Archive | Canadian Politics

Ontario NDP to vote against Liberal government’s hydro bill plan

Posted on 18 May 2017 by admin

TORONTO – Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says her party will vote against the Liberal government’s plan to lower hydro bills, calling it a ploy to buy votes for the next provincial election.

Under legislation tabled last week, Ontarians will see lowered hydro bills for the next 10 years before paying higher costs for the following 20 years.

Horwath says Ontarians can’t afford the plan.

She cited a Liberal cabinet document leaked to the Progressive Conservatives last week, which contains a projection that electricity bills will drop this year, rise slightly for four years while increases are limited to the rate of inflation, and then rise quickly after that.

Premier Kathleen Wynne says the figures in that document are out of date, but the government isn’t ready to release updated numbers.

Horwath is accusing the government of hiding information from the public and is calling on the government to release all of its projections about how much the hydro plan will cost in the long run.

Horwath also says the government is giving the public no time to give feedback on the plan as it’s attempting to get the legislation passed before the House rises for the summer.

“I think people knew that, one way or another, they’d pay the prices for Premier Wynne’s latest move on hydro, but the costs Wynne is expecting us all to take on with this plan is truly disgusting,” Horwath said.

The hydro legislation will lower time-of-use rates by removing from bills a portion of the global adjustment, a charge consumers pay for above-market rates to power producers. For the next 10 years, a new entity overseen by Ontario Power Generation will take on debt to pay that difference.

Then, the cost of paying back that debt with interest – which the government says will be up to $28 billion – will go back onto ratepayers’ bills for the next 20 years as a “Clean Energy Adjustment.”

Horwath acknowledged that the Liberal majority government can implement their plan, even with her party and the Progressive Conservatives opposed.

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Ottawa to move on protections for air travellers

Posted on 18 May 2017 by admin

Ottawa is moving ahead with a passenger bill of rights to give air travellers more recourse to get compensation when travel plans go awry.

OTTAWA—Ottawa is moving ahead with a passenger bill of rights to give air travellers more recourse to get compensation when travel plans go awry.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is expected to lay out details of the initiative at a news conference Tuesday morning as the government tables its “Transportation Modernization Act.”

The move has been months in the making, but recent high-profile incidents on U.S. airlines and in Canada have put the issue of passenger rights in the spotlight, which, Garneau said, helped underscore the need to protect travelers better.

“That is why, last November, I announced that we would be putting in place what we call a regime of rights for passengers.

“We recognize that when a passenger books a ticket . . . (they) are entitled to certain rights, a bill of rights, if you want to call it that,” Garneau told reporters in April.

Other jurisdictions already have in place laws that detail the kind of compensation that passengers are owed if flights are delayed and cancelled or baggage gets lost.

The European Union sets out a scale of compensation, depending on the length of the flight and the delay.

For example, travellers on flights of more than 3,500 kms are entitled to 600 Euros if their journey is delayed by more than three hours.

Tuesday’s announcement will detail the legislative framework, but the precise details of the bill of rights will be developed by the Canadian Transportation Agency, the body that will be responsible for enforcing it.

Garneau has said that he wants it to take effect in 2018.

When he spoke on the issue last fall, Garneau said the new “rights regime” will establish “clear minimum requirements so that Canadians will know what their rights are and when they are eligible for compensation.

“Some of the measures we are looking at include compensation standards for passengers denied boarding due to factors within the carrier’s control, or in case of lost or damaged baggage,” Garneau said in a speech that laid out the government’s transportation priorities.

The minister said the bill of rights would create a “more predictable and reasonable approach” to help ensure Canadians better understand their rights.

He said it would be “balanced” to protect airlines against “undue burden.”

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Release of Canadian defence policy update delayed until after NATO summit

Posted on 18 May 2017 by admin

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump are scheduled to gather with counterparts in Brussels next week.

 OTTAWA—The Liberal government has delayed the release of its new defence policy, setting up a potentially awkward meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump next week.

