Archive | March, 2018

Canada expels Russian diplomats in response to spy poisoning

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the move is in solidarity with Britain in the wake of a nerve agent attack in that country which left a former Russian spy and his daughter in hospital.

OTTAWA—Four Russian spies based in Canada have been ordered out of the country as Western governments seek to condemn the Kremlin’s alleged involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian agent and his daughter in Britain.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the expulsions Monday as the U.S. and more than a dozen European allies took similar actions against dozens of Russian diplomats in their own countries.

The scope of the mass expulsions appears to be unprecedented since the Cold War; British Prime Minister Theresa May said a total of more than 100 Russian diplomats in 18 countries had been told to go home.

The move follows the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury on March 4 by what has been described as a military-grade nerve agent.

The two remain in critical condition in hospital; a British police officer who found the two unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre was also hospitalized, but has since been released.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the attack on Skripal, who served as a double agent for British intelligence before he was arrested by Russian authorities and later transferred to the United Kingdom in a spy swap.

But Western governments have nonetheless blamed Russia for what Freeland described in a strongly worded statement as a “despicable, heinous and reckless act, potentially endangering the lives of hundreds.

 “The nerve-agent attack represents a clear threat to the rules-based international order and to the rules that were established by the international community to ensure chemical weapons would never again destroy human lives.”

The four Russians ordered out of Canada are based in Ottawa and Montreal, Freeland said, and are either intelligence officers or “have used their diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in our democracy.”

The minister did not provide further details, including the nature of their activities or why the Russians had been permitted to stay in Canada if they posed a threat to the country.

U.S. officials estimated Monday there are currently more than 100 Russian intelligence officers in the U.S., according to the New York Times.

The British government last week expelled 23 Russian diplomats in response to the attack on Skripal, and Freeland said Canada was acting in solidarity with its ally.

The U.S. announced it was expelling 60 Russians while Germany, France, Poland and more than a dozen other European countries were also taking action.

“These measures are not aimed at the Russian people, with whom Canadians have long and fruitful ties,” she added. “Canada remains committed to dialogue and co-operation with Russia on issues where we face common challenges.”

This isn’t the first time Canada has expelled a Russian diplomat; such measures weren’t uncommon during the Cold War while a handful have been ordered out since the current tensions between the West and Russia began in 2014.

But most recent expulsions have typically involved one or, at most, two Russians and they have remained relatively low-key affairs, without the type of language or co-ordination involved in Monday’s mass action.

The Russian Foreign Ministry protested the moves Monday, calling them “unfriendly” and a “provocative gesture” while accusing British authorities of failing to apprehend the real perpetrators behind Skripal’s poisoning.

“It goes without saying that this unfriendly move by this group of countries will not go unnoticed and we will respond to it,” the ministry added in a statement.

Russia expelled 23 British diplomats last week in response to London’s decision to kick out 23 Russians, and has typically adopted a tit-for-tat approach when it comes to such expulsions.


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Doug Ford says he will cut red tape to revive Ontario manufacturing jobs

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

The PC leader spoke Saturday at a campaign office opening in Ajax, where he was joined by former rivals Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott.

AJAX—Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford talked about cutting red tape for business as he revved up supporters at a campaign office opening in Ajax on Saturday.

“There’s no reason why we can’t have the manufacturing jobs back,” Ford told a cheering crowd at the office opening for Rod Phillips, the PC candidate in the redrawn riding of Ajax.

Ford said 333,000 manufacturing jobs have left Ontario, and that as premier, he could attract investment by cutting red tape.

“When I talk to owners of companies, no matter if it’s small or large, the number one issue is all the bureaucracy and red tape and regulation that they have to face,” he said, adding that businesses “have to make sure that we don’t have a carbon tax, they have to make sure that we’re competitive when it comes to hydro rates.”

Phillips, who is former chairman of Postmedia and former president and CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, is looking to unseat current Ajax-Pickering Liberal MPP Joe Dickson, who has held the seat since 2007.

“People are ready for a change from Kathleen Wynne and Joe Dickson,” he says. “Hydro rates are too high, taxes are too high … the cost of living in Ajax is too high.

Phillips has been part of the PC party for 30 years, and says he is impressed with how quickly the party came together after Ford’s win.

“It’s the fastest I’ve ever seen he team come back together …” he says adding that former leader Patrick Brown’s resignation amidst sexual misconduct allegations could have been “very destructive for the party, but ended up being very unifying.”

