Hitting pause on plan to cut Toronto city council 'a sign of strength,' Tory says in letter to Ford - Canadanewsmedia
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Hitting pause on plan to cut Toronto city council 'a sign of strength,' Tory says in letter to Ford



Toronto Mayor John Tory has penned an open letter to Premier Doug Ford, imploring him to put a plan to cut the number of city councillors nearly in half "on hold" until after the fall municipal election.

The letter, sent to the premier late Thursday night, strikes a conciliatory but urgent tone. Tory stresses the need for a temporary resolution to the matter, which has divided city council and strained the relationship between Queen's Park and city hall.

"The proposed legislation is contrary to common sense in terms of both the practicality of altering a live election process and in terms of our ongoing provincial-municipal relationship," Tory said of Bill 5. The legislation would reduce the number of wards in Toronto from 47 to 25 and cancel four regional chair elections, including in York and Peel regions. 

"Something as fundamentally important as an election — a primary mechanism of civic democracy — should not be changed without public input and in the absence of a clear process or robust understanding of public impacts and costs," he continued.

Ford has moved quickly to push the bill through the Legislature. This week, his government passed a motion that will see the bill bypass the committee stage. That, in short, means that neither the public nor relevant experts will have a chance to provide input before the legislation is passed into law. 

Tory, as well as a faction of progressive city councillors staunchly opposed to the cut in council size, have derided the process put in motion by the newly elected Progressive Conservative government as undemocratic. With an election looming on Oct. 22, a move to 25 wards would plunge Toronto into electoral chaos, opponents have argued. 

Ford and supporters of the legislation have insisted that Ford's frequent references to reducing the size of government on the campaign trail were, in fact, foreshadowing that he intended to slash the number of councillors in the city. At no point during the campaign, however, did Ford mention any specific actions he would take, let alone the details of Bill 5. 

Tory did not let that fact go unmentioned in his letter.

"This was not raised as a campaign issue by any party and therefore in my view, no party has a mandate for such unilateral action," he said.

He also took the opportunity to allude to a possible legal challenge from the city, calling the bill "possibly contrary to the law." The city's solicitor is currently considering the "validity and constitutionality" of Bill 5 and is scheduled to report back to council at a special meeting set for Aug. 20, the letter said. 

Tory has taken substantial criticism for his response to the province's unexpected move. When Ford announced the government's intention last month, Tory called for a referendum on the matter. He echoed that plea again on Thursday, saying it would "let the people speak."

"To me, hitting the pause button is a sign of strength. I would respectfully suggest that the legitimacy of your government's position dramatically increases if supported by a legitimate process," Tory said. 

"A referendum campaign would allow for a full opportunity for the public to be consulted and heard."

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No apologies for heckler




Hate speech and the politics of division are creating a "dangerous path" for Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday as he vowed to steer clear of such roads and to continue calling out those who rely on "extremist" methods to make their voices heard.

Trudeau made the comments when asked whether he went too far in accusing a Quebec woman of racism and intolerance as she heckled him last week during a rally in Quebec.

During a campaign-style rally Thursday southeast of Montreal, the woman shouted questions in French at Trudeau, asking him when the federal government would repay Quebec for costs it has incurred as a result of an influx of "illegal immigrants" coming over the Canada-U.S. border.

The Quebec government has demanded Ottawa pay the full costs of social services provided to so-called irregular migrants who have crossed into Canada between established border crossings over the past couple of years — costs the province says have reached $146 million so far.

The prime minister responded to the woman by accusing her of intolerance and racism and saying her sentiments were not welcome.

At a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for a new Amazon distribution warehouse east of Ottawa, Trudeau said he fears a rise in extreme populism, particularly surrounding immigration issues, with some feeding fear and intolerance using partial truths and "outright lies."

"There has been a polarization in our political discourse," Trudeau said as construction machinery clattered in the background.

"And there are people who are trying to feed fears and intolerance for a broad range of reasons. … I will remain positive and remain pulling people together, pulling communities together right across this country."

Progressive Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau is using personal attacks to shut down criticism of his government.

"This is a calculated Liberal strategy to avoid being accountable for their record," Scheer said in a statement Monday evening. "Instead of demonizing critics, Justin Trudeau should confront the problem."

Ontario's minister responsible for immigration, Lisa MacLeod, was on hand Monday for Trudeau's news conference. It's the prime minister who is creating divisions by shouting "racism" at those who question his government's immigration policies, she said.

"I think when the prime minister, when confronted with some of the problems his government has created, turns around and fearmongers and calls people un-Canadian or racist, (he) really debases the debate that we're having."

