Archive | January, 2018

Frigid temperatures expected to continue for first week of 2018

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

Minus double-digit temperatures will stay for another week in Toronto. Some relief from the cold is in the forecast next week.

Toronto won’t be feeling any relief from the frigid conditions as minus double-digit temperatures are here to stay for at least one more week.

The city continues to be under an extreme cold warning for the first day of 2018. Monday began with temperatures hovering around -30 C with the wind chill, Environment Canada says. Temperatures are expected to rise to a high of -9 C, with a 40 per cent chance of flurries. It will also be windy with winds gusting to 50 km/hr. The low will be -19 C feeling more like -27 C.

The cold-snap, which shortened New Year’s Eve celebrations across the province, has also cancelled the annual Toronto Polar Bear Dip for the first time in 13 years.

Organizers said in a statement on Facebook that it was cancelled due to the icy conditions at Sunnyside Beach and the lack of resources to ensure participant safety. They are looking to reschedule the event in a later date.

On Tuesday, windy conditions will continue with a mix of sun and cloud. The daytime high will be -7 C and a low of -12 C. Minus double digit numbers will be back in the middle of the week. It’ll be cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries and a high of -10 C on Wednesday. Temperatures will dip down to -17 C in the evening.

Temperatures will drop Thursday and Friday with an expected high of -15 C, Environment Canada forecasts. Evenings will be much colder with temperatures dropping to -21 C and -22 C, respectively.

The extreme cold weather conditions in the city that started over the Christmas holidays have also renewed calls from homeless advocates for the city to open every available respite centre including the armouries.

A relief from the bitter cold might be coming next week. The Weather Network predicts minus single-digit temperatures. It will be a high of -4 C for Monday next week and -1 C for Tuesday, they say.

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2018 begins with liberal changes from the Liberals

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

The minimum wage is going up and the cost of prescription drugs is going down as election year hits Ontario.

The minimum wage is going up and the cost of prescription drugs is going down as 2018 — an election year — dawns in Ontario.

Thousands of workers will also get an extra week of vacation, and sick notes for the boss are banned among a host of changes that take effect Jan. 1, with opposition parties accusing Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals of timing it all to their advantage for the June 7 vote.

New Year’s Day sees the minimum wage surge $2.40 an hour to $14 and a new pharmacare plan — the first of its kind in Canada — called OHIP+ covering four million children, teens and young adults under 25.

They will get free access to 4,400 medications on the provincial formulary simply by presenting a health card and a valid prescription at any pharmacy.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is touting how the government is “helping people get free medications for their kids” and promising a $15 minimum wage in a year.

“There are people right now who live in Ontario who are earning the minimum wage, $11.60 an hour, and they still have to go to the food bank,” Wynne says.

“If you’re working full time you should be able to feed yourself and your family,” she adds, explaining the dramatic change that has some business groups warning the hike could lead to job cuts and higher prices.

“Making $15 an hour is great, but only if you have a job,” Karl Baldauf of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce cautioned before the increase was passed.

The new measures are among the biggest New Year goodies seen in years.

Opposition parties say that’s no coincidence given that the Liberals, who have rebounded in a recent poll to be in a dead heat with Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives, are seeking another term.

“The Liberals have always operated in their best interest,” says NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who slams the governing party for not acting sooner on her push to raise the minimum wage and phase it in more gradually to help businesses adjust.

“This should have been done years and years ago.”

Brown has pledged to slow the increase to $15 over a period of four years.

Other changes coming January 1 include:

•          a 22.5-per-cent cut in the corporate income tax rate, from 4.5 per cent to 3.5, for small businesses to offset the higher minimum wage;

•          10 days of personal emergency leave to all staff in provincially regulated industries, with two days paid, for all who have been with an employer at least one full week — with a notable exception of 7 days leave for automotive sector companies. The one week employment requirement is in place to prevent people hired for a few days from calling in sick and getting paid;

•          People with five years at an employer get three weeks’ vacation, up from two;

•          The cost of borrowing for payday loans is capped at $15 per $100 borrowed, down from $18;

•          Municipalities will be able to restrict areas where payday loan shops can operate and limit the number.

•          Ontario links with Quebec and California in the largest carbon market in North America in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Progressive Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London) warns parents that kids and teens, college and university students and young adults already in the workforce may not be able to get the same medications they’re used to under OHIP+ if they are fortunate enough to have other coverage.