Ajax resident Jim Honchar stopped by the rally primarily to see Ford, who he describes as “a force to be reckoned with.”

The local retiree is a longtime PC supporter and says he feels optimistic about his party’s chances in Ajax for the first time in years.

“I think there’s more hope now that (Ford) is the leader. He’s someone who can get things done,” Honchar said, adding that hydro rates and health care are the election issues most important to him.

Also on hand at the Ajax event March 24, were two of the three candidates Ford beat in the party leadership race, Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott.

Elliott, a former Whitby-Oshawa MPP, says she is planning to run in the provincial election but hasn’t determined which riding yet — although she confirmed it won’t be in Durham.

After the Ajax office opening, Ford headed to Oshawa for a rally at the Canadian Army Corps Association.

The Ontario provincial election is June 7.


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Ontario surveys university and college students on sexual violence

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

The online survey is made up of more than 50 questions that gauge respondents’ perceptions of consent and rape myths, their experiences with sexual violence, and how well they think their school responds to reports of sexual violence.

Students at post-secondary institutions across Ontario are taking part in a survey on sexual violence as part of the province’s efforts to combat sexual assault and harassment on campus.

The online survey is made up of more than 50 questions that gauge respondents’ perceptions of consent and rape myths, their experiences with sexual violence, and how well they think their school responds to reports of sexual violence.

Ontario’s minister of advanced education and skills development said the province commissioned the survey to improve how the issue is dealt with.

 “Research shows that sexual violence is consistently under-reported and really lacks consistent data,” Mitzie Hunter said in an interview.

 “This survey is one component of a multi-faceted strategy that we’ve developed here at the province to better understand and respond to sexual violence and harassment on campus, and frankly to change the culture and the climate around this issue.”

Legislation that came into effect Jan. 1, 2017, made it mandatory for all universities and colleges in the province to have policies that lay out rules and guidelines for reporting, investigating and disciplining sexual violence.

“We are doing the survey to get better data and equip institutions with the information they need to make changes,” Hunter explained. “We know there is more work to be done for sure and we are committed to doing that work.”

The Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey is open to undergraduate and graduate students at universities, colleges and private post-secondary vocational schools. Eligible respondents were emailed an invitation to the survey.

University students have access to the survey until Monday, while college students have until April 2 to send in their responses. Students at private vocational colleges completed the survey between Feb. 16 and March 16.

The results will be compiled, analyzed and shared with post-secondary school administrations in the summer, Hunter said. Some of the data will be made public, though the government has not yet determined which parts that will include, the minister added.

At least one advocacy group is criticizing the survey, however, saying it does not address certain issues and may be difficult for some students to understand.

“There was a lot of confusion (among students) when filling out the survey,” said Jade Cooligan Pang, a Carleton University student and one of the organizers of Our Turn, a Canada-wide organization that works to prevent sexual violence on campus.

“There was a significant lack of definitions — for example the definition of consent is not part of the survey. The survey does not necessarily discuss institutional harms that might have taken place, or any retraumatization a survivor may have experienced when reporting to their post-secondary institution.”

Cooligan Pang said she and other Our Turn leaders met with Hunter on March 20 to discuss the roadblocks survivors often face when trying to tell university or college officials about a sexual assault.

“We know for a fact that some students are being told they are unable to file a formal complaint with their post-secondary institution,” Cooligan Pang said. “These numbers are not reported because an investigation never takes place.”

Our Turn has called on the province to create a set of “minimum standards” for supports and services related to dealing with sexual violence and assault, and an oversight mechanism for the way schools handle such reports.

It is also important to give survivors of sexual violence a means of reporting their experiences anonymously, Cooligan Pang said.

“Anonymous reporting provides survivors who are not ready to go through a formal compliant or police investigation with a way of reporting so that people are aware what is happening in the community without having to go through the taxing process of a formal report,” she said.

Sharing a story of sexual assault or harassment in an anonymous forum can be therapeutic for survivors, noted Karen Kelsky, a U.S. anthropologist who created and circulated a survey for post-secondary students, researchers and instructors to anonymously report recent and historical allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by faculty members.

“The #MeToo movement prompted women to begin to tell their stories anonymously,” she said. “As they told their stories anonymously, they said, ‘I’ve never told this story to anyone and it is such a relief and so healing to me to tell it even though I’m not naming names.’ ”


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Toronto councillors protest decision to not debate city’s financial future before the election

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

A motion from Councillor Gord Perks failed to bring a report from the outgoing city manager to council for discussion.

