Archive | Canadian Politics

Hydro One sending crews to Florida to help restore power after Irma

Posted on 15 September 2017 by admin

Nearly 4.5 million homes and businesses lost power in the storm that made landfall in the U.S. on Sunday.

Hydro One is sending crews to Florida in an effort to support the millions of people left without power in the wake of hurricane Irma.

The operator of Ontario’s largest electricity distribution system says it’s getting ready to send 175 employees south.

Nearly 4.5 million homes and businesses lost power in the storm that made landfall in the U.S. on Sunday, and utility officials say it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.

Hydro One says crews are expected to start crossing the border into the U.S. at about 6 p.m. Monday, and should reach the affected areas by Wednesday afternoon.

It says it has “reciprocal agreements” in place across North America to provide assistance during significant power outages.

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Doug Ford will run for mayor in 2018 rematch

Posted on 15 September 2017 by admin

Mayor John Tory said Friday he welcomes a rematch in the 2018 mayoral race and holding up his record to Doug Ford’s in the previous council term.

Doug Ford, ex-city councillor and brother of the late Rob Ford, has confirmed he wants a mayoral rematch with John Tory next year.

“Robbie, this one is going to be for you,” Ford told a huge crowd at the annual “Ford Fest” party in their mother’s sprawling Etobicoke backyard.

“I will be running for mayor of Toronto,” he said to deafening cheers from “Ford Nation” fans.

Tory “is all talk and no action and broken promises,” said Ford, 52, after speeches by councillors nephew Michael Ford, Vince Crisanti and Giorgio Mammoliti, and Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton.

Ford accused Tory of letting city spending “skyrocket” and vowed as mayor he would give Toronto the lowest taxes in North America and end the “war on the car.”

Tory said Friday he welcomes a rematch and holding up his record to Ford’s in the scandal-filled 2010-2014 council term in which Doug was Ward 2 councillor and Rob was mayor.

“The council was dysfunctional. The relationship with the other levels of government (was) in tatters. The reputation of the city was being challenged every day in media around the world.

“I think people will have to think long and hard about whether they want to go back to the old way and to the chaos that we saw just three short years ago.”

The actual campaign for the Oct. 22, 2018 election does not start until May 1, so Ford is a sort of shadow candidate until then. He can talk about his intention to run but cannot fundraise, buy ads, post election signs or otherwise spend money on his mayoral quest.

Ford had been toying with running for Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives in the June 7, 2018 provincial election.

Sources have told the Star that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals were keen to have Ford as an opponent they could accuse of wanting to bring the right-wing politics of U.S. President Donald Trump to Ontario, and that some PCs were keen for him to choose a rematch with Tory instead. Ford denied those allegations.

Others have said the co-owner of Deco Labels & Tags was dissuaded from running provincially when PC officials told him that, if elected and elevated to cabinet, by law he would have to put his shares in the family company in a blind trust.

Ford was elected as city councillor, serving as his brother’s sidekick and top adviser, promising to find billions of dollars in waste at city hall. At one point he wanted city staff to put a connecting door between the mayor’s office and his adjoining council office.

When the Star in March 2013 revealed then-mayor Rob Ford had attended a naval gala incoherent, and had a substance abuse problem that worried those around him, Doug Ford branded the assertions lies meant to keep the “gravy train” running at city hall.

Ford likewise dismissed as nonsense later allegations that his brother was caught on videotape smoking crack cocaine with gang members who sold drugs and guns. Doug Ford has said he became aware of his brother’s addictions only after Rob Ford confessed them in November 2013.

As councillor Doug Ford could claim success in helping convince city council to pass austerity budgets, contract out garbage collection between the Humber River and Yonge St. and extract deep concessions from city workers in new contracts.

However, his behind-the-scenes push for a remake of Toronto’s east waterfront with a ferris wheel and boat-in hotel dealt his brother his first major policy loss. Doug Ford’s “cut the waist” challenge, in which he and his brother publicly competed to lose weight, embarrassed the mayor who failed to shed pounds and was peppered with reporters’ questions about his scandals.