Trudeau and Trump are scheduled to gather with counterparts from other NATO members in Brussels for the alliance’s first leaders’ summit since Trump took office in January.

The top item on the agenda is expected to be defence spending, which Trump has been actively pressing allies to increase.

The Liberals’ defence policy, which officials had promised would be released before the NATO summit, was expected to lay out a plan for how Canada would start moving in that direction.

Canada currently spends only about 1 per cent of GDP on defence, which is half NATO’s target of 2 per cent and puts it in the bottom third of allies.

But Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s spokeswoman, Jordan Owens, confirmed Monday that the policy won’t be released until after the NATO summit.

The government wants to “nestle” the defence policy within a broader foreign policy context, Owens said, which will give Canadians more context on how the different pieces fit together.

The delay is likely to aggravate some allies who have been eagerly waiting to see the Liberal governments’ plans and priorities for defence.

The Liberals have also faced questions about the length of time they are taking to decide on a peacekeeping mission.

Owens said some of Canada’s allies took years to develop their own defence policies, even as she played down concerns about potential irritation from allies, saying the policy is “primarily for Canadians.”

But the fact Trudeau will be arriving for next week’s NATO summit without a policy could be cause for concern, given Trump’s calls for allies to spend more.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went farther in March, warning that the administration wants allies to draw up concrete plans for reaching the 2 per cent target by 2024.

“Our goal should be to agree at the May leaders’ meeting that, by the end of the year, all allies will have either met the pledge guidelines or will have developed plans that clearly articulate how,” Tillerson said.

Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland are visiting Washington, D.C., on Monday and Tuesday for joint meetings with Tillerson and Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

Owens played down any link between the ministerial visit and the government’s decision to delay the defence policy’s release, but the topic is certain to figure prominently in the discussions.

Liberal officials have previously said in private that the U.S. message is more for European allies, and that the Trump administration appreciates Canada’s military contributions to Iraq, Latvia and Ukraine.

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Liberal election promise to overhaul asylum claim system postponed

Posted on 18 May 2017 by admin

Those advocating for the government to do something say they are running up against a Liberal government seeming to have lost interest in spending any more money to help asylum seekers.

 OTTAWA—A Liberal election promise to overhaul the way asylum claims are handled has been postponed indefinitely despite rising numbers of people seeking refuge in Canada putting the system at risk, The Canadian Press has learned.

One of the options on the table, multiple sources have told The Canadian Press, is rejigging the historic Immigration and Refugee Board, and giving some of its authority over to the Immigration Department itself.

But those advocating for the government to do something before backlogs threaten the integrity of the system say they are running up against a Liberal government seeming to have lost interest in spending any more money or political capital to help asylum seekers.

The starting point is the designated country of origins system, which determines how fast asylum claims are heard based on where they are from — a system that should, in theory, help weed out unfounded claims faster.

Internal evaluations have shown that hasn’t quite worked, and the system has drawn the ire of refugee advocates for creating a two-tier approach that includes unworkable timelines for hearing cases and their appeals. Elements of the program have already been struck down by the Federal Court.

The Liberals had been on the cusp of doing away with it, going even farther than their original promise to use an expert panel to determine which countries belonged on that list.

But a planned January roll-out was postponed after the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the subsequent Liberal cabinet shuffle that saw a replacement of the federal immigration minister.

Then in March, as the issue of illegal border crossers dominated global headlines and Question Period, plans to repeal the designated-country-of-origin scheme were scrapped again, sources said.

They haven’t been rescheduled, even as the IRB itself has been among those saying the system needs to go as a way to ease the pressure.

“It would simplify our life from a case management point of view,” chairperson Mario Dion said in an interview with The Canadian Press in March.

“I don’t have a political view.”

The Liberals do, observers said.

When they came into power and moved to make good on a promise to resettle 25,000 Syrians, the government believed it had broad public support for refugees, said immigration lawyer and refugee advocate Lorne Waldman.

Things have changed.

“The concern at the centre is that support has dissipated significantly because of a series of factors, the most important one being the emergence of Donald Trump,” he said.

