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Police investigate shooting near junior college in Laval, Que.



LAVAL, Que. — At least three people were shot and injured in a park near a junior college in Laval, Que., just north of Montreal.

Laval police say they received word just before 5:30 p.m. Friday of a shooting in a park near Collège Montmorency, in that city’s Chomedey district.

Sgt. Geneviève Major, a police spokeswoman, says the victims sought refuge inside the college, creating some initial confusion as to where the shooting took place.

Police have cordoned off the park and ordered the junior college locked down as a preventive measure while they investigate.

Major says the victims were transported to the hospital for gunshot wounds, but their lives are not in danger.

Police are looking for at least one suspect who was still on the loose.

The shooting came the same day as a junior college in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, south of Montreal, was put into lockdown for several hours after a 19-year-old man wearing a bulletproof vest was spotted on campus.

He is facing charges including uttering threats.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2022.


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Toronto food bank asks for help after flooding damaged facility



TORONTO – A large Toronto food bank is calling for urgent donations after flooding triggered by torrential rains earlier this week damaged its facility and ruined a large amount of food.

The North York Harvest Food Bank says the loading bays in its facility were flooded and water poured into its warehouse.

It says a power outage that followed meant it lost a significant amount of refrigerated food including milk, cheese, meat, and snacks for children.

The food bank says its crews managed to save some items but the flooding also damaged one of its delivery trucks.

The North York Harvest Food Bank says it supports about 25,000 people every month.

More than 100 millimetres of rain was reported to have fallen in Toronto on Tuesday, causing flooding and power outages across the city.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

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Bob Newhart, deadpan comedy icon Dies at 94



Bob Newhart, the deadpan accountant-turned-comedian who became one of the most popular TV stars of his time after striking gold with a classic comedy album, has died at 94.

Jerry Digney, Newhart’s publicist, says the actor died Thursday in Los Angeles after a series of short illnesses.

Newhart, best remembered now as the star of two hit television shows of the 1970s and 1980s that bore his name, launched his career as a standup comic in the late 1950s. He gained nationwide fame when his routine was captured on vinyl in 1960 as The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, which went on to win a Grammy Award as Album of the Year.

While other comedians of the time, including Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Alan King, and Mike Nichols and Elaine May, frequently got laughs with their aggressive attacks on modern mores, Newhart was an anomaly. His outlook was modern, but he rarely raised his voice above a hesitant, almost stammering delivery. His only prop was a telephone, used to pretend to hold a conversation with someone on the other end of the line.

In one memorable skit, he portrayed a Madison Avenue image-maker trying to instruct Abraham Lincoln on how to improve the Gettysburg Address: “Say 87 years ago instead of fourscore and seven,” he advised.

Another favorite was Merchandising the Wright Brothers, in which he tried to persuade the aviation pioneers to start an airline, although he acknowledged the distance of their maiden flight could limit them. “Well, see, that’s going to hurt our time to the Coast if we’ve got to land every 105 feet.”

Newhart was initially wary of signing on to a weekly TV series, fearing it would overexpose his material. Nevertheless, he accepted an attractive offer from NBC, and The Bob Newhart Show premiered on Oct. 11, 1961. Despite Emmy and Peabody awards, the half-hour variety show was canceled after one season, a source for jokes by Newhart for decades after.

He waited 10 years before undertaking another Bob Newhart Show in 1972. This one was a situation comedy with Newhart playing a Chicago psychologist living in a penthouse with his schoolteacher wife, Suzanne Pleshette. Their neighbors and his patients, notably Bill Daily as an airline navigator, were a wacky, neurotic bunch who provided an ideal counterpoint to Newhart’s deadpan commentary. The series, one of the most acclaimed of the 1970s, ran through 1978.

Four years later, the comedian launched another show, simply called Newhart. This time he was a successful New York writer who decides to reopen a long-closed Vermont inn. Again Newhart was the calm, reasonable man surrounded by a group of eccentric locals. Again the show was a huge hit, lasting eight seasons on CBS. It bowed out in memorable style in 1990 with Newhart — in his old Chicago psychologist character — waking up in bed with Pleshette, cringing as he tells her about the strange dream he had: “I was an innkeeper in this crazy little town in Vermont. … The handyman kept missing the point of things, and then there were these three woodsmen, but only one of them talked!” The stunt parodied a Dallas episode where a key character was killed off, then revived when the death was revealed to have been in a dream.

Two later series were comparative duds: Bob, in 1992-93, and George & Leo, 1997-98. Though nominated several times, he never won an Emmy for his sitcom work. “I guess they think I’m not acting. That it’s just Bob being Bob,” he sighed.

Over the years, Newhart also appeared in several movies, usually in comedic roles. Among them: Catch 22, In & Out, Legally Blonde 2, and Elf, as the diminutive dad of adopted full-size son Will Ferrell. More recent work included Horrible Bosses and the TV series The Librarians, The Big Bang Theory, and Young Sheldon.

Newhart married Virginia Quinn, known to friends as Ginny, in 1964, and remained with her until her death in 2023. They had four children: Robert, Timothy, Jennifer, and Courtney. Newhart was a frequent guest of Johnny Carson’s and liked to tease the thrice-divorced Tonight host that at least some comedians enjoyed long-term marriages. He was especially close with fellow comedian and family man Don Rickles, whose raucous insult humor clashed memorably with Newhart’s droll understatement.