Rob Ford successfully went to rehab but had to abandon his 2014 mayoral re-election campaign after being diagnosed with a rare aggressive cancer. Doug Ford took his brother’s place late in the campaign and received 330,610 votes to 394,775 votes for Tory. Rob Ford, who was re-elected to the council seat he had held for a decade, died in March 2016.

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Defence asks for delay in gas plants trial of top aides to ex-premier Dalton McGuinty

Posted on 15 September 2017 by admin

Former chief of staff, one-time deputy chief were to go on trial Monday for alleged deletion of data linked to cancellation of gas-fired power plants.

Defense lawyers are requesting the long-awaited criminal trial of two former top aides to ex-premier Dalton McGuinty in the gas plants case be delayed another week, possibly longer.

Former McGuinty chief of staff David Livingston, 65‎, and one-time deputy chief Laura Miller, 38, were slated to go on trial Monday in Ontario Court of Justice for the alleged deletion of computer hard drives linked to the Liberal government’s cancellation of gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election.

But defence lawyers sought the postponement to have more time to go over boxes of evidence recently disclosed by the Crown — and accused prosecutors of withholding information.

“It’s an ongoing process we’re involved in,” said Miller lawyer Scott Hutchison, who noted witness interviews by the Crown are still taking place this week.

Notes from re-interviews of Crown witnesses are in many cases “cryptic,” said Livingston lawyer Brian Gover.

He also told Justice Timothy Lipson that the defence also deserves an explanation from the Crown for its decision to cut the number of witnesses in the case in half, to 12 from 25.

In many cases the re-interviews are hours longer than the initial police interviews with witnesses, said Gover, raising the possibility prosecutors are engaged in a fresh “information-gathering exercise.”

Crown prosecutor Tom Lemon said he would consent to the one-week postponement.

Lemon told court the witnesses struck from the Crown list are people whose testimony would duplicate others or are “unnecessary.” The judge said this “sounds like a normal assessment of the Crown” to keep the case moving.

Livingston and Miller are accused of breach of trust, mischief in relation to data, and misuse of a computer system.

The pair, who deny any wrongdoing in the wiping of hard drives in the McGuinty premier’s office before Premier Kathleen Wynne took power, face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

McGuinty was never under investigation and cooperated with the Ontario Provincial Police through their probe.

Under the OPP charges, detectives allege Livingston gave a special computer password to a non-government employee — Peter Faist, Miller’s common-law spouse — enabling him to clean the computer drives in the premier’s office before Wynne was formally sworn in on Feb. 11, 2013.

Faist, a computer specialist who has denied doing anything wrong and is not on trial, was paid $10,000 from the taxpayer-funded Liberal caucus budget for wiping the drives – money the party subsequently repaid the treasury.

Both the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats believe the computers could have contained information linked to the Liberals’ controversial decision before the 2011 election to cancel the gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville, which were locally unpopular.

The Liberals held onto all five seats adjacent to the two proposed facilities in 2011 and again in the 2014 campaign.

Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk has estimated that moving them to Sarnia and Napanee could cost ratepayers up to $1.1 billion over 20 years.

The trial coincides with both the Legislature resuming Monday and the ongoing Election Act trial related to the 2015 Sudbury byelection.

In that case, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s former deputy chief of staff, Patricia Sorbara, and local activist Gerry Lougheed are charged with offering an ex-Liberal candidate a job to quit the nomination race for preferred candidate Glenn Thibeault, now the energy minister.

Wynne herself will take the stand to testify on Wednesday.

McGuinty is not expected the testify in the gas plants case.

The trials are taking place as politicians gird for a June 7, 2018 provincial election.

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Canadians barred from Turks and Caicos flight allowed to return home, Air Canada says

Posted on 15 September 2017 by admin

Turks and Caicos officials have now agreed to let Air Canada operate the return flight from Turks and Caicos, which is scheduled to leave Monday afternoon.

