Scarborough shooting victim remembered as 'best dad'

October 01 2014 02:47PM

Those closest to Dillon Phillips remembered him as a soft-spoken, respectful young man and a great father as they gathered around a makeshift memorial Tuesday evening.

Phillips, 22, was killed Monday morning after suffering multiple gunshot wounds at a Toronto Community Housing Corp. highrise on Eglinton Ave. E. near Markham Rd.

“He was a really nice guy, so no one thought this would happen to him,” said Ryan Fox, 17, who knew Phillips from around the neighbourhood.

Synkelle Beals, 12, and Phillips would sometimes play basketball or listen to hip-hop; Phillips was getting into writing his own lyrics, said Beals.

Flowers, stuffed animals, candles and a can of beer were placed near the side entrance to the building where Phillips was killed, along with two signs. One read “R.I.P. Dillon” while the other was filled with condolences.

Friends said Phillips lived a few blocks away with his mother and sometimes his young daughter.

“He was the best dad,” said Crystal Maxwell, 22, who grew up with Phillips.

“They were like best friends.”

Toronto police have not made any arrests related to the incident, which marks the city’s 40th homicide of the year.

A longtime resident of the building said violent crimes in the area increased after security was taken away years ago.

“It will happen again,” she said. “No decent person belongs in this building.”

Police are asking anyone with information about the Phillips’ whereabouts prior to his death to come forward.

Canadian universities are falling behind, rankings say

October 01 2014 02:00PM

Canadian universities are falling behind their international counterparts, says a new report on university rankings.

While the University of Toronto retained its 20th place spot on the list of top 200 schools compiled this year by university ratings company Times Higher Education, all other Canadian universities fell. Though many dropped by only a few places, some like the University of Alberta were knocked down 15 spots.

Others, such as Ryerson University and the Ontario College of Art and Design University didn’t even place on the list, based on 13 performance indicators including research, teaching environment and international outlook.

Times Higher Education has been putting out rankings for the past 11 years in conjunction with another organization ranking universities, Quacquarelli Symonds. After years of collaboration, the two organizations separated and released their own lists.

Like the Times Higher Education list, Quacquarelli Symonds’ gave UofT its top ranking of any Canadian university when it released its list in mid-September.

Meanwhile, the Times Higher Education rankings lauded Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities with top spots alongside an increasing number of Asian schools that have climbed the ranks.

“Competition in the global knowledge economy is intensifying, and Canada needs to invest and work hard to stay competitive against the rising nations of East Asia,” said rankings editor Phil Baty, who called Canada’s showing “poor.”

The rankings and their editor didn’t just have harsh words and results for Canada.

They noted that while the U.S. continued to dominate the list, the country “lost significant ground” and as a nation “suffered an average fall of 5.34 rankings places.” Publically funded U.S. universities were hit with the worst losses because 60 per cent of them fell from their 2013-2014 rankings, the report said.

Baty attributed the losses to Western institutions being “starved of vital public funding, while East Asian schools pick up even more prominent support from government.

“There is much talk of a power shift from East to West, but these new world university rankings provide hard evidence of the phenomenon,” he said.

Though the report featured schools from 28 countries, nations such as Brazil, India, Greece, Portugal and Thailand still failed to place.

Top Canadian rankings:

University of Toronto: 20

University of British Columbia: 32

McGill University: 39

McMaster University: 94

Université de Montréal: 113

University of Alberta: 124

University of Victoria: 173

University of Ottawa: 188

University of Calgary: 226-250

Carleton University: 226-250

Dalhousie University: 226-250

Laval University: 226-250

Simon Fraser University: 226-250

Western University: 226-250

York University: 226-250

Queen’s University: 251-275

University of Waterloo: 251-275

University of Manitoba: 301-305

Source: Times Higher Education Rankings, 2014-2015

The Pulse: Scarborough residents fed up with TTC

October 01 2014 01:42PM

Scarborough residents seem to have given up on the TTC.

Several told the Star on Sunday that they bought a car because they couldn’t stand Toronto’s public transit, while others admitted they don’t even consider using the TTC. Some said the transit system holds Toronto back from becoming a world-class city.

