostly by private-sector outlets, such as convenience stores. Another 18 per cent did not know.

    Using interactive voice response telephone calls, Forum surveyed 801 people across the province on Wednesday and Thursday with results considered accurate to within three percentage points 19 times out of 20.

    The firm also asked about the Ontario government’s recent trial balloon that the retail price of marijuana should be $10 a gram once it’s legalized next July.

    More than a quarter — 27 per cent — said it is “reasonable” while 17 per cent said that price is “unreasonable” and 55 per cent were not sure.

    But of the 106 respondents who said they are regular marijuana users, 59 per cent said $10 a gram is “reasonable,” 28 per cent said it’s “unreasonable,” and 13 per cent didn’t know.

    “Those consumers think that the rumoured price of $10 per gram is pretty good,” said Bozinoff.

    The Forum survey comes two weeks after a Campaign Research poll found 51 per cent back the plan to have recreational marijuana sold solely through the LCBO-run stores and website.

    About a third — 35 per cent — of those in that poll oppose the idea and 14 per cent had no opinion.

    The Campaign Research online poll of a panel of 1,133 Ontario voters was conducted Sept. 8-11.With a sample of that size it would be considered accurate to within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

    Half of Ontarians want weed regulated like booze: PollHalf of Ontarians want weed regulated like booze: Poll

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    Sears Canada announced Friday night that it will close 10 more department stores, including the anchor stores at Fairview Mall and Scarborough Town Centre in the coming months, after it failed to attract a successful bid to save the company.

    A Sears Home store in Kelowna will also be closed, it was announced Friday. In all, 1,200 people will be affected, in addition to the 2,900 that will be jobless by the end of business day on Sunday as a result of the store closures announced in June when the company first sought creditor protection.

    A potential going concern bid was put forward on Aug. 31 by Brandon Stranzl, who stepped down from his position as Sears Canada executive chairman in order to focus on the bid, but it had numerous conditions, including financing conditions, according to the company’s press release.


    What if no one wants to buy Sears Canada?

    Stranzl presented an amended bid on Sept. 25.

    “Understanding, among other components, the role a successful bid could play in saving jobs, Sears Canada advisors continue to engage with Mr. Stranzl with the goal of enhancing the value and reducing the conditionality of the proposed transaction,” according to the release.

    But there is no deal as of yet.

    The company is seeking an extension of the stay period to November 7.

    The leases for the department stores are being surrendered to landlords. Lime Ridge Mall in Hamilton will also lose its Sears store as will Oakville Place in Oakville.

    Two tentative deals have been struck to save parts of the business, including S.L.H. Transport Inc., which provides shipping to Sears Canada and third-party customers.

    Sears Canada to close 10 more stores, including Fairview and Scarborough locationsSears Canada to close 10 more stores, including Fairview and Scarborough locations

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    A worker is in life-threatening condition after falling off a roof near East York.

    Paramedics say they received a call around 12:30 p.m. regarding a man in his 50s who fell off a roof while working on a house at Sutherland Dr. and Astor Ave.

    The man had no vital signs when emergency services arrived on scene, and was immediately rushed to hospital.

    Investigators from the Ministry of Labour are currently looking into the incident, and police say they’ve talked to the homeowners for more information.

    The house is currently taped off for investigation.

    Worker in life-threatening condition after falling off roof in East YorkWorker in life-threatening condition after falling off roof in East York

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    American tastemaker John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthiest passenger on the Titanic and founder of the five-star St. Regis hotel in New York City, perished in 1912 when the ship struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic.

    Astor’s style-setting legacy, and hotel standards, live on and are coming to Toronto in a way that will join the city skyline. His St. Regis brand will illuminate the former Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto at 325 Bay St. — currently operating as the Adelaide Hotel.

    The 65-storey hotel and residence will be rechristened St. Regis Toronto after an extensive renovation for a new look, new amenities and a new vibe. It will be the first St. Regis Hotel in Canada.

    Seventy-four residential condominium suites, known as the St. Regis Residences Toronto, were to be offered for sale starting Sept. 28. The units, from 1,200 square feet up to 12,000 square feet, are priced from $1.6 million to $23 million.

    JFC Capital acquired the Trump Tower’s 211 hotel units, 74 condos and amenity space this past March. In the previous 10 years, the Trump hotel had been plagued by construction delays, lawsuits, loan defaults and protests from people unhappy with the new American president. Donald Trump’s company never owned the Toronto tower but licensed out the name and managed the property.

    JCF bought out the Trump management contracts this past June and sold the hotel to InnVest Hotels, one of Canada’s largest hotel portfolio holders. The hotel will be operated by Marriott International under its St. Regis brand, known for luxury, impeccable service and innovation. JCF retained ownership of the residential condo suites. (There are 118 condo residences in all; 42 had been sold before the JCF acquisition and one has been sold since).

    “This was a unique opportunity,” says Jay Wolf of JCF Capital about the Trump Tower acquisition. “It was an exceptional asset in the heart of the third largest real estate market in North America. That type of opportunity doesn’t come around every day.”

    Tim Terceira, general manager of the St. Regis Residences Toronto and the Adelaide Hotel, says condo residents will enjoy the privileges of being connected to a five-star hotel and will have a dedicated director of residences.

    “Our job is to make sure this is the best investment in their lifestyle they’ve ever made,” says Terceira. “We will get to know them as appropriate and make them feel at home. The service will be gracious, intuitive and prestigious.”

    A personal butler will assist residents with everything from arranging theatre tickets to organizing their daily itinerary. A private chauffeured car will be available. They’ll have access to the hotel’s amenities and services, including restaurant, bar, fitness centre, spa and room service, with preferred pricing.