Air Canada says about 100 Canadians who had been barred by local authorities from a flight leaving Turks and Caicos will now be allowed to fly home.

Hurricane Irma caused extensive flooding in the islands last week, with water reaching above the waist in some areas.

Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick says the company was planning on using a chartered plane to evacuate 95 Canadians who had been staying on the islands, but civil aviation authorities wouldn’t allow the passengers to board the flight.

Fitzpatrick says the main airport terminal on the islands is closed, but humanitarian flights have been allowed to operate.

He says authorities in Turks and Caicos have now agreed to let Air Canada operate the return flight, which is scheduled to leave Monday afternoon.

Fitzpatrick says the Canadians are expected to arrive in Toronto Monday evening.

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Everything you need to know about NAFTA

Posted on 09 September 2017 by admin

Here is the latest news, why we’re talking about it, and what each country wants from a new deal

 What we talk about when we talk about NAFTA: here’s everything you need you know to stay up to speed on the trade deal renegotiation. We’ll keep you in the loop through every twist and turn.


•          Aug. 23:U.S. President Donald Trump, in keeping with some of his prior rhetoric on the trade deal, predicted the demise of NAFTA in a campaign-style speech Aug. 22 in Phoenix, Ariz.

“I told you from the first day, we will renegotiate NAFTA or we will terminate NAFTA,” he said. “I personally don’t think you can make a deal without termination, but we’ll see what happens. You’re in good hands, I can tell you.”

Canada’s response: Keep calm and carry on. “Trade negotiations often have moments of heated rhetoric,” Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, told the Star on Aug. 23. “Our priorities remain the same, and we will continue to work hard to modernize NAFTA, supporting millions of middle class jobs.”

Mexico also played it cool. Secretary for Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray, tweeted in Spanish: “No surprises: we are already in a negotiation. Mexico will remain on the table with serenity and firmness and national interest ahead.”

Even Trump’s own chief trade official tried to downplay the significance of Trump’s latest remarks. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, in a statement, said Trump “has been clear from the very beginning that, if the NAFTA renegotiation is unsuccessful, he will withdraw from the agreement.”

“Under the President’s direction, USTR has begun renegotiating NAFTA to seek substantial changes that address its fundamental failures and create fair trade policy that benefits all Americans.”

•          Aug. 20: The first round of the renegotiations concluded in Washington, D.C. In a joint statement, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. committed to keeping an aggressive pace in pursuit of a new deal. The goal is to wrap up negotiations by the end of the year.

•          Sept. 4: At the second round of talks in Mexico City, negotiators ran into early sticking pointson nearly every major element considered key to crafting a new deal. A source told The Canadian Press “the tone is negative.” One example the source gave was that Canada wants greater access to professional visas but the Americans have pushed off that conversation.


NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement. It’s a trade deal between Canada, the United States and Mexico, which basically sets the ground rules for the exchange of goods and services between the three countries. It also applies to cross-border investment and who can bid on government contracts in each country, and includes procedures for ironing any disputes that come up (and they do come up).

The original deal came into effect in 1994, when it superseded the original Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States. If you care enough to read about NAFTA, you probably recall that this previous deal caused quite the discussion during the 1988 federal election, with Brian Mulroney’s Conservatives pushing for the agreement with the U.S.

Twenty-three years after NAFTA came into force, the participating countries are now renegotiating it for the first time.


Because of Trump. He repeatedly denounced NAFTA as a bad deal when he was campaigning for president, promising to make a better agreement for Americans or just kill it.

Whether the deal is good or bad depends how you look at it. Some point to increases in trade and investment in the NAFTA zone since it was signed. Others say manufacturing jobs, particularly in Canada and the U.S., have moved to Mexico where wages are lower.

Either way, Canada and Mexico reluctantly came to the table stating that they’d like to modernize the 23-year-old deal, which was signed before the ascendancy of the internet. So here we are.


•          Canada-U.S. trade was worth $752 billion in 2016. That makes the U.S. by far Canada’s largest trading partner (China is second, with $85 billion in trade last year).

