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    Striking ground crew workers at Canada’s busiest airport have reached a tentative deal with their employer.

    Teamsters Canada and Swissport say the deal involving the workers at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport was struck on Tuesday, although details of the tentative agreement won’t be released until it has been ratified in the coming days.

    About 700 cabin cleaners, baggage handlers and other ground crew workers employed by Swissport at Pearson have been on strike since late July.

    Union spokesman Christopher Monette says the union is recommending its members accept the offer.

    The workers’ concerns included pay and benefits cuts, scheduling issues, and what their union called a lack of respect from Swissport managers.

    Swissport says it is looking forward to seeing its workers return to the job.

    The company services 30 airlines at the airport, including Air Transat, Sunwing Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa. Air Canada and WestJet are not serviced by the company.

    Read more: Temps on Pearson tarmac raise safety, security concerns, critics warn

    Striking Pearson ground crew workers reach tentative deal with SwissportStriking Pearson ground crew workers reach tentative deal with Swissport

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    Eminem offered a detailed and searing critique of U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday, using his rapping skills to lambaste the commander-in-chief and his policies during a performance broadcast as part of the BET Hip Hop Awards.

    In the 4 ½ -minute video, the acclaimed rapper issues an ultimatum to any of his fans who support Trump.

    “Any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his/ I’m drawing in the sand a line/ You’re either for or against/ And if you can’t decide who you like more/ And you’re split on who you should stand beside/ I’ll do it for you with this,” he finishes, his hand blurred as he presumably flips his middle finger.

    Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, threw out some expletives but also referred to numerous news stories and presidential actions during the rap delivered from a parking garage.

    He opens with anger: “That’s an awfully hot, coffee pot/ Should I drop it on Donald Trump?/ Probably not, but that’s all I got/ Until I come up with a solid (muted).”

    Eminem then rebuked Trump over numerous topics, including the president’s reaction to the tragedies in Puerto Ricoand Las Vegas, his criticism of protesting NFL players and his frequent golf trips. He accuses the president of racism and worries that he will cause a nuclear holocaust.

    He also issued a tribute to Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who stopped standing for the national anthem last year to protest racial injustice.

    “This is for Colin/ Ball up a fist,” Eminem said, raising his own fist.

    Eminem blasts U.S. President Donald Trump in new videoEminem blasts U.S. President Donald Trump in new video

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    City transportation staff are recommending that council make the pilot project of Bloor St. bike lanes permanent, paving the way for what would be a huge victory for Toronto’s cycling advocates.

    A highly anticipated report released Wednesday morning determined that the lanes have improved safety on the corridor and dramatically increased cycling rates, while minimizing negative impacts on other road users.

    At a press conference at city hall, local councillors Mike Layton and Joe Cressy said the report shows the pilot project has been a success, and should put to rest the debate over whether bike lanes can work on a busy downtown street.

    “For too long, bike lanes in the city have been seen as a divisive issue. It’s been seen as a debate between bikes and cars. Not anymore,” said Cressy, who along with Layton has been a vocal proponent of the project.

    He said the pilot “has shown conclusively that, when you install a bike lane and you design it well, it is a win-win for everyone.”

    Mayor John Tory, speaking at a SmartTrack event in Leslieville soon after the report was released, said the study shows the Bloor lanes have had an overall “positive impact” on the area and he would throw his support behind making the lanes permanent.

    “And, so, I will support the staff recommendation to keep the bike lanes, with continued improvements to be made to safety, street design and practical improvements for local businesses,” he said.

    Council approved the bike lanes on a trial basis last May in a vote of 38 to 3, following decades of advocacy from the city’s cycling community. They were installed along a 2.4-kilometre stretch of Bloor between Avenue Rd. and Shaw St. in August, 2016, at a cost of $500,000.

    To measure its progress, city staff launched what they described as the “most comprehensive performance evaluation undertaken for a cycling project in the city of Toronto,” and Wednesday’s report contains a wealth of data about the bike lanes.

    It determined that within a year of being installed, the lanes are already the second busiest cycling facility in the city. Cycling on Bloor has increased by 49 per cent, to an average of 4,925 riders per day, with roughly 25 per cent of the increased ridership represented new cyclists. The rest diverted from nearby routes.

    Preliminary road safety data suggested collision rates have been reduced, and conflicts between bikes and motorized vehicles decreased by 61 per cent.

    Although the lanes initially caused significant delays for drivers, modifications staff made to signal timing have since cut the increased travel times in half, the report found. During the most congested period of the afternoon rush hour, drivers’ travel time increased by four minutes and 15 seconds, compared to the eight minutes and 30 seconds recorded shortly after the lanes were installed.

    Despite concerns raised by some local businesses that the bike lanes, which necessitated the removal of 136 on-street parking spots, had hurt their profits, the report found no negative economic impacts.

    According to a survey of local merchants, business owners reported a growth in the number of customers. Payment activity collected from Moneris, a credit- and debit-card processing company, found total spending in the pilot area increased more than in the surrounding neighbourhood or a control study area on Danforth Ave.

    A public opinion survey also found strong support for the lanes among local residents, 74 per cent of whom backed the project. An overwhelmingly majority of respondents who bike supported the lanes, while 57 per cent of people who only drive opposed it.

    City staff concluded that the bike lanes have been so successful, council should consider extending them.

    “The pilot project has demonstrated that a cycling facility can be successfully implemented on one of the busiest and most constrained sections of Bloor St. and should be considered for the full length of the Bloor-Danforth corridor,” it said.

    Jared Kolb, executive director of advocacy group Cycle Toronto, said the positive results of the Bloor pilot should make it easier to install bike lanes on other parts of the city.

    “This really was a test case,” he said. “To see it working like this here, I think it helps to pave the way for an expansion of the cycling network on other streets.”

    Transportation staff are recommending some modifications to the lanes to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety, as well as traffic flow. They would include green-paint markings at conflict zones, left turn “bike boxes” at intersections, and enhanced barriers to better separate cyclists from cars.

    The report will go before the public works committee next week. Council is expected to vote in November on whether to take up staff’s recommendation.

    With files from David Rider

    Bloor bike lanes should stay: city reportBloor bike lanes should stay: city report

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    WASHINGTON—Canada is a bigger export customer for the United States than China, Japan and the United Kingdom combined, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reminded an influential committee of the U.S. House of Representatives as the fourth round of continental trade talks kicked off in a suburb nearby.

    Their job, Trudeau said, is to make that crucial trade “easier.”

    Foreign leaders do not usually speak to House committees. Trudeau, however, has made a concerted effort in the Trump era to build alliances with American politicians other than the unpredictable president — a kind of protection against Trump’s protectionism.

    The Ways and Means Committee, which has responsibility for taxes and tariffs, would play a significant role in getting Congress to approve any new North American Free Trade Agreement deal or in attempting to thwart Trump from terminating the deal. There is growing concern among business groups and trade experts that Trump’s protectionist proposals could cause the talks to collapse.

    Trudeau called the committee “extremely important” to Canada.

    Read more:Donald Trump’s ‘outrageous’ demands put NAFTA negotiations at risk of collapse as talks resume Wednesday, experts say

    More than 30 of the committee’s 39 members were in attendance. Trudeau, greeted with polite applause, was seated next to Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, the committee chairman, who has called NAFTA “extremely beneficial to the United States” and Wednesday said he wants to turn it into a model for future agreements. Trump, conversely, has called it a “disaster” and the “worst trade deal ever made,” and he again threatened to terminate the deal in an interview published Tuesday.

    “We have to provide certainty for trade and investment to succeed,” Brady said in brief opening remarks.

    The lawmakers did some advocating of their own.

    Brady said he wanted better Canadian protection for American intellectual property and more access for the U.S. dairy industry to Canada’s tightly restricted domestic market. The top Democrat on the committee, Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, pushed for greater access to Canada for American cultural industries.

    After the meeting, Michigan Democratic Rep. Sander Levin said Trudeau had pushed back on the dairy issue during the 55-minute closed-door portion of the meeting, explaining why Canada wants to maintain its “present structure,” known as supply management.

    Trudeau was flanked by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Ambassador David MacNaughton. He departed after an hour, telling reporters the session “went very well.”

    Trudeau was scheduled to travel from the committee meeting to the White House for a photo opportunity with Trump and then an Oval Office meeting scheduled for just over an hour.

    Trudeau will proceed to the Canadian embassy for a solo news conference rather than the usual joint news conference with the president. The White House had “scheduling issues,” a Trudeau official said; Trump is scheduled to leave for a tax-reform speech in Pennsylvania immediately after the meeting.

    Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau began their day at a foundation’s roundtable discussion event in honour of International Day of the Girl.

    The NAFTA round, being held in a hotel in Arlington, Va., was extended on Tuesday to seven days from the original five in order to accommodate the schedules of top officials from the three countries. Trump’s negotiators are expected to introduce their first detailed proposals on automotive manufacturing, among other contentious matters.