    The original hotel staff — including housekeepers and front office workers — has been retained. The restaurant, bar and spa, that had been contracted to third party operators, will now be operated and controlled by the hotel management. Guillaume Robin, former executive sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Naples, Florida, is now in charge of the kitchen.

    “From a service perspective, this hotel is already a four- or five-star and the staff understands luxury,” says Terceira. “What we will be doing is bringing the culture of the St. Regis, its processes and rituals.” Those rituals include Afternoon Tea, Midnight Supper and Sunset Sabrage, where a ceremonial sabre is used to open champagne bottles.

    The hotel lobby, amenity spaces, bar and restaurant will be refurbished before the hotel is rebranded as the St. Regis and are still in the planning stage. However, the residential condo suites in the Astor Collection have been updated and two model suites created by Toronto interior designer Ann Johnston.

    “I’ve created transitional spaces that are more refined, not as theatrical, as they were,” says Johnston. “We also want to appeal to a new generation of multinational luxury travellers.”

    She’s opted for contemporary furnishings and neutral palettes that mix textures, with a few punches of jewel-toned hues. Light fixtures and countertops have been replaced and hardwood floors have been refinished to a modern, warm grey tone.

    The condo suites feature coffered ceilings in foyer and principal rooms, hardwood flooring and wainscotting, electric fireplaces, Downsview kitchen cabinetry, Miele appliances and recessed halogen lighting.

    “There has been a lot of interest in the suites, and the original developer did a clever job of designing a building on a tight lot,” says Kate Hay of JCF Capital. “It’s a prime location in the financial district ... There are a lot of condos for sale in the luxury space, but what’s different with these is you don’t have to buy off plans and are able to walk through the actual suites.”

    Buyers of the Astor Collection suites — named for John Jacob Astor IV — will receive a furniture package from Elte, initiation and membership in the private National Club and two years of free valet parking for two cars. They will also enjoy a favoured St. Regis ritual by attending a polo match in an international destination.

    “Toronto, like most major metropolitan markets, tends to have a very sophisticated clientele that appreciate and demand this level of services,” says Wolf of JCF Capital. “One of the things I find really compelling is the story of the St. Regis brand and it has an impact on everything we do. It’s steeped in tradition and quiet luxury, and is the perfect brand for this building.”


    Location: 325 Bay St.

    Description: 73 residential condominiums within a 65-storey luxury hotel that was formerly Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto. The hotel is currently operating as the Adelaide Hotel and will be rebranded as Canada’s first St. Regis Hotel.

    Architect: Zeidler Partnership Architects

    Interior designer: Ann Johnston (model suites and Astor Collection suites)

    Suite sizes: 1,200 to 12,000 square feet

    Prices: $1.6 million to $23 million

    Suite features: Coffered ceilings, minimum ceiling heights of 10 feet, marble and hardwood flooring, electric fireplaces, separate showers and stand-alone tubs, heated bathroom floors, Downsview kitchen cabinetry, Miele stainless steel appliances.

    Amenities: Access to all hotel amenities including bar, restaurant, spa, pool, fitness centre, housekeeping and room services at preferred pricing. Residence-only Sky Lobby on the 32nd floor. Twenty-four hour concierge, personal butler, valet parking (two years free), chauffeured car service.

    St. Regis moves in on Toronto’s Trump TowerSt. Regis moves in on Toronto’s Trump Tower

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    A Sudanese man on track to become a permanent resident with his family has been granted a last-minute reprieve from his scheduled deportation.

    Nasreldin Ali Akad Himad, 49, was to be deported Saturday morning. But Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell ordered a review of the Canada Border Service Agency denial to defer his deportation, while his permanent resident application with his wife and three children was under way.

    The family crossed into Canada in January from Saudi Arabia via the United States in January. Although they were all on the same claim, a refugee judge granted asylum to all except the father because she found him not credible.

    Himad’s lawyer said the man is almost certain he will receive his permanent status with the rest of his family given he has already had security and medical clearance. But the border agency insisted on deporting him, tearing the family apart while the application is in process.

    “The judge found that removing Mr. Himad would constitute irreparable harm to both Mr. Himad and his family,” said his lawyer Ashley Fisch, after an emergency request to court to suspend her client’s removal.

    “It’s unfortunate and disappointing that we had to take it all the way to the court because there were opportunities for the Government of Canada to have intervened beforehand. Nevertheless justice prevailed.”

    The judge felt there were serious legal issues raised by the border officer’s decision to refuse the deferral request and the court will hear about that in due course, Fisch said.

    Sudanese man gets last-minute reprieve from deportation orderSudanese man gets last-minute reprieve from deportation order

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    TOKYO—Backroom negotiations, ministerial meetings, shuttle diplomacy, all in hopes of getting agreement on a sweeping trade pact by year’s end.

    No, it’s not NAFTA.

    While the spotlight has focused on trade talks between Canada, Mexico and the United States, efforts are quietly underway on another sweeping trade pact — the Trans-Pacific Partnership — that would give Canada preferred access to Asian markets.

    The agreement, left for dead after Washington’s exit in January, has come back to life.

    And the 11 remaining nations in the partnership are hoping that by moving forward on the agreement — possibly in the coming months — they can entice the U.S. to rejoin the initiative abandoned by President Donald Trump immediately after he took office.

    “Entry into force of TPP 11 is the highest immediate priority for us,” said Sadaaki Numata, a former Japanese ambassador to Canada who now chairs the honorary board of advisers for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

    “We do see it as a means of inducing the United States to come back to TPP. You could call it a lever.”

