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Canadian Workers Need A Government Willing To Stand Up For Them

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

The Hon. Charlie Angus

For decades, Liberal and Conservative politicians have argued that free trade is the panacea for all our economic ills. That they negotiate our trade deals in backrooms not for themselves, but for all of us.

Most recently Liberals were spinning and waxing on about how their multilateral trade deals were done for Winnipeg mukluk producers and Nova Scotia blueberry pickers. The free-trade ideology has been given a free ride for so long that we don’t even roll our eyes to such ridiculous claims. Even worse, it’s led us to pretend like no one loses out because of these deals.

That’s bunk, of course. Just take a look at our manufacturing base and you can see that these trade deals leave too many Canadians worse off. Last week I visited with workers from the CAMI plant in Ingersoll to see it firsthand.

The CAMI plant has been repeatedly voted the most efficient auto manufacturing plant in all of North America. It is so profitable that GM forces the workers to work six days a week so they can maximize the bottom line.

But running the most efficient plant at a significant profit isn’t good enough, so they are going to ship out production of the Terrain to Mexico, costing 625 people their jobs .

This is the face of Canada’s trade orthodoxy no one wants to talk about: it doesn’t matter how hard you work, how many concessions you give or how profitable the plant, you can be sold out.

And rest assured that if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn’t going to stand up for jobs at a plant as important to the economy as CAMI, he sure as hell isn’t going to stand up for you if you are working in a contract or temp job someplace else.

While Liberals continue with their failed Bobby McFerrin “Don’t worry be happy” economic mantra, the data paints a different picture. In 2009 the number of Canadians who considered themselves working class or poor was 29 per cent. That number has since jumped to a stunning 44 per cent.

The disintegration of the middle-class dream is happening before our eyes and the Liberals’ only solution has been to keep on with their failed trickle-down economics, giving bigger tax breaks to the upper management types who oversee the bleed-off of stable Canadian employment.

But just pointing to the problem won’t cut it, so what practical steps can we start taking to ensure the federal government plays its role in sharing gains broadly?

First, with Donald Trump putting NAFTA on the negotiation table, we have an enormous opportunity to fight like hell for Canadian workers like those being ripped off by GM’s move to Mexico. So far public discussions have only been about expected concessions from softwood and beef, to auto parts and dairy. This negotiation should be about ways to redress the trade imbalance.

Secondly, let’s talk about a simple job pledge for Canadian investment. GM was given massive concessions and bailouts during the 2008 economic crisis. Now that the good times have returned, it’s not acceptable that they give us the pink slip. What goes for GM would go for Bombardier, Irving or any other company. Any company that expects money and support from the Canadian government must commit to a job pledge — proving that handouts are clearly linked to jobs.

Finally, specific to the auto sector we need to get serious about a proactive industrial strategy. Rather than sitting back and watching it be moved job by job to Mexico, my colleague MP Brian Masse (Windsor West) has spoken for years about the need to have the government working as a positive partner with industry, labour, auto dealers and the communities to strengthen the manufacturing economy.

And this is just a start. Simply put, it is the federal government’s job to work with the corporate sector to share gains broadly and rebuild the Canadian middle class.

The workers at CAMI, like Canadian workers across this country, deserve a government that is willing to have their back. That’s exactly why I am running for leader of the NDP, and that is my pledge.

Charlie Angus is running for the Leadership of the New Democratic Party.


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Daughter diplomacy: Trudeau’s unorthodox play for Donald Trump’s approval

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

 businesswoman whose lifestyle brand is struggling with liberals. A liberal-multilateralist prime minister who needs an in with a conservative-nationalist president.

Diplomacy is rooted in interests. And Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau both have an interest in hanging out with each other.

The prime minister sat with the president’s daughter last week at the Broadway musical Come From Away, the Canadian show about the Newfoundland town that took in stranded Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. It was his second olive branch to her in just over a month.