    Remember that Canada is America’s biggest customer, Trudeau tells Congress in WashingtonRemember that Canada is America’s biggest customer, Trudeau tells Congress in Washington

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    Is Desmond Cole going to run for mayor?

    The question arises after his name popped up in a poll released Wednesday, which shows him with a level of support that would rank him near — or ahead of, depending how you look at the results — Doug Ford in his potential appeal to voters across the city. A little over a year out from election day, with the race so-far shaping up to be a rematch of the right between Ford and Mayor John Tory, activist, journalist and broadcaster Cole says he’s seriously thinking about it.

    Read more: Doug Ford will run for mayor in 2018 rematch

    Mayoral race will be more interesting if you know what goes on at city hall: Micallef

    Please, let’s not start talking about who’s going to win the 2018 Toronto mayoral election: Keenan

    “People approach me a lot and ask me,” says Cole. “There are a whole lot of people who are deeply unsatisfied in this city…at this point I’m still talking to people close to me and asking, ‘What do you think?’ I’m not at the stage yet where I can say I’ve decided.”

    It’s a big decision, obviously. And at this point, he certainly looks like a longshot to win. But the city could use the injection of energy, charisma, honesty and ideas Cole could bring to what could otherwise be an underwhelming race.

    Because so far it has looked like a bit of a snooze. The same poll that solicited opinions on Cole’s appeal, conducted by veteran pollster John Wright at his new firm Dart Insight and Communications for Newstalk 1010, shows 65 per cent of those asked believe John Tory deserves to be re-elected, including more than 60 per cent in every part of the city. (The poll surveyed 814 adults in Toronto through an online panel and claims to be considered accurate within 3.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.) Torontonians seem far from fed up with their mayor. In this atmosphere of general contentment with the staus quo, only Doug Ford has announced a decision to take Tory on, mounting a challenge from the taxaphobic, government-bashing right.

    On the left, there seems to be a current of vocal dissatisfaction with Tory, in both his priorities (such as his obsession with keeping property taxes low and road construction) and the slow pace of movement on social files such as public housing. Yet there has appeared to be no candidate emerging to champion that view. A series of possible candidates, some of whom considered it, some floated by the press and pollsters — former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, councilors Kristyn Wong-Tam, Joe Cressy, and Mike Layton, federal MP Adam Vaughan, even retired Maple Leafs and Raptors boss Richard Peddie — have decided not to run. There’s a sense among those who consider themselves progressive that 2018 will not be their year. Better, they think, to focus on winning city council races for like-minded allies and to wait Tory out and try again in 2022.

    There’s a certain logic to it, but in the meantime, how does a months-long, agenda-setting debate about the city’s priorities and future shape up when the only major participants are Tory and Ford? It seems we can expect a contest between right-of-centre and righter-of-centre. Tory’s strategy in such a contest would seem to obviously involve positioning himself just slightly left of Doug Ford, to pick up as many conservative voters as possible while still appearing to be the lesser of two evils to the left.

    I’d expect a lot of one-upmanship about who can best control spending, keep taxes low and make the city better for driving a car. I’d expect little-to-no serious discussion of how to best build the city and make it a better, more compassionate place to live. Certainly Tory would likely have nods to these things somewhere in the platform, to mop up the votes Ford isn’t bothering to compete for, but in the big battleground debates for votes that would determine what the city expects in the coming four years — that deliver the mandate a mayor would try to implement — I fear much of what I care about would be overlooked.

    The poll I mentioned above is not on a horserace “who would you vote for” question, but rather on who voters would consider voting for. It shows 30 per cent of Toronto voters say they would give Cole “a great deal” or “some” consideration. That’s significantly less than the 75 per cent who say they’d give that consideration to Tory, but pretty close (especially factoring in the margin of error) to the 36 per cent who would give that level of consideration to Doug Ford. And the reverse question shows Cole has perhaps a larger possible voting universe than Ford: 53 per cent of voters say they would give the former Etobicoke councillor no consideration at all, while only 30 per cent said they’d absolutely rule Cole out in the same way.

    Those aren’t juggernaut numbers, obviously. But for a man with a relatively lower political profile than Tory or Ford, and without even having announced he was thinking about running, it looks like he’d at least be up for consideration by plenty of voters. And in a campaign, things change. If there’s only one candidate on that end of the political spectrum, there’s a lot of experienced organizational and fundraising expertise that may be available to put to work.

    Cole says he’s not interested in running simply to make a point or to be the flag bearer for a lost cause. He wouldn’t run, he says, “unless I thought I could win.” But the lack of a candidate talking about the things that are important to him is a factor in his thinking. “Whether I run or not, it won’t be a good thing for our city if the only two candidates are John Tory and Doug Ford.”

    “There’s so much to be said on a number of issues,” he says. Issues he’s become prominent advocating about, such as policing and racial equity, he says, but also so much more. Transit and transit accessibility, libraries, housing. “John Tory brands himself as a good manager of the status quo,” Cole says, something he acknowledges might have been what a lot of city voters wanted after the tumultuous term of Rob Ford. But with that, he says, “That level of aspiration is just missing…we’ve stopped dreaming in this city… we just need to imagine something better for the city.”

    As he speaks in more detail about his approach, it sure sounds like he’d like to run. And Cole figures those reasons are not just what fires him up, they define the possible path to victory. “If we offer people a bolder politics, a lot of people will respond to it,” Cole says. They are hungry for it, he tells me.

    Some people will shake their head and say that’s a daydream. That there’s a good reason so many successful politicians adopt moderated middle-of-the-road policies and speak in careful, bland blah-blah-blahisms. But I’d sure like to see where Cole’s daydream goes.

    Perhaps he’ll decide to run. Perhaps not.

    But it sure would be nice if someone put that bolder politics to Toronto voters and at least see how they respond.

    Will Desmond Cole run for mayor? He’s thinking about it: KeenanWill Desmond Cole run for mayor? He’s thinking about it: Keenan

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    A woman in her 60s is in serious condition after a collision between double-decker tour bus and a car in downtown Toronto Wednesday night.

    Just after 7 p.m., Toronto police said a City Sightseeing Toronto tour bus collided with a car, mounted a curb and struck some wires in the Sherbourne and Gerrard Sts. area.

    The driver of the bus suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash, but her condition has since been downgraded to serious.

    Police were not able to say whether the bus was carrying any passengers but no one else was assessed for injuries, said Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson.

    Officers closed the intersection to investigate the incident.

    Woman in serious condition after double decker tour bus and car collideWoman in serious condition after double decker tour bus and car collide

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    Activists are demanding that an Indigenous restaurant in Toronto remove seal from its menu.

    An online petition, which had about 3,250 signatures late afternoon Wednesday and was published through Care 2, decries Midtown restaurant, Kukum Kitchen’s dishes that contain seal meat tartare.

    “I support the Indigenous hunt and the Indigenous peoples rights,” said the petition’s author Jennifer Matos said in a written statement. “But I am against cruel and inhumane commercial slaughter. If your (sic) buying seal meat from the commercial seal hunt and not the Indigenous hunt you are not only supporting a cruel and barbaric mass slaughter, but you are not supporting your own Indigenous people.”

    The Indigenous-inspired restaurant opened in the spring, serving regional food like elk, pheasant, venison and harp seal drawing the ire of animal rights activists, despite its strong cultural underpinnings to the Inuit.

    “It’s trying to dictate what we sell,” said Chef Joseph Shawana of the petition and the backlash. “It pretty much ruined my whole Thanksgiving weekend. The amount of negative stuff that was coming out of this was really hurtful to the business, to myself and everyone around me,” referring to one-star reviews left on his restaurant’s Facebook page and vitriolic comments on the petition.

    “I feel letdown by society as not as culturally educated as I thought people were,” said the 35-year-old, who’s from Wikwemikong First Nation, located on Manitoulin Island.

    Much thought and personal history has been poured into each dish, Shawana said.

    “I grew up on a lot of wild meat,” he said. “It’s pretty much the only thing in my freezer at home, other than bacon, obviously,” he said.

    The restaurant is gearing up to release new menu items next week. Included will be two new harp seal dishes. Shawana said Kukum is the only restaurant in the city that sells seal.

    The seals are harvested along the coast of Newfoundland and the industry is well-regulated, said Jonas Gilbart, sales representative of SeaDNA, which supplies Kukum, along with about 20 other restaurants across Canada.

    The Department of Fisheries and Oceans set annual quotas and last year the company met a small fraction of it, he said.

    “Last year we harvested around 15 to 16 per cent,” said Gilbart. “Everything is done by the book,” adding that SeaDNA meets standards set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

    Harp seal populations are healthy, according to the departmental website, and number about 7.4 million animals, up by about six times the levels gauged in the 1970s.