“The Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) plan covers fewer drugs than private insurance companies,” notes Yurek, a pharmacist himself.

“They might get surprises when they go for a refill of a prescription that’s not covered. Doctors and pharmacists will be scrambling to find alternatives.”

Liberals counter that people with private plans can still get those medications, although they may have co-payment costs or deductibles, while families without drug insurance coverage will save money on every prescription.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins calls OHIP+ “the biggest advancement of medicare in this province in generations” and says patients wondering if their particular medications are covered can check on the Ontario.ca site, under medication coverage.

“It’s important to stress that OHIP+ will cover every single drug on Ontario’s formulary: asthma inhalers, EpiPens, diabetes test strips, oral contraceptives, cancer drugs and drugs for rare diseases,” he adds.

“Diabetes test strips and insulin for low-income families struggling to pay the bills every week will save them thousands of dollars each year.”

Other medications under OHIP+ include antibiotics for infections, antidepressants, mental health drugs and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs.

Pharmacies will be reimbursed by the government for the cost of dispensing and providing the drugs. Doctors and nurse practitioners are being urged to check the ODB formulary before prescribing medications, to make sure patients without private drug plans can get the medicines they need free of charge.

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Ontario’s long-awaited new nuclear emergency plan falls short, Greenpeace says

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

Ontario has updated its plan for dealing with nuclear emergencies for the first time since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Ontario has updated its plan for dealing with potentially deadly emergencies at nuclear power plants for the first time since the 2011 Fukushima disaster forced the evacuation of 70,000 people in Japan.

The 173-page effort follows criticisms from provincial auditor general Bonnie Lysyk earlier this month that the nuclear response blueprint has not been changed since 2009 to reflect lessons learned elsewhere.

“Ontario has three nuclear power facilities and 18 operating reactors, which makes it the largest nuclear jurisdiction in North America and one of the largest in the world,” she wrote in her annual report.

“Plans need to be regularly updated with current information and to reflect the best approach to respond to emergencies so they can be used as a step-by-step guide during a response,” Lysyk added.

The new plan takes into account radiation emergencies that could stem from reactor accidents, leaks during the transportation of radioactive material, explosions and even a satellite crashing on nuclear plants at Pickering and Darlington east of the heavily populated Greater Toronto Area or at the Bruce reactors near Kincardine on Lake Huron.

“This updated plan will help ensure we are more prepared than ever for emergencies so that our families and our communities are safe,” Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde said in releasing the document on Dec. 21.

The plan was released a week after the government put out a request for experts to conduct a technical study of it, making a mockery of the process, said the anti-nuclear group, Greenpeace.

“It’s ass backward and incompetent,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, senior energy analyst for Greenpeace, a vocal critic of the government’s nuclear energy program.

There is little in the updated nuclear response plan to prepare for a major disaster, he added, such as emergency zones that are too small given the potentially large scale of nuclear disasters.

“While other countries have strengthened public safety since Fukushima, it’s taken the Ontario government six years to maintain the status quo,” said Stensil.

“Other countries are preparing for bigger accidents.”

The new plan is based mainly on the possibility of a “design-basis accident,” which the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines as an accident “that a nuclear facility must be designed and built to withstand without loss to the systems, structures, and components necessary to ensure public health and safety.”

Stensil said design-basis accidents don’t release much radiation, as was the case with a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in 1979.

“Other countries decided in light of Fukushima to plan for accidents that reactors weren’t designed to prevent or control,” he added.

While the Ontario plan mentions a “wide range of accidents” should be considered, “the amount of detailed planning should decrease as the probability of the accidents’ occurrence decreases” to maintain an “appropriate balance.”

In contrast, Stensil said Germany’s Commission on Radiological Protection, known by the acronym SSK, goes further.

That agency states “the range of accidents included in emergency response planning should be redefined to more closely reflect an accident’s potential impact rather than its likelihood” and calls for contingency planning for “accidents whose radiological effects mirrors those of Fukushima.”

The tender issued for the technical study of Ontario’s nuclear emergency plan called for an assessment of the size of emergency zones, potential radiation doses, a wider look at weather patterns, possible meteorological effects at reactor sites and a study on drinking water impacts in the event of an accident.

At Fukushima, a massive offshore earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale triggered a tsunami that swamped the nuclear power plant, melting down three reactors and causing a fire in a fourth reactor.