Councillors staged a verbal protest on the chamber floor at city hall on Monday over a delayed decision on the city’s financial future.

Councillor Gord Perks moved that council debate a long-awaited report from outgoing city manager Peter Wallace on a long-term financial plan. That report was tabled at Mayor John Tory’s executive committee earlier this month and then punted to the new term for further discussion.

“I can think of no more urgent conversation for this council to have,” said Perks. “I can think of no more important debate for Torontonians to have then whether we are a bare-bones government that just delivers services to property like sewer hook-ups and fire trucks and police and that’s about it, or whether we deliver the suite of services that a modern city has to deliver to be inclusive, to be fair, to be livable.”

By moving the procedural motion to take the item from executive committee and place it on the council agenda this week, Perks created the opportunity for members of council to speak on the issue.

His allies took that opening to take both the mayor and his executive team to task.

“Some people have criticized this mayor for kicking the can down the road,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who tried to get council to prioritize infrastructure projects based on value for money. “I think what this mayor has done is far worse. No other city is spending over $3 billion on one subway stop. No other city in the world is rebuilding elevated expressways. No other city in the world is neglecting their responsibility to become a 21st-century city and actually start spending money in the right places, such as making Yonge St. safer.”

Wallace’s report summarized advice he has repeatedly given council as, he outlined, they closed in on a financial cliff. In five years time, Wallace’s report said, the operating gap council would have to close to balance the budget would reach $1.42 billion — a significant challenge for a council which yearly approves a nearly $15-billion budget and has frequently closed the gap using one-time, unsustainable strategies like pulling money out of shrinking reserve funds.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said the reticence to have these kinds of discussions in an election year results in a strategy of “delay and duck.”

Councillors Mary Fragedakis and Mike Layton said they were worried that delay would only cause further harm.

Wallace’s report presents three distinct futures council could choose for the city: Cutting services to shrink the size of government; raising revenues to maintain existing services; or significantly increasing revenues to pay for the city-building plans council has already approved. Wallace only presented the paths and did not recommend which one council should choose.

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who once aligned himself with left-leaning colleagues like Perks, but has become one of the mayors most vocal allies, accused council members of not coming to executive to debate the item there (Councillors Perks, Wong-Tam and Janet Davis did attend the meeting that was held, at the mayor’s direction, in Scarborough).

“Aren’t you on Twitter? You have 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 followers? Tweet our your position. Aren’t you on Facebook? Don’t you have a website?” De Baeremaeker suggested as an alternative to having the debate at a council session. “Call a town hall meeting.”

An attempt by Councillor Stephen Holyday to end the discussion failed. The debate on the motion lasted an hour and a half.

In the end, council voted down Perks’ motion, 13 to 27, meaning the decision of executive to have a new city manager, who has yet to be selected, return with an implementation plan in 2019 stands. Tory and every member of executive voted against Perks’ motion. That meant that city councillors not on executive were not able to ask staff any questions or move motions related to that future report.

The direction is not binding on a future term of council. If a plan was brought forward, it is likely it would not have any effect until the 2020 budget process.


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Trade woes, interest rates to significantly slow Canada’s economic growth

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

Rising interest rates, moderating employment expected to curb household spending in 2018.

Uncertainty around NAFTA talks and the possibility of increased U.S. duties will contribute to a significant slowdown in the Canadian economy this year after a stellar 2017, the Conference Board of Canada says in its latest forecast.

While household spending will remain the main economic driver, the pace of spending will ease amid rising interest rates, high household debt and moderating employment growth, the board’s 2018 economic outlook for Canada says. It adds that exports and business investment are unlikely to pick up the slack.

The forecast notes that GDP growth began to taper off late last year, and the trend is expected to continue, with 2018 growth pegged at 1.9 per cent, down from 3 per cent in 2017.

Fears that North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations will fail to produce an agreement and that the Trump administration will impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum “are challenging businesses and exporters alike,” said Matthew Stewart, the economic research and analysis group’s director of national forecasting.

On March 8, the U.S. president imposed a 25 per cent tariff on imported steel and a 10 per cent duty on U.S. aluminum imports, but included exemptions for Canada and Mexico that could be rescinded if the free trade talks fail.

Recent Conference Board research found that real GDP would lose half a percentage point of growth in the year following the termination of NAFTA, but the impact could be larger if business confidence or foreign investment to Canada is undermined by the loss of free trade.