Some U.S. news outlets suggested Trudeau had been sending a kind of passive-aggressive message: “Justin Trudeau brought Ivanka Trump to a Broadway show that celebrates generosity towards foreigners in need,” the New York Times tweeted to its 34 million followers. Whether or not that was true, he was also offering a kind of cashless donation to her company.

Trudeau joked of his “bromance” with former president Barack Obama. Shared youth and mutual interest in women’s issues notwithstanding, his new bilateral bestiehood appears much more a marriage of convenience.

“It is just so Game of Thrones‎,” said John Higginbotham, a former Canadian diplomat in Washington, referring to the television show in which warring family dynasties strike strategic alliances in ruthless pursuit of power.

Like Donald Trump before her, Ivanka Trump has made a brand out of her name. Her name has been tarnished, in the eyes of millions of progressive American consumers, by her father’s xenophobia and sexism. Who better to be seen with than the fashionable foreign progressive feminist who hugs refugees?

For Trudeau, daughter diplomacy offers the prospect of a lifeline to a president who shares almost none of his principles but who often appears to value personal relationships over ideology and policy — and who appreciates a political gift. Donald Trump has lavished praise upon chief executives who have let him take undeserved credit for their investments.

“It looks as if foreign leaders think the way to approach Trump is by direct or indirect appeals to his ego and personality, rather than in terms of national interests,” said Charles Stevenson, a former State Department policy planner who teaches foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University. “Business leaders have already discovered this, so they bring their announcements of job creation as if they had birthday presents for the king.”

Donald Trump, not Ivanka Trump, was Trudeau’s original invitee to the play, communications director Kate Purchase said. Trump told Trudeau he couldn’t make it, Purchase said, “but suggested that perhaps Ivanka Trump could join instead.”

“We were happy to arrange that,” she said.

“We’re friends and neighbours, partners and allies. We are committed to continuing to build on that relationship in a positive, constructive way. That means talking to U.S. senators, members of Congress, governors, Cabinet secretaries, business leaders, and importantly: the president and those close to him.”

Trudeau’s early work with Ivanka Trump has paid at least superficial dividends. Trump boasted in his high-profile address to Congress of the new Canada-U.S. council on women in business; Trudeau was the only foreign leader he mentioned by name.

The council was an invention of Trudeau’s office designed specifically to include Ivanka Trump. She sat next to him at the inaugural meeting at the White House in February, cameras clicking away. Their Broadway appearance made new international headlines — some of the stories wrongly framing it as a quasi-date, omitting the presence of Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

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Automation Will Take Millions Of Canadian Jobs, Ottawa Warned

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

Federal officials were warned over the summer that machines are going to replace more jobs in the workforce in the coming years and that will require a rethink of how government helps the unemployed.

Documents prepared for top officials at Employment and Social Development Canada don’t hint at how federal policy will have to adapt to increased automation in the workforce, noting that predicting the future is a risky proposition.

Experts say what’s missing from the documents is any hint of concern that the rise of the machines is an immediate concern that the government must quickly address.

“Many of the trends that may concern us about technology and automation in terms of what their impacts could be on workers are already happening and that’s, I think, the missing piece here,” said Sunil Johal, policy director with the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto.

“People are projecting this into, well, in 10 years we may be in a difficult situation. The reality is many Canadians are already ill-served by government policies when it comes to skills training, when it comes to employment insurance, when it comes to the broader suite of public services to support Canadians.”

Depending on the methodology used, the Canadian economy could lose between 1.5 million and 7.5 million jobs in the coming years due to automation.

The jobs at the most risk are those that require repetitive activities like an automotive assembly line, although even some high-skilled workers, such as financial advisers, are already being replaced by software programs. The documents also note that journalists could see themselves increasingly replaced by robots.

One industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations, said senior government officials acknowledge automation is something they have to deal with, but likely not for decades. The source said that senior officials believe new jobs will be created to keep people working.

The documents say new jobs will be created because that’s just the way the economy works: As technology kills jobs, it also creates new ones. The issue, the documents say, is that no one knows if enough jobs will be created to replace those lost, nor if they will all be as well-paid.