    While Gilbart says the youngest seals the company harvests are three months old, the petition states that 90 per cent of seals are killed between ages three weeks and three months.

    “Every year there’s a hunt and the guys will go out there with rifles or a hakapik,” Gilbart said. “They’re either shot in the head, or clubbed in the head. The death is pretty much instant. It’s never glorious, never necessarily clean. It’s done as quickly and humanely as possible.

    “Chef Joseph has done something that reflects his heritage. This is something we’re proud to support.”

    A counter-petition defending Kukum was posted by author Aylan Couchie, who’s from Nipissing First Nation. By late Wednesday afternoon, the petitioned garnered about 3,100 signatures.

    “It was mostly about supporting Joseph, so he didn’t get bumped from animal rights activists around the world ganging up on a startup Indigenous-owned restaurant,” she said.

    She added that the anti-fur and anti-sealing movements have jeopardized First Nations ways of life.

    “It’s stuff that Indigenous people encounter on a regular basis,” Couchie said. “There are often misinformed and misguided perceptions. I was frustrated that this was another thing we must address.”

    Couchie’s actions elevated Shawana’s spirits, he said, adding that the surrounding neighourhood has remained faithful.

    “We’ve been an open door since we opened this place,” he said.

    Petition asks that seal meat be removed from Toronto restaurant’s menuPetition asks that seal meat be removed from Toronto restaurant’s menu

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    CAGUAS, PUERTO RICO — Harry Figueroa, a teacher who went a week without the oxygen that helped him breathe, died here last week at 58. His body went unrefrigerated for so long that the funeral director could not embalm his badly decomposed corpse.

    Miguel Bastardo Beroa’s kidneys are failing. His physicians at the intensive care unit at Doctors Hospital in Carolina are treating him for a bacterial disease that he probably caught in floodwaters contaminated with animal urine.

    José L. Cruz wakes up in the middle of the night three times a week to secure a spot in line for dialysis. His treatment hours have been cut back to save fuel for the generators that power the centre.

    “Because of the electricity situation, a lot of people died, and are still dying,” said Figueroa’s daughter, Lisandra, 30. “You can’t get sick now.”

    Read more:‘He’s a racist president’: Mainland Puerto Ricans are furious over Donald Trump’s debt talk amid hurricane crisis

    Private relief efforts deliver aid directly to Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria

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

    Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, many sick people across the island remain in mortal peril. The government’s announcements each morning about the recovery effort are often upbeat, but beyond them are hidden emergencies. Seriously ill dialysis patients across Puerto Rico have seen their treatment hours reduced by 25 per cent because the centres still lack a steady supply of diesel to run their generators. Less than half Puerto Rico’s medical employees have reported to work in the weeks since the storm, federal health officials said.

    Hospitals are running low on medicine and high on patients, as they take in the infirm from medical centres where generators failed. A hospital in Humacao had to evacuate 29 patients last Wednesday — including seven in the intensive care unit and a few on the operating table — to a U.S. military medical ship off the coast of Puerto Rico when a generator broke down.

    There are urgent attempts to help. The federal government has sent 10 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams of civilian doctors, nurses, paramedics and others to the island. Four mobile hospitals have been set up in hospital parking lots, and the USNS Comfort, a medical treatment ship, is on the scene. A 44-bed hospital will soon open in badly wrecked Humacao, in the southeast.

    But even as the Army Corps of Engineers is installing dozens of generators at medical facilities, and utility crews work to restore power to 36 hospitals, medical workers and patients say that an intense medical crisis persists and that communications and electrical difficulties have obscured the true number of fatalities directly related to the hurricane. The official count rose Tuesday to 43.

    Matching resources with needs remains a problem. The Puerto Rico Department of Health has sent just 82 patients to the Comfort over the past six days, even though the ship can serve 250. The Comfort’s 800 medical personnel were treating just seven patients Monday.

    The mayor of Canóvanas, in the northeast part of the island, reported over the weekend that several people in her city had died of leptospirosis, the bacterial disease Bastardo is believed to have caught from the floodwaters. The Puerto Rico Department of Health said Sunday night that several cases were being evaluated, but that lab tests had not yet come back to confirm the diagnosis. At the same time, the agency urged people to drink only bottled water and to wear protective shoes near bodies of water that could be contaminated with animal urine.

    Carmen C. Deseda, the Puerto Rico state epidemiologist, said that six people were being treated for leptospirosis, even though test results to confirm the diagnosis would not be complete for an additional week or two. Puerto Rico usually sees a few dozen cases a year and perhaps one death, but officials are expecting an increase because of the flooding.

    Forty per cent of the island still lacks running water, because of the blackout, which still affects 85 per cent of the island. As a result, many people are bathing in streams and receiving nonpotable water from huge tanks.

    Yarelis Rosa, 37, said her husband, Bastardo, was infected because he had cut his hand a few days before the storm and it had not fully healed when he spent hours in the floodwaters trying to escape his home in Canovanas. A few days later, Bastardo’s head, feet and knees hurt and his temperature soared to 106 degrees. She took him to the hospital more than a dozen times, she said.

    “IV, injection, go home. IV, injection, go home. IV, injection, go home,” Rosa said, describing the revolving door of medical treatment.

    He was intubated Friday, she said, the same day that the patient next to him died of the same illness.

    “Nervous? It looked like a war zone, where you have to evacuate to save your life,” she said, describing the scrambling doctors. “The politicians say that everything is fine because they have nice places to live. Why didn’t they bring Donald Trump here?”

    In Caguas, a city of 142,000 south of San Juan, the municipal 911 manager, José Oramas, said that city ambulances had responded to at least four calls since the storm where a patient who had lost power for oxygen tanks or ventilators had died. At Hima Hospital in Caguas, doctors deployed by the federal government are treating patients under an air-conditioned tent in the parking lot. But a health professional from another team, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said many of the teams were not seeing patients and felt powerless to help with the main need, which is a stable power supply.

    “It’s very critical,” said Maria Jacobo, the administrator of Hima Hospital. “The whole island is critical, especially for oxygen.”

    At the mobile hospital Sunday, Luz Alverio was with her 72-year-old sister, Irma, whose legs are swollen and discoloured from infected insect bites. “People didn’t die in the winds,” Luz Alverio said. “They are dying now.”

    The situation is particularly serious for Puerto Rico’s 6,000 dialysis patients.

    On its hurricane update website, the Puerto Rican government says that all 46 dialysis centres on the island have received assistance, and the Department of Defense counts 43 centres as operational. The website does not mention that the diesel fuel shortage is still so severe that many patients whose blood is normally cleaned for 12 hours a week are now being treated for only nine.

    “At one point, the government said the dialysis situation was controlled and the facilities were getting diesel,” said Lisandro Montalvo, the medical director of Fresenius Medical Care North America, a chain of dialysis centres here. “But they maybe supplied diesel to three or four facilities, and we have 26 facilities. We talk to FEMA every day. It’s always an emergency. We have to say: ‘These three are low, please.’ Sometimes they fill it, and sometimes they don’t.”

    Cruz receives his dialysis treatment at a different chain of centres. He said that in the days after the storm, all the centres were closed, so patients were swarming to hospitals, where they were getting just half the prescribed treatment. Witnessing a woman’s death during dialysis helped persuade him that he should leave Puerto Rico, rather than keep having to struggle to find a spot in line. He plans to move to Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday.

    “They are cutting my life short,” Cruz said. “The governor can’t be everywhere at once. If his aides tell him everything is great, he thinks everything is great.’’

    Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, said Monday that the authorities were doing their best to stave off a public health disaster. About 70 per cent of the island’s pharmacies had reopened, he said, and a special hotline had been established for people to receive insulin. He added that dialysis centres were “in the loop” for fuel and generator repairs and maintenance, and several patients had been evacuated to the mainland United States.

    Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who leads the military effort on the island, said that several hospitals had sustained structural damage in the storm, and that even those that are officially listed as open face serious limitations.

    “Define ‘open.’” Buchanan said. “The fact that they are providing treatment is one thing. Are they taking new patients? I won’t feel comfortable until the hospitals are back on the grid and they have sufficient medicines across the board.”

    Ricardo Ramos, chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the island’s utility, said that restoring power to hospitals was the company’s No. 1 priority. Ramos said the utility had worked hard to make sure that there was at least one hospital able to treat patients in each region of the country and that it had restored power to one of the island’s two facilities for producing medical oxygen.

    “I would love to have all the hospitals energized, but it’s impossible to do that,” he said. “There are hospitals in the mountainside, there’s hospitals in the southeast, where my infrastructure is completely destroyed.”

    Robert P. Kadlec, the assistant secretary of health and human services for preparedness and response, said the Veterans Health Administration had also opened its hospitals to nonveterans to help meet urgent needs.