The heavily damaged facility leaked radiation into the sea and surrounding countryside. The initial radioactive zone was bigger than the ones left by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, forcing large-scale evacuations.

While some areas remain under evacuation orders, large swaths of land are now considered safe. Decommissioning of the destroyed power plant is expected to take decades.

In her report, Lysyk warned a lack of preparation by emergency management officials “could result in confusion or delays” in any response to a tragedy.

Toronto city council passed a motion in November calling on the province to prepare for more severe accidents and expand delivery of anti-radiation potassium iodide pills beyond the current 10-kilometre zone around nuclear power plants.

The city also requested a study on the potential impacts of a major nuclear accident on the Great Lakes, which are a source of drinking water for millions in Canada and the United States, awareness campaigns for Toronto residents on how to prepare for a nuclear accident at Pickering or Darlington, just east of Oshawa.

 

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Auto workers cut off from labour law improvements

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

A change mandating 10 personal emergency days won’t apply to employees in the automotive industry, leading to outcry.

Auto work‎ers are feeling Scrooged after learning a new law giving most employees across Ontario a minimum of 10 personal emergency leave days annually — two with pay — doesn’t apply to them.

Employees in the automotive industry, including assembly plants and parts suppliers, are entitled to a minimum of seven emergency leave days under a special exemption in Bill 148, the recently passed legislation on workplace changesthat includes a $2.40 rise in the hourly minimum wage to $14 on January 1 and $15 in 2019.

Those seven days can be used for sickness and family emergencies, with another three days for bereavement leave. The requirement has been in place since last January as part of a pilot project with the government.

“For some reason the Ontario auto industry feels that we are not to be treated equal to the rest of the province, like we are lower class,” a Toyota autoworker from the company’s Cambridge assembly plant told the Star.

“Don’t get sick, don’t have family members that get sick and need personal days,” added the worker, who was granted anonymity for his comments. Toyota workers are not unionized.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn downplayed worker concerns, saying the auto sector “has, in many cases, earned a reputation as an employer of choice and often exceeds the minimum requirements of the Employment Standards Act . . . when it comes to leaves, vacation and sick pay.”

Toyota, for example, said full-time employees get more than the legal minimum and workers hired on contract will be able to take two paid sick days once the legislation takes effect.

The union representing workers at Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, has set up a meeting between its president, Jerry Dias, and the labour minister to seek a “clarification” on personal emergency leave.

 “Unifor is concerned over reports of changes to Regulation 502 of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act that may negatively impact workers in the auto sector,” the union said in a statement Thursday.

Flynn said the minimum standard of seven days is lower for the auto industry because it operates in “a particularly competitive global sector.”

“The auto sector is tremendously important to our economy. It employs thousands of people in well-paying jobs across the province,” Flynn added in a statement.

The pilot project was recommended by advisers who conducted a broad government review into workplace changes, and noted any auto sector worker with deaths in their close families are entitled to a minimum of three bereavement days in each case.

The pilot project will be evaluated next year “to make sure we’re achieving fairness for all Ontario workers,” Flynn added.

New Democrat MPP and labour critic Cindy Forster (Welland) said the treatment of auto workers is “incredibly disappointing.”

“It’s time for this unfair regulation to change, immediately. Treating auto workers worse than all other workers is just plain wrong,” added Forster, whose party has promised to mandate five paid days for illness or personal emergencies if it wins next June’s provincial election.

“These people work hard, often in physically demanding roles, and they certainly deserve treatment that’s equal to what everyone else in the province is getting.”

Workers at auto parts plants have also raised concerns about the seven-day limit.

There are about 124,00 auto sector workers in Ontario.

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Can Toronto council better reflect the city’s diversity?

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

Ausma Malik thinks so; the young, Muslim woman, who wears a hijab, plans to run for city council in a downtown ward in the 2018 municipal election.

When Ausma Malik considered running for Toronto city council, she thought about what it would be like to again knock on doors, wondering every time if when they open the person on the other side would pledge support or spew hateful barbs.

After being the target of a co-ordinated campaign of hate and Islamophobia during the 2014 election where she ran and decisively won a seat at the Toronto District School Board, Malik appears to be the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to be elected to public office in Canada.

Now, she’s set her sights on council.

