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In Florida, a polarizing DeSantis draws a strong response from critics and supporters

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WARNING: This story contains language some readers may find offensive.

Any time Will Larkins leaves the house, the soon-to-be college student has a long, hard think about what to wear.

In the suburban Orlando community of Winter Park in central Florida, Larkins says that at times it can feel unsafe living authentically as someone who identifies as gender fluid.

“The threat of violence is very real, very scary,” said Larkins, who uses they-them pronouns. In some public spaces, they say appearing “too queer” can be risky.

A person stands while making a speech in front of a large sign.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed multiple laws restricting LGBTQ rights, banned educational programs on racism, ended access to abortion after the six-week mark of pregnancy and made it easier for people to carry guns. He has also been credited with creating livelihood-saving pro-business policies, allowing the state to economically thrive during the pandemic. (Rebecca Blackwell/The Associated Press)

“I was walking with my sister down my own street, and a car pulled up next to me, rolled down the window and someone screamed out the window: ‘F–k you, f—–t.'”

While being bullied is not new for Larkins, 18, they say new anti-LGBTQ laws in the state have emboldened bigots.

“I’m not used to having the government back up my bullies.”

Life has become harder for Larkins under Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

He’s signed multiple laws restricting LGBTQ rights, banned educational programs on racism, ended access to abortion after the six-week mark of pregnancy and made it easier for people to carry guns.

A person stands under a shelter beside a park.
In the suburban Orlando community where Will Larkins lives, they say that at times it can feel unsafe living authentically as someone who identifies as gender fluid. (Katie Simpson/CBC)

But DeSantis has also been credited with creating livelihood-saving pro-business policies, allowing the state to economically thrive during the pandemic.

Now that DeSantis is officially running to become the Republican nominee for the U.S. presidential election in 2024, voters can examine his time as Florida’s governor to get a better sense of his priorities. And while his campaign is just beginning, and he’s yet to roll out his formal policy pitches, Florida serves as an initial blueprint for how he operates.

In this moment, in Florida, DeSantis is widely seen as a polarizing figure, eliciting a strong response from both critics and supporters.

A different COVID strategy

DeSantis has been able to bring about so much change, at such a fast pace, for a fairly simple reason: he and his party won big in Florida’s 2022 midterm elections.

DeSantis earned a second term as governor by beating his nearest opponent by nearly 20 points. Voters elected enough Republicans to give him and the party a super majority in the state house, which makes it a lot easier to pass laws.

“I would say the reason for success on his re-election bid was absolutely how he handled COVID, and how he opened the stores as quickly as he did,” said John Louizes, owner of Zeno’s Boardwalk Sweet Shop, a small chain of candy stores in popular tourist areas.

A person stands inside an ice cream shop.
John Louizes, the owner of a small chain of candy stores in popular tourist areas, said he’s usually supported Democrats. But in 2022, he decided to back DeSantis because of his pro-business policies. (Jenn Barr/CBC)

Louizes is a third-generation candy maker who also owns a factory in Daytona Beach that produces saltwater taffy and ice cream.

“He definitely saved our business,” Louizes said of the governor.

During the pandemic, Louzies defied the odds by growing his company. He went from four candy shops across the state to 10.

Demand surged after DeSantis lifted COVID-19 restrictions and tourists rushed back to the state. Despite intense criticism from public health leaders, Louzies thinks the governor made the correct call.

“Back then, it was the crazy thing to do … and it ended up being that he was right. To be on the right side of what I feel is the right side of history on this one felt really good.”

In past elections, Louizes said he’s usually supported Democrats. But in 2022, he decided to back DeSantis, the Republican, because of his pro-business policies.

“It’s hard not to pull for someone like that … someone who did such a solid for you.”

‘I am proud he is from Dunedin’

On the other side of the state, along the central Gulf Coast, there are more voters who feel the same way.

“Governor DeSantis is an individual who has been very successful at everything he’s done,” said John Tornga, the vice-mayor of Dunedin.

The city has deep Canadian connections and is perhaps best-known as the place where the Toronto Blue Jays play their spring training games.

A person stands in front of a wall.
John Tornga, the vice-mayor of Dunedin, Fla., says he is proud DeSantis is from that city. (Jenn Barr/CBC)

It also happens to be where DeSantis is from.

“I oftentimes don’t like to use the word proud,” said Tornga. “But I am proud that he is from Dunedin. Who wouldn’t be? Who couldn’t be?”

Tornga would not explicitly say whom he plans to support for president because his city council position is non-partisan. But he thinks DeSantis is doing a good job managing Florida’s finances and keeping the state safe through his immigration and security policies.

Any criticism of the governor’s social policies, he said, is typical political pushback.

“There are some laws that may get put into place that some people will disagree with. That’s always going to be the case.”