•          Total trade — as measured by each country’s imports from the other NAFTA partners — was worth more than $1.3 trillion at the end of 2015, according to the Canadian government. That’s more than triple what it was when the agreement was signed.

•          The share of Canadian GDP that comes from manufacturing has dropped to 10 per cent in 2014 from 17 per cent in 1995, according to estimates from the World Bank. It’s not clear how much of that is linked with the effects of NAFTA (some observers point to increasing machine automation and trade with other countries).


It’s expected there will be seven to nine rounds of talks, each happening roughly three weeks apart, alternating between the three countries. The first one was in Washington, D.C., from Aug. 16 to 20.

Mexico would like negotiations completed early next year before its presidential elections. The U.S. has its own timeline pressures — the midterm congressional elections in 2018.

Canada expects the talks could last months, and has signalled that it is all right with the quick timeline called for by the U.S. and Mexico.

But even if a deal is reached by the middle of next year, it could then take up to 12 months to ratify, and that could see the trade debate carry into the run-up to the 2019 federal election.


Now that this thing is going down, Canada is pushing for some improvements of its own. The country wants:

•          New chapters in the agreement on gender, Indigenous peoples, labour standards and the environment, with countries maintaining the right to address climate change;

•          Less red tape;

•          Easier cross-border travel for business professionals;

•          To protect key agricultural industries such as dairy, poultry and egg farming where production and supplies are managed under quota systems;

•          To preserve the dispute resolution systems in the original deal;

•          To enshrine clear rules for digital commerce, such as tariff-free digital trade within the NAFTA zone and privacy protections for consumer data held in Canadian-located computer servers;

•          To protect sensitive sectors such as Canadian cultural industries and telecommunications;

•          To ensure Canada is exempt from “Buy American” policies in federal and state procurement and infrastructure programs;

•          To protect the free movement of goods that allow integrated industries such as the automotive and manufacturing sectors to ship parts back and forth across borders;


The U.S. wants:

•          Stronger protection for U.S. intellectual property, including patents, copyrights and trademarks, a perennial demand of big pharmaceutical companies;

•          Tighter rules of origin that ensure goods and materials are sourced only from the United States and North America (this is a big deal for the auto industry);

•          Equivalent labour and environmental standards, a move that would raise the cost of doing business in Mexico and remove the incentive for manufacturers to move there;

•          Greater access for U.S. companies bidding on government procurement contracts in Canada and Mexico while protecting its ability to restrict procurement and infrastructure projects to American suppliers;

•          The removal of exemptions for NAFTA partners when the U.S. applies “safeguard” measures to protect American industries against dumping or unfair subsidies.


And Mexico is demanding:

•          Greater access for agricultural products with clearer rules, expeditious procedures and the elimination of barriers to trade;

•          More labour mobility;

•          “Improved” border infrastructure to facilitate the flow of cross-border goods. (Mexico insists it will not pay for Trump’s promised construction of a border wall);

•          Updated energy provisions;

•          Greater access to U.S. and Canadian markets for Mexican financial service providers and investors;

•          Greater integration of the telecommunication markets of the three countries;

•          More effective protection of intellectual property and updated provisions to account for the digital economy and e-commerce.


Governments aren’t the only ones in on the action. Labour groups, business conglomerates, industry representatives, political partisans, the trade world commentariat — all of them have something to say.

•          Unifor, which counts more than 23,000 autoworkers among its members, says NAFTA has driven the flight of manufacturing jobs out of Canada to Mexico and overseas. “There’s no question the Mexicans have taken our lunch, especially on auto. The question is, what do we do about? How do we wrestle back some of the manufacturing?” Unifor President Jerry Dias says.

•          The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says Canada should look for common ground with the U.S. on measures to reclaim manufacturing jobs. The centre wants an end to the investor-state dispute settlement provision, under Chapter 11. This allows corporations to sue a government over unfair laws or regulations. But the centre says foreign investors have used it to target government measures in the areas of environmental protection and management of natural resources. “Overly broad powers” have been used to “frustrate the legitimate exercise of government authority,” the centre claims.