“And I think the concern is amplified by the Conservative leadership race where you have many of the candidates taking a very anti-immigrant posturing in their campaign.”

When asked, a spokesperson for the prime minister’s office said they were not behind the delay in the DCO overhaul, but that it was rescheduled by the department.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said only that the department continues to review the policy.

Claims have been rising steadily since the fall of 2015, though new numbers released Monday show they were down slightly in April of this year. Just over 3,000 people filed asylum applications in April, compared to 3,440 in March. So far this year, 12,040 claims have been filed, more than were lodged in all each of 2013 and 2014.

But the issue shot to attention when hundreds of people began illegally crossing into Canada from the United States earlier this year. The Liberals have been under pressure from both Conservatives and the NDP to act, albeit in different ways, but so far haven’t done anything.

If backlogs build in the system, the government will find itself in the exact same situation that led to the DCO being instituted in the first place — long waits for decisions that inadvertently lure those who have weaker claims to come to Canada, because they can work while they wait for a decision and get some health care in the meantime.

The IRB is aware of the problem and has instituted reforms, including allowing claims from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and as of June 1, Afghanistan, Burundi, Egypt, and Yemen to be decided without a hearing.

Those countries were selected because claims from there have high acceptance rates, there is a high volume of them and most are generally not complex.

Sources say claims like those are among the ones that could go to the Immigration Department, as opposed to the IRB, for adjudication.

The idea is fraught with difficulty.

There’s a big difference between the work the department ordinarily does and the work refugee judges do, said Vancouver immigration and refugee lawyer Peter Edelmann.

“It’s very different from an individual perspective in terms of the stakes and from a constitutional perspective in terms of the law to make a fast decision on an . . . application for a skilled worker than it is to send someone back where they’re at risk of being tortured and killed,” he said.

The very reason the IRB was established in 1989 was because of a Supreme Court hearing saying refuge claimants required an oral hearing, leading the government to establish the arms-length quasi judicial tribunal.

Giving bureaucrats a say in refugee determination risks politicizing the system, said Sean Rehaag, a professor at Osgoode Hall law school who follows the IRB’s decision-making process.

Imagine the Canadian government is in the middle of difficult NAFTA negotiations and had to decide on whether or not to expedite a particular group of Mexican claims, he hypothesized.

For the civil servants on the file, there would be extraordinary pressure, and in reality, the current number of claims doesn’t invite the need for dramatic change, he said.

“Refugee decision making is only a tiny fraction of the Canadian government’s budget and they can make the so-called crisis go away by adequately funding the IRB,” he said.

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Shoppers Drug Mart to sell Presto fare cards

Posted on 14 May 2017 by admin

Transit riders will be able to buy, reload, and check their balance at 10 stores across Toronto, with more locations planned for later this year.

Metrolinx has reached a deal with Shoppers Drug Mart to sell Presto fare cards through the company’s stores.

Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca, acting Metrolinx CEO John Jensen, Liberal MPP Han Dong, and TTC chair Josh Colle are expected to announce the partnership at a Shoppers outlet on King St. W. this afternoon.

According to a source with knowledge of the deal, the fare cards will initially be on sale at 10 Shoppers locations in Toronto this spring, and if all goes well, the program will be rolled out to more of the drug stores later this year.

Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the GTHA, owns the fare card system, and announced its intention for a Presto retail partnership two years ago.

At a Metrolinx board meeting in April 2016, Presto executive vice-president Robert Hollis said teaming up with a private retailer would help the agency expand the reach of the fare card program.

“One of the challenges is, how do we get cards in people’s hands?” he said.

“We view it as a very positive way to actually accelerate our card rollout.”

At the time, Hollis said that he hoped to announce the partnership by summer of 2016.

Presto users will be able to buy cards, load money onto them, and check their balances at Shoppers stores, with the help of a mobile point-of-sale device that Metrolinx developed earlier this year. Customers will also be able to set child, student, and senior transit discounts on the cards.