When nominations open for the 2018 municipal election in May, Malik will sign her name to run in a downtown ward with the support of local progressive incumbents who say she is both competently qualified for the work and uniquely positioned for the job.

In a city where the majority of its 2.6 million residents — or just over 51 per cent — identify as a visible minority, according to the latest federal census data, the current 45-member council that represents them is only 11 per cent visible minorities.

“If you’re first of one kind of representation, you never want to be the last and I want there to be more — more young people, more women, more people of colour, Black, Indigenous people in leadership positions who are working for everybody,” Malik said in an interview. “I think that’s really exciting to me in putting myself forward for city council and hopefully to invite a new face of council in 2018.”

The 33-year-old condo dweller, wearing a plum purple hijab inside a Queen St. West coffee shop, flat white and croissant in front of her, notes other disparities — only a third of council members are women and just two are under the age of 35.

“When we don’t have those voices being represented at council, there is a huge gap and a distance between the reality that people are facing, the solutions that are possible at council and how those are actually realized and executed,” she says.

With a just-released decision on new ward boundaries creating four new wards, Malik says she plans to run in one half of a divided Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina), now represented by newcomer Councillor Joe Cressy — a fellow NDP voice who ran a joint campaign with Malik and friend Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) in 2014.

Beyond wanting progressive city-builders on council, Cressy said what Malik brings in terms of diversity is important: “We represent a city that when you look at us as city councillors we don’t reflect that city. So, how open are we? And how able are we to respond to issues that affect all religious and ethnic groups in our city if we don’t have a lived experience that can speak to them?”

Downtown Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale), the only racialized woman on council and also the only openly LGBTQ member, said she too would welcome Malik in the chamber.

“She’s not just hard working, she’s also a person with incredible integrity,” Wong-Tam said.

Malik’s political sensibilities are rooted in student activism from her days at the University of Toronto and have been stoked through community outreach, working on education policy for the Ontario NDP, labour organizing at the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario and on staff at the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

The daughter of Pakistani immigrants, Malik is the third of four children. Raised in Mississauga, she has lived downtown for more than a decade. She identifies as a proud feminist, Muslim and woman of colour and has become comfortable behind a microphone speaking out against misogyny, Islamophobia and racism as a private citizen and as a trustee.

She talks about the challenge of living in increasingly vertical communities and the pressure on both youth and seniors for whom the city is increasingly unaffordable. She just as easily pivots to her favourite Netflix shows and Slack channels she follows.

During the 2014 election, Malik was one of several candidates who was targeted by Islamophobic attacks that left her repeatedly explaining she does not support terrorist organizations or want sharia law. Flyers anonymously circulated in the ward accused her of backing both the Toronto 18 cell and Hezbollah.

“Is SHE the person you want to choose YOUR children’s curriculum?” one flyer read.

At the doors and during debates there were genuinely scary experiences that took a psychological toll, Malik said. She stopped canvassing alone and at one public event was ushered out a different door while an angry group that had been heckling her waited for her outside.

There was also the man she met one day while knocking on doors who approached and asked if she was Ausma Malik. Yes, she said, bracing herself for what would come next.

He’d been tearing down the hateful flyers around the community, he told her, pulling door hangers from his neighbours’ front doors. His family, he said, were Holocaust survivors and it reminded him of the stories they told him of anti-Semitism and what hate does.

“That act of generosity and that human connection and also knowing that people saw the campaign for what it was … it was an amazing experience and affirming,” she says now.

In an open, nine-way race, more than 16,000 people picked Malik to be their trustee for Ward 10 (Trinity-Spadina). She won with 40 per cent of the vote.

Though in recent months she has given public talks on the hate-fuelled campaign against her, she said it took time to be ready to talk about it.

In one, she quoted Muhammad Ali: “There is no pleasure in fights, but some fights are a pleasure to win — this is one of them.”

She says she didn’t realize the larger significance of her win until later.

The Star reached out to several national Muslim associations and searched media clippings but was also unable to confirm if any other hijab-wearing women have been elected to public office. Several women who wear a hijab have run as candidates for political office and there are Muslim women who do not wear a hijab who have held provincial and federal seats across the country.

Council today is largely full of longtime politicians, some who have been seated for decades, and who have opposed electoral reform that advocates say would even the playing field.

Wong-Tam, who has herself been subjected to hate-filled letters and attacks as a councillor, said what happened to Malik on the campaign is something no one should face and that it can be a barrier to entry.