•          The Business Council of Canada said renegotiating the trade pact is both a “risk and an opportunity” for Canada. “While doing no harm is our first priority, achieving only this would be a missed opportunity,” the submission said. It urges negotiators to modernize Canada’s trade ties with the U.S. and Mexico in areas such as intellectual property, labour mobility, procurement, the environment and regulatory co-operation. The council fears the U.S. will rewrite NAFTA’s rules of origin and push for wording that would allow the unilateral imposition of duties or other penalties without any form of dispute settlement.

•          The Conservative party, which is pro-free trade, says the NAFTA deal could be modernized to include digital commerce and to upgrade rules around new technologies. Conservative MP Randy Hoback, the party’s critic for Canada-U.S. relations and vice-chair of the Commons trade committee, says a new deal should, for example, set out harmonization of regulation for how countries would treat novel developments such as driverless trucks and cars.

•          The New Democrats support a renegotiation to “modernize” NAFTA, protection of Canada’s supply management system in agricultural sectors and retention of the state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism in the current deal’s Chapter 19, key to protecting Canadian softwood lumber and diafiltered milk against U.S. complaints. (Diafiltration is an additional step in milk processing sometimes done to achieve a higher protein concentration.)

But NDP trade critic Tracey Ramsey also takes aim at the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. “I believe Canada should insist that this is removed,” said Ramsey. “We’re the most sued country in the world under these provisions, mostly for trying to protect our environment.”

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Ottawa sends cargo plane with hurricane relief supplies to Texas

Posted on 09 September 2017 by admin

Shipment included baby formula, blankets and cribs, and departed the Canadian Forces base in Trenton, Ont., for the Lackland Airforce base near San Antonio.

The Canadian government sent a cargo plane loaded with humanitarian supplies to Texas on Sunday as part of a relief effort following the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The plane, filled with supplies including baby formula, blankets and cribs, departed the Canadian Forces base in Trenton, Ont., for the Lackland Airforce base near San Antonio.

In a statement, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said that Canada and the U.S. are there for each other in times of crisis, “like all good neighbours.”

The Ontario and Quebec governments are also chipping into to help with relief aid.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday about the floods and relief efforts, and the American embassy in Ottawa expressed gratitude for Canada’s offer of support.

Hurricane Harvey forced about 750,000 people out of their homes, and over one million others are under a voluntary evacuation order along the Gulf Coast.

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Doug Ford set to run against John Tory in mayoral rematch

Posted on 09 September 2017 by admin

Brother of former mayor Rob Ford is set to announce that he plans to challenge Mayor John Tory in next year’s Toronto election.

Doug Ford will announce next Friday that he plans to challenge Mayor John Tory in the 2018 Toronto election, sources say.

Ford has quietly been building a team in his bid for a rematch against Tory, who beat him in the 2014 municipal vote.

Joe Reis, one of the federal Conservative Party’s top campaign organizers, has been phoning around to elicit support for the former city councillor.

“Right now, I’m just shaking the trees and seeing if the people that I worked with before will come out for him like they did for his brother (former mayor Rob Ford, who died last year),” he said Friday.

Reis, who is also well-respected in provincial Progressive Conservative circles, said Torontonians are wary of a bloated civic bureaucracy that fails to deliver on key services.

“We go back to what his brother used to say: be there for the taxpayer. Drain the swamp . . . although I think that was another bushy-haired guy,” he said, referring to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been likened to Rob Ford.

“It’s the same principle, right? Stop the gravy train. I think they’re getting back on the gravy train.”

Even though the current mayor was leader of the Progressive Conservatives from 2004 until 2009, “the only thing Tory about that man is his name,” Reis joked.

 “I don’t think he’s conservative enough. We need someone who will really pull the purse strings back together and make sure the city understands why they’re there,” he said.