    “The devastation I saw, I thought was equivalent to a nuclear detonation,” Kadlec said. “Whatever you do will be almost insufficient to the demand and need that is out there for these 3.5 million Americans in Puerto Rico. We are doing everything we can with what we have, and we have a lot.”

    ‘The whole island is critical’: Puerto Rico faces dire medical crisis after storm‘The whole island is critical’: Puerto Rico faces dire medical crisis after storm

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    OTTAWA—After a year in captivity, Amanda Lindhout begged her mother during a frantic phone call to quickly come up with a hefty ransom because her Somalian abductors had started to torture her.

    In a recording of the September 2009 call played in court Wednesday, Lindhout told her mother, Lorinda Stewart, that she had been beaten while her legs and hands were tied. And she said her captors would abuse her every day until the money was paid.

    “You have to pay the money now. Where is the money?” a panicked Lindhout says.

    “Do you understand what they’re doing to me?”

    Lindhout was a freelance journalist from Red Deer, Alta., when she and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were seized near Mogadishu in August 2008 while working on a story. Both were released in November 2009.

    Ali Omar Ader, a 40-year-old Somali national, has pleaded not guilty in Ontario Superior Court to a criminal charge of hostage-taking for his alleged role.

    Upon hearing her daughter’s pleas from half a world away, Stewart tried to assure her she was doing her best to come up with the $2 million (U.S.) the kidnappers were demanding for release of the pair.

    “Amanda, we love you,” she says. “We are trying so hard, Amanda. The government will not help us. We are selling everything we can.”

    Read more:Sobbing Amanda Lindhout tells of her abduction at gunpoint as kidnapping trial begins

    By this point, Lindhout and Brennan’s families had managed to scrape together $434,000 by selling vehicles, farm machinery and property.

    Stewart asked Ader several times to persuade “the group” to lower the amount demanded, telling him during a series of tense phone calls the families were not rich, there was no insurance money and the Canadian and Australian governments would not pay a ransom as a matter of policy.

    “You are making our family suffer,” Stewart says during one call.

    “You need to come down. We don’t have that money.”

    Ader replies: “What we want is to get that money, and that money is $2 million.”

    Stewart then asks Ader, “What does Allah think about what you do?”

    Ader remains unswayed. “We need $2 million.”

    Stewart insisted to Ader she was not lying or playing games with him.

    “We want our children home and we are doing the best we can,” she says. “How can I get money that I don’t have?”

    Ader sat expressionless in the prisoner’s box, his ankles shackled, as he listened to the eight-year-old recordings.

    He was arrested by the RCMP in Ottawa in June 2015. It emerged during pre-trial motions last spring that the Mounties had lured Ader to Canada with a scheme to sign a supposed book-publishing deal.

    The Crown says Ader admitted to undercover investigators on two occasions that he was the negotiator in the kidnapping and that he was paid $10,000.

    Lindhout broke down during testimony last week, describing her abduction by a gang of armed men in masks as the beginning of 460 days of hell.

    Amanda Lindhout begged her mother to pay ransom after severe beatingAmanda Lindhout begged her mother to pay ransom after severe beating

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    Who’s afraid of a higher minimum wage?

    Despite the scare stories, a proposed $15 hourly wage in 2019 is proving wildly popular. By all accounts, it is a vote-winner.

    The usual suspects are upset: TD Bank, Loblaws, Metro, the Chamber of Commerce and the small business lobby are warning higher wages will hit hard, and hurt the working poor by costing them jobs.

    It’s a recurring tale of two competing victimhoods — businesses at risk and jobs in jeopardy — but people aren’t buying it. The old fable about the boy (or business) who cried wolf is a hard sell when few believe the wolf is at the door.

    The big change is not just in new economic thinking, but a broader societal consensus. The ground has shifted.

    Perhaps people are waking up to the impact of poverty amidst plenty. And are prepared to pay more at their local Dollarama — rebrand it Toonierama if need be.

    Canadians who were content to live alongside the working poor are increasingly sensitized to the argument for a living wage. Times change.

    For the longest time, people put up with second-hand cigarette smoke, drove while drunk, forgot their seat belts, or sneered at nerds who wore helmets for motorcycling, cycling, hockey or skiing. Now, cigarettes are taboo, drunk driving is anathema, seat belts are the law, and helmets are de rigeur.

    Once society reaches a tipping point, it’s hard to turn back. Against that backdrop, politicians aren’t so much leading the change as reading the change.

    Changed attitudes may be a reflection of increased inequality, but also reduced insecurity.

    Our unemployment is dropping rapidly — StatsCan announced last week that Ontario’s rate had declined to 5.6 per cent, the lowest level since 2000. With 170,000 new jobs over the past year, scare stories about job losses don’t add up.

    The provincial economy has been on a roll for the last few years, leading the country and much of the industrialized world. Yet income inequality keeps increasing.

    A previous column about the business lobby pointed to the flaws in outdated econometric modelling that vainly tries to foretell future job losses from doomsday scenarios. Their conclusions are contradicted by more advanced research that looks retrospectively at recent history, showing negligible or unmeasurable impacts from minimum wage hikes.

    Yet major retailers keep warning that automation is the inevitable result of higher wages. Been to a Loblaws, Sobeys, or Canadian Tire recently? Seen those automated check-out counters, even at today’s minimal minimum wage?

    Automation is inevitable. Lowering the minimum wage won’t bring back full-service gas station attendants, or persuade the banks to remove automated tellers from your local branch.

    Economic disruptions are also unpredictable. Even if business scaremongering about a wage hike were remotely true (at the margins), the reality is that a rapid increase in interest rates would have far more impact, as would a collapse in the housing market.

    Let’s give at least partial credit to the politicians who have been paying attention to recent changes. But not too much credit, for they are merely playing catch-up.

    The last time Ontario debated a minimum wage change in 2014, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals and Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats dragged their feet — and played footsie. Both parties paid lip service to higher wages while mouthing platitudes to small business lobbyists, leading to the half-measure of $11 an hour.

    The Progressive Conservatives reliably resisted that increase then, just as they do now. Opposition Leader Patrick Brown flatly opposes a proposed $15 hourly wage in 2019 (he purports to support it in principle at some future point — though without a timeline it’s a mere press line).

    With an election looming, the Liberals have breathed new life into the living wage. But the heavy lifting happened outside Ontario, with Alberta’s NDP government leading the way to a $15 target in Canada.

    The maximum push, however, has come from our American friends — never mind Donald Trump — who have broken the barrier without breaking the back of big banks or small business: San Francisco’s non-unionized minimum wage is now U.S. $14, (about $17.50), and will hit $15 by 2018 ($18.77).

    That’s the economic reality that recent research relies upon, that business is blind to, that Ontario voters are waking up to, and that smart politicians are paying attention to. The only thing we have to fear about the minimum wage is fear-mongering itself.

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

    Time to follow America’s lead on minimum wage: CohnTime to follow America’s lead on minimum wage: Cohn

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    Trustees at Peel District School Board are asking the Ministry of Education to suspend EQAO tests for all students this year in the wake of its plans to review curriculum and how pupils are assessed.

    In a motion approved at a board meeting Tuesday night, the trustees also urged other school boards throughout the province and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association to support its request.

    Given the province-wide review, the motion to cancel EQAO tests in math, reading and writing for students in Grades 3, 6 and 9 “makes perfect sense,” says Peel chair Janet McDougald.

    Ontario’s second-largest school board has become increasingly worried that current tests administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) don’t accurately reflect what its students are learning in the classroom, McDougald said in an interview Wednesday.

    The trustees’ move comes a month after Ontario announced an “education refresh” that will include revamping curriculum and report cards as well as rethinking standardized testing.

    While Education Minister Mitzie Hunter indicated in a statement that the tests will proceed as planned, the Peel motion has already reignited the debate about the explosive topic of standardized testing.

    Unions representing elementary and high school teachers, who want the current system of large-scale testing eliminated, applauded the Peel request, while other educators stressed that while no test instrument is perfect, the EQAO is an important measure of what skills students are mastering.

    “During this review, it’s important that parents are still receiving information about how their child is doing at school,” Hunter said in a statement. “That’s why EQAO will continue to provide relevant information to better support student achievement and well-being.”

    The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association did not respond directly to the Peel trustees’ request for support because it needs more information, said president Laurie French.

    “However, the reality is that EQAO has been in place for 20 years and a comprehensive review is overdue,” she said in a statement.

    That was also the message in the association’s discussion paper on EQAO testing released last spring, which, among other recommendations, called for the province to consider alternatives to across-the-board tests such as randomized testing of a sample of students.

    “This is an important issue and we look forward to participating in that conversation,” said French.

    McDougald said the Peel board has long been concerned about “a disconnect” between student report cards and EQAO scores, particularly in math, and met with EQAO staff earlier this year to try to get to the bottom of it.

    While a strategy to improve literacy results led to significant improvement, three years of intensive focus on math has not improved scores on the provincial test, she said.