That will provide more options to senior and student Presto users, who until now have had limited options to set up discounted TTC fares on their cards. Special seniors Presto cards are currently available at a limited number of Gateway Newsstands, but riders otherwise have to go to TTC headquarters at Davisville station to enable their cards for senior or student discounts.

Other transit systems in the GTHA, including GO Transit, have already implemented the Presto system, but the TTC has yet to complete the transition.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said Friday that the agency plans to stop selling older fare media like tokens and tickets by the beginning of 2018, and sometime next year will stop accepting any form of payment except Presto.

The TTC’s monthly passes are expected to be migrated from Metropasses to Presto later this year.

Presto readers have been installed on all TTC buses and streetcars, and in at least one entrance of every subway station, since the end of 2016.

Uptake is growing fast but Presto users still make up only about 11 per cent of TTC customers.

Presto cards are currently sold at Gateway Newsstands at 57 TTC stations, according to the TTC website, and can also be ordered online. They’re also sold at GO stations within Toronto, and at dozens of locations across other municipalities in the GTHA.

As of the end of last year, more than 2.5 million of the cards have been sold in the GTHA and Ottawa.

The retail partnership won’t cost Metrolinx or the TTC any money. Shoppers has agreed to pay for the right to sell the fare cards, according to the source.

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Uber opening Toronto research hub for driverless car technology

Posted on 14 May 2017 by admin

A University of Toronto computer science professor will lead Uber’s new research hub devoted to driverless car technology. Uber was drawn to Toronto because the city has been “at the forefront” of artificial intelligence research.

Uber is launching a research group devoted to driverless car technology in Toronto, creating a third hub — its first outside the U.S. — for the company’s ambitions in a frenzied field that Uber and its competitors believe will upend transportation, generating billions of dollars in the process.

The Advanced Technologies Group will be led by Raquel Urtasun, a University of Toronto computer science professor who holds a Canada Research Chair in machine learning and computer vision. Urtasun uses artificial intelligence, particularly deep learning, to make vehicles and other machines perceive the world around them more accurately and efficiently.

The group will hire “dozens” of researchers and engineers in the next few years, the company says. Uber will also make a multimillion-dollar, multi-year commitment to the Vector Institute, the artificial intelligence institute that launched in Toronto in March with investment form both government and private sources, including technology companies as Google, Nvidia and Shopify. Urtasun, who will remain a professor at U of T, is one of the Vector Institute’s founding members.

“Toronto has emerged as an important hub of artificial intelligence research, which is critical to the future of transportation,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post welcoming Urtasun and announcing the group, praising the Ontario and federal governments for their investments in the field.

Uber has already put semi-autonomous cars on the roads in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, the homes of the other two Advanced Technologies Groups, and more recently in Arizona, but the company has not said when Torontonians might be able to hail a self-driving car.

Last year, Ontario became the first province to launch a pilot program that permits on-road testing of automated vehicles (AVs). Carmakers and technology companies that want to participate must apply to the Ministry of Transportation, and if approved must have a human in the driver’s seat of the AV at all times.

Monday’s announcement comes at a critical time for Uber’s self-driving car program. Waymo, Google’s self-driving car unit, launched a lawsuit against Uber in February, accusing the company of using stolen trade secrets to develop sensors for its autonomous vehicles.

Waymo alleges that a former manager, Anthony Levandowski, illegally downloaded 14,000 documents, including detailed circuit board designs for a laser-based sensor known as LIDAR, before leaving the company and founding Otto, a startup that was acquired by Uber approximately six months later for $680 million (U.S.).

Uber has denied the accusations, saying that the LIDAR it developed in-house is significantly different from Waymo’s, that after diligent searching there is no evidence of any stolen Google documents on Uber’s servers, and suggesting that the Waymo lawsuit is an attempt to stifle the progress of a major rival.

Waymo has asked a federal court in San Francisco to halt Uber’s self-driving car research until the case can be resolved. The judge is expected to rule on the preliminary injunction within days.

Lawsuits of this kind are common with rapidly evolving technologies for which even a nanometer-thin competitive edge can offer a critical advantage, legal experts say.