“Predicting the future brings significant risk,” reads part of a presentation released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

“We cannot know what future jobs will be created or whether enough of them will be created to offset displaced workers or whether automation will offset the pressures arising from slowing labour force growth.”

The rest of the slide has been blacked out because it contains sensitive advice on future policy paths.

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Even judges shouldn’t know names of Ontario’s top-billing doctors, lawyer argues

Posted on 16 March 2017 by admin

Not only should the general public be prevented from learning the identities of Ontario’s top-billing doctors, but so should a three-judge panel that has been asked to overturn an order for the names to be publicly disclosed, a lawyer representing some of the physicians has argued.

“I’m not opposed to having the court have a sealed envelope with the identities of the clients,” lawyer Chris Dockrill told Ontario Divisional Court Justice Ian Nordheimer on Friday.

“If we are successful in the applications, the document presumably gets destroyed or gets returned or forever stays in that morass out there where the court stores and loses things,” he continued.

Dockrill, who is acting for “several affected physicians,” and lawyers for two other groups of doctors are seeking a judicial review of an order made last June by the office of the Ontario privacy commissioner to release the names of Ontario’s 160 top-billing doctors.

The privacy commissioner’s office ruled in favour of an appeal by the Toronto Star in ordering the release of names.

The Star requested physician-identified billing data from Ontario’s Health Ministry in April 2014. For most of the doctors in question, data were provided on annual fee-for-service payments from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan and medical specialties. But names were withheld because the ministry deemed their release would be an unjustified invasion of privacy.

John Higgins, an adjudicator with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, wrote in his decision that public disclosure is in the best interest of transparency and accountability.

Departing from previous rulings, Higgins said physician-identified billings are not “personal information” and, therefore, not exempt from disclosure under the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Such data is made public in other provinces such as Manitoba and B.C. Physician-identified billing data is also publicly disclosed in the U.S.

The judicial review will be argued before a panel of three judges on June 19 and 20.

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Trump Lawsuit Can Go Forward After Supreme Court Of Canada Ruling

Posted on 16 March 2017 by admin

OTTAWA — Canada’s highest court is upholding a lower court ruling in favour of investors who have launched a lawsuit alleging they were misled by U.S. President Donald Trump and a real estate development firm.

The Supreme Court of Canada has decided it will not hear an appeal by the defendants, which includes the brash billionaire, Talon International Development and its former executives, in relation to the Trump International Hotel and Tower in downtown Toronto.

The plaintiffs — Sarbjit Singh and Se Na Lee — allege they were sold units in the hotel under false pretenses and misled to believe their investments would result in returns ranging from 7.74 per cent to 20.90 per cent.

Instead, the two investors lost a combined $1.2 million, according to a decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal last year.

The 65-storey tower in Toronto’s financial district is comprised of hotel rooms and private residences and is managed by the Trump Organization.

Last October, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the investors, ordering that the sale of the unit must be rescinded for Singh and damages must be paid to Lee for “negligent misrepresentation.”

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Province Releases Three Year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan

Posted on 16 March 2017 by admin

Ontario is combatting systemic racism by releasing a new three year strategic plan in order to break down barriers for racialized people across the province, including Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities.

The government has heard from people that despite efforts to promote inclusion and equity, histories of slavery, colonization and institutions of our past continue to shape the present and create a further gap between racialized people and others.

Following community meetings held across the province in 2016, Michael Coteau, Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, today released A Better Way Forward: Ontario’s 3-Year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan. The plan is part of government’s commitment to fight systemic racism and create fair and equitable outcomes for Black, Indigenous and other racialized people.

The plan includes measures to help identify and eliminate systemic racism. It is also an acknowledgement that systemic racism — including anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, Islamophobia and racism experienced by other communities, including the Jewish community — is real, and can act as a barrier to achieving opportunity.