“I do think that it’s very important for people to recognize that it’s not easy for racialized communities to step forward and run for public office,” she said.

Kofi Hope, executive director for the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals and a community activist, met Malik more than a decade ago as students pushing back against race-based policing following what became known as the Summer of the Gun. He said Malik worked behind-the-scenes to organize and build support for those putting themselves in the spotlight on that debate.

“She’s a great leader because she’s also known how to be a great team player,” Hope said. “Being a change agent and a change maker and someone committed to social justice is her occupation, is part of her life, but politics is her calling.”

Malik avoids saying anything pointedly critical of the job Mayor John Tory is doing (Tory plans to run for a second term), saying only the mayor has a role to be “more bold” and to work for everyone. She said she is glad there are vocal progressive councillors currently pushing important issues.

“I’m committed to the city and to our neighbourhoods,” Malik says of her own ambitions. “I’m someone who will have the courage and commitment to honour their vote, to take my responsibility seriously.”

And she said: “I invite the conversations that I get to have on the doorstep.”

 

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Homeowner’s shed caught in the middle of a land dispute in Vaughan

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

Furio Liberatore has been ordered to tear it down because the city says it sits in an environmental zone. But how then was the development next door approved, he wonders.

For five years, Furio Liberatore’s shed was not a problem.

Then sometime over the summer, the shed, which holds an assortment of gardening tools and a lawnmower, became a problem.

Liberatore says he came home one day to find a letter from a city of Vaughan bylaw officer.

“Your shed is in contravention of the bylaw,” relayed Liberatore, who said the officer told him that the shed he put up in 2012 was sitting on land in his backyard that the city considered to be OS5 or part of an “open space environmental protection zone.”

He had two options: take the shed down or appeal the decision to the city.

So Liberatore did the latter, taking the matter to a Vaughan committee of adjustment hearing in the fall.

He came prepared: He had letters from neighbours who said “they did not object to the shed” in his backyard. He had a letter from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) saying that it was “not requesting its removal” given the age of the structure. And he even had his purchase papers, which never marked his backyard as OS5.

The committee of adjustment, who are appointed by council, ordered the shed to come down.

Liberatore said when he got to the hearing, he was surprised to see the only person opposed to his shed was Matthew Di Vona, the lawyer who represents Dufferin Vistas, a company owned by Cam Milani. Dufferin Vistas is also the company behind a development project on the environmentally sensitive property next door. It’s a development Liberatore has publicly spoken out against.

“It was pretty intimidating that the developer sent his lawyer there for a shed dispute,” said Liberatore.

Di Vona submitted a “letter of objection” to the shed at the hearing.

When asked recently about his company’s involvement in the shed dispute, Milani said: “The law applies to everyone equally.”

Milani’s development project has been under scrutiny by neighbours since 2016, when residentsdiscovered that the environmentally sensitive land at 230 Grand Trunk Ave., which had been off-limits for decades, was suddenly approved for a 100 townhouse development by the city and the TRCA.

The development was again in the limelight this year, when an ethics probe into former deputy mayor Michael Di Biase found he used his position on the TRCA and at the city “to improperly influence” decisions that helped get approvals needed to pursue development on the property.

Now the city is reviewing how the deal came to be, retaining former justice Robert Armstrong to look at the matter and report to council early next year.

And an OMB hearing on the fate of the lands is set to start in January.

Environmental lawyer David Donnelly, who is representing Liberatore on the shed dispute, says any situation where a developer goes after a resident could be considered a SLAPP lawsuit.

Ontario passed the Public Participation Act, known at the anti-SLAPP legislation, in October 2015 with the goal of stopping “strategic lawsuits against public participation” — in other words, lawsuits used by individuals or companies to silence critics.

“I think you could define this is a SLAPP suit,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly said the city’s decision asking Liberatore to remove his shed is flawed.

“The Toronto Region Conservation Authority is the one who makes the call on whether this is having an impact on the environment,” he said. The TRCA said the period for removal of shed had elapsed and the agency felt that it was not causing an environmental impact, Donnelly said.

“For the city to support the development of phase 1 of the project. . . and then turn around and say we want to go to bat over this shed, seems like hypocrisy to me. The city should have taken the position consistent by the TRCA.”

Despite the thousands of dollars he has spent so far, Liberatore says he plans to challenge the city’s decision — and has filed to take his case to the OMB.