“You have people racing to get there with limited (numbers) of people who are well-versed in the field,” said James Pooley, senior counsel at Orrick and a Silicon Valley-based specialist in trade secrets and technology. “People moving from one place to another in a highly charged, highly competitive environment, produces — frequently — cases like this.”

Pooley and others say it would be highly unusual for the judge to order Uber to cease all work on self-driving cars. But even a lesser order could be an impediment.

“They certainly have put an enormous amount of effort into defending themselves. They see this as something that’s quite critical.”

Kalanick has emphasized that self-driving cars are at the core of his vision for Uber and for the future of transportation. “This is not a side project. This is existential for us,” he told the New York Times in an interview after the company acquired Otto.

Urtasun’s lab has focused on making the technology that undergirds self-driving cars more affordable and efficient. She has developed systems that use cameras to reconstruct and understand a vehicle’s surroundings, a much cheaper alternative to LIDAR. She has also worked to find low-cost alternatives to the highly detailed, labour-intensive maps that AVs currently rely on.

Urtasun, who this year was awarded one of Canada’s most prestigious scientific awards — the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada — works on the algorithms that knit all of a vehicle’s sensors together rather than on the hardware itself.

“Toronto and Canada for the past two decades has been at the forefront of AI, and that’s the expertise we’re bringing to Uber,” she said.

A number of self-driving car crashes and mishaps have dominated media attention in recent months. In May 2016, the driver of a Tesla operating in “autopilot” mode died after his car struck a truck turning across his lane. An Uber car in self-driving mode was involved in an accident in Tempe, Arizona, in March.

Police in Arizona cited the other driver in the Uber incident, and a U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into the Tesla crash blamed human error, noting that Tesla’s crash rate dropped 40 per cent after the installation of autonomous technology.

Improved safety is one of the primary reasons that researchers and regulators are interested in developing self-driving vehicles: algorithms are not prone to the same distractions and mistakes as human drivers, and Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation specifically cites “minimized driver error” as a potential benefit of the technology. The province also cites reduced traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emission as a result of more efficient vehicles.

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Mayor Tory keeps pressure on the province as he continues his social housing tour

Posted on 14 May 2017 by admin

Toronto’s mayor visits community housing building where bricks fell off and once again says the province needs to help with the $1.7 billion repair backlog.

 Mayor John Tory toured one of the city’s subsidized apartment buildings Thursday as part of his campaign to pressure the province to help pay the $1.7 billion needed for social-housing repairs.

“Those who have the greatest ability to raise money have not stepped up,” Tory said referring to the provincial government, which has broad taxing powers and the ability to run deficits.

While the federal budget included new money that can be used toward social housing repairs, there was “no new money in the Ontario budget whatsoever,” Tory said.

Unlike his weekend tour of a west-end social housing complex, Tory did not come armed with flyers featuring the local Liberal MPP’s headshot. The pamphlets asked residents to “Tell your MPP that Queen’s Park needs to help fix your housing now.”

While the stunt prompted Liberals to accuse him of crossing a line and campaigning against them, Tory said his only intention was to stand up for Torontonians, particularly the most vulnerable, and attract a “similar advocacy” from others, “including elected representatives who sit in the legislature.”

Tory led reporters and photographers on a short tour of 3171 Eglinton Ave. East, a Toronto Community Housing building where four stories of exterior bricks crashed to the ground in 2015.

He gave a running commentary on the problems inside a dilapidated two-bedroom unit, one of 24 in the 12-storey building currently vacant as it awaits repairs. Crews outside Thursday were replacing cladding and fixing balcony railings.

Tory said that the work underway is “good news” and a demonstration of where TCH spends its money, “almost exclusively by the city of Toronto,” compared to the province’s “tiny contribution.”

The mayor said the city has raised its share “using every reasonable tool.”

While he acknowledged it’s a claim challenged by critics, some of whom argue property taxes — the lowest in the GTA — should be raised, Tory said “property taxes were never meant to fund multi-billion dollar capital projects.”