“I’m telling you, I come from an ex-communist country. This transportation system is way worse than the Romanian one,” said Michaela Delibas, 47.

Delibas lives in Scarborough and works in downtown Toronto. She used to commute by taking a TTC bus and GO train, but after standing in the cold waiting 40 minutes for the next bus, ending up sick and late for work, she gave up and bought a car.

If she could make one change to the TTC system, she said, it would be to add more frequent buses departing from the Agincourt GO station.

Each week leading up to the Oct. 27 municipal election, the Star is hitting the streets, asking residents what they would change about Toronto’s transit system. This week, we spoke with 30 people enjoying warm weather in Wards 42, 43 and 44.

The most common feedback was that Scarborough needs more subway lines.

“It should be all subways. It should be subways everywhere,” said Torsten Burgers, 45. “It’s one city. If you call it GTA, you cannot call it like that if you do not have a subway going there.”

Burgers was on his way to the Toronto Zoo with his wife Sunday afternoon. The two said they were just talking about the city’s sub-par transit system.

“When you see Paris, Rome, whatever comparable city with Toronto, and you see that they have … eight, 10, 12 (lines),” said Liliana Bacila. “Here, you can’t even go to the airport by subway.”

Eileen Jang, 36, lives in the Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood and visits her parents in Scarborough once a week. Jang said she can bike to her parents’ convenience store in the same time it takes to get there on the TTC.

“It’d be nice to have, yeah, a subway,” she said, adding it would be best along the waterfront. “But I know that’s not possible because the roads are so old … whatever, I don’t know, costs too much money. But it’d be nice to see something that is on the south line.”

Several students at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus complained about the difficulty of getting downtown — especially on evenings and weekends.

“If you’re going downtown, you have to budget, like, three hours, for an hour and a half to get there and an hour and a half to get back,” said Jeff Nwagbo, a third-year international development and political science student. “It has to really be worth it; you have to have a full day planned.”

Others were more preoccupied by visual details.

“Buses are always so dirty. They always have garbage all over the ground,” said Cassy Valenti, 17, a University of Toronto student originally from Bowmanville.

She suggested adding garbage canisters throughout buses.

A woman who gave her name as Lady Marlo Fry said seniors, children and students should travel for free.

“They’re low-income. They need it more than anybody else,” she said Sunday morning before heading to church.

Fry’s friend, who recently moved to Scarborough from Oshawa, said the transit system is too complicated.

Danielle Singer said she wished there was a better mapping system for explaining bus schedules.

Concerns by Ward:

Ward 43 Scarborough East

Add bus line from Port Union Rd. to Queen St. E., running down Kingston Rd.: 1

Eliminate fares for seniors, students and children: 1

Simplify explanations of schedules/routes online: 1

More bus routes through neighbourhoods: 1

Cleaner buses: 1

Build more Scarborough subway lines: 3

More frequent buses: 1

Better bus drivers (driving too fast): 1

Ward 44 Scarborough East

More frequent buses: 1

Cleaner buses: 1

Direct bus from U of T Scarborough campus to downtown: 2

Fewer buses going through Highland Creek neighbourhood: 2

Free wi-fi on subways/buses: 2

Better TTC communication with customers regarding transit delays: 1

Build more Scarborough subway lines: 1

Ward 42 Scarborough Rouge River

Build more Scarborough subway lines: 2

Free wi-fi on subways/buses: 2

Lower fares: 2

More frequent buses leaving from Agincourt: 1

More frequent/consistent buses (decrease bunching): 1

Digital boards at bus stops displaying next bus time: 1

Better accessibility on buses for elderly citizens: 1

Pan Am Games looking for torchbearers

October 01 2014 01:30PM

As medal-winning Olympians Simon Whitfield and Catriona Le May Doan announced details of the upcoming Pan Am Games torch relay, it was a throwback to their time as torchbearers four years ago.

They were the first two to hold the flame in the torch relay leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, something Whitfield calls a “remarkable experience.”