    There’s optimism that negotiators could have a rejigged agreement ready by November when political leaders from the TPP nations — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — gather in Da Nang, Vietnam for an Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit.

    “There is a degree of momentum behind that now and I think there is a recognition, especially in today’s trade policy environment, that having a successful negotiation would have broader implications,” Ian Burney, Canada’s ambassador to Japan, told the Star in an interview.

    Trump’s withdrawal from the partnership had put its future in limbo. “At that time, it seems we lost a path, a way as to what we should do,” Nobutka Sawada, of the Economic Affairs Bureau in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in an interview.

    “But after a lot of consultations and discussions, we found that the significance of the TPP remains. So TPP is still important.”

    Japan, joined by Australia and New Zealand, is leading the effort to see the agreement become a reality. Canada is supportive of the pact that also includes Mexico, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

    The push for liberalized trade is part of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts at economic reforms and a focus on liberalized trade that includes the TPP as well as an agreement with the European Union and ongoing negotiations with Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which would cover 16 Asian countries including China and India.

    Officials on both sides of the Pacific say the TPP would unlock trade between Canada and Japan — two G7 nations — which now stands at about $27 billion annually, an amount that has been largely stagnant in recent years.

    Five years ago, the Conservative government under prime minister Stephen Harper attempted free trade negotiations with Japan, backed by estimates it could boost Canada’s GDP by more than $4 billion.

    But Japan abandoned those discussions two years later in favour of pursuing liberalized trade through the TPP. While Canada holds out some hope of achieving a bilateral deal, too, that doesn’t look likely.

    “We have been trying to revive the bilateral process but have not succeeded. There is a strong preference on the Japanese side to focus on the TPP process,” Burney said.

    “Japan has always been relatively clear with us that TPP probably reflects the high-water mark in terms of what they are prepared to offer in terms of concessions,” he said.

    “I think from the standpoint of what’s in the agreement, that probably is the best that can be achievable.”

    That view is shared in Japan, too, especially because the TPP goes beyond trade to also include topics such as labour, intellectual property, digital trade and government procurement.

    “We do see great potential to be developed,” said Ichiro Hara, director international affairs bureau at Keidanren, the Japanese business federation.

    “I think that either TPP 11 or 12 will be very beneficial framework to reinforce the trade relationship between Japan and Canada,” he said, via an interpreter.

    Negotiators from the remaining TPP countries recently met in Tokyo and will meet again in Japan in October. But potential roadblocks remain. With the U.S. out of the equation — and with it the opportunities of favoured access to the American market — there’s concern that the agreement has become less attractive for some nations.

    “I believe the biggest hurdle might be to overcome the resistance or hesitation on the part of developing countries (that) made great compromises in order to accommodate the U.S. requests and demands on the assumption that the U.S. market would be open,” Hara said.

    There’s also the concern that some nations may seek to renegotiate parts of the agreement. “Every country has agreed that modifications should be minimal but what is minimal for each country differs significantly.”

    And so a question mark hangs over the Trump administration as the U.S. risks being isolated on the trade front. Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA, even as U.S. officials try to bargain a modernized pact with Canada and Mexico. He has mused about ending America’s trade deal with South Korea.

    “That the largest and most influential country in the world is turning to that kind of attitude is very dangerous,” said Shujiro Urata, dean of the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies at Tokyo’s Waseda University.

    “That would make the U.S. the isolated country. I hope that they realize that kind of situation will be very harmful to the U.S. economy.”

    “But again I guess Mr. Trump and his advisers have to change their views towards multilateralism versus U.S.-first policy.”

    Experts like Urata and Hara say the best way to counter to protectionist sentiments is to move ahead on trade deals and hope that the U.S. — seeing American corporate interests increasingly disadvantaged on the world stage — returns to the pact.

    “Trade and investments are globalized and connected these days. I hope the U.S. can see that it would be to their disadvantage not to be part of this global movement,” Hara said.

    “We hope domestic business leaders in the U.S. will raise their voices saying that the U.S. should be back in TPP.”

    Canada working to make Pacific trade deal a realityCanada working to make Pacific trade deal a reality

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    An Air France flight bound for Los Angeles from Paris made an emergency landing in Canada on Saturday after one of the jumbo jet’s four engines exploded in midair, passengers said.

    Passengers aboard the double-decker Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner, described hearing a loud noise about five hours into the flight. The plane, which had just crossed the southern tip of Greenland, vibrated for several minutes.

    About two hours later, the plane landed at Goose Bay Airport in Labrador, on the far northeast edge of Canada.

    Photographs and videos shared by passengers on social media showed tattered metal surrounding the exposed interior of an engine, its white covering blown away. One fragment, dangling from the main body of the engine, bobbed in the wind.

    Air France said in a statement that the engine had suffered “serious damage” but that the plane landed safely. “The regularly trained pilots and cabin crew handled this serious incident perfectly,” the statement said.

    The company did not address a possible cause for what happened.

    A passenger, John Birkhead, said he and his wife had just stood up to stretch when they heard the explosion.

    “We were just stretching and talking, and suddenly there was an enormous bang, and the whole plane shook,” said Birkhead, 59, who was returning home to California after a two-week vacation. “We were lucky we weren’t tossed to the ground.”

    Sarah Eamigh, another passenger, said she had been dozing when she felt her stomach plunge as the plane momentarily dropped, then lurched back up.

    Eamigh, 37, who was returning from a business trip, described the sensation that followed as a pervasive humming feeling, entirely unlike the side-to-side motion of turbulence.