The strategy includes:

  • Developing a framework for the collection of race-based data in various institutions, including the child welfare system and the justice, education and health sectors. Collecting race-based data is a valuable way to better understand where racial inequalities exist, which will help government work toward solutions to address it.
  • A new Ontario Black Youth Action Plan targeted at increasing access to supports and opportunities for Black children, youth and their families to address outcomes disparities.
  • Implementing an anti-racism impact assessment framework to help anticipate and remove unconscious bias in proposed policies, programs and decisions.
  • New legislation that would, if passed, ensure the sustainability and accountability of the province’s anti-racism work by providing a framework for government and organizations to identify and combat systemic racism.
  • Public education and awareness initiatives targeting racism, including Islamophobia and antisemitism

Eliminating systemic racism and advancing racial equity is part of Ontario’s plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

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Wynne not worried about rivals from within Liberal Party

Posted on 09 March 2017 by admin

Premier Kathleen Wynne insists she is not threatened by the political ambitions of those in her cabinet who may want to succeed her.

In the wake of a 25 per cent reduction in hydro bills designed to turn down the heat on the governing Liberals, Wynne suggested her would-be replacements could cool their heels awhile longer.

“It is extremely important in any organization, including a political party, that there are people who have the capacity to be the next leader,” the premier said Monday.

“Succession planning is often not done well . . . in political parties,” said Wynne, who took over from former premier Dalton McGuinty four years ago and plans to lead the Liberals into the June 2018 election.

“I have a strong, loyal team. We’re a cohesive, cohesive group. And I look forward to working with them every day and if some of them are thinking one day they might want to be the leader, excellent,” she said.

But Wynne emphasized that she does not feel like there are usurpers in her midst.

“I honestly do not. We’re a very strong team and . . . it’s only right that there would be people at some point who would think: ‘You know what? Maybe this is a job that I want to do.’ ”

The Star disclosed Friday that at least six current ministers and one former leadership rival could be in the running if the hydro rebate plan is a flop, hastening Wynne’s departure as Liberal chief.

They include: Children and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau; Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca; Health Minister Eric Hoskins; Education Minister Mitzie Hunter; Attorney General Yasir Naqvi; Finance Minister Charles Sousa; and former minister Sandra Pupatello, the runner-up to Wynne in the 2013 leadership race.

At Queen’s Park, the ministers played down reports of their ambitions, swearing allegiance to the premier, and stressing their focus is on helping her remain in office.

Sources say the Liberals will be polling Ontarians over the coming weeks to determine the reception to last Thursday’s hydro rebate plan that will mean an additional $25 billion in interest costs over the next 30 years.

But insiders say the initial response has been positive and they hope that reducing electricity rates will allow them to talk about the economy, health, education and infrastructure improvements.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, who is ahead of Wynne in public opinion polls though he has yet to release his own hydro platform, said he doesn’t care if the Liberals change leaders.

“Our focus is going to be on running a campaign that speaks to how we can get Ontario back on track regardless of who carries the flag for this government that’s been in power for 14 years,” said Brown, predicting the Grits would field “the same tired team.”

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Canada’s Feminist Government Is More Talk Than Action: Report

Posted on 09 March 2017 by admin

Despite having a feminist prime minister at its helm, the federal government has yet to translate its rhetoric into policy when it comes to gender parity, according to a report from Oxfam Canada.

Two days before International Women’s Day, Oxfam released a “Feminist Scorecard” to show the actions the Liberal government has taken, and what still needs to be done, when it comes to gender parity. The organization said the scorecard will be the first in an annual series.

“Prime Minister Trudeau sent a powerful signal in 2015 when he appointed the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canadian history and named women to key ministerial portfolios,” reads the report.

It continues:

“Status of Women remains sorely underfunded and Canada’s international aid budget is at a near record-low, even as the government seeks to demonstrate global leadership on women’s rights. The area where the government has made the least progress is towards its promise of inclusive growth, having taken no tangible steps to close the gender wage gap or to ensure living wages for the working poor, the majority of whom are women.”