    “We do not believe the test is capturing what the children are learning.”

    While reading and writing results improved at the board this year, math results have declined in line with the provincial trend. Last year, only 63 per cent of Peel students met the standard in Grade 3, dropping to a dismal 49 per cent by Grade 6. Province-wide, 62 per cent of Grade 3 students were successful while only half of those in Grade 6 met the standard.

    McDougald said putting the tests on hold during the review is reasonable because of the weight put on the results by everyone from parents choosing schools to real estate agents using them to attract homebuyers to certain neighbourhoods.

    “It’s the only public assessments people see and we’re fine with that … as long as those assessments are relevant and fair to students.”

    The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario welcomes the motion, said president Sam Hammond. The union has long supported eliminating EQAO testing, arguing it is costly, puts stress on students and diverts resources and teaching time that could be used more effectively to engage them in the classroom.

    “If they suspended it for this year, teachers across the province would not be teaching to the test as they always do and would have much more time to teach in a much deeper way,” he said.

    Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said Peel “has taken a very responsible position on this at a time when the dubious value of the EQAO is being called even more into question.”

    However, Wilfrid Laurier University economics professor David Johnson argues the universal tests are a cost-effective way of measuring student achievement in basic skills.

    All measurement instruments are imperfect, says Johnson, a policy scholar with the C.D. Howe Institute, who says it’s important to audit any public system for its effectiveness, whether it’s health care or education.

    He says, on balance, EQAO “still provides a good index of how a school is functioning in terms of meeting curriculum demands” and allows schools and boards to compare results.

    Peel Board wants province to cancel EQAO tests this yearPeel Board wants province to cancel EQAO tests this year

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    An Orangeville man had his drug charges stayed after police claimed they couldn’t find him for nine months when he was already in jail over other matters.

    Prior to his time in custody, police also could have arrested him at the address he gave to them earlier in their investigation but they never checked there, court documents show.

    Because of this delay, Mark Nurse, 25, had to wait 22 ½ months for a trial on three drug charges including trafficking cocaine. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year that provincial court trials must be completed within 18 months.

    Justice Richard Schwarzl ruled last month that Nurse’s right to be tried within a reasonable time had been breached, saying the steps Orangeville police took to locate him were “woefully hollow if not non-existent.” Schwarzl stayed the charges.

    In March 2015, police allegedly came across Nurse near an Orangeville scrap yard, according to the court document. When Const. Stephen Fisher approached, he said during his testimony he noticed a baggie containing a white powder near Nurse’s feet.

    Fisher testified he told Nurse that if the powder tested positive for illegal drugs, Nurse would be charged. Nurse gave Fisher his personal information, including his current address in Ajax.

    By the end of May 2015, Fisher had formed reasonable grounds to charge Nurse with three drug-related offences, Justice Schwarzl said in his ruling.

    Even though Nurse had previously given Fisher his current address in Ajax, Fisher ran Nurse’s name in the local records system and found four addresses — three in Orangeville and one in Shelburne.

    Nurse didn’t live at any of them and neither Fisher nor any other officer went to the Ajax address he’d provided, Schwarzl ruled. Fisher told the court he didn’t follow up with the Ajax address because the local ones were more current.

    On July 9, 2015, Orangeville police issued a warrant for Nurse’s arrest and sent out a service-wide email to all local officers about the warrant.

    But on July 3, 2015, Nurse was in custody in Niagara region facing drug trafficking charges. He remained in custody until Jan. 19, 2016, when he pled guilty. He was sentenced to time served plus one day. The day he was sentenced, Toronto police laid robbery and other charges against him and brought him to Toronto. He remained in custody and eventually those charges were dropped. In all, he was in jail from July 2015 to April 2016.

    No one from Orangeville Police Service checked to see if Nurse was in custody with another police service, or in jail.

    “(Police) appeared to be content to sit on the warrant and do nothing,” Schwarzl wrote in his ruling. “Had the police in this case made basic efforts, they would have readily found (Nurse) in custody and could have executed the arrest warrant literally any time after the information was sworn.”

    It wasn’t until the day Nurse was released from Toronto custody, nine months after Orangeville police had secured a warrant, that an Orangeville police officer travelled to Toronto and arrested him.

    “Fisher testified that neither he, nor any other officer as far as he knows, did anything to attempt to locate the applicant (for) a period of 273 days,” Schwarzl wrote. “(Nurse) was in custody the entire time and was incapable of evading or avoiding execution of the Orangeville Police Service arrest warrant.”

    Nurse appeared in court on May 17, 2016. Schwarzl wrote the prosecutor didn’t appear to know of his case and had no file or disclosure to provide. After further delays for Nurse to retain defence lawyer Mark Rieger, a pre-trial took place in September 2016. Nurse was available for all 10 of the dates offered for trial, but the Crown turned down eight.

    The trial was scheduled to proceed in May 2017 — 22 ½ months after Orangeville police had issued a warrant for Nurse’s arrest.

    “They had 18 months for a pretty simple case that, if it had gone to trial, would have taken a day,” Rieger said.

    The trial was eventually adjourned so Rieger, on behalf of Nurse, could file a charter application against the delay.

    “We made the decision late to file the application, but it was important,” Rieger said. “Somebody knew Nurse was in custody, but nobody seemed to put two and two together. A case like this really demonstrates a culture of complacency on the part of the police. Whether this translates to action, I don’t know.”

    Orangeville police said it is working to achieve the provincial standard of completing trials within 18 months.

    When asked about Nurse’s case, spokesperson Const. Scott Davis said in an email, “We take this as a learning opportunity and continue to improve our practices in this area.

    “We respect the decisions of the judiciary and always accept opportunities to make changes in our practices and work in collaboration with our Crown Attorney’s office.”

    Drug charges dropped against Orangeville man in jail — because police couldn’t find himDrug charges dropped against Orangeville man in jail — because police couldn’t find him

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    Being the wife of an alleged sexual predator is far better than being a victim of that predator but it’s not a role to be desired. Case in point: Georgina Chapman, the 41-year- old English fashion designer who was, until very recently, the committed spouse of fallen Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Chapman announced Tuesday that she is leaving her husband after bombshell media investigations by the New York Times and the New Yorker revealed he allegedly harassed and assaulted more than a dozen women in the entertainment industry over many years.

    “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” Chapman said in a statement to People Magazine on Tuesday. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”

    Fat chance. Chapman’s business already appears to be suffering as a result of her husband’s alleged actions. On Wednesday, jewelry retailer Helzberg Diamonds announced it was severing ties with her fashion label, Marchesa, and some former fans of the brand have begun boycotting it. Chapman is not only an ongoing subject of media fascination, she is the target of outsized online vitriol. In times like these, everyone wants to know: Who is the wife? Was she aware of her husband’s alleged behaviour? How could she have been married to such a pig? Did her silence enable him?

    We know that Weinstein may have been instrumental in the success of Chapman’s fashion line, allegedly pressuring famous actresses to wear Marchesa on the red carpet. But of Chapman’s motivations for staying by Weinstein’s side for years, and now, for leaving him, we don’t actually know anything.

    Of course it’s entirely possible, as online haters of the fashion designer have suggested, that Chapman knew about every violation allegedly committed by her husband. It’s also entirely possible she had no qualms about keeping quiet so that he could help her business succeed.

    But those quick to condemn Chapman ought to remember that there are other possibilities in this equation, and though they are less scandalous they are worth considering.

    For example, it’s entirely possible that revelations about Weinstein’s alleged abuse came as a complete surprise to her. It’s possible that Chapman was under the impression her husband was merely creepy (the kind of guy who makes a pass at a female subordinate) but was totally unaware that his actions may have veered into the territory of rape. It’s also entirely possible that she was a victim of sexual assault in her own right, at his hands. Some of the women who say Weinstein allegedly assaulted or harassed them also report that they were terrified of him. Who’s to say his wife wasn’t equally terrified? The point is, we simply don’t know.

    What we do know, however, is that the spouses of fallen powerful men are rarely able to redeem themselves. Real life is not as forgiving as The Good Wife. If Chapman says she knew nothing, she will not be believed. If she says she knew something, she will be loathed. Hers is a lose-lose situation.

    Of course, being sexually assaulted is a far graver lose-lose situation than that of the wronged spouse, but victims of sex crimes have a protective force behind them that Chapman and women like her most certainly do not: the sisterhood. In other words, where victims of assault are rightly believed, women who appear to give themselves willingly to domineering men are judged and shunned. Though Chapman is no Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern’s slow, painful climb back to respectable public life after her affair with Bill Clinton is a perfect example of the cognitive dissonance some feminists exhibit in situations where women aren’t clear-cut victims.