    “Of course, we were all anxious,” she said. “We had a quick drop, and that obviously made someone yell, and we were white-knuckling our chairs.” The cabin remained relatively calm, she said.

    Pamela Adams, a travel writer and family therapist from southern California, said she and her husband were on their way home from a trip in France, when six hours into the flight, they got up in the aisle to stretch their limbs.

    “We heard this tremendous bang. It was like the plane hit a Jeep at 35,000 feet,” Adams said in a phone interview. “It was a whiplash moment. We grabbed onto something and then we sat down, and the plane righted itself fairly soon.”

    Passengers nervously joked to one another as they tried to make sense of the commotion, Adams said. She figured the plane had struck a bird, but then, it became clear that the situation was more “dramatic.”

    The pilot came on over the loudspeaker and said the plane had “lost” one of its engines and would be attempting to land in Canada, said Adams.

    About 20 minutes after the disturbance, the captain, whom Eamigh described as sounding shaken, announced that an engine had exploded.

    Several hours after landing at Goose Bay Airport, passengers were just getting off the plane.

    Birkhead said he had heard the reason for the delay was that the small airport — which is home to three air carriers, a coffee shop, a gift shop and three car rental agencies — was not prepared to accommodate the number of passengers on a jet the size of an A380. (Even the world’s biggest airport, in Atlanta, has had trouble accommodating planes of that model.)

    “Nobody’s told us why, but the speculation is they’ve got nowhere to put 500-plus people — that’s probably the whole population of Goose Bay,” he said in an interview.

    Air France said it was working to reroute passengers through one of its connecting sites in North America.

    Eamigh said she was content, for the time being, on the tarmac.

    “You make friends in a situation like this,” she said.

    She added, with a laugh: “It looks pretty cold outside, so we’re actually OK here.”

    With files from The Canadian Press

    Exploding engine forces Air France flight to make emergency landing in LabradorExploding engine forces Air France flight to make emergency landing in Labrador

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    If there’s a single image that sticks out in my mind from the 2017 Invictus Games our city has played host to from the past week, it’s from Tuesday evening, Sept. 26: Prince Harry on one knee before triple amputee Mark Ormrod, who lost both legs and an arm fighting in Afghanistan with the U.K. Royal Marine Commandos, presenting him with a silver medal for his rowing performance at the games.

    That moment seems to sum something up about these games as we’ve experienced them. The glamour and good humour of the prince, of course, which have entranced photographers from around the world throughout the event he’s hosted here. The pure joyful jubilance on Ormrod’s face after his performance. The moment of recognition of his accomplishment — a physical feat achieved a decade after losing his limbs to an explosive device. And, of course, the plain symbolism of Harry, a member of the Royal Family before whom we might typically expect others to bow or bend the knee or show deference, genuflecting before Ormrod in gratitude and congratulation.

    It was an “honour” for the prince, said a statement from Kensington Palace. Well said.

    It has been an honour. An honour for our city to witness and be a part of these games.

    Prince Harry might have provided the glitz that drew our attention, but it has been the athletes who have rewarded that attention, awed us with their performances, drawn our admiration.

    Like Kelly Scanlan, who came home to Canada with an injured leg and a post-traumatic stress injury after serving in Afghanistan, and told us how training for and participating in the games made a “huge change” in her life. “We can look at each other and know that every single one of us had to fight some battle to get from where we were to where we are now,” Scanlan said.

    Or like transgender athlete Aaron Stewart, a former American soldier competing in his third Invictus Games, but his first as a man — reflecting, as a games spokesperson said, that everyone is welcome.

    Or retired Canadian corporal Michael Clarke, left paralyzed by a motorcycle accident, winning four medals.

    So many stories — a story for each of the 550 competitors from 17 countries, each of them a wounded war veteran now competing in adaptive events here. Each of them inspiring a small jolt of admiration.

    Some of them win gold medals, silver medals, bronze medals. But all of them are awarded a medallion to recognize their participation. And you won’t hear any complaints about any coddled “everyone gets a trophy” attitude around here. This is an event where how the competitors play the game really is the most important, and admirable, part. It is the reason for the games’ existence — giving them a chance to represent their countries in uniform again, a goal to focus on, a reason to focus on physical, emotional, and mental rehabilitation. It has been our honour to get to know them.

    And a pleasure, it must be said.

    These games have brought us the kind of fun that fills entertainment magazines: Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle’s first public appearance, performances by musical troubadour headliners both new (Brampton’s Alessia Cara at the opening ceremony) and older (New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen at the closing ceremony), more reasons to celebrate in Nathan Phillips Square and host some big rollicking parties.

    But these games also brought us the pleasure of the sports themselves, in venues across the city. The startling speed of sitting volleyball, the thunderous action of wheelchair rugby, the awe-inspiring prosthetics of the track events, the blur of hand-propelled bicycles — from the old Maple Leaf Gardens to Fort York, from the Pan Am Centre in Scarborough to York University in North York, many of us have been introduced to these adaptive sports for the first time. And many of us may be embarrassed to find ourselves surprised at how exciting they are to watch.

    This is only the third Invictus Games. Those of us who’ve seen them up close can only hope they become a long and storied tradition, and be glad we got the opportunity to have them in our city.

    An honour and a pleasure: that sums up Toronto’s experience of hosting the Invictus Games. We can only bend our knee to the athletes who participated and thank them, and hope they enjoyed the games half as much as we did.

    Edward Keenan writes on city issues Follow: @thekeenanwire

    Invictus Games an awe-inspiring pleasure: KeenanInvictus Games an awe-inspiring pleasure: Keenan

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    Monty Hall, the genial host and co-creator of Let’s Make a Deal, the game show on which contestants in outlandish costumes shriek and leap at the chance to see if they will win the big prize or the booby prize behind door No. 3, died at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Saturday. He was 96.