He says it’s not about the shed, but about challenging the city’s position.

“How can someone say to me you need to take down this shed because its affecting the environment, but it’s the same person applying to fill in a ravine to build townhomes?” he said. “You can’t play both sides.”

 

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Another car got stuck in the Queens Quay streetcar tunnel

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

The Sunday morning incident blocked streetcars from entering the tunnel from 4 a.m. until about 1 p.m. Since 2014, there have been more than 20 similar incidents.

Another driver has landed in hot water after getting stuck in the Queens’ Quay streetcar tunnel early Sunday morning.

Police were called to the scene around 4 a.m. and found a grey Ford SUV abandoned near the end of the streetcar platform.

The licence plates of the vehicle had been removed and all personal effects had been cleaned out of the car, said Toronto police spokesperson Rob Reid.

But the police were confident they could find the driver using other methods, such as video footage from the scene or a vehicle identification number.

The tunnel was still blocked at noon Sunday, causing the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina streetcar routes to turn around at Queens Quay and Spadina Ave.

The TTC had shuttle buses operating. Meanwhile, the temperature in Toronto hovered below -20 C.

Reid said police had to wait on equipment to remove the car from the tunnel.

“The front axel is broken,” Reid said, “so it’s not going to roll out.”

This isn’t the first time a vehicle has been stuck in the Queens’ Quay tunnel.

Since 2014, there have been more than 20 similar incidents, motivating the TTC to install lower lights, extra signs and deep rumble strips at the entrance of the tunnel in April to deter confused drivers from entering.

The extra precautions were implemented two months after police were once again called to extricate a vehicle from the tunnel using a crane in February. The driver, who claimed he was just following his GPS, was charged $425.

On Sunday around 12:30 p.m., a swing loader arrived on the scene and the extrication of the car began.

The delay finally cleared around 1 p.m.

“It’s a mystery to us as to how this happens, given all the lights, signage and rumble strips,” said Brad Ross, TTC director of communications. “If that doesn’t stop them, driving on the raised tracks, the noise, the sparks, should be an indication that something is not right.”

Ross is unsure whether alcohol played a factor in Sunday’s incident, saying that was a matter for the police, but added, “at 4 in the morning, something was going on with the driver, because they did flee as well.”

Ross said cars have made it all the way down the tunnel to Union Station in the past, and the TTC will continue to explore ways to stop vehicles from entering, including possibly installing mechanical arms that will only let streetcars pass.

Installing the mechanisms would open the door to other problems though, Ross said, because they would operate regularly and could fail due to technological issues, the cold or other weather factors, also causing delays.

“We will continue to look at what other avenues we have to make it patently obvious that we can’t drive down there,” he said.

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What are Canadian new-home buyers looking for? The answer is unsexy

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

We rate storage and privacy and showers ahead of whirlpool tubs and home theatres.

Tim Bailey likes to joke that he’s always on the look-out for something sexy in the data he tracks on the preferences of Canadians new-construction home buyers.

“Give me something to work with, consumers,” pleads Bailey, the division president of Avid Ratings, a market research company that has been surveying new-construction home buyers since 2014 for the Canadian Home Builders Association.

What the survey shows is that Canadians’ home-buying tastes are, well . . . quintessentially Canadian.

Forget home theatres and indoor swimming pools — it’s upstairs laundry, walk-in closets and stand-up showers that quicken our collective pulse.

Canadians still like a fireplace, but its desirability has cooled. In the age of open-concept, we have oddly been warming lately to formal living and dining rooms.

When it comes to home exteriors, there’s a marked preference for brick over vinyl siding, particularly in Ontario. But vinyl still has a place on the Prairies.

Single-car garages are trending up slightly, but double-car coverage continues to be the preference, although it’s our gear rather than our autos that typically take up that additional space, Bailey suggested.

“As Canadians, we tend to be — or at least we want to be — active. That brings with it a lot of gear like bicycles, snowboards, skis, stand-up paddleboards,” he said.

In-unit luxuries are more important than building amenities among condo-shopping, downsizing baby boomers, said Bailey.

“Psychologically, they’re ready to take a smaller footprint in life but they don’t want to sacrifice. They want the treats in the suite — the quartz, the granite, the custom glass showers,” he said.

Builders are seeing a slight uptick in the take-up for homes with two master suites.