Fleeing the state

It is a mistake to dismiss concerns over Florida’s laws targeting marginalized communities, according to a wide range of DeSantis’s critics.

Partly in response to changes about how Black history is taught in schools and the banning of diversity, equity and inclusion programs, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) issued a formal advisory against travelling to the state.

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the statement says, citing DeSantis’s “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity and inclusion programs in Florida schools.”

Some members of the LGBTQ community say they’re ready to leave the state for good.

DeSantis has passed a ban on gender-affirming health care for trans kids and new restrictions for adults. Patients over the age of 18 are required to seek written consent from two medical oversight boards in order to obtain some elements of gender affirming care.

He also signed a law allowing medical practitioners to refuse care on moral or religious grounds, new restrictions around bathroom use and made it easier to ban books with LGBTQ content.

DeSantis also expanded what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which eliminates lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation in all grades of public school.

“I have plans to move as soon as I can, but it sucks because Florida is my home…. I don’t want to leave my family behind, but it’s just not safe for someone like me,” said Dylan Orrange, a 20-year old from Orlando who identifies as non-binary and uses they-them pronouns.

Two people stand in front of a wall displaying posters.
Dylan Orrange, left, and Matty Joseph stand in front of the memorial at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. (Katie Simpson/CBC)

CBC News spoke with Orrange and their partner Matty Joseph in front of the memorial at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. In 2016, a gunman shot and killed 49 people at the gay nightclub. It stands as one of the worst acts of violence against the LGBTQ community in U.S. history.

“Seeing what [DeSantis] did with Florida, we don’t know what’s going to happen if he has the power over the whole United States,” Joseph said.

Disney drama

Florida’s largest employer, the Walt Disney Company, has become one of the governor’s loudest critics.

After being pushed by employees to speak out, Disney irked DeSantis by criticizing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It’s triggered a back-and-forth legal fight, with massive economic consequences.

Disney announced it’s cancelling plans to invest more than $1 billion in a new campus, which would have created 2,000 jobs.

A person stands in front of a body of water.
Richard Foglesong, a political science professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., says there’s a lot to learn from DeSantis’s fight with the Walt Disney Company. (Jenn Barr/CBC)

“Florida needs Disney maybe more than Disney needs Florida,” said Richard Foglesong, a political science professor at Rollins College in Winter Park and the author of Married to the Mouse, a book on Disney’s relationship with Florida.

Foglesong said there’s a lot to learn from DeSantis’s fight with Disney. Mainly, it shows that he’s willing to abandon traditional Republican positioning, which helped carry him to overwhelming victory in 2022, in favour of a divisive fight.

“Historically, it has been the pro-business party in favour of low taxes and reducing government regulation … that is really what Walt Disney World represents,” Foglesong said.

“But he’s pursuing a different strategy, a culture war strategy. We’ll see whether that works out for him or not.”

 

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Aecon reports $123.9 million loss in second quarter, revenue down

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TORONTO – Aecon Group Inc. says it lost $123.9 million in the second quarter, down from a profit of $28.2 million a year earlier.

The Toronto-based company says revenue totalled $853.8 million, down from $1.2 billion during the same quarter last year.

Diluted loss per share was $1.99, down from a gain of 38 cents last year.

Aecon says much of the decline in revenue can be attributed to its construction segment, which was $288 million lower than a year earlier.

Aecon says it recorded a charge of $127 million in the second quarter related to its settlement with TC Energy Corp. over delays and cost increases that took place during the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, for which Aecon was one of the prime contractors.

The company says it also recorded an aggregate charge of $110 million related to three other joint venture legacy projects which also encountered delays and mounting costs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:ARE)

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NBA says it has signed new 11-year media rights deal with Disney, NBC and Amazon

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The NBA signed its 11-year media rights deal with Disney, NBC and Amazon Prime Video on Wednesday after saying it was not accepting Warner Bros. Discovery’s US$1.8 billion per year offer to continue its longtime relationship with the league.

The media rights deals were approved by the league’s Board of Governors last week and will bring the league about $76 billion over those 11 years.

WBD had five days to match a part of those deals and said it was exercising its right to do so, but its offer was not considered a true match by the NBA. That means the 2024-25 season will be the last for TNT after a nearly four-decade run.

“Warner Bros. Discovery’s most recent proposal did not match the terms of Amazon Prime Video’s offer and, therefore, we have entered into a long-term arrangement with Amazon,” the league said Wednesday. ““Throughout these negotiations, our primary objective has been to maximize the reach and accessibility of our games for our fans. Our new arrangement with Amazon supports this goal by complementing the broadcast, cable and streaming packages that are already part of our new Disney and NBCUniversal arrangements. All three partners have also committed substantial resources to promote the league and enhance the fan experience.”

Amazon Prime Video will carry games on Friday nights, select Saturday afternoons and Thursday night doubleheaders which will begin after the conclusion of Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football” schedule. Prime Video will also take over the NBA League Pass package from WBD.

