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

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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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Organized crime behind surge in Canadian vehicle thefts, auto insurance fraud: experts – Global News

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It was gone before she knew it.

In early November, a woman in a Toronto neighbourhood bought a 2019 Lexus RX350. She registered the vehicle and brought it home with new plates on Monday Nov. 5. It only sat in her driveway for two days, but when her husband looked out the window on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 8, the midnight blue SUV was gone.

A thief had quietly driven the SUV away in the middle of the night.

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“It’s too coincidental, because I only had it for two days,” the woman said. “Someone had to know I had that car.”

The woman, who did not want to be identified because of fears of being targeted by the theft ring, said Toronto police advised her she was likely a victim of an organized operation.

“They said it is probably in a shipping container in Montreal already.”


READ MORE:
Border officers frustrated at police inaction over stolen cars being exported through Montreal

Her case is part of a rising trend of auto theft and auto insurance fraud in Canada believed to be connected to organized crime.

Thefts were up two per cent nationally in 2017, and 15 per cent in Ontario, the hardest-hit province.

According to Henry Tso, Insurance Bureau of Canada’s vice-president of investigative services, auto thefts cost $1 billion across Canada per year. And fraudulent auto insurance claims cost about $1.6 billion per year in Ontario alone.

This means that in Ontario, honest citizens are paying from about nine to 18 per cent of their monthly insurance bills to cover criminal insurance claims. The average additional insurance costs across Canada from thefts are not known, but believed to be significant. And auto theft is also a driver of millions annually in policing costs.

So what is driving the costly trend?

According to Tso, organized auto theft rings are involved in international trade-based money laundering, and raising money for drug-trafficking and terrorism. Transnational gangs are even sending SUVs stolen in Canada, to carry out terrorist bombings in the Middle East.

Terrorists like to use big North American luxury SUVs, such as Cadillac Escalades and Chevy Suburbans, Tso said.

“Lots of them go for bombings, because the terrorists can stuff lots of explosives into them.”

WATCH: Cars stolen in Canada could be funding terrorism






The organized crime rings involved in theft in Ontario are especially bad in Toronto, where auto thefts are up 30 per cent this year, according to Toronto police data.

In an interview, Tso said Canadian crime networks operate like criminal car dealerships. A broker working for a crime boss will get orders for vehicles in demand in different areas of the world. And a team of crooks in different roles throughout the auto supply chain helps fill the orders, and leak inside information to facilitate the process.

When new cars come into Canadian ports, Tso said, crooked port workers delivering the cars from ships to trucks and trains, take pictures of VINs and also collect key fob information. A new car will go to a dealer and get sold. And when the vehicle is registered, corrupt employees share the gathered information with crime bosses.

“Sometimes the bad guys can get the key code,” Tso said. “A lot of the theft is targeted.”

Many of the most popular vehicles to steal in Canada are large, mostly SUVs and pickups, for reasons of profitability and utility. A newer Mercedes GLS 450, for example, can be sold for twice its Canadian market value in China. Thieves tend to steal these high-end SUVs in Ontario and Quebec, Tso said, and ship them to Vancouver by rail. From Vancouver ports, they are sent to Seattle, Hong Kong, and Thailand, before being routed to China.


READ MORE:
Secret police study finds crime networks could have laundered over $1B through Vancouver homes in 2016

Tso said other popular car theft routes flow from Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, into Europe, Africa, Central America, and the Middle East.

Jeff Bates, owner of Lockdown Security in Markham, said he thinks the sharp jump in Toronto auto thefts, especially, is probably mostly due to criminals exploiting new electronic key fob hacking schemes.

Electronic key fobs constantly emit signals, even if a car is not in use, Bates explained. In these hacking schemes, teams of crooks use transmitter devices to amplify the signals of key fobs stored in homes, in order to automatically start vehicles parked nearby in drive ways.

Bates said video evidence shows thieves can boost key fob signals and steal cars in less than 60 seconds, using this hack.

WATCH: Thieves want more than just your car






And like Tso, Bates says that the extreme profits in play — for example, a top-end Lexus SUV retailing for $110,000 in Canada can be sold for two to five times as much in other areas of the world — means that organized crime has enough margin to buy crooked employees in dealerships and government agencies.

“I think organized crime is one of the main backers of all of this,” Bates said. “All you need is the VIN number, for address of registration. And theoretically, if you have someone in the dealership, you could program a blank push start fob to start the vehicle.”

Tso said that for stolen cars routed out of Ontario and Quebec especially, a Nigerian organized crime group, Black Axe, is behind many of the operations.

Black Axe was only recognized as a criminal force in Canada in 2013, and first made headlines in Toronto in 2015.


READ MORE:
West African ‘Black Axe’ group targeted in major GTA-wide auto theft ring

Toronto police arrested 18 people from the gang in 2015, alleging they were involved in stealing over 500 high-end SUVs, worth about $30 million. The ring focused on high-end Toyota SUVs including Lexus models, and shipped them to locations across Africa from ports in Montreal and Halifax. Police alleged the ring embedded agents at ports and trucking companies, and also Service Ontario, the agency that registers new vehicles.

According to Tso, who is a former organized crime and national security investigator with the RCMP, Canada must legislate new, tougher laws against auto theft and auto fraud insurance, in order to reverse the dangerous incursion of organized crime into Canada’s auto markets.