“My theory is that culturally we’re more diverse than ever before so you’ll see more multi-generational families under the same roof. If you have a mom and dad still living with a son and daughter-in-law, you might want to have two master suites,” said Bailey.

The online survey, which contains about 200 questions, gives home builders of every housing category — from high-rise condo, to suburban detached houses — a beat on the must-haves and the might-be-nice-if-we-can-afford-it features that buyers want.

The 2,775 survey respondents have purchased a home from one of 86 builder members Canadian Home Builders Association that commissions the survey. So the answers are based on experienced buyers’ preferences for a second or subsequent home, including 47.5 per cent who identified themselves as move-up buyers.

Three years of survey data isn’t enough to see a revolution in the country’s housing tastes, but there are signs some features are fading, as others are growing in popularity.

“Special-purpose rooms have fallen off the grid — the man caves, the wine cellars, the workshops, home theatres,” said Bailey, who attributes that to a space issue. Most condos don’t have room for those specialty spaces.

Skylights, on the other hand, are trending up.

“That could be density. If we’re getting into more townhomes, you don’t have as much exterior wall to put windows on so you’ve got to find other ways to get brightness into your home,” he said.

The drive to density is a national phenomenon that means the Toronto region isn’t unique in building fewer single-family, detached houses, said Bailey.

“In Calgary, where they could sprawl forever, there are government initiatives that don’t let them . . . it’s about intensification. It’s not like they’re constrained by Lake Ontario or a mountain region, and yet they’re still having that drive to density there as well,” he said.

At the same time, the Canadian appetite for a house with a yard is growing. The 2017 survey found 65.5 per cent of respondents want a single-family house, up from 55.7 per cent in 2015.

That desire for low-rise, single-family homes is impacting affordability in markets such as Toronto, said Bailey.

“There’s not a lot of product coming on stream. Again, desire and actuality don’t necessarily mingle,” he said.

But the study report notes that buyers are increasingly reluctant to save money by buying a smaller lot and — no surprise in the Toronto area — will commute farther for a more affordable home.

About 91 per cent of new-construction homes sold in October in the Toronto region (4,884 units) were condos or stacked town houses. Only 9 per cent were low-rise homes, including detached and semi-detached houses and townhomes, according to the Building and Land Development Association.

When it comes to traditional ground-level homes, Canadians must be good neighbours, because they like their patch of paradise to be private. Fences are considered a must-have item by 49.7 per cent of new-construction buyers, and a further 28.2 per cent said that’s something they really want.

In the most recent research, 42 per cent of respondents were families with children; 37.9 per cent were singles or couples with no children. The respondents were almost evenly split among millennials (36.9 per cent) and Generation Xers (35.9 per cent) followed by baby boomers (23.7 per cent).

Those with household incomes of between $100,000 and $149,000, comprised 23.9 percent of respondents, followed by 18.6 per cent who made less than $75,000 a year and, 18 per cent, with incomes of $75,000 to $99,000.

The findings are considered accurate within 2.45 per cent.

What Canadians want in new construction

MASTER SUITES

A luxury, spa-like bath is a priority for home buyers. But the shower beats the tub in buyer preferences.

48.5 per cent of buyers of Toronto-area detached, two-storey homes considered a whirlpool tub a priority, compared to 68.2 per cent who wanted an oversized shower. Among high-rise consumers in Toronto, 48.2 per cent wanted the oversized shower versus 30 per cent who wanted the whirlpool.

The most popular en suite feature was a double sink. Among single-family home buyers in Ontario and the Toronto region, about 80 per cent consider that a priority. Among mid-rise buyers in the area, the quest for a double sink rose from to 63 per cent from 50 per cent in 2015. Only 61 per cent of high-rise buyers in the Toronto area considered the double sink a priority.

KITCHENS

Open concept is the overwhelming design choice across all categories of home buyers in Ontario and the Toronto region, the preference of between about 85 per cent and 90 per cent of consumers.

About 90 per cent of buyers of detached homes want a kitchen island. But the number of island-seeking Toronto high-rise buyers fell to about 75 per cent from 87 per cent two years earlier.

When it comes to counters, quartz was edging up on granite’s popularity but the latter stone remained the clear favourite among 90 per cent of GTA mid-rise buyers and 75 per cent of high-rise consumers.