“We’re apples and oranges. I’m a Jew, he’s a Catholic. He’s low-key, I’m a yeller,” Rickles told Variety in 2012. A decade later, Judd Apatow would pay tribute to their friendship in the short documentary Bob and Don: A Love Story.

A master of the gently sarcastic remark, Newhart got into comedy after he became bored with his $5-an-hour accounting job in Chicago. To pass the time, he and a friend, Ed Gallagher, began making funny phone calls to each other. Eventually, they decided to record them as comedy routines and sell them to radio stations.

Their efforts failed, but the records came to the attention of Warner Bros., which signed Newhart to a record contract and booked him into a Houston club in February 1960. “A terrified 30-year-old man walked out on the stage and played his first nightclub,” he recalled in 2003.

Six of his routines were recorded during his two-week date, and the album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, was released on April Fools’ Day 1960. It sold 750,000 copies and was followed by The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!. At one point the albums ranked No. 1 and 2 on the sales charts. The New York Times in 1960 said he was “the first comedian in history to come to prominence through a recording.”

Besides winning Grammy’s Album of the Year for his debut, Newhart won as Best New Artist of 1960, and the sequel The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back! won as Best Comedy Spoken Word Album. Newhart was booked for several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and at nightclubs, concert halls, and college campuses across the country. He hated the clubs, however, because of the heckling drunks they attracted. “Every time I have to step out of a scene and put one of those birds in his place, it kills the routine,” he said in 1960.

In 2004, he received another Emmy nomination, this time as Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for a role in E.R. Another honor came his way in 2007, when the Library of Congress announced it had added The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart to its registry of historically significant sound recordings. Just 25 recordings are added each year to the registry, which was created in 2000.

Newhart made the best-seller lists in 2006 with his memoir, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!. He was nominated for another Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album (a category that includes audio books) for his reading of the book.

“I’ve always likened what I do to the man who is convinced that he is the last sane man on Earth … the Paul Revere of psychotics running through the town and yelling `This is crazy.′ But no one pays attention to him,” Newhart wrote.

Born George Robert Newhart in Chicago to a German-Irish family, he was called Bob to avoid confusion with his father, who was also named George. At St. Ignatius High School and Loyola University in Chicago, he amused fellow students with imitations of James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Durante, and other stars. After receiving a degree in commerce, Newhart served two years in the Army. Returning to Chicago after his military service, he entered law school at Loyola, but flunked out. He eventually landed a job as an accountant for the state unemployment department. Bored with the work, he spent his free hours acting at a stock company in suburban Oak Park, an experience that led to the phone bits.

“I wasn’t part of some comic cabal,” Newhart wrote in his memoir. “Mike (Nichols) and Elaine (May), Shelley (Berman), Lenny Bruce, Johnny Winters, Mort Sahl — we didn’t all get together and say, Let’s change comedy and slow it down.′ It was just our way of finding humor. The college kids would hear mother-in-law jokes and say, What the hell is a mother-in-law?′ What we did reflected our lives and related to theirs.”

Newhart continued appearing on television occasionally after his fourth sitcom ended and vowed in 2003 that he would work as long as he could. “It’s been so much, 43 years of my life; (to quit) would be like something was missing,” he said.

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Wildfire prompts MEG Energy, Imperial to move workers away from oilsands sites



CALGARY – Out-of-control wildfires blazing in northern Alberta have prompted fresh evacuations of workers from oilsands sites.

MEG Energy Corp. said late Wednesday evening that it is evacuating non-essential personnel from its Christina Lake oilsands site, while Imperial Oil Ltd. confirmed in an email Thursday that it has begun reducing the number of non-essential workers at its Kearl oilsands mine.

Both companies said there have been no direct impacts to their sites and the moves are precautionary.

“Our first operating priority is to care for ourselves and all others,” said MEG CEO Darlene Gates in a news release, adding production at the company’s Christina Lake site continues as normal.

“Our focus is to minimize and mitigate any potential impact on our people and our operations.”

MEG’s Christina Lake site is located about 150 kilometres south of Fort McMurray in northeast Alberta, while Imperial’s Kearl site is located 70 km north of Fort McMurray.

MEG’s Christina Lake site has a current production capacity of about 110,000 barrels of oil per day, while Kearl has a production capacity of 220,000 barrels per day.

There are several wildfires currently burning in the Fort McMurray area, and Alberta Wildfire classifies the current wildfire danger in the area as “extreme.”

The wildfire burning northeast of Fort McMurray was more than 1,000 square km in size and just 7 km away from “industrial sites,” Alberta Wildfire said Thursday afternoon.

The fire detected Wednesday southwest of Fort McMurray was 150 square km in size as of Thursday afternoon and was just 11 km away from Highway 63, an important thoroughfare that connects the oilsands and the community of Fort McMurray to Edmonton.

Two weeks ago, Suncor Energy Inc. — Canada’s second-largest oilsands producer by volume — evacuated non-essential personnel and curtailed production at its Firebag oilsands site north of Fort McMurray.

The company has not disclosed how much production has been taken offline. In the first quarter of 2024, before the curtailment, Firebag produced 229,000 barrels of oil per day.

The fires and the threat they pose to oilsands production have helped boost Canadian oil prices this week. Western Canada Select heavy crude was up $1.73 or 2.63 per cent on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:MEG; TSX:IMO; TSX:SU)

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