Ontario's new Conservative government has also called on the federal government to foot the bill for services provided to asylum seekers, which that province has tallied at $200 million and climbing.

A woman who identified herself on social media as a member of the right-wing group Storm Alliance took responsibility for the confrontation with Trudeau in a post on Facebook. The group has been behind protests denouncing the arrival of asylum seekers at an irregular border crossing near St-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

"Pretty happy that I participated in him blowing a gasket," the post says.

The federal government has so far offered a total of $50 million to Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba to offset expenses incurred as a result of a spike in asylum seekers entering the country by way of unofficial entry points along the Canada-U.S. border. Of that sum, Quebec — where the bulk of the crossings have taken place — would receive $36 million.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said he hopes to persuade people that diversity is good for the province.

"If someone tells me they are worried about diversity, I will accept this worry exists and I will try to explain my point of view, that it (diversity) is something that can be very positive for our society," Couillard told reporters Monday.

The issue of irregular border crossings could become a wedge issue in the campaign leading up to the next federal election scheduled for the fall of 2019.

At an event Sunday marking Trudeau's formal nomination to run for re-election in the Montreal riding of Papineau, Trudeau emphasized the fight against extremist populism as a plank in his party's 2019 platform, and accused Scheer of exploiting fear and division.

— With files from Mylene Crete and Caroline Plante

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the confrontation with Trudeau occurred Sunday.

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Multiple victims of Bombay Bhel bombing will discuss 'plan of action' today




Multiple victims of a bomb blast at a popular Indian restaurant in Mississauga, Ont., in late May will discuss their "plan of action" during a news conference Tuesday morning. 

They are expected to speak alongside their lawyers at 11 a.m. at Diamond and Diamond Personal Injury Lawyers in Toronto.

Peel Regional Police alleged two disguised suspects entered Bombay Bhel on the evening of May 24, planted an improvised explosive device that contained nails, then fled. Moments later, the device detonated.  

The blast wounded 15 people, three of whom suffered "critical blast injuries," according to paramedics. All have since been released from hospital. 

40 people in restaurant at time of blast

Groups of families and friends were celebrating birthdays at the restaurant, nestled in a small plaza near the intersection of Hurontario Street and Eglinton Avenue E.

Bombay Bhel is a staple for many in the Greater Toronto Area's South Asian community who dine there for a taste of home. 

About 40 people were inside the restaurant at the time, many of whom were children under 10. Witnesses described a chaotic scene of broken glass and bloodied diners.

Victims of a bomb blast at Bombay Bhel restaurant ranged in age from 23 to 69, police said. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Peel Police Chief Jennifer Evans has previously said there is no indication the bombing was a terrorist act or hate crime. Investigators have not released a motive nearly three months after the bombing and no group has taken responsibility for it. 

The bombed-out restaurant sustained a "considerable amount of damage," Evans said, and has been closed since.

Owner Mohan Nagpal declined and interview with CBC Toronto on Tuesday. He anticipates Bombay Bhel will reopen in a few weeks.  

A dedicated police task force, established to investigate the case, is looking for two suspects. Both were initially believed to be male, but investigators now say one may be female.

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Vancouver Weather: Sunny, air quality alert still in effect




Smoke from hundreds of wildfires burning around the province is creating a thick haze over Metro Vancouver.

A seaplane takes off from the harbour as smoke from wildfires burning in the province fills the air, in Vancouver, on Monday August 20, 2018.


VANCOUVER, B.C. – Tuesday looks like it will be another smoky day in Metro Vancouver. Environment Canada says although the forecast is mainly sunny, it’s unlikely the region will see much of it as another day of widespread smoke is expected. That thick haze will likely stick around tomorrow, but there may be some improvement on Thursday. Tuesday’s temperature highs are 23 C and 30 C inland. The agency is continuing its air quality advisory for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter from the hundreds of wildfires burning around the province and in the U.S.

Elevated levels of fine particulate matter are expected to persist until there is a change in fire or weather conditions. The agency warns particulate matter can get inside your home, so they are advising people keep their windows closed.

People with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

Weather: Vancouver, B.C.

Today: Mainly sunny. Widespread smoke. High 23 C except 30 C inland. Humidex 28. UV index 7 or high.

Tonight: Partly cloudy. Widespread smoke. Low 16 C.

Tomorrow: A mix of sun and cloud. Widespread smoke. High 22 C except 28 C inland. Humidex 27. UV index 7 or high.

Source: Environment Canada

Traffic: Lower Mainland

Here’s a live traffic map of what’s happening across the region’s roads. Use command + scroll to zoom in and out.

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