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BONNER: Enough with the exploding heads, time to unpack the problems with the Ford ruling

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BY ALLAN BONNER

Ontario Premier Doug Ford caused heads to explode by proposing to reduce the size of Toronto City Council via Bill 5. They exploded again when the Premier stated he’d use the “notwithstanding” clause in our constitution to override the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruling that some of Bill 5’s provisions were unconstitutional.  Now the City wants to challenge that in court.

We need a thoughtful analysis of this issue and we pretty much get one from the Justice who ruled on this bill.  The 18-page ruling is a guide to judicial versus provincial versus municipal roles.  He notes the question for the court is not whether Bill 5 is unfair, but whether it is unconstitutional.  As for separation of powers, he cites the need for “Judicial deference and restraint” with regard to elected legislatures. This is a respectful version of Premier Ford’s saying “I was elected,” and the Justice wasn’t. They have different roles and legal scholar Peter Hoag has noted that there is now a “dialogue” between what has been our historical and ultimate law-making body-legislatures, and the courts.  The Justice and the Premier have provided their sides of the dialogue.

The court ruling agrees with the Province on many matters. Ontario has the authority, even to “pass a law that is wrong-headed, unfair or even ‘draconian.’” The remedy for bad laws is at “the ballot box, not judicial review.” There is no obligation for the province to consult with anyone.  Our constitution does not guarantee us a municipal level of government, a vote at that level, let alone 47 counsellors.

The Justice adds that his ruling does not “constitutionalize a third level of government” not mentioned in our constitution — giving new status to municipalities. They only have the status that the province gave them though legislation, which can be rescinded or amended.

At the core of this ruling are two points. First, Bill 5 “breached the municipal candidate’s freedom of expression” and it “breached the municipal voter’s right to cast a vote that can result in effective representation.” One person, one vote and similar sized constituencies or Wards are just one issue, but there are others. Hence the judge’s use of the phrase “effective representation” not “equal” voting power or result.

Curtailing freedom of expression or effective representation sound bad and we don’t want either abridged in our democracy. But let’s parse the legal matters. Were municipal candidates prevented from speaking in any way, or speaking their minds on a particular issue? No. In fact, the Justice was referencing the candidates’ inability to interact within a known Ward boundary and with a definitive set of voters. That’s true. But candidates could express themselves via the campaign activities (web, pamphlets, speeches, door-to-door canvass) that the Justice cites were underway. It is correct that candidates were not entirely sure to whom they should speak and were not assured of a response.  But neither an audience nor a response are guaranteed by our Charter. We can talk, but no one can compel us to listen. We free citizens can pass by the speaker on the soapbox, turn off the radio and TV, kick the candidate off the front porch, throw away political pamphlets, and use newspapers to wrap up fish and chips. That’s freedom too.

The Justice’s second point is that a vote from a larger block of electors would be less “effective representation.” Perhaps, but the case is weak. The Justice rightly cites a political (not necessarily a legal) matter. This is that councillors must deal with “myriad of constituents’ grievances and concerns … from public transit, high-rise developments and policing to neighbourhood zoning issues, building permits and speed bumps.”  Larger wards would prevent councillors from responding “in a timely fashion” to these issues.

This may be true, but irrelevant in practical terms. I have some experience in this matter as Executive Assistant to Mayor Mel Lastman of North York — at the time (mid 1980s) the world’s longest-serving big city Mayor. His success was a result of very hard work on behalf of constituents. I saw first-hand the “thousands of individual complaints” that the Justice cites. The Mayor invited many of these via a weekly TV talk show reaching about 100,000 viewers and letters offering meetings to many thousands. Many citizen inquiries had to do with another level of government — Provincial, Metro, Federal. Many others were simply passed to staff or a committee of council. Those “thousands of individual complaints” boiled down to a few dozen that were in the Mayor’s preview. One of our most famous and successful politicians handled all in a timely way and was not overwhelmed. The solution to this notion of effective government is making staff more responsive and an appropriate division of labour. Turning more elected officials into glorified junior social workers and road crew gangs with no expertise in either field is not a democratic solution.

The reason that constituents call the wrong person in most cases and staff pass callers around is well documented. A Royal Commission on Metro Toronto in 1977 reported that out of 131 services reviewed, only 30 were exclusive to the municipal level. Thirty-eight were under special purpose bodies (such as the police) responsible to the province. Thirty-three were administered by the municipality but under the supervision of the province. Matters assigned exclusively to the municipality were “relatively unimportant: removing ice and snow… regulating heat in residential premises; dog licensing and controlling nuisances.” City councillors do not have a constitutional right to involve themselves in matters irrelevant to their mandate.

The City of Toronto Act gave more powers to this particular city, but I can do without the empathy for city councillors who deal with wrong number calls at great length.

The other political matter which the Justice uses to bolster his ruling is that Bill 5 was passed in the middle of an election campaign. Having worked on many campaigns, I’d suspect not a great deal was underway in the summer. Moreover, in some jurisdictions, elections last two weeks — “a reasonable opportunity to present” candidates’ positions, as the Justice says was denied in this case.

The ruling adds two caveats to the issue of timeliness. First, had the law been enacted six months before election day, it would not have interfered with any candidate’s freedom of expression. Second, perhaps restructuring of City Council should occur after the election.

Both are unworkable politically and are undemocratic. Our parliamentary system allows for elections at any time the governing party loses confidence of the legislative chamber. When the election is held can vary, but that variance should not limit the ability of the new government to govern.

Stipulating that a duly elected body cannot take legislative action for a certain period of time hobbles that body in an undemocratic way. This is especially true if the suggestion is to hobble a province in its legislative responsibilities for a body it created — a city. We have no time constraints on Charter rights. We don’t have to give notice to anyone in order to speak, assemble, worship, vote, and soon. The province should not have any greater constraints.

Conversely, consider the democratic implications of allowing hundreds of people to campaign for 47 seats, knowing there will be legislation outlawing 22 of those seats following the election. Will those 22 serve only a few months or a full term, after which their Wards will be eliminated? Will they serve constituents fully and with vigour?  This would be a form of nullifying the electoral process, perhaps worse than doing it now.

The concept of proportionality deals with the balance between limiting a charter right and the objective of doing so. The objective of saving taxpayers’ money and streamlining city government is justifiable. Moreover, a future judgement may take into account proposed ways of reducing the impact of this change — better use of staff time, for example.

Finally, the Justice notes that local government is “closest to its residents” and “most affects them on a daily basis.”  This seems unimportant until you consider that the Justice is obliquely referencing a Supreme Court ruling on “subsidiarity.” This is the notion that “law-making and implementation are often best achieved at a level of government that is not only effective, but also closest to the citizens affected and thus most responsive to their needs …” The Supreme Court is not bound by this decision and may change its mind. In fact, there’s equivocation in the ruling — “often” means not always, “closest” is debatable when we consider how close voters feel to provincial or federal politicians and whether they can name a few city councillors, and “responsive” can be tested by dialing 311, or any number of municipal officials.

This Premier did not contribute to our constitution or the negotiations in the early 1980s and the compromise of the notwithstanding clause. It’s the law of the land, used by Quebec, and now used in Ontario for a public purpose. Voters are free to pass judgement on this at the ballot box.

— Allan Bonner is an urban planner, political scientist, and graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School.  He was staff Executive Assistant to Mayor Mel Lastman in the 1980s and subsequently a consultant to a dozen Canadian premiers and 100 cabinet ministers.  He has worked on five continents and lives in Toronto. 

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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.

Story continues below

“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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