Solid surface counters such as Corian and Staron weren’t as popular as stone, but about 48 per cent of GTA high-rise buyers cited those materials compared to 28 per cent in 2015.

Cabinet preferences didn’t change much over the three-year survey period. Maple and oak remained the clear favourites among detached-house buyers. But more condo buyers were looking for oak in the GTA, where it was the preference of 75 per cent, compared to 39 per cent two years earlier. High-rise consumers looking for oak cabinets rose to 65 per cent in 2017, from 39 per cent in 2015.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

The survey shows that consumers will pay more for a house with energy efficient features — but we’re in it to save utility costs rather than the planet. High-efficiency windows were the most often cited preference (91 per cent) among detached home buyers, compared to 77 per cent of high-rise buyers.

LED lighting has increased among detached- and mid-rise home buyers through the three survey periods. Among GTA high-rise shoppers, however, it has dropped to about 70 per cent from 87 per cent two years ago.

Source: Canadian Homebuyer Preference National Study 2017

Top 10 ‘Must haves’ for new-construction homes

Walk-in closets

Energy-efficient appliances

High-efficiency windows

Linen closets

Overall energy-efficient home

Kitchen islands

Open concept kitchens

Large windows

Two-car garage

HRV-ERV air exchange

Source: Avid Ratings for the Canadian Home Builders Association

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Sonam Kapoor to open standalone stores of her brand Rheson across the country

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

When Sonam Kapoor began her acting career in 2012, nobody thought that she’ll one day become the numero uno fashionista. The actress slowly and gradually showed that she stands out when it comes to her choice of clothes and the way she carries it. Since a long time, there were murmurs of she starting a clothing line. A few years ago, she unveiled that she along with her sister Rhea are indeed starting a fashion brand and it was named Rheson, after the names of the sisters. Finally, this year in May it had a grand launch.

Till now, the clothes of Rheson were available exclusively at Shoppers Stop outlets and its website. But now, Sonam is all set to launch a series of brick and mortar outlets to reach out to a wider audience. She said that she and Rhea had tied up with Shoppers Shop to enhance distribution. As a result, the clothes of Rheson were available in several places in India. But now, they plan to open standalone stores since that will give them direct access to customers.

A lot of companies are increasingly turning to the online space in order to increase their sales. Sonam Kapoor on the other hand is going the opposite way. But she believes that doing so will enable the brand to penetrate into different areas of the country. As of now, the plan is that the first Rheson store would be set up in Mumbai and then gradually, stores will be opened in other cities too.

And that’s not all. Sonam and Rhea Kapoor are all set to expand their collection. At present, they are selling women’s clothing and also bags. Now they plan to venture into menswear and accessories too. However, all the products of Rheson would be stylish and yet affordable since they want to target those who can’t afford expensive brand.

On the film front, Sonam Kapoor will be seen next in Veere Di Wedding which incidentally is produced by her sister Rhea. It also stars Kareena Kapoor Khan, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania. Directed by Khoobsurat director, it’s all set to release on May 18, 2018.

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Priyanka Chopra enacts a scene from Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

One of the greatest films to have come out from Bollywood is Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Released in 1995, this romantic flick starred Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol and was Aditya Chopra’s directorial debut. It gave a lot of people relationship goals. Women especially fell with the film thanks to the character of Raj, played by Shah Rukh Khan, who goes all out to win the heart of Simran, essayed by Kajol, and also of her parents.

For actress Priyanka Chopra too, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge holds a special place in her heart. She revealed this when she appeared on the sets of the TV show ‘India’s Next Superstars’, hosted by blockbuster directors Rohit Shetty and Karan Johar. Everyone then expected that the romantic scenes or songs must be her favourite moments from the film. But however, she highlighted the lesser talked about sequence of Shah Rukh and Karan Johar (who was an assistant on the film and played a small role) going to Amrish Puri’s shop and SRK punching KJo. Priyanka Chopra insisted that Karan Kohar and Rohit Shetty recreate the scene with her. Both the judges obliged. Rohit Shetty portrayed the character of Puri, Karan Johar played himself while Priyanka Chopra stepped into Shah Rukh Khan’s shoes. Just like in the original scene, Karan got punched in the end but this time it was Priyanka Chopra who did the needful. After the recreation of the scene, Priyanka revealed that she always wanted to smack Karan Johar ever since she saw Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and her wish finally got fulfilled on the sets of ‘India’s Next Superstars’.

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