    Perhaps the most telling example of this cognitive dissonance was Beyoncé performing in front of a gigantic “FEMINIST” backdrop at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards after she sang “Partition” — a song in which she turns Lewinsky’s name into a verb for ejaculation. “He Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown,” Beyoncé sings on the song. (Lewinsky later shot back at the pop star in Vanity Fair, stating: “If we’re verbing, I think you meant ‘Bill Clinton’d all on my gown.’ ”)

    All this is to say we don’t know if Georgina Chapman was a victim of her husband, but she is most definitely a victim of our judgment. This is unfortunate because when a man appears to have abused his power in a cruel and heinous manner, as Harvey Weinstein has allegedly done, our outrage should remain fixed on him. When we shift it to his spouse we achieve nothing more than to extend his path of destruction.

    Harvey Weinstein’s wife a victim of our judgment: TeitelHarvey Weinstein’s wife a victim of our judgment: Teitel

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    The Blue Jays fired a reported 23 employees Wednesday from various departments on the business side. The club insisted it was not a cost-cutting measure but more a shift of resources to address evolving needs. The streamlined front office is merging and re-organizing fan engagement and media relations.

    Gone from the former media department are Mal Romanin, the manager of baseball information, Erik Grosman, the coordinator of baseball information, and communications coordinator Sue Mallabon. The only leftover is communications vice-president Jay Stenhouse.

    The Jays expanded their existing fan engagement department last season, an area that includes business-led PR initiatives and Blue Jays social media. That department, led by Sebastian Gatica, has now merged with media in reporting to Gatica, who transferred from Sportsnet to the Jays in 2016 to coordinate personal affairs for president Mark Shapiro.

    “In recent years, our business has become more focused on engaging fans through compelling experiences, unique content and personalized service,” Gatica said. “Today’s changes reflect that evolving nature of our business as we shift to meet these needs through a new structure and resources aimed at delivering memorable experiences to our passionate fan base.”

    The new setup, with a one-person media department, is unique to Major League Baseball.

    Read more:

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    Devils, Schneider hand Leafs first loss of season

    John Farrell’s dream job ends following ALDS loss to Astros: Griffin

    Blue Jays fire 23, including most of media departmentBlue Jays fire 23, including most of media department

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    The list of suppliers left in the lurch by the Sears Canada insolvency reads like a who’s who of retail and it circles the globe.

    It has debts to businesses in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Gazipur, Bangladesh, Gurgaon, India, New Jersey, Ohio and Mont-Laurier, Quebec.

    It owes money to small contractors and conglomerates: Canada Post, Coca-Cola, Clinique, Crocs Canada, Google Inc. and Upper Canada Soap and Candle.

    It owes Adidas Canada Ltd. $871, 537. It owes Barbara Engram of Milltown, NL $1,134. Dican Enterprises, of Brampton, which supplied forklift parts to a Sears warehouse in Vaughan, is owed $17,000.

    “I think it’s a lot of money for anybody in soft times,” said owner Sayed Mohammed, who is waiting to see what kind of settlement he’ll get after the liquidation sales are done and the money from asset sales is distributed to creditors.

    He had been supplying Sears since 1995.

    “Like anything else, when you have a big account and things like this happen, you tend to feel it.”

    For more than 27 years, Toronto based Ahearn & Soper Inc. supplied Sears with inventory management tools, from warehouse automation products to printers, mobile scanners and labels.

    While Ahearn sometimes did as much as $500,000 a year in business with Sears, in recent years it was closer to $250,000, said Danny Di Marco, Ahearn’s vice-president of finance and chief financial officer.

    “We basically saw the writing on the wall. We scaled back the terms and the amount of credit we gave them,” said Di Marco.

    Ahearn is owned $53,020, and Di Marco is not sure how much it will be able to recover. The bigger concern is how long it will take to replace the lost income.

    “To find another customer like Sears, who was loyal and bought as much product as they bought from us is not an easy task,” said Di Marco.

    Sears is not the retailer it once was, employing 41,000 people and doing $6.7 billion in sales, but the effects of the insolvency will ripple far and wide, according to experts.

    If the liquidation plan is approved in court on Friday, about 12,000 people will be out of work by the time all the Sears locations across Canada are closed between Oct. 19 and Christmas, including 74 full-line department stores, eight Sears Home stores and 49 Hometown stores.

    Malls will be faced yet again with the task of filling in empty spaces left by a prominent retailer, a little more than two years after discount department store retailer Target decamped following a failed launch in Canada.

    When Target closed its 133 Canadian stores in the spring of 2015, Walmart was expanding its grocery superstore concept in Canada and swooped in to buy 13 of the Target leases. Lowe’s Canada and Canadian Tire bought about a dozen each.

    There isn’t the same demand for retail real estate today.

    “The ‘B’ malls are going to have a tough time,” said retail consultant Ed Strapagiel.

    Not all of the effects will be negative.

    The liquidation sales at Sears during the holiday season may attract customers who would otherwise be shopping at Costco, Walmart and Hudson’s Bay, said Strapagiel.

    But the effect will be temporary. In the long term those same merchants stand to gain market share as they fill the space left by Sears Canada, which did $2.6 billion in sales in 2016.

    Apparel retail consultant Randy Harris said that in the apparel sector, Hudson’s Bay, Winner’s and Marshall’s stand to benefit the most. Reitman’s may also pick up sales.

    “If you kind of think of who goes to Sears, these people aren’t going to all of a sudden turn around and go to Nordstrom’s — a lot of them are on fixed incomes,” said Harris, president of Trendex North America and publisher of the industry newsletter Canadian Apparel Insights.

    Retailers in the home improvement sector stand to benefit too, according to Michael McLarney, founder and editor of Hardlines, a trade magazine that focuses on the retail home improvement industry.

    “There’s no question that Home Depot and Lowe’s Canada have that appliance business squarely in their sites, and in the smaller markets, Home Hardware,” said McLarney.

    The difference between the Sears insolvency and Target’s insolvency is that most suppliers this time around had an idea it was coming, said Lou Brzezinski, a partner in Blaney McMurtry's commercial litigation group, representing suppliers and landlords.

    “Sears caught nobody by surprise and Target caught everybody by surprise,” said Brzezinski.

    Many Sears suppliers purchased insurance against just such a thing happening although not all of them could afford it or thought it was worth the money.

    “It’s a significant amount of money off the bottom line,” said Brzezinski.

    Target creditors got more than 80 cents on the dollar for monies owed, said Brzezinski, which is almost unheard of. Currently some Sears creditors are selling what they are owned for about 30 cents on the dollar.

    The difference is that Target Canada’s debt was held by its parent corporation in the U.S., and it decided to subordinate its claim, allowing other creditors to be paid first, said Brzezinski.

    That’s not the case with Sears.

    Sears collapse will ripple through the economySears collapse will ripple through the economy

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    RCMP officers have been screening Muslim refugee claimants entering from the U.S. at Quebec’s Roxham Rd. crossing, asking how they feel about women who do not wear the hijab, how many times they pray, and their opinion about the Taliban and the Islamic State, a questionnaire obtained by the Star shows.

    The 41 questions appear to specifically target Muslims, as no other religious practices are mentioned, nor terrorist groups with non-Muslim members.

    Refugee lawyers representing the more than 12,000 men, women and children who have crossed from New York this year at the informal crossing on Roxham Rd., near the Quebec town of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, have heard stories of profiling, but it wasn’t until a client of Toronto lawyer Clifford McCarten was given his own questionnaire last month — seemingly by mistake — that there was proof of the practice.

    RCMP spokesperson Annie Delisle told the Star Wednesday that these questions were part of an “interview guide” that was used by officers in Quebec.

    “Due to the high volume of irregular migrants in Quebec, an interview guide was developed as an operation tool to streamline processing and provide consistency in the RCMP’s preliminary risk assessments,” Delisle wrote in an email to the Star.

    Answers from the questionnaire were entered into RCMP databases, Delisle wrote. That information could then be shared with the Canada Border Services Agency or other security partners “in accordance with Canadian legislation,” she wrote.

    Scott Bardsley, spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, told the Star Wednesday afternoon that the RCMP has suspended use of “that version” of the guide.

    “The minute we became aware of the interview guide, we were immediately concerned and contacted the RCMP,” Bardsley wrote. “Some of the questions were inappropriate and inconsistent with government policy.”

    But civil rights advocates, refugee lawyers and Muslim leaders said the document highlights the larger problem that Canada’s security services disproportionately target Muslims.

    “Getting rid of the evidence doesn’t get rid of the problem,” said Faisal Bhabha, the legal adviser for the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “The document itself isn’t the problem. The problem is the mindset. It’s not an anomaly.”

    The refugee claimant represented by McCarten, who is fleeing a Muslim-majority country, said he was shocked by the questions and feared how information he gave — such as the fact that his wife wears a hijab — could be used against him.

    The Star has agreed to protect his identity.

    Question 31 on the form, typed on RCMP letterhead in both English and French reads: “Canada is a very liberal country that believes in freedom of religious practice and equality between men and women. What is your opinion on this subject? How would you feel if your boss was a woman?”