Asked what the response has been to Ford’s nascent campaign, Reis said: “very good, it’s been excellent. I’ve only had pushback from one person, who will remain nameless, because he has a vested interest in seeing that John Tory is returned.”

“I understand his personal vested interest . . . and I respect it, but I think, on the whole, people have been supportive. It will be a good run. I think Doug will have a good team,” he said, adding hastily “if he decides to enter.”

Ford, who had been toying with running for Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives in the June 7, 2018 provincial election, told the Star to “wait until Friday,” when he will announce his plan at the family Ford Fest barbecue in Etobicoke.

Tory’s campaign would welcome a reprise of the 2014 election, which was a referendum on Rob Ford’s tenure when Toronto was ridiculed around the world for the ex-mayor’s exploits, which included smoking crack.

“People vividly remember the chaos and dysfunction of the Ford years, and they don’t want to go back,” said one source on the Tory re-election effort, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.

“Also, Toronto voters find Trump-style politics repugnant and will not be inclined to look favourably on a candidate who embodies them and has publicly expressed his admiration for the guy,” said the insider, referring to Ford’s praise of Trump.

Amanda Galbraith, Tory’s former director of communications and his campaign spokeswoman in 2014 before she became a principal at Navigator Ltd., also made the comparison with the mercurial American president.

“Doug is basically Donald Trump Light. If he wants a rematch, I think voters will take one look at him and say, ‘No, thanks. We’ve seen this movie. We’ve got the T-shirt. We’ve moved on,’ ” she wrote in email.

Galbraith added that a reboot of 2014 would be “an election and narrative the mayor has fought and won before.”

“From a political perspective, Doug will drive voters from (the) left to the mayor. It’s a narrative that works for him. If I were Doug, I’d stick to making stickers,” she added, referring to Ford’s decals-and-tags business.

Ford said Friday he knows Tory’s “little game will be to try to compare me to Donald Trump,” but rejects any parallels.

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals want him to run for the provincial Tories, because they believe the Trump comparisons will hurt Brown.

“I used to take it as a real insult when they compared Rob to Donald Trump; Rob Ford was Rob Ford, and the Fords are the Fords, and we’re going to do what we’ve always done for 25 years for the taxpayers,” said Ford.

The next municipal election will be held Oct. 22, 2018, four years after the last election, in which Tory received 394,775 votes compared to 330,610 for Ford, who only entered the race after Rob Ford dropped out for health reasons, late in the campaign.

There have been changes to election rules. The campaign period is now shorter. It used to be that nominations could be filed on Jan. 1. Next year, nominations can be made May 1.

Campaign finance rules have changed, too; the maximum contribution a candidate can make to his or her campaign is now $25,000.

Previously, there was no limit on what a candidate could spend as long as it did not exceed the overall spending limit, which was $1.36 million in 2014.

That year, Doug Ford spent $558,724 of his own money to run for mayor, after his brother Rob’s cancer diagnosis forced Rob to drop out in September. Doug Ford raised $356,167 in donations.

Tory, who didn’t spend any of his own money, received $2.8 million from more than 5,000 donors.

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Landlords can no longer evict tenants without compensation

Posted on 09 September 2017 by admin

Ontario tenants will have additional protection from eviction starting Friday; when a landlord ends a tenancy to have family members move in, people evicted must receive compensation.

Ontario tenants will have more protection from eviction starting Friday.

That’s when new measures aimed at stopping landlords from turfing people from their rental units will take effect.

Effective Friday, when a landlord ends a tenancy to have family members move in, people evicted must receive compensation.

“When a tenant is evicted through no fault of their own, they are forced to scramble to find new accommodations and cover the costs of a sudden move,” Housing Minister Peter Milczyn said in a statement.

Landlords will have to pay one month’s rent to the evicted tenant or offer him or her another comparable rental unit.

There will also be a new measure in place to ensure that an apartment isn’t vacated, ostensibly for a relative, and, less than one year later, rented out to someone else.