The scorecard looked at the Liberal government’s policies and spending in eight categories:

  1. Investing in women’s leadership
  2. Investing in child and elder care
  3. Building a progressive tax system
  4. Ending violence against women and girls
  5. Global leadership on women’s rights
  6. Responding to humanitarian crises
  7. Tackling climate change
  8. And addressing the unequal economics of women’s work

Canada got a passing grade when it came to representation and leadership, but the report noted there had been little progress on six other categories, including affordable child care and ending violence against women.

The government was awarded the worst score for jobs and pay equity. The Oxfam report noted that while the Liberal Party campaigned on a promise of inclusive growth, it has taken few meaningful steps towards pay equity, living wages, or supporting domestic workers, who are primarily women.

Canadians think there are enough women in politics: survey

The Oxfam scorecard coincided with the release of a report on how Canadians feel about women in politics.

A national survey from Abacus Data and Equal Voice found that 58 per cent of Canadians think there are “too many” or “the right number” of women in politics, despite estimating that women occupy 31 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.

Four per cent think women are overrepresented, while 54 per cent think there are enough women in Parliament.

“Since in fact women occupy only 28 per cent of the seats in Parliament, clearly there’s still work to do educating Canadians on the issue of underrepresentation of women in Parliament, as well as other levels of government,” said Nancy Peckford, Equal Voice’s executive director, in a release.

Only three premiers are women, and only 18 per cent of mayors in Canada.

The survey also found 46 per cent of respondents think it will take 14 years to achieve gender parity in the House, while 25 per cent said they think that it will never happen.

Men were more likely than women to think parity would be achieved sooner.

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Trump Gives Trudeau A Shout-Out In His 1st Congress Speech

Posted on 09 March 2017 by admin

Canada’s prime minister received a shout-out from U.S. President Donald Trump in his first speech to a joint session of the American Congress, in an address Tuesday that carried more than one reference to the northern neighbour.

The president mentioned Justin Trudeau in highlighting the women’s business group created during the prime minister’s recent visit to Washington — a project involving the president’s daughter Ivanka.

Trump’s speech was sprinkled with surprises.

The biggest of all, which will certainly snare Americans’ attention, was his unexpected call for comprehensive immigration reform, a long-elusive goal of U.S. policy-makers that Trump appeared to have suddenly embraced.

Other surprises included different references to Canada

“With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a council with our neighbours in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams,” Trump said in the prime-time address.

It’s the third time Trump mentioned the project in public remarks.

He appeared at the group’s initial meeting at the White House, raised it during a White House press conference as something he was proud of, and mentioned it again in his state-of-the-union-style speech Tuesday. The idea for the project came from Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford, who raised it with Ivanka’s husband, White House aide Jared Kushner.

Other elements of the speech that touch on Canadian interests included his promise to build the Keystone XL pipeline; his withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and his call for a still-vaguely-defined border adjustment tax.

He also saluted Canada’s immigration system during his attention-grabbing remarks on immigration reform.

The speech made no mention of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump blasted daily during his election campaign and now wants renegotiated.

Earlier Tuesday, Republicans on Capitol Hill expressed uncertainty when asked when NAFTA negotiations might begin. Although lawmakers are supposed to be involved in the process, they said they hadn’t received direction from the White House yet.

The uncertainty is heightened by the fact that one key player in trade negotiations, the United States trade representative, could see his Senate confirmation stalled for months, amid partisan wrangling and concern about his past legal work for foreign governments.

It’s unclear whether Trump might instead lean on his newly confirmed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. However, the commerce secretary does not have legal responsibility for trade negotiations.


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Toronto council approves 2 per cent property tax increase

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

With council poised to approve a budget Mayor John Tory said kept property taxes at “reasonable” rates, critics said they would have trouble sleeping with cuts impacting the city’s most vulnerable.

A council meeting went late Wednesday night as members debated a budget some called “fair” and others contended was “unsustainable.”