    “I never expected this in Canada,” said the middle-aged teacher, whose family still lives in his birth country. “My country has a lot of problems about human rights and democracy but these questions are not the kind of questions I’d be asked even in my country.”

    Mitchell Goldberg, head of the national association of refugee lawyers, noted the similarity between the RCMP’s questionnaire and the widely lampooned campaign pledge by Conservative MP and former leadership candidate Kellie Leitch to screen immigrants for “Canadian values.”

    “The job of the RCMP is to protect national security, not to issue a value test and that’s all I can call this,” said Goldberg.

    The Roxham Rd. crossing has taken on mythological significance among refugees seeking a path to freedom, as has Canada as a hospitable haven. In response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s January travel ban on Muslim countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength. #WelcomeToCanada.”

    Read more:

    Migrant flight to Canada has big impact on Miami’s Little Haiti

    For hundreds fleeing Trump, this dead end at Roxham Rd. has become the gateway to Canada

    Fleeing to Canada, asylum seekers’ old lives revealed in the scraps found along New York’s Roxham Rd.

    The “Safe Third Country Agreement” between Canada and the U.S. stipulates that those seeking asylum must apply in their first country of arrival. But there is a loophole if refugee claimants enter at an unofficial border crossing — such as Roxham Rd.

    This summer saw a massive influx of mainly Haitian claimants, fearful of what would happen to them in the U.S. when their special immigration designation, known as a Temporary Protected Status, expired. The Trump administration told Haitian citizens living and working in the U.S. to prepare to return home as their status would only be extended until November.

    Canadian officials are bracing for a second wave of asylum seekers from Central America, who worry they also will be expelled from the U.S. if their status is not renewed.

    Other claimants from Muslim-majority countries feel they would have a better chance finding refuge in Canada than the U.S. under Trump.

    McCarten said late Wednesday that while he was thankful for the quick reaction from Goodale’s office, more answers are needed about federal oversight and what will happen with the data collected by the RCMP.

    “I’m heartened to hear from the leadership that they take this as seriously as we do,” he said. “But what possible purpose could someone’s opinion about female employment or religious head coverings have to bear on an assessment of risk?”

    “If someone’s religious opinion is sufficient to place them in an RCMP database for potential future monitoring, we need to be concerned about that. If they recognize those questions are inappropriate, then they need to destroy all the information that was gathered.”

    McCarten also said he found it hard to fathom that federal officials from Public Safety or the Prime Minister’s office were unaware of the screening process being used at Roxham Rd., when Canada’s influx of asylum seekers has been such an important and politically fraught story.

    “I find that incredibly hard to believe that the site of incredibly vexed immigration and refugee policy in Canada, the site of probably the biggest clash of values between Canada and the U.S. right now, and the site of the largest irregular border issue in the country, is being managed exclusively by a local detachment without any federal oversight or higher level approach?”

    “If there isn’t, then there’s a huge problem.”

    RCMP officers screened Quebec border crossers on religion and values, questionnaire showsRCMP officers screened Quebec border crossers on religion and values, questionnaire shows

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    The winning streak is over.

    The New Jersey Devils — and the emphasis is on the word “new” — handed the Maple Leafs their first loss of the season, taking a 6-3 decision Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre.

    The Devils appear to be using the Maple Leafs template, loading up with young, speedy, fast players and surprising teams who might not have thought an opponent that finished last in its division one year could be a good team the next.

    The Leafs, taken lightly last year, are as guilty as the Devils’ previous foes of not taking New Jersey seriously enough.

    Auston Matthews, James van Riemsdyk and Dominic Moore scored for the Leafs, who drop to 3-1-0 for the young season.

    The Leafs had the better of the chances, and peppered New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider with 50 shots. Schneider is 7-1-3 all time against Toronto. The Leafs were 2-for-8 on the power play, aided by two elongated 5-on-3s. Matthews scored on one, midway through the third. The Devils, oddly enough, scored on the other.

    The Leafs had a number of defensive breakdowns. Calle Rosen handed the puck, quite literally, over to Miles Wood for a breakaway, one of two goals for Wood in the first period. Jake Gardiner did much the same in the second, leading to a shorthanded goal that might have broken the Leafs’ backs.

    The Devils’ shots off the post, including one from Blake Coleman in the third, went in. The Leafs hit posts a number of times, but the puck bounced out.

    Read more:

    James van Riemsdyk’s focus is on health and Leafs’ success, not contract

    Goals have Leafs grinning ear to ear hole: Feschuk

    Steady Connor Brown adds to Leafs’ depth

    And Frederik Andersen didn't work any of the magic he's become known for in net. Meanwhile Schneider committed larceny after larceny at the other end.

    It was an unlikely battle of unbeaten teams. The Leafs came in off three straight wins, perhaps not that surprising to folks who follow them closely. But the Devils? They were among the cellar dwellers last year, awarded with the first overall pick in the NHL lottery draft.

    But these are not the same old Devils. They are young, and fast, and they do not — stop the presses — play the neutral zone trap.

    “I like them, I think they’re fast,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said as he prepared for the game. “They play with much more speed, they’re on top of you — I think they really work.”

    Babcock suggested the Devils could surprise teams if they didn’t do their homework.

    “I say that is it’s no different than playing the Leafs last year,” Babcock said. “When you finish where you finish, you just think — I’ve been watching them, they’re not the same team. But, just because I say it, doesn’t mean they believe it. You know what I mean? They’ll know quick.”

    Babcock’s comments proved prescient in the first period, when the Devils kept up. The Leafs held a 13-10 shots advantage in the first, but the period ended 2-2. All four goals came in a five-minute span.

    Toronto opened the scoring, with van Riemsdyk jamming it through Schneider’s pads after getting a feed from Mitch Marner at 8:33.

    While the goal was being announced, New Jersey tied the game. Miles Wood deflected Steve Santini’s shot from the point, finding the top of the Leaf net just 34 second after van Riemsdyk’s goal.

    The Devils went up 2-1 when Wood converted a breakaway at 10:45, jumping on a giveaway by Rosen. Toronto got it back with Moore deflecting a Nikita Zaitsev shot at 13:33.

    The Devils scored two more in the second period, taking a 4-2 lead.

    Pavel Zacha scored unimpeded in the slot for a 3-2 lead at 9:58. Brian Gibbons scored on a 2-on-1 just 10 seconds after two Devils took minors at the same time. The Leafs had the 5-on-3, but a series of miscues and a bad pinch by Jake Gardiner led to Gibbons’ goal at 14:54.

    NOTES: Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey have assists in three consecutive games . . . Connor Carrick, Eric Fehr and Josh Leivo were healthy scratches for the Leafs . . . Toronto’s next game is Saturday in Montreal. The Canadiens have beaten the Maple Leafs 14 straight games . . . The Leafs failed to score in the second period. It was just the third time in 11 periods they had failed to score over the 20 minutes.

    Coming off three straight wins, Maple Leafs suffer first loss of season to DevilsComing off three straight wins, Maple Leafs suffer first loss of season to DevilsComing off three straight wins, Maple Leafs suffer first loss of season to DevilsComing off three straight wins, Maple Leafs suffer first loss of season to DevilsComing off three straight wins, Maple Leafs suffer first loss of season to DevilsComing off three straight wins, Maple Leafs suffer first loss of season to DevilsComing off three straight wins, Maple Leafs suffer first loss of season to DevilsComing off three straight wins, Maple Leafs suffer first loss of season to Devils

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    The Toronto area needs 8,000 new rental units a year — more than four times the number it built last year — to restore the region to a healthy vacancy rate.

    It also needs to wean itself from a growing reliance on the private condos that represent about a third of rentals in the city, says a report published Thursday by the Ryerson City Building Institute and Evergreen, an urban sustainability charity.

    “Unless we’re going to make (home) ownership a lot more attainable, 8,000 is where we need to be at now and in the future,” said Graham Haines, research manager of the Ryerson institute.

    Read more:

    Toronto housing price ‘correction’ eases: Report

    Rental squeeze tighter in 3rd quarter, report says

    At that rate it would take five to 10 years to restore the region to a vacancy rate of at least 3 per cent, says the report called, “Getting to 8,000: Building a healthier rental market for the Toronto Area.”

    That level would permit tenants to find suitable, affordable housing. But the Toronto region’s vacancy rate has been below that for years. The most recent Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation figure is 1.4 per cent.

    Rents for available one-bedroom apartments increased 6.3 per cent between 2015 and 2016 and 8.8 per cent in the last year, says the report.

    “One of the things that would be positive would be if we can get back towards rental buildings and rental supply versus condo supply because we can get back to the place where condos are an affordable entry way into home ownership,” said Haines.

    “Right now we see condos are still going up by 20 per cent because they offer this investment opportunity for people who have spare real estate money sitting around,” he said.