    His daughter, Joanna Gleason, confirmed his death. She said the cause was heart failure.

    Let’s Make a Deal had its premiere in late 1963 and, with some interruptions, has been a television phenomenon ever since.

    When Hall first roamed among the audience members who filled the “trading floor” in an NBC studio in Burbank, Calif., there was nothing zany about them.

    “They came to the show in the first week in suits and dresses,” Hall told the Los Angeles Times in 2013.

    Within weeks, however, things had changed.

    By one account, the turning point came when a woman in the audience, vying for Hall’s attention with hopes of being chosen as a contestant, wore a bizarre-looking hat.

    Hall recalled it somewhat differently in 2013: The game changer, he said, was a woman carrying a sign that said, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I came here to deal with you.”

    Whatever it was that opened the floodgates, would-be deal makers were soon showing up wearing live-bird hats, Tom Sawyer costumes or boxes resembling refrigerators. Some simply waved signs pleading, “Pick Me.”

    It was all for the chance to barter their way to a big prize. A woman might sell Hall the contents of her handbag for $150, and then agree to trade that $150 for whatever was behind a curtain, or in a big box, in the hope that it was something valuable — say, a $759 refrigerator-freezer stocked with $25 worth of cottage cheese and a $479 sewing machine.

    She could then compound her glee by being smart enough not to trade it all back for the old purse and whatever amount of cash Hall had slipped into it — maybe a hefty amount or maybe a measly $27. If she went for the deal that turned out to be a loser, she was, in the language of the show, zonked.

    At the end of the show, the two biggest winners were given a shot at the Big Deal. They could trade their winnings for whatever was behind one of three doors: a new car, perhaps, or $15,000 (U.S.) in cash, or, if they were not so lucky, something worth less than what they had traded. All the while, the affable, smooth-talking Hall gave no hint of where the treasure might lie.

    “Monty had to be a very likable con man; he had to convince people to give up a bird in the hand for what’s in the box,” David Schwartz, the author, with Fred Wostbrock and Steve Ryan, of The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows, said in an interview.

    Hall had other responsibilities, too, Schwartz added: “He had to be a traffic cop, to get a decision out of the contestant without taking a long time. With his great ability to ad-lib, he knew how to keep the show moving.”

    Hall kept Let’s Make a Deal moving for most of almost 5,000 broadcasts on NBC, on ABC and in syndication. The show ended its original daytime run in 1976 on ABC. A concurrent syndicated nighttime version lasted until the next year. It occasionally resurfaced over the next decades and, after being off the air for a while, was revived in October 2009 on CBS, with Wayne Brady as host. That version is still on the air.

    Let’s Make a Deal became such a pop-culture phenomenon that it gave birth to a well-known brain-twister in probability, called “the Monty Hall Problem.” This thought experiment involves three doors, two goats and a coveted prize and leads to a counterintuitive solution.

    The show itself could give rise to the unexpected. “You get some strange moments,” Hall said in 2009. He recalled the day that a contestant was zonked when he chose a curtain behind which he had hoped was a car.

    “It was an elephant,” Hall continued. “It freaked — ran backstage, down a ramp and out into the streets of LA. That’s probably the wildest moment.”

    Hall had his proud moments as well. In 1973, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1988, Hall, who was born in Canada, was named to the Order of Canada by that country’s government in recognition of the millions he had raised for a host of charities. In 2013, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Daytime Emmys.

    Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Aug. 25, 1921, Monte Halparin (he later changed the spelling of his first name and took the stage name Hall) was one of two sons of Maurice Halparin, a butcher, and the former Rose Rusen, a teacher.

    He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and zoology from the University of Manitoba. But, smitten by applause while appearing in college musicals, he moved to Toronto and began working as an actor and singer. In 1955, he moved again, this time to New York, where he became a regular on Monitor, a mix of comedy, music, sports and news on NBC Radio.

    Five years later, Hall moved to Hollywood to host Video Village, a CBS TV show on which contestants played the role of “tokens” on a human-size game board. He teamed with the writer and producer Stefan Hatos to create Let’s Make a Deal in 1963.

    Hall is survived by a show-business family: two daughters, Gleason, a Tony Award-winning actress, and Sharon Hall, a television executive; a son, Richard, a producer who won an Emmy for The Amazing Race; a brother, Robert Hall, a lawyer; and five grandchildren. His wife of almost 70 years, the former Marilyn Plottel, an Emmy Award-winning television producer, died in June.

    Hall remained involved in Let’s Make a Deal to the end, as an owner of the show and an occasional guest. Interviewed in 2013, he gave Brady, his successor as host, his seal of approval.

    “He’s making it his show,” he said. “He’s learning the star of the show is the contestant and to make them feel at home, make them feel like they came to your party.”

    Monty Hall, co-creator and host of ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ dies at 96Monty Hall, co-creator and host of ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ dies at 96

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    From coffee grounds, to leftover fettuccine alfredo, to the slimy, brown head of lettuce forgotten at the back of your fridge, the Ontario government is aiming to keep all organic waste away from landfills.

    It’s an ambitious target for a province that generates nearly 12 million tonnes of waste a year — more than 850 kilograms per person — and only recycles about a quarter of that amount.

    If improvements aren’t made, the province’s landfills could run out of capacity within the next 20 years, the government warns.

    In 2004, the Liberal government promised to boost the rate of waste diversion — through recycling and composting programs for example — to 60 per cent in four years. But 13 years later, the rate hasn’t changed. Now, the government has set its sights on an even more distant target of 100 per cent.