And there are practical tips to protect against auto theft, too. Tso said that in Alberta, 25 per cent of thefts occur when an owner leaves keys in their car. Generally, parking in garages and well-lit areas can help reduce thefts, he said.

And for owners of newer vehicles with electronic key fobs, there is a way to reduce the risk of high-tech hacks. Owners should store key fobs in a so-called Faraday cage, a mesh enclosure that blocks signals from hacking devices, both Tso and Bates said.

sam.cooper@globalnews.ca

Top Stolen Vehicles in Canada

For 2017, Insurance Bureau of Canada stats show that nation-wide, Ford F350 trucks hold the top five spots. In Ontario, thieves target high-end SUVs and trucks, including Chevrolet’s Tahoe, Silverado and Suburban. In Alberta Ford’s F250s and F350s fill out the most of the top 10 list. In Atlantic Canada, the Nissan Maxima is stolen most often, followed by the Chevy Silverado and Jeep Liberty.

Six provinces experienced an increase in vehicle theft in 2017:

  • New Brunswick (+28%)
  • Ontario (+15%)
  • Quebec (+7%)
  • Alberta (+6%)
  • British Columbia (+2%)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador (+1%).

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Suspect in custody after RCMP close highway near Berwick for ‘unfolding situation’ – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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A suspect is in custody after a situation unfolded near Highway 101 between Aylesford and Coldbrook this morning.

Residents nearby reported the sound of gunfire and RCMP on scene with assault rifles, but a RCMP spokesman wouldn’t provide any immediate details.

A police car and ambulance are outside the Valley Regional Hospital, but police wouldn’t confirm reports that a man was brought in with gunshot wounds.

Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said no members of the RCMP were injured during the standoff and arrest.

There is no risk to the public from the situation, the official Nova Scotia RCMP account tweeted at about 8:15 a.m.

Highway 101 is closed between exits 14 and 16, with traffic being rerouted to Highway 1.

Kristen Loyst of the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education said Somerset and District Elementary School in Berwick was closed for the day.

“RCMP called us and asked us to close the school due to what they called a ‘major incident in the area,’” she said.

While the suspect was arrested before classes started for the day, she said the school — about two kilometres north of the 101 — would remain closed.

“If a school is announced as closed, it's generally not possible to get that back in motion,” she said. “There are too many moving parts.”

The RCMP spokesman said the highway will be closed for the day for investigation.

Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) was called in to investigate the matter shortly before 7 a.m., said SiRT director Felix Cacchione around 10 a.m.

“It involves a serious incident, the extent of that incident I can’t speak to at this point,” he said, noting that investigators were either on their way or just arriving.

A statement will be issued by SiRT once the investigation is complete, Cacchione said.

“It does involve an injury because we will not investigate something that does not involve an injury that is a result of an interaction between police and a civilian,” he said.

“However, the nature of the injury, the extent of the injury and how it occurred – I’m not aware of at this point.”

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What are the most frequently stolen vehicles in Alberta? – Global News

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Eight out of the top 10 most commonly stolen vehicles in Alberta in 2017 were Ford trucks — either F250 or F350 models, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

The bureau released its annual Top 10 Stolen Vehicles list on Tuesday.

READ MORE: This is typically the week when most vehicles are stolen in Alberta: RCMP

In Alberta, the vehicles most frequently stolen in 2017 were:

  1. Ford F250 SD 4WD (2006)
  2. Ford F350 SD 4WD (2006)
  3. Ford F350 SD 4WD (2007)
  4. Ford F350 SD 4WD (2004)
  5. Ford F250 SD 4WD (2005)
  6. Ford F250 SD 4WD (2004)
  7. Ford F250 SD 4WD (2003)
  8. Honda Civic two-door Hatchback (2000)
  9. Ford F350 SD 4WD (2005)
  10. Honda Civic 2DR Hatchback (1996)

When you include theft statistics from across Canada, the Lexus GX460 four-door AWD SUV (2015) was the ninth most commonly stolen vehicle in 2017.

The insurance bureau creates this list using data from its members across the country.

READ MORE: Organized crime behind surge in Canadian vehicle thefts, auto insurance fraud

Seeing Ford pickup trucks top the list isn’t uncommon.

Story continues below

“These light- and medium-duty trucks are popular with auto thieves across Canada,” the insurance association said in a news release.

“Nationally, Ford F350 trucks hold the top five spots,” IBC vice-president Henry Tso said. “In Ontario, thieves target high-end SUVs and trucks, including Chevrolet’s Tahoe, Silverado and Suburban. In Alberta, once again Ford’s F250s and F350s dominate the list.”

READ MORE: Number of vehicle thefts in Alberta ‘staggering’: AMA

Last year, six provinces recorded an increase in vehicle theft, including Alberta, which saw a six per cent rise.

New Year’s Day is the most common time for vehicles to be stolen, the IBC said.

The insurance bureau also offered some tips to prevent your vehicle from being stolen:

  • Never leave vehicle running while unattended;
  • Park in well-lit areas;
  • When parking, always close windows and lock doors;
  • Put valuables and packages in the trunk;
  • Keep your vehicle inside a garage at night, if possible;
  • Do not leave personal information in glove box; take insurance and registration with you.

WATCH: Auto theft: it’s not just your car they want






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