    While 76,000 condos have been built in the last decade, only 2,400 new purpose-built rental units have hit the market, according to the report.

    Investors get a decent rate of return on rent and that puts the purchase price of condos further out of reach for home buyers, said Haines.

    “You’re looking at something like $600,000 for a two-bedroom condo. That’s unaffordable for a young family that’s trying to get into the market,” he said.

    The report recommends governments incentivize rental development by:

    • Expanding the development charge rebate in the Ontario government’s fair housing policy that, in April, prescribed $125 million over five years.

    • Providing municipal incentives to rental development.

    • Developing a one-stop shop for federal and provincial development incentives.

    • Changing HST rules so that rental developers can claim credits to offset the tax they pay on construction materials in the same way condo developers recoup their HST expense when they sell the units.

    Haines downplayed a report last month by the Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario that showed developers, who had been planning to create rentals, had switched 1,000 of those units to condos in light of the province’s decision to extend rent controls to newer buildings.

    The odds are stacked against rentals and those buildings were probably on the edge, he said.

    “The numbers are just there for condos. The finances make more sense and that’s ultimately the challenge with or without rent control,” said Haines.

    The city is already looking at other policies recommended in the report, including a vacancy tax and restrictions on short-term rentals.

    Haines says the city also needs to open up areas of the city to multi-residential homes where currently zoning makes it difficult to build anything other than single-family houses.

    It wouldn’t make a huge difference in the number of rentals short-term but, he said, “With the vacancy rate as low as it is, providing any amount of rental supply will help improve the situation.”

    Ryerson report says Toronto needs far more new rental apartmentsRyerson report says Toronto needs far more new rental apartments

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    OTTAWA—A proposal for a multi-billion dollar transit hub at Pearson International Airport is getting serious consideration by the federal and provincial governments, the Star has learned.

    A high-level meeting involving stakeholders from all three levels of government was held at Queen’s Park Tuesday to provide an update on the proposal and map out next steps.

    That meeting — which also involved the operators of Pearson airport and Metrolinx, the regional transit agency — brought together both transportation planners as well as the infrastructure officials who can provide the public funding needed to make the project a reality.

    “There’s definitely serious interest,” said one source familiar with the meeting who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

    The Greater Toronto Airports Authority has pitched its proposal for a transit hub as part of its strategy to help fuel further passenger growth at Pearson.

    That transit centre, located on airport lands, would be served by the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Finch West LRT, Mississauga Bus Rapid Transit, GO Transit rail lines, UP Airport Express and perhaps even high speed rail in the future.

    The hub has been dubbed “Union Station West.”

    The afternoon meeting, held in a boardroom in an Ontario government building adjacent to Queen’s Park, was organized by the federal government.

    The goal of the meeting was to hear updates related to the regional transit centre. Listed as outcomes were the “identification of next steps, to advance studies and discussions on potential working groups to facilitate integrated planning.”

    Those invited to the meeting included the deputy minister of Transport Canada and three other senior department officials; senior bureaucrats from Infrastructure Canada, the finance department and the Canadian Infrastructure Bank Transition office.

    The province was represented by officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Ontario. Officials from the cities of Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton were also present.

    Gianni Ciufo, who heads Deloitte’s public private partnership team, provided an overview of transit funding and financing options.

    The heavyweight presence at the meeting is a signal that it’s getting serious attention, the source said. “You don’t get those people out unless there is significant momentum coming behind a project,” the source said.

    Metrolinx — represented at the session by Phil Verster, its new chief executive officer, and senior planning staff — has made improved transit to Pearson one of its priorities.

    The agency’s draft regional transportation plan notes that the airport area has the second-highest concentration of jobs in the Greater Toronto Area and says that cutting down on auto use will require “more attractive and integrated transit services.”

    The draft document says that support for Pearson’s regional transportation centre should be a priority to improve transit access to the airport and better enable the airport region to support economic growth.

    The Greater Toronto Airports Authority declined to comment on Tuesday’s meeting. But it has been an advocate of its plan, presenting it to political decision-makers. It has issued a request for proposals for the design and phasing of the transit centre.

    According to the authority’s website more than 44 million people traveled through Pearson airport in 2016.

    A report done for the airports authority in 2016 described the need for a transit hub as “urgent” but said it would be “potentially one of the most effective, efficient and productive of transit investments in the region.”

    Both the federal and provincial governments are said to be interested in the proposal because of the opportunities to improve access to Pearson — Canada’s busiest airport — and improve access to transit to reduce congestion in the airport region.

    One next step will be to set in motion planning for the multiple transit lines planned to serve the centre — and how they would be funded.

    Momentum builds for new Pearson airport transit hubMomentum builds for new Pearson airport transit hub

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    A $6.1-million lottery prize is in limbo after a court injunction prevented an Ontario man from cashing in a Lotto 6/49 ticket that his former live-in girlfriend claims is half hers.

    Maurice Thibeault showed up at OLG’s Toronto prize centre recently with one of the two winning tickets in the Sept. 20 jackpot worth $12.2 million.

    But before the Chatham resident could collect the money, Denise Robertson, 46, obtained an emergency court injunction and alerted OLG not to hand over the disputed millions.

    Read more:8 of Ontario’s most notorious lottery scandals

    Sources close to Robertson say she had asked Thibeault days earlier if the ticket — with the numbers 6, 17, 29, 37, 45, and 47 — had won and he responded it hadn’t.

    Friends say she thought nothing of it until he moved out of her house five days after the draw.

    Over their two years and one month of living together in her house — along with her teenage daughter from a previous marriage — the couple frequently played the lottery, alternating each week who would buy the tickets, said a source close to the long-time federal public servant.

    Thibeault’s associates dispute that there was any such arrangement, pointing out he purchased the ticket at a Chatham convenience store using a debit card linked to his personal bank account.

    Sources said the surveillance footage of him buying the winning ticket has been erased, but there is a bank receipt of the transaction.

    They also said she texted him to ask only if he had bought a ticket, not whether their numbers had come up.

    His friends also maintain he had been planning to separate from her for months and only managed to do so when he “got lucky” and won the lottery.

    On Sept. 25, Robertson arrived home from work to find Thibeault, a 46-year-old father of three, had cleared out all his belongings from their shared home, according to three people who know the couple.

    She then learned from mutual friends he had also quit his job at a local granite and glass supply company. A colleague had emailed the entire office that Thibeault had won, which is how she learned of the windfall.

    “She couldn’t believe it,” said a person close to her, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Robertson contacted Windsor lawyer Anita Landry, who immediately phoned OLG headquarters in Toronto and obtained an injunction in a Windsor courtroom on Sept. 28.

    “This motion, made without notice, by the plaintiff for an order that the defendant Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation not distribute the proceeds of the winning 6/49 lottery ticket from Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 in the amount of $6,146,722.60 until the ownership issue can be disposed of ,” the court document reads.

    But the legal injunction wasn’t necessary — everything was put on hold as soon as the Crown gaming agency was aware there was a dispute surrounding the ownership of the ticket.

    That means Robertson, who declined to comment through her lawyer, could be entitled to more than $3 million of the prize.

    Thibeault — who is “laying low” in an undisclosed location until the matter is resolved, according to a friend — also declined to comment.

    The other half of the $12.2 million bonanza was won by a ticket holder in Quebec.

    OLG’s senior manager of media relations Tony Bitonti said there are very strict procedures surrounding the awarding ofprizes.

    “The prize claim process is a process OLG would have followed regardless of whether there was an injunction or not,” said Bitonti.

    “Anyone or group presenting a ticket worth $1,000 or more is subject to the prize claim review process to determine ownership of the specific ticket. For prizes of $10,000 or more, this review process includes a mandatory in-person interview of the claimant conducted by an OLG prize claims investigator,” the spokesperson said.

    “While OLG has key information about the ticket — where and when it was purchased, was it purchased with other lottery products, etc. — in addition, we ask the claimant certain questions about the ticket and the circumstances surrounding its purchase in order to confirm ownership,” he said.

    “If, for any reason, our prize claim review team cannot confidently determine the ownership of the ticket from the answers to the questions from the interview, then the claim is sent to OLG general investigations for further review. This further review can include interviewing other individuals with relevant information surrounding the prize claim.”

    A prize is awarded only after OLG — which has revamped its procedures after ascandal surrounding questionable insider wins a decade ago — completes its investigation.

    OLG investigators sometimes examine months-old surveillance video from variety stores and gas stations where tickets are sold to determine buying patterns.

    They use computerized“data analysis and retrieval technology” to analyze billions of transactions per second and can identify ticket purchase characteristics to thwart fraudsters.

    But changes in human relationships can be tricky to track.

    $6.1M Lotto 6/49 prize in limbo after couple splits$6.1M Lotto 6/49 prize in limbo after couple splits

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