    Hence the Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario, which aims to create a “circular economy,” where waste is considered a resource that can be recovered, reused and reintegrated.

    One area of focus is organic waste, which decomposes in landfills producing gases, such as methane, that contribute to global warming. Ontarians generate 3.7 million tonnes of organic waste per year, and greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector — mostly organics in landfill — account for six per cent of the province’s total emissions.

    The government’s organics action plan, to be implemented next year, includes the possibility of a ban on sending organics to landfills.

    More than half the food waste in the province is generated at home, but the residential sector has steadily improved how much of that is diverted from landfills, with a rate now just over 50 per cent. In contrast, only a quarter of the food waste produced by the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors is diverted.

    Fundamental changes are required in how people think of and treat organic waste, said Environment Minister Chris Ballard.

    “Tinkering isn’t working,” he said. “This is as revolutionary, I believe, a plan as the original (recycling) blue box when we rolled it out and got everybody excited.”

    Organics should be the next target on the waste frontier, experts say.

    “We’re at a bit of a plateau in terms of diverting that waste,” said food and organic waste consultant Paul van der Werf. “We’ve probably tapped out just about everything that people will do on a voluntary basis.”

    Zero waste sounds like an “aspirational goal,” but Ontarians have to decide if that’s something worth aspiring to, van der Werf said.

    “If we (do), then we need to put some pretty strong measures in place to change what we’re presently doing and change our behaviours,” he said. “If we kept the status quo in our system and just tinkered a little bit, would we get to zero waste? No, not in a million years.”

    While nearly all households in the province have access to recycling programs, not all municipalities have organic waste programs. Most of the larger ones — covering around two-thirds of the population — have green bin programs, but not everyone is using them properly.

    “In Toronto, audits consistently show that even though people use their green bins, 40 per cent of what they’re putting in the garbage actually should have gone in the green bin,” said Emily Alfred of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

    The City of Kingston consistently has one of the best organic diversion rates, but still battles resistance, said its manager of solid waste.

    “Most of the reasons why people don’t want to use it is this perception that it smells and that it’s gross or it attracts rodents,” Heather Roberts said. “(But) consider that all of the things that would go into your green bin would still go into your garbage bag.”

    Kingston is also one of just nine municipalities that has extended green bin programs to condos and apartment buildings, but it’s not mandated, so there isn’t a lot of uptake, Roberts said.

    Read more:Toronto chefs look at how to make the most of food waste

    The City of Toronto offers organic collection at about 65 per cent of its multi-residential buildings, and a few receive private pickup, officials said. But most Ontario municipalities still send their food waste from multi-residential buildings to landfill.

    Municipalities with more than 50,000 people are required to have a leaf and yard waste program, but there is no such requirement yet for green bins.

    Mandating collection of food and organic waste is another tool Ontario is considering, but smaller municipalities say that’s not feasible.

    Dan Finnigan, environmental services manager for the town of Mattawa, said his community would need provincial support for a composting program.

    “For the Town of Mattawa itself it would be a great program, but to be quite honest I think I would need some assistance from the government to maybe get it going and get it started up,” he said.

    As Ontario considers a disposal ban on organics, it is looking to the examples of Nova Scotia and Metro Vancouver, which already have them in place.

    Nova Scotia banned organics from landfills two decades ago. Even with a disposal rate much lower than the Canadian average, about half of what’s in the waste stream is still banned material, said Robert Kenney, the province’s recycling development officer.

    “A disposal ban is ... an incentive for municipalities and the private sector to act,” he said. “You don’t get everything. You can’t get everything.”

    Metro Vancouver’s recent ban was eased in, with inspectors targeting only loads with more than 25 per cent visible food waste and issuing surcharges, said Andrew Marr, the director of solid waste planning.

    “What we were trying to target was, if you will, the worst offenders right off the bat,” he said. “We weren’t so concerned with getting every single apple core that somebody might be throwing out.”

    It has been successful so far, Marr said. In the first year, 60,000 more tonnes of organics were diverted away from landfills and the garbage stream dropped from 36 per cent organics to 28 per cent.

    On the commercial side, just a quarter of restaurants diverted organics before the ban, and now that figure is about three quarters, Marr said. But that represents an added cost, which isn’t easy for all to absorb.

    “The line you have to cross is: is it more cost effective to compost this material or to throw it in the trash?” said James Rilett, the Ontario vice-president of Restaurants Canada.

    The cost for the industrial, commercial and institutional sector to dispose of waste is $118 per tonne to the U.S. and $134 per tonne in Ontario, but $205 per tonne to divert.

    The Provision Coalition works with food and beverage manufacturers to integrate sustainability into their business model, aiming to save businesses money by preventing food waste in the first place.

    It’s common for food producers to turn waste into animal feed, but Cher Mereweather of the Provision Coalition said her organization will point out the energy, labour, water and raw ingredient costs that went into making that product.

    “We really need to move away from this concept of, ‘Well, it’s OK, it gets composted,’ because there’s a significant cost and environmental impact of that wasted food in the first place,” she said.

    Some manufacturers send product that won’t sell or is mislabelled to food banks, which is where organizations such as Second Harvest come in.

    The food rescue charity picks up the food and delivers it to social service agencies, to the tune of about 4.7 million kilograms this year. But they won’t pick up anything less than 45 kilograms worth of food, said executive director Debra Lawson.

    To ensure smaller food donors can participate in similar programs, Second Harvest is developing a web-based platform that would connect them to the closest agencies in need. Lawson said it’s hoped a pilot can be running next spring.