“If the landlord advertises, re-rents or demolishes/converts the unit within one year, she or he will be considered to have acted in bad faith, unless they can prove otherwise and could face a fine of up to $25,000,” the government says.

“The new measures will help protect tenants by discouraging landlords from unlawfully evicting them, whether for conversion of the unit into a short-term rental or immediately re-renting it at a higher rate.”

Milczyn, who is also the minister responsible for Ontario’s poverty-reduction strategy, said the aim is to help “make that transition easier” for tenants forced to move.

The minister said, in some cases, it could “prevent it from happening at all, by curbing unlawful evictions.”

Friday’s changes are part of sweeping tenant-protection protections imposed this year.

Residential rent increases are capped at 1.8 per cent next year unless landlords apply to housing authorities for more.

But those who renovate their units can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for increases based on the amount of money spent on improvements.

Rent controls were expanded by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government in April.

In all, there are about 1.2 million private rental units in Ontario.

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Trump’s NAFTA bluster all about him, not us: Harper

Posted on 01 September 2017 by admin

It’s tough to keep focus and negotiate with a bully banging on a pot in the hallway, but Ottawa must keep its focus.

What do you do if you are the U.S. president and one of your major cities is under water?

Well, you’d want to start your day promoting a book by a Milwaukee county sheriff who has called Black Lives Matter a hate group, is a known racial profiler and, naturally, is a big Donald Trump supporter. The book foreword was written, of course, by your best bud forever in the media, Sean Hannity.

Then you would turn your attention to tropical storm Harvey, congratulating yourself on how you saved so many lives — a victory lap even as the water kept rising in Houston and area — but you wouldn’t want to dwell on that, so you would move on to your 2016 electoral success in Missouri, take a shot at the crime rate in Mexico and again vow that it will somehow pay for a border wall, then move on to trade negotiations.

“We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?”

Uh-oh. Trump’s thumbs are now typing “Canada” on Sunday mornings.

Last week, in an infamous stream-of-consciousness meltdown in Phoenix, he said the same thing, telling supporters he would probably end up “terminating the deal at some point,” because “we have been so badly taken advantage of.”

One can get permanently lost down a rabbit hole trying to make sense of the various tweets and pronouncements from Trump, but the shout-out to Sheriff David Clarke, Trump’s coming rally in Missouri, his ongoing fantasy about a Mexican-financed wall and his continued threats to tear up NAFTA actually do have a common thread.

They are all campaign preoccupations from a man who has never stopped campaigning and who never really became president.

The Trump tweet is the cyber-equivalent of the boss walking past the negotiating room banging on a frying pan with a hammer and squeezing an air horn.

But it is nothing more than that. This is no Art of the Deal. This is the Rant of the Attention-Seeker.

It’s not about us. It’s all about him.

Texans, at least those not scrambling atop their homes to save their lives, may want to be reminded that almost 50 per cent of their exports go to their top two trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and they import about 42 per cent of their goods from their NAFTA partners.

While you’re trying to stay above rising floodwaters, it’s good to know your president is musing about ripping up a trade deal so vital to your state.

At least a couple of Canadian politicians couldn’t help themselves Sunday.

“The only thing that needs to be terminated is your presidency,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger wrote. “Save yourself and your country. Resign and you will be popular everywhere.”

NDP leadership candidate Charlie Angus was somewhat more poetic: “A poor player struts/frets his hour on the stage and then is heard no more. A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

He moderated his comments later in the day, pushing the government to keep its eye on the ball.

That’s what it’s doing.

Adam Austen, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, is becoming quite practised at tossing out the political equivalent of Xanax.

“We will work with our partners at all levels in the United States to promote Canada-U.S. trade, which supports millions of jobs across the continent,” he said.

“As we have said before, trade negotiations often have moments of heated rhetoric. Our priorities remain the same, and we will continue to work hard to modernize NAFTA, supporting millions of middle-class jobs.”

Even if Trump did, in a fit of pique, seek to terminate NAFTA, it’s not certain he could do it.