“The atmosphere, the energy that came with that — it was truly an honour to be there,” he told a packed crowd in the Eaton Centre on Wednesday.

Now, Canadians from across the country will have the chance to share a similar experience.

Three thousand people will be taking part in the 41-day cross-country Pan Am Games torch relay. After the flame is lit at a traditional Aztec lighting ceremony in Teotihuacan, Mexico, the Canadian journey will start in May 2015.

The flame will travel through Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Sudbury and Owen Sound, along with dozens of other Ontario communities and five cities outside the province — Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax and the Greater Vancouver Area.

“The torch relay starts to make it very real, because we know as the torch goes across those 130 communities and across the country, people start to get the sense that this is really going to happen,” said Premier Kathleen Wynne.

“This will be the first time the Pan Am torch relay will have gone across the country,” said Saäd Rafi, TO2015 CEO.

The torch will eventually make its way back to Toronto to kick off the games on July 10. The Parapan Am Games are Aug. 7-15.

“The torch will start in Toronto and end in Toronto, and I just hope it’s not going to go too close to City Hall,” joked Councillor Mark Grimes (open Mark Grimes's poilcard), referencing the building’s recent electrical fire.

Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield has been named the first honourary torchbearer — but you don’t have to be an astronaut or athlete to participate.

“It makes me doubly or triply proud to be one of the representatives of the many people who will be carrying a torch, running to places all across Canada but primarily in Ontario,” Hadfield said.

Here’s what you need to know.

How can people enter to be a torchbearer?

You can apply online at Or you can also use Pan Am Games kiosks on the second floor of the Eaton Centre, which will be operating until Sunday.

Are there any requirements?

You must be at least 13 years old by the start of the relay on May 30, 2015, and should have a basic understanding of English.

If someone uses a wheelchair or other assistive device, can they be a torchbearer?

Yes. “You can walk, you can wheel, you can run,” said Teddy Katz, TO2015 spokesperson.

Can people select where they would like to take part?

When you submit your torchbearer request, you identify the community where you would like to participate in the torch relay.

How will people be selected?

Names will be going into a lottery to make things as fair as possible, Rafi said.

What is the time commitment?

You’d only be volunteering on the day you’re marked down to bear the torch, and Katz said the total commitment is likely to be just a few hours.

Will torchbearers get to wear eye-catching Pan Am Games uniforms?

Katz couldn’t confirm about uniforms just yet, but said there will be an announcement with more details in early 2015.

When will people know the exact route?

You can learn the full route when the entire torch relay route and schedule are announced in February, according to Katz.


Athletes hype Pan Am Games at ticket launch

Interactive map: Pan Am venue sites

Pan Am primer: the party Toronto didn’t see coming

Leafs' Kadri Looking To Take Next Step

October 01 2014 12:48PM

For all the publicity he's received and the controversy he's been in over the five years he's been with the Toronto Maple Leafs, center Nazem Kadri has technically played one full, lockout-free NHL season, and even then it was 78 games last season...

Campaign notebook: Real estate board president blasts journalist over commissions question

October 01 2014 12:39PM

Mayoral candidate Doug Ford (open Doug Ford's poilcard) held a Wednesday news conference at the headquarters of the Toronto Real Estate Board to discuss his plan to cut the land transfer tax by 60 per cent.

After Ford finished taking questions, the board’s chief government and public affairs officer, Von Palmer, stepped up to the microphone himself. Other board officials, including president Paul Etherington, watched from the side.

After various questions about Ford’s proposal, James Tumelty, senior camera operator for Citytv, calmly asked Palmer a series of questions about realtors’ commissions.

Etherington did not enjoy them.

A transcript of the three-man exchange, some of which was inaudible on tape:

Tumelty: “For all the reasons that you said the land transfer tax hurts seniors…and for the reason that real estate prices have grown considerably…should real estate commissions be reduced too?”

Palmer: “I don’t think that’s a topic of discussion.”

Tumelty: “That’s the lion’s share…it’s that real estate commission.”