    The Retail Council of Canada said grocery stores have a number of initiatives for trying to prevent food waste, including partnering with food banks, selling blemished fruit at a discount, and educating customers.

    The restaurant industry points to customer behaviour as a major challenge as well.

    Luc Erjavec, the Atlantic vice-president of Restaurants Canada, said Ontario should focus its attention on restaurants’ kitchens. In Nova Scotia, owners found it easier to control the back-of-house waste stream.

    “When you get on the customer side it gets very different,” he said. “We can’t start tipping over garbage cans and trying to sort through the waste to make sure it’s not contaminated.”

    Universities face the same dilemma too, said Dave Cano, the sustainability manager at Western University.

    “If there’s no proper signage or proper education around how to use a composting program, then you most likely will find people putting things in the wrong stream,” Cano said.

    Ballard said he sees a large role in the waste-free plan for the private sector, which can come up with innovative solutions and create jobs.

    “We need to turn it into an industry,” he said. “Let’s not look at it like waste. Let’s look at it like a resource and treat it like a resource like anything else we pull out of the ground or from the air.”

    Ontario considers ban on sending organic waste to landfillsOntario considers ban on sending organic waste to landfills

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    MARSEILLE, FRANCE—A man with a knife stabbed two women to death Sunday at the main train station in the southern French city of Marseille as he reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar!” — an attack Daesh claimed was the work of one its “soldiers.”

    French soldiers shot the man to death after the attacks and authorities were working to determine if he had links to Islamic extremism.

    Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, who went to Marseille to meet with local authorities and troops on the scene, said police have video that shows the man attacking a woman and running away, then coming back and attacking a second woman.

    The video shows the man running toward soldiers who were rushing to Marseille’s Saint Charles train station. The soldiers fatally shot him and both women died of their injuries, Collomb said.

    Some witnesses reported hearing the assailant shout “Allahu akbar!” Arabic for “God is great,” Collomb said.

    The Paris prosecutor’s office, which oversees all terror cases in France, said it had opened a counterterrorism investigation into the Marseille attack.

    The Daesh-linked Aamaq news agency said in a statement Sunday night that the assailant was acting in response to Daesh calls to target countries in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Daesh extremists in Syria and Iraq.

    The statement did not provide details or evidence of a direct link to the attacker. France has been part of the anti-Daesh coalition since 2014 and has been repeatedly targeted by Daesh attacks.

    Police sources told The Associated Press that one of the victims was stabbed and one had her throat slit. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

    Collomb declined to provide any details about the suspect or identify the victims.

    Earlier this month, four American college students were attacked with acid at the same Marseille train station. French authorities said the female assailant who doused the four Boston College students was suffering from a mental illness.

    French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “deeply outraged” by Sunday’s “barbarous” knife attack. In a tweet, Macron paid tribute to the French soldiers who responded “with cool heads and efficiency.”

    The French government this month decided to maintain the military force of 7,000 soldiers that was created to protect sensitive sites after the deadly extremist attacks of 2015.

    The Saint Charles train station was evacuated and closed for several hours after the attack, and Marseille police warned people to avoid the area. The train station was partially reopened in the late afternoon.

    Daesh claims credit for Marseille stabbing that killed 2 womenDaesh claims credit for Marseille stabbing that killed 2 women

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    Fifteen months after Metrolinx approved two controversial new GO Transit stations, the agency has released the internal report that recommended against building the stops.

    The study, which was prepared by consultants, ranked new stations Metrolinx considered for addition to the GO network last year.

    As the Star previously reported, it determined Kirby and Lawrence East stations shouldn’t be considered for another decade. Despite that evidence, the Metrolinx board voted in June 2016 to proceed with the stops.

    Kirby is in the Vaughan riding of Liberal MPP and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, and Lawrence East in Scarborough is part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan. Internal documents show the board initially decided not to support the stations, but changed course after being pressured by Del Duca’s ministry.

    A draft version of the report was leaked to the Star in June, but on Friday the agency posted it on its website, making the analysis public for the first time.

    Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins confirmed board members, who are appointed on the recommendation of the minister, were provided with a draft of the report before the vote “to aid with their decision making.”

    Although the version the board saw was not substantially different from the one posted Friday, Aikins said Metrolinx didn’t make the report public until now because it “was a work in progress and needed revisions before it was considered final.”

    The report’s conclusions and data weren’t altered, according to Aikins. Instead “the revisions focused on grammar changes, readability and factual errors or overstatements.”

    Ontario PC transportation critic Michael Harris said it shouldn’t have taken so long for Metrolinx to make those revisions. He argued the report should have been ready to publish at the time of the vote.

    “I would hope that when a board like Metrolinx is about to render a decision on hundreds and millions of dollars worth of taxpayers’ money, that they would have a report that contained all of the facts, and that would be in its final form,” he said.

    Kirby would cost an estimated $100 million to build, while Lawrence East is expected to cost $23 million. They were among 12 new stations the board approved as part of Metrolinx’s $13.5-billion regional express rail expansion program.

    Harris, who represents Kitchener-Conestoga, said if the report had been published before the vote, Metrolinx would have had to explain to the public why it was rejecting analysis it had commissioned.

    “I still don’t think we’ve had that explanation yet from Metrolinx or the minister on why the decision was made, other than political interference,” he said.

    As a result of the Star’s ongoing investigation into the station approval process, Metrolinx said earlier this month that from now on it will publish reports about projects before they are put to a vote.

    The report released Friday was prepared by the AECOM engineering firm. It analyzed the business cases for 24 proposed stations and ranked them from best to lowest performing.