“The digital opportunities with Amazon align perfectly with the global interest in the NBA,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “And Prime Video’s massive subscriber base will dramatically expand our ability to reach our fans in new and innovative ways.”

The package also includes at least one game on Black Friday and the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game of the NBA Cup.

“Over the past few years, we have worked hard to bring the very best of sports to Prime Video and to continue to innovate on the viewing experience,” said Jay Marine, global head of sports for Prime Video. “We’re thrilled to now add the NBA to our growing sports lineup, including the NFL, UEFA Champions League, NASCAR, NHL, WNBA, NWSL, Wimbledon, and more. We are grateful to partner with the NBA, and can’t wait to tip-off in 2025.”

ESPN and ABC will keep the league’s top package, which includes the NBA Finals. ABC has carried the finals since 2003.

ESPN/ABC will combine for nearly 100 games during the regular season. More than 20 games will air on ABC, mainly on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, while ESPN will have up to 60 games, mostly on Wednesday nights with some Friday games. ABC and ESPN will also combine for five games on Christmas Day and have exclusive national coverage of the final day of the regular season.

During the playoffs, ESPN and ABC will have approximately 18 games in the first two rounds each year and one of the two conference finals series in all but one year of the agreement.

The return of NBC, which carried NBA games from 1990 through 2002, gives the NBA two broadcast network partners for the first time.

NBC will have up to 100 regular-season games, including on Sunday night once the NFL season has ended. It will air games on Tuesdays throughout the regular season, while a Monday night doubleheader would be exclusively streamed on Peacock.

NBC will also have the All-Star Game and All-Star Saturday Night. During the playoffs, NBC and/or Peacock will have up to 28 games the first two rounds, with at least half on NBC.

Amazon’s content will stream in Canada exclusively, while Peacock games will include domestic partners north of the border.

NBC and Amazon will carry one of the two conference finals series in six of the 11 years on a rotating basis. NBC will have a conference final in 2026-27 followed by Amazon the next season.

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N.S. murderer’s cryptocurrency stash rules out free legal aid for appeal

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HALIFAX – A judge has ruled that a stash of cryptocurrency belonging to a convicted Nova Scotia murderer means he won’t be receiving free legal aid for an appeal.

Justice Cindy Bourgeois said in a decision released Wednesday that William Sandeson — a former medical student who killed another student during a 2015 drug deal — had about $640,000 in bitcoin and cash when he was jailed.

Last year, Sandeson appealed his conviction of second-degree murder in the death of Taylor Samson but was refused funding for a lawyer by the province’s legal aid agency.

In her decision denying his appeal of that refusal, the Court of Appeal judge accepted that Sandeson has expenses to pay — including a lawsuit claim from the victim’s family — but concluded “a significant balance” would remain available to him.

Bourgeois wrote that Sandeson didn’t prove his debts would stop him from obtaining counsel, or that he has exhausted all other sources of financial assistance.

Her decision noted that Sandeson had bitcoin worth “at least $443,624,” and another $198,000 in cash at the time he was jailed.

The court found that some of those funds would go toward “any ordered payment” to Samson’s family as a result of a civil lawsuit they’ve launched against Sandeson, as well as to his lawyers in that case.

However, the judge noted that Sandeson has testified “he will be left with assets of between $200,000 and $300,000 for his own use.”

Sandeson had argued before the court that he faced other debts, including capital gains tax that will become payable upon liquidation of the cryptocurrency; legal fees still owing for his first trial; a student line of credit and student loans; and $177,000 owed to his mother for earlier legal expenses.

The judge found there wasn’t documented evidence of what the tax bill would be, and Sandeson lacked documentation to prove his student debt.

She also wrote there was a lack of clarity on how much Sandeson owed his mother, saying evidence showing the mother’s line of credit wasn’t sufficient.

“Although I accept the appellant has some outstanding debts, there is nothing before me that establishes he is obligated to immediately pay out the entirety of the outstanding balances,” wrote Bourgeois.

The judge also said Sandeson provided no estimate from legal counsel of the cost of advancing his appeal.

Because of time served while awaiting trial, Sandeson’s 15-year sentence for killing Samson and then disposing of his body would make him eligible for parole in 2030.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Jamie Chipman ruled last year that Sandeson should spend at least 15 years in prison for firing a single bullet into the head of the 22-year-old physics student. Both men attended Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Chipman said in his decision that Sandeson “made a reprehensible and incomprehensible choice,” and as a result, instead of entering medical school, Sandeson went to jail in the summer of 2015.

Last year’s trial was the second time Sandeson was tried for the crime. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2017, but the verdict was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered in 2020.

The Crown argued during the trial that Sandeson was motivated by greed to kill Samson and steal the nine kilograms of marijuana he had brought to Sandeson’s downtown apartment to sell.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

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