The trade uncertainty has helped keep a lid on investment plans, with business investment spending forecast to expand by just 1 per cent in 2018, down from growth of 2.3 per cent in 2017, despite a more positive outlook for profits and sales.

Stewart said some may also find Canada to be a less competitive destination for investment considering the large American tax cuts passed at the end of last year.

And even with strong demand in the U.S. and a competitively low Canadian dollar, the forecast says Canadian exports will continue to underperform in 2018. For the third year in a row, non-energy merchandise exports are on track to record almost no growth, while exports in the wood products, aerospace and automotive sectors are all forecast to decline for the second year in a row, the outlook says.

It adds that tight labour markets and increased retirements from baby boomers will lead to much slower employment growth in 2018, with job gains to fall to 232,000 positions in 2018, down from 336,900 in 2017. Low unemployment, however, will help support wage growth, which the outlook says could help cushion the impact of rising interest rates.

And as consumers dial back spending, purchases of durable goods are expected to bear the brunt of the slowdown. Overall, real personal consumption is expected to increase by 2.4 per cent, down from 3.5 per cent last year.

The outlook also sees further housing market cooling on factors including a “stress test” imposed on mortgage borrowers by federal regulators that reduces the maximum mortgage borrowers can qualify for and which will reduce housing demand, particularly for higher-priced units.

This will be partly offset by stronger population gains from higher immigration targets.

Housing starts will ease to roughly 213,200 units this year from 219,700 units in 2017, the outlook says.

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Tight supply drives up new house prices and condo values in February: Report

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

Fewer than 20 per cent of new single-family homes priced under $750,000

There is little relief so far this year for first-time buyers in the Toronto region looking to purchase a new construction home.

The overall limited supply of newly built and pre-construction homes is particularly severe in the single-family category — detached, semi-detached and townhouses — priced for first-time buyers, according to the home building industry.

That shortage is continuing to send first-time buyers into the condo market where the benchmark price of a condo rose 39.5 per cent year over year in February, compared to a 12.8 per cent price rise for single-family homes.

The ongoing supply squeeze helped drive up single-family home prices to $1.22 million on average year over year last month, said David Wilkes, president and CEO of the Building and Land Development Association (BILD) in a press release Thursday.

Condo apartments and stacked townhouses, which had an average selling price of $729,735 in February, continue to dominate the new housing market, accounting for nearly 1,900 of the 2,159 new homes sold, said BILD.

The number of new home sales continues to be low. The number of single-family homes that sold in February — 264 — was down 82 per cent year-over-year, 79 per cent below the 10-year average.

Condo sales also dropped 50 per cent compared to February 2017, but remained 17 per cent above the 10-year average number of sales.

Of the 12,896 new homes on the market at the end of February, 9,285 were condos. But supply for all types of homes is below what the industry considers a healthy level. There are about four months’ worth of inventory on the market, says BILD. Ideally there should be about nine to 12 months’.

Although there are more single-family homes on the market compared to last year, historically, the inventory is still low, said Patricia Arsenault, executive vice-president of Altus Group, which compiles the building industry statistics.

“There is a dearth of new single-family product that is affordable to a broader range of buyers,” she said. “Fewer than one in five single-family homes available to purchase at the end of February were priced below $750,000.”

The high price of traditional low-rise houses is a key driver in the more moderately priced condo sector on both the new construction and re-sale home sectors.

Condos cost $814 per sq. ft. on average in Feburary, compared to $652 per sq. ft. a year ago and $802 per sq. ft. in January. The average size of a condo was 896 sq. ft.

BILD, which blames regulation for limiting the supply of new homes on the market, wants the issue on the upcoming provincial and civic election agendas.

“We encounter excessive red tape, out-of-date zoning, and lack of developable land service with critical infrastructure,” said Wilkes.

The most single-family homes sold in the Toronto area last month were in Halton, which accounted for 117 of the total 264 sales. There were only three in the City of Toronto.

Toronto remains the king of condos with 973 of the 1,895 sales, while York Region had 748 condo sales.