    Criteria used to rank the stops included whether stations would provide benefits that exceeded their costs, meet strategic objectives, contribute to the overall fit of the network, and allow GO to maintain rapid express rail service.

    The report also considered how certain “sensitivity scenarios” — including the proposed redevelopment of the Unilever site and allowing passengers to board at Toronto stops for the same price as a TTC fare — would impact stations’ performance.

    After being put through the analysis, Kirby ranked last out of seven potential new stations on GO’s Barrie line. Although the Metrolinx board approved Kirby, it rejected two stations that ranked above it, St. Clair West and Highway 7 Concord.

    Lawrence East ranked fourth out of five proposed stops on the Stouffville line. The three stops ahead of it were also approved.

    Emails obtained by the Star show that in June 2016, the Metrolinx board met in private and approved a list of 10 stations that didn’t include Kirby or Lawrence East. The following day, Del Duca’s ministry sent the agency news releases showing he planned to announce stops the board hadn’t supported. Twelve days later the board reconvened in public and voted to approve Kirby and Lawrence East.

    Del Duca has said he provided “input” into the station approval process, but has declined to answer specific questions about his role, dismissing the events as “historical details.”

    He has said he believes “several significant residential and employment developments” planned around the Kirby site will justify a new GO station there.

    Earlier this month Metrolinx announced it would review the two stations, and the agency and Del Duca have both stated neither will be built if the additional analysis doesn’t support them. The review is expected to be completed by February. It will not examine the role political interference played in the approval process.

    On Wednesday, the all-party public accounts committee at Queen’s Park voted to ask the auditor general to perform a “value-for-money” audit of Kirby and Lawrence East. She is expected to include the review in her 2018 annual report, which will be released around November.

    Metrolinx finally releases report on controversial GO stationsMetrolinx finally releases report on controversial GO stations

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    SMITHERS, B.C.—On a recent crisp fall morning, a compact white shuttle bus rolled to a stop just off the Yellowhead Highway. Four people hastily exited and began to walk briskly toward their destinations.

    After all, it was 9:38 a.m., giving them just over five hours in Smithers before the bus departed again at 3 p.m.

    One of the passengers was Joe Scheck, 50, who catches the bus from Houston three times a week to do yard work in Smithers. His boss would like him to work full time, but the bus only runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

    Read more:

    Highway of Tears partial bus service ready to roll

    Confronting violence against Indigenous women and girls: Opinion

    Greyhound applies to regulators to axe 5 bus routes in B.C. amid plunging ridership

    “If I could, I would do it five times a week,” said Scheck, standing next to his rusty Jeep bicycle, his only other form of transportation.

    Scheck, like many residents of small communities along Hwy. 16 in central British Columbia, can’t afford to live in Smithers but also can’t find work — or even buy groceries — in his town. If he were able to work five days a week, he estimates he’d take home an extra $400 a month.

    The province launched the $5-a-trip bus route from Burns Lake to Smithers in June. It also started a route from Prince George to Burns Lake, which operates Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. A route that connects Smithers and nearby Moricetown has operated since January.

    Still, advocates say the service is only a patchwork, and it arrived more than a decade after families and Indigenous advocates called on the government to provide public transportation along a notorious stretch of Hwy. 16 known as the Highway of Tears.

    The RCMP says 18 women have gone missing or have been murdered on the route between Prince Rupert and Prince George, but advocates argue the real number is more than 40. Many of the women disappeared while hitchhiking in remote areas with poor or no cell service.

    At hearings held by the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Smithers last week, the lack of adequate transportation in the region came up repeatedly.

    Gladys Radek, whose 22-year-old niece Tamara Lynn Chipman disappeared while hitchhiking in Prince Rupert in 2005, told the inquiry she knows people who have to hitchhike just to go to work. There should be a free shuttle bus service, she said.

    “I’ve even picked up a young lady, just outside of Smithers, to take her back to Moricetown because she had to go see a doctor. She was nine months pregnant,” she said.

    The community is also reeling from the news that Greyhound Canada has applied to provincial regulators to cancel its route from Prince George to Prince Rupert, said Radek.

    Greyhound said the deaths and disappearances of women in the area are tragic but that the new publicly subsidized routes have “literally put us out of business” in this corridor.

    Via Rail also operates a train along the route. Last August, it was widely reported the company was in talks with the B.C. government to offer $5 fares to “vulnerable” riders, but the idea has yet to materialize. Via Rail said it is still discussing the matter.

    The call for a shuttle bus that visits every reserve and route along the route dates back to 2006, when First Nations leaders, families and advocacy groups held a Highway of Tears Symposium that produced 33 recommendations.

    In 2012, Wally Oppal completed his final report after leading a provincial inquiry into missing and murdered women. The former B.C. attorney general urged the province to immediately commit to his recommendation that it implement public transit along the highway.

    But it wasn’t until 2015 that the former Liberal government announced a $3-million plan for transportation along the Highway of Tears, including transit expansion, First Nations driver training and a community vehicle grant program.

    Liberal spokesman Shane Mills said the safety of women along Highway 16 was a priority for the government.

    “Improving transportation was done in consultation with First Nations and local governments,” he said in an email.

    The NDP regularly criticized the government on the issue while in Opposition, but did not commit any new funds to public transit on Highway 16 in its recent fiscal update. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena couldn’t be reached for comment.

    Oppal declined to offer an opinion on the province’s response to his recommendation, but he said it’s clear there must be satisfactory transportation on the route that discourages hitchhiking.

    “We owe it to the women,” he said.

    Highway of Tears needs better public transit, community members sayHighway of Tears needs better public transit, community members say

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