Council did earlier approve a residential property tax rate hike that totals 3.29 per cent, or $90 extra for the average homeowner.

An attempt to prevent the elimination of 10 front-line shelter staff positions — at a time when those havens are exceeding capacity targets and those who rely on them struggle to find more permanent housing — failed 19-25. The mayor and all but one of his executive members voted against it.

Councillor Joe Cressy moved a motion that council keep the 10 frontline positions, by voting to increase the 2017 operating budget for shelter, support and housing administration by just over $1 million, by pulling funding from a property tax stabilization reserve fund.

“The shelter system in our city serves some of our most vulnerable residents. These are people who far too many of them are fleeing abuse, these are people far too many of them who are living with mental health issues, who are living with addictions, who are there because often there is nowhere else to go,” Cressy said. “Let’s not balance this budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.”

Tory planned to support a motion asking staff to report back on the “true” service level impact, saying he believed it would be “minimal.”

“I have confidence in our professional public servants and I can’t believe they would even put in front of us for consideration, no matter what direction they’d been given by us, any recommendation that they thought could lead to that consequence that you’ve talked about,” Tory said in response to criticism the cuts could hurt the city’s most vulnerable.

The positions would be lost through attrition — when the current staff retire or leave.

Five of the jobs, council heard earlier in the night, would come from one of the ten city run shelters, which serve about 1,500 people. The remaining 49 shelters, council heard, in the city are run by community agencies. The entire system, including hotel beds, has room for about 4,600 people, according to city data.

“The impact of this is there will be less hands to do this very important work, is that fair enough to say that?” asked Councillor Pam McConnell, who has led the city’s poverty reduction initiative, earlier in the night. Paul Raftis, general manager of the city’s shelter, support and housing administration division, said that description was fair. He noted it would be a relatively “minor” impact on service.

Earlier on Wednesday, council approved a residential property tax increase for 2017 just below the rate of inflation.

The 2 per cent increase required to help balance this year’s budget, when adjusted to include a new special levy for capital projects and the provincial education tax, totals 3.29 per cent.

That increase will cost the average homeowner, with property assessed at $587,471, an extra $90 in 2017 and a total $2,835 on their bill.

Council rejected two separate motions — one that would have flatlined property taxes and another that would have raised them above the rate of inflation.

A motion from Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who has positioned himself as enemy number one to the mayor in recent months, for a 0 per cent increase failed 2-40. Only Etobicoke Councillor Stephen Holyday supported him.

Councillor Gord Perks, who has long argued that residents can afford to pay more to help the city’s most vulnerable, put forward a 4.26 per cent increase. That motion failed 10-32.

“What I am proposing is that we ask those people in the city of Toronto who have the most wealth to put more money back into the system and the reason I want to do that is so that we can afford the programs that help the people who truly are struggling to live in the City of Toronto,” Perks told his colleagues on the council floor.

His motion would have meant the average homeowner would see their taxes increase by $152.50 this year instead of the approved $90.

“I am proud of city council’s decision to keep Toronto property tax increases below the rate of inflation,” said a prepared statement from Tory’s office after the tax rates vote. “The single biggest cheque most families write to the city is for their property tax bill. I was elected on a mandate to keep property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation and I will keep that promise.”

Councillor Mike Layton, who moved to reverse above-inflation increases to user fees for recreation programs for youth and seniors, noted the mayor had set a benchmark of being able to sleep soundly after finalizing this budget.

“I can tell you with cuts to shelters, cuts to long-term care, I’m going to be thinking of those people tonight when I try to go to sleep,” Layton said Wednesday night.

Motions from councillors also sought to reverse cuts to mandatory training for long-term care home homes staff and delay closure of a child-care centre.

A motion from the newest executive member Councillor Jon Burnside asked for funding of two youth hubs and increased programming for existing hubs in four other library locations. That $387,000 is for a program that is part of the city’s poverty reduction strategy, which Tory earlier promised to fully fund.

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