Meanwhile Thursday At Queen’s Park, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown promised that if he succeeds Premier Kathleen Wynne after next year’s election the city would get more money for social housing.

“Absolutely. Right now they’re getting nothing. It’s very easy to exceed zero,” Brown told reporters on Thursday.

“Queen’s Park and Premier Wynne can’t abandon the city of Toronto,” he said, stressing he would “not support new taxes” levied by the city, including a hotel tax.

“This is a huge cost to the city of Toronto. All levels of government have to be part of it.”

But Brown refused to say whether a Conservative government would upload social housing back to the province, reversing the downloading of former PC premier Mike Harris.

“That’s not an ‘ask’ right now of the city. They’re looking for help on paying for the cost. I certainly didn’t have a conversation about uploading with Mayor Tory. He was looking at help on a number of fronts,” he said.

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Andrea Horwath’s NDP returns to its progressive roots: Cohn

Posted on 14 May 2017 by admin

The true godsend, as New Democrats find religion again, has been the Liberal sell-off of Hydro One, which progressives deem heresy.

 Is Andrea Horwath coming home again?

After wandering astray for years as a false prophet of populism, the leader of Ontario’s New Democrats is slowly circling back to her movement’s progressive roots. And getting a hearing.

Horwath made headlines with a pharmacare program for all Ontarians that won cheers at the NDP’s latest convention. Earning plaudits from experts, it pre-empted the government’s own pharmacare plan in the spring budget.

The NDP also prodded the government to extend rent controls. And it proposed a 30-per-cent cut to hydro rates, grabbing the spotlight just days before the government announced its own 25 per cent cut.

Horwath’s new-found fidelity to the party faithful may be bearing fruit. She scored an impressive 89-per-cent endorsement from delegates in an automatic leadership review at last month’s pre-election convention.

That vote of confidence from the party rank and file contrasts with the recriminations she faced two years ago when Horwath sought absolution for her uneven performance in the 2014 election. And it beats the dismal 48 per cent vote that sank federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in 2016.

Horwath remains the most popular of the three major party leaders in public opinion polls. And with the Liberals flirting with third place in party preferences, the NDP is getting a second wind, albeit far behind the resurgent Progressive Conservatives who are coasting on vim more than vision.

Which is why Horwath kept repeating, as she spoke to the party’s true believers last month, that New Democrats are “running to win in 2018.” The exhortation to “win” cropped up no less than 20 times in her speech as she unveiled the party’s 40-page vision document for the next election.

That vision is anchored in pharmacare and hydro care. But also bolsters unionization and boosts the minimum wage.

“This is the bold and progressive change you can expect from a bold and progressive NDP government,” she promised delegates.

That marks a change from the party’s recent past, when Horwath strayed from NDP orthodoxy by courting small business at the expense of the working class and lost its voice on the minimum wage. But the NDP may be late to the progressive game, playing on a more crowded field.

As Horwath discovered in her unsuccessful 2014 campaign, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are always mowing her lawn. In the last election, Wynne grabbed hold of pension reform after the NDP dropped the ball. Now, the Liberal government is running hard on pharmacare while planning major workplace reforms to support unions and a higher minimum wage.

But providence is smiling on Horwath. After eight years leading Ontario’s NDP she has a higher profile and better ratings than her elusive opposition rival, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown. And she is profiting from public disenchantment with 14 years of uninterrupted Liberal rule.

The true godsend, as Horwath finds religion again, has been Wynne’s slow sell-off of Hydro One’s transmission lines, which progressives deem a breach of faith. The NDP has also reaped a harvest of hydro confusion, because many voters believe it’s the old Ontario Hydro that is being sold (it was broken up years ago by a PC government, leaving Hydro One primarily as a transmission company that owns power lines). Horwath claims rates will soar in private hands, conveniently ignoring the Ontario Energy Board’s role in regulating rates.

But all’s fair in politics and war, and the NDP is bracing for the battle ahead. After the disarray of 2014, Horwath has surrounded herself with a more professional team, led by party warhorse Michael Balagus, that is making fewer mistakes.