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MP Rob Oliphant hosts reception on Parliament Hill to mark Pakistan Day and Lahore Resolution

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

Ottawa – On Wednesday, March 21, Rob Oliphant, MP for Don Valley West, hosted a reception on Parliament Hill for members of the Canadian-Pakistani community to mark Pakistan Day and the 78 years since the Lahore Resolution. As Co-Chair of the Canada-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Group, Mr. Oliphant welcomed Pakistani High Commissioner H.E. Tariq Azim Khan, as well as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi and 15 other MPs from the Liberal, Conservative and Green parties, to the celebration, which highlighted the important relationship Canada and Pakistan have shared over the past seven decades. “Canada and Pakistan continue to co-operate on a variety of common issues, from governance and democracy, to regional security, to the fight against climate change,” said Mr. Oliphant. “Celebrating those achievements with members of the Canadian-Pakistani community at events such as our Pakistan Day reception help emphasize these deep, long lasting bonds between our two countries.”


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Investment of $2.4 Billion in Life-Saving Care for Children

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

Ontario’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is already one of the world’s largest and most respected pediatric hospitals. It has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and their families across Ontario. To make sure SickKids can continue to provide the most advanced, compassionate care to children from all over Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced today that the upcoming provincial Budget will support a new Patient Care Centre at SickKids.

The Premier was joined at SickKids today by Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance, and Dr. Helena Jaczek, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, to explain how Ontario’s investment will provide leading care for the youngest patients from all across the province.

Investing in new hospitals and the best in children’s health care is part of the government’s plan to support care, create opportunity and make life more affordable during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25 and everyone 65 and over through OHIP+, the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.

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Sonam Kapoor, Anand Ahuja to wed in Geneva in May

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

Sonam Kapoor will tie the knot with boyfriend Anand Ahuja on May 11 and May 12 in Geneva. Both the families are busy preparing for the impending wedding.

The leading tabloid quoted a source who said: “The date and venue for the wedding have been locked and mass bookings for flights are presently underway. Her dad Anil Kapoor is personally making phone calls to invite guests. There will be sangeet and mehendi ceremonies, followed by a traditional Hindu wedding. The nuptials will be preceded by an engagement ceremony attended by the family’s inner circle but the venue for that is presently not known.”

Sonam Kapoor was in Geneva in January and the actress was in love with the place and decided to get married there.

As per report, Anand and Sonam will get engaged in March-April 2018. It is learnt that the ‘Saawariya’ actress will get engaged before the release of her next outing ‘Veera Di Wedding’ in June.

After the release of the film, Sonam will get some free time to prepare for her wedding which is scheduled to take place by the end of 2018.

While the report of Sonam’s engagement is strongly doing the round, the actress refused to comment on the issue. “Only work on the cards right now,” Sonam was quoted as saying.

Sonam and Anand are going strong and the couple often posts lovey-dovey pictures of them. The report of Sonam dating a Delhi based guy sparked off when the ‘Neerja’ actress was caught with Anand at the ‘Rustom’ success bash.

Sonam guards her personal life fiercely and believes in keeping her love-life to herself. In an interview to a leading agency some time ago, the actress had said, “There are a lot of other things which make you a whole person besides who you’re dating. My personal life is out there because I’ve always been myself but if you’re talking about personal life as in (context of) boyfriend, then I’ll never talk about it.”

“There are certain things about my life which I keep personal, whether it’s my relationships, I never talk about that. I won’t even tell my parents till I decide it’s serious, not because of anything but I feel there are other things in life which can be talked about,” she added.

Their respective families also accepted their relationship and it’s go ahead from both the parties.


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Jacqueline Fernandez gets hurt on the set of ‘Race 3’

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

Jacqueline Fernandez was rushed to the hospital after getting hurt on the set of ‘Race 3’. She got severely hurt in the eye while doing an action sequence. She was shooting in Abu Dhabi.

A source informed a section of media, “Jacqueline was immediately rushed to the hospital. Her eye didn’t stop bleeding. She is currently under observation and will be discharged only after the doctors treat her eye.”

Jacqueline returned to the set and resumed shooting after visiting hospital. Producer Ramesh Taurani confirmed the news and told IANS, “Yes, it was a minor injury. Jacqueline is hurt above the eye while playing squash. She is better now and has resumed shooting.”

Since the last few weeks, Jacqueline has been shooting for action sequences in Abu Dhabi. The scenes demand the actress to perform a stylized action and Mix Martial Art techniques involving a lot of kicks and punches. She has been prepping for the action moves daily for two hours.

‘Race 3’ is a multi-starrer film featuring Salman Khan, Jacqueline Fernandez, Anil Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Saqib Saleem and Daisy Shah. Produced by Salman Khan Films and Ramesh Taurani under the banner of Tips Films, ‘Race 3’ helmed by Remo D’Souza is slated to hit theatres on Eid 2018.


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