Palmer: “Right. There are some who choose to attack realtors in this process. Realtors are not the problem.”

Tumelty: “I’m not attacking, just asking a question.”

Palmer: “Fair enough. But the homebuyer pays the tax. People don’t work for free, by the way. Realtors provide a service. You have a choice to use a realtor or not use a realtor. But let’s not run away from the facts, though: the homebuyer pays the tax. That is the problem, because those are the people that are hurt. So it’s not a question of commissions or what we give up. The question is who’s hurt by this tax and who benefits when you start to take it out.”

Tumelty: “Same idea when they don’t have to pay the real estate fees.”

Etherington (interjecting from side): “You know what? That’s an inappropriate question. Who pays for you. Let’s end this conversation now, thank you.”

Reporter: “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. He’s allowed to ask a question.”

Etherington: “Thank you very much. Inappropriate competition question. Not appropriate for this. Thank you very much. “

Reporter: “Sir, who are — you’re regulating the press conferences? If he wants to ask a question he can ask a question.”

Etherington: “Not a question that might be anti-competitive. And it’s not a proper question for here. Thank you very much.”

Reporter: “Sir, who are you?”

Etherington: “I’m the president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, Paul Etherington.”

David Clarkson Eager To Turn It Around

October 01 2014 09:15AM

As the story of his first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs rapidly unfolded like a tragicomedy, right wing David Clarkson could have started asking a lot of questions that begin with why. As in why did I sign to play in Toronto, one of the ...

Maple Leafs forward Clarkson eager to turn it around

October 01 2014 01:00AM

TORONTO -- As the story of his first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs rapidly unfolded like a tragicomedy, right wing David Clarkson could have started asking a lot of questions that begin with why. As in why did I sign to play in Toronto, ...

Pan Am Games: Canada’s synchronized swim team works hard to raise the bar

September 30 2014 02:43PM

Just before diving into a Toronto pool, Karine Thomas and Jacqueline Simoneau quietly talk each other through their routine and shake out their arms and legs.

Powerful and defined triceps, deltoids and quadriceps ripple noticeably with each shake.

This is not a side of synchronized swimming seen very often.

Normally, they stand on the pool deck in theatrical outfits, shellacked hair, more makeup than seems possible to apply at one time, and dance their way into the pool.

But here, at the new Pan Am Games aquatic centre, preparing for the Oct. 2-5 World Cup in Quebec City, they are simply elite athletes at work.

The sport, stripped bare of its showy elements, amounts to a duo or a team of eight women in Team Canada swim caps and goggles, demonstrating the agility of a gymnast and the cardiovascular superiority of a triathlete.

They move effortlessly down the length of the pool, as though carried along by a moving walkway instead of their own legs (which can never touch the bottom) whirling around like blades in a blender. It’s called the eggbeater for a reason.

For much of the routine, which runs up to four minutes, they’re upside in the water holding their breath.

“People don’t get past the look,” says Marie-Lou Morin, the captain of this young team undergoing a rebuild following fourth-place finishes in the last two Olympics.

“Yes, it’s artistic, but people forget how hard our sport is.”

If they grunted like a weightlifter when tossing a teammate three-metres in the air or flopped down like a middle-distance runner after a particularly exhausting pattern the athleticism involved would be more obvious.

But, above all, they must make it look effortless. Their legs may be coursing with pain or they’re close to blacking out from lack of oxygen, and yet still they smile.

But it is actually the athleticism of synchronized swimming that holds the future for the Canadian team and the sport itself, says Jackie Stell-Buckingham, CEO of Synchro Canada .

“You can only do so much with choreography.”

In keeping with the Olympic credo — faster, higher, stronger — progression needs to mean more physically demanding routines, she says.

As the Canadians practice their splits, patterns and lifts, head coach Meng Chen paces along the side of the pool. She arches her body or cuts through the air with her hand as they do in the water.

“I love the control,” she shouts at the team in the water during a lift.

“I need to see the height,” she says, a moment later. “One more time.”

One more time — they get that one a lot. This is a sport of such fine detail that perfection is continually sought but rarely achieved.