Congress, not Trump, is ultimately responsible for giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to any renegotiated deal. There is also legislation on the books that enshrines NAFTA and there could be enough pro-trade, had-enough-of-Trump Republicans to decide the 24-year-old legislation overrides any presidential attempt to kick the pact into the ditch.

All three countries have agreed to fast-track talks, but the first negotiating session has just ended and the second, in Mexico, doesn’t begin until Friday.

They have to ignore the bully in the corridor banging on his campaign-era frying pan.

If you’re Canadian and Trump thinks we’re being “difficult,” there’s only one sane reaction: Good. And pack a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.


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Seamus O’Regan to be named veterans minister as Trudeau shuffles cabinet

Posted on 01 September 2017 by admin

O’Regan’s elevation to the cabinet will ensure a continued seat at the table for Newfoundland and Labrador, since Judy Foote, who announced last week that she is leaving cabinet, also represents the province.

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making former TV host Seamus O’Regan his new veterans affairs minister in a mid-mandate cabinet shakeup that will also give Health Minister Jane Philpott a new role in a restructured Indigenous Affairs department.

Philpott will work closely with current Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett as the Liberal government seeks to jump-start stalled efforts to establish a new relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal community, a cornerstone of its 2015 election platform, multiple sources told The Canadian Press.

O’Regan and Bennett were seen arriving at Rideau Hall for this afternoon’s swearing-in ceremony. Asked his feelings about being named to cabinet, O’Regan would only say, “For once, I’m speechless.”

The shuffle is in response, at least in part, to former public works minister Judy Foote’s announcement last week that she has left cabinet and intends to resign her seat in the House of Commons for family health reasons.

Kent Hehr was expected to move from Veterans Affairs to the Sport and Persons with Disabilities portfolio currently held by former Paralympic swimmer Carla Qualtrough, also spotted Monday at Rideau Hall.

Speculation was rampant Monday that Qualtrough would replace Philpott at Health, a move that would be seen as a significant promotion. Other speculation had her moving into the Public Works and Procurement portfolio vacated by Foote.

With Trudeau having made gender parity in cabinet a big part of his government’s identity, he was also widely expected to be adding a promising female backbencher to the cabinet table to restore the balance upset by Foote’s departure.

That appears to be Ginette Petitpas Taylor, a New Brunswick MP elected in 2015 who was also seen arriving for the swearing-in ceremony, suggesting she could be bound for the Public Works job.

It’s widely seen as one of the toughest portfolios in cabinet, responsible for handling the federal government’s troubled Phoenix pay system as well as handling defence procurement challenges.

Reports of Hehr’s departure from the veterans file comes amid increasingly vocal disgruntlement from veterans groups.

The Liberals were elected two years ago on a promise to address many of the complaints veterans had raised about their treatment under the Conservative government.

The biggest promise was to re-introduce lifelong disability pensions, which had been eliminated in favour of a lump-sum payments and a new system of benefits for injured ex-soldiers in 2006.

O’Regan’s elevation to cabinet will ensure a continued seat at the table for Newfoundland and Labrador, since Foote also represents the province.

But the Liberals have since waffled on that promise, and Hehr’s folksy style and vague promises had failed to quell growing complaints that the government was breaking its key promises to veterans.

O’Regan, 46, a former TV host, was first elected in 2015 and is a personal friend of the prime minister.

He and his partner were among the friends who accompanied Trudeau on a controversial family vacation last Christmas to a private island in the Bahamas owned by the Aga Khan, a billionaire philanthropist and spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims.

The previous Christmas, O’Regan spent the holidays in a “wellness centre” where he received treatment for alcoholism. He has openly discussed his struggles with alcoholism and mental illness.

O’Regan worked in politics as a ministerial assistant both federally and provincially before joining Canada AM in 2001.

Hehr, 47, was a bystander when he was injured in a drive-by shooting in 1991 that left him a quadriplegic. He went on to earn a law degree and went into private practice.

In 2008, he was elected to the Alberta legislature.

He won the federal seat of Calgary Centre in 2015.

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