Deft convention organizers dodged a few bullets, such as an inflammatory resolution proposing a boycott of “the Zionist state,” and a perennial appeal to eliminate separate school boards. The party also averted a vote on a “new technologies corporate tax” that would target innovation and automation, avoided debate on the Leap manifesto that would stifle the oilsands, and took no position on a law requiring “menstrual hygiene products . . . free of charge in all workplace washrooms.”

Does all this mean Horwath can strike a better balance between old-style New Democrat dogma and her electoral expediency of 2014 — easing up on pocketbook populism while pushing more progressive policies?

As the NDP leader braces for her third (and perhaps final) provincial election, Horwath is hewing closer to home.

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Ontario Reducing Class Sizes, Boosting Special Education

Posted on 03 May 2017 by admin

New Labour Agreements Ensure Stability for York Region Students and Families

Ontario is boosting its support for York Region students and families by reducing class sizes, providing new support for students with special education needs, and ensuring labour stability for at least two more years.

The province has reached negotiated agreements with all teachers and education workers in Ontario. The agreements have now been ratified and provide an additional two years of stability for students and parents.

Local York Region students will benefit from the province’s investment in smaller class sizes for students in full-day kindergarten (FDK) and Grades 4-8. FDK classes, which are supported by a teacher and an early childhood educator, will now be capped at 30 students next school year, falling to 29 students in 2018-19, and average no more than 26 students per class within each school board. Support will also be provided to ensure that for students in Grades 4-8, all school boards have average class sizes of 24.5 or fewer students.

 Additionally, local school boards in York Region will receive funds to hire 70 more teachers and 144 more education workers to support students with special education needs and other students at risk.

 Reducing class sizes, boosting support for students, and bringing stability to the education system is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

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NYC Woos Canadian Tourists Amid Fears Of ‘Trump Slump’

Posted on 03 May 2017 by admin

New York’s tourism industry is worried U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies are turning off Canadian visitors, and they’re heading north this week to woo Canucks and their tourism dollars.

The head of New York City’s official tourism organization, NYC & Company, minces no words in admitting he’s keen “to counter a little bit of the negative rhetoric that is coming out of Washington.”

“We recognize there are challenges at the border at the moment,” Fred Dixon said by phone from New York before the trip.

“We want to remind everyone that New York City is welcoming and that we are a diverse and safe city, a sanctuary city like Toronto, and we value the same things.”

A supposed “Trump slump” has yet to be verified by hard data, but anecdotal evidence abounds of would-be travellers vowing to avoid the U.S.

Dixon said New York’s allure plummeted after Trump unveiled a barrage of proposed anti-immigrant policies that included a ban on travel from certain Muslim-majority countries.

And then Trump started railing against Canada in recent weeks, with attacks targeting dairy farmers, softwood lumber subsidies and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

His organization predicts New York will see 300,000 fewer foreign tourists this year, representing a 2.1 per cent decline.

That includes a projected 17,000 fewer Canadians, a roughly 1.8 per cent drop.

While that may not seem like much, Dixon fears the numbers could fall further. His forecasters have detected a drop in online searches for NYC getaways.

“It seems like this isn’t going to be a passing situation. We could be in this environment for some time.”

Whether Trump is actually keeping Canadians from heading south is hard to determine, said Allison Wallace, a spokeswoman for the Flight Centre Travel Group.

Girl Guides, Toronto school board cancel U.S. trips

Girl Guides of Canada announced last month it will not be taking any trips to the U.S. in light of travel restrictions, while the Toronto District School Board said it similarly would not approve any new student trips south.

Dixon will host a press conference in Toronto on Monday to tout new and coming attractions, and meet with several travel companies including Air Canada, Porter Escapes and Travel Brands on Tuesday.

The NYC Tourism Development Team is also meeting with travel companies in Quebec City and Montreal. The visits follow similar campaigns conducted in Mexico, China, Germany and the United Kingdom.

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