Part of that, for the Canadian team at least, is because Chen keeps ramping up the difficulty of their routine.

“I really want to show the athletic side of the sport,” she says. “I’m increasing the difficulty in our choreography to show that they can do more than people expect.”

That doesn’t just mean faster sculling, higher lifts or more complex underwater patterns. It also means placing those elements later in the program.

“It’s like we’re running 10 400-metre sprints. Tell me, in the last one, how are you going to feel? They have to give everything.”

The duet — consisting of Thomas, the only veteran from the 2012 London squad, and Simoneau, the team’s youngest star at just 17 — come up for air at the end of the routine to hear Chen clapping.

“Good job,” she said. “I love that energy.”

Then, she crouches down by the pool and launches into a stream of consciousness about everything that can be done better. She barely pauses for breath between ideas. She doesn’t have to, she was, after all, a synchronized swimmer herself before she turned to coaching.

They nod throughout.

“We’re never satisfied,” says Thomas.

“There is no perfection; there is always something we can do better. That’s part of who we are as people and part of the sport as well.”

Even seemingly trivial things must be done just so.

When Scott Russell, host of CBC Sports Weekend, decides to take a selfie with the team, Chen makes them do it again.

“Let’s have something together, something fun,” she says, before leading them “1-2-3” into an explosion of posed arms and dazzling smiles.

Chen’s feedback style, a compliment followed by a more lengthy critique, is all part of her belief that the Canadian team can, by mastering more difficult elements, finally wrestle a medal from Russia, Spain and China, the perennial three on the podium.

“They need to remember that they have so much potential and they need to understand that they can give more and more,” she says.

While Chen challenges her swimmers, Synchro Canada is challenging the international governing body, FINA, to improve its judging system.

“We tend to put in a lot of difficulty (in routines) and we’re not getting as much credit for it,” says Jadine Cleary, the technical director at Synchro Canada.

The judging system has already changed once since the 2012 London Olympics, for the better judges and athletes say, and Canada is, once again, pushing FINA.

Canada is part of a four-country working group looking to bring more clarity to the difficulty score to make sure that teams who push on that front will get fairly rewarded.

Bringing more objectivity and measurability to an artistic, judged sport — much like figure skating has already done — will also help give synchro more credibility in the broader sports world, Cleary says.

The Quebec City World Cup is an important marker for the Canadians, a year out from their home games, the 2015 Toronto Pan Ams , and two years from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“To see where we’ve come from to where we are now in the complexity of the routines, speed and the difficulty, it’s very exciting,” says Janice Mclaughlin, a Synchro Canada board member and FINA judge.

Behind their perma-grin smiles, the swimmers are feeling the effects of all that increased speed and difficulty in their World Cup routines.

“The girls . . . we know that we’re smiling but in our heads we’re just forcing so hard in practice,” Morin said.

“But when we do competitions that smile isn’t fake, we’re enjoying it. Finally, all our hard work is coming to an end.”

Pan Am Games budget at mercy of security costs, sports minister says

September 30 2014 02:38PM

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Coteau says the Pan Am Games’ $2.5-billion budget is really at the mercy of security costs.

After spending more than three hours fielding questions before a legislative committee, including questions on the potential for ballooning security costs, Coteau insisted the Ontario Provincial Police is not getting a “blank cheque” but in the same breath said the government’s hands are tied.

“If the OPP makes recommendations in regards to the safety of these Games, then I have to yield to their expertise,” the minister told reporters.

Opposition critic scoffed at the notion that all policing costs — OPP and the municipal police forces and their overtime bill — are covered off in the most recent figure of $239 million, which is already double the original estimate.

The Games are expected to draw 7,666 athletes competing in 51 sports at venues in 16 municipalities, including Toronto, Hamilton, Milton, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Caledon, St. Catharines and Welland.

OPP Insp. Mike McDonell, of the Pan/Parapan Am Games Integrated Security Unit, told the Star security costs and planning are still “fluid” but noted “we are on the cusp of entering into the final stage of operational planning.”

“The security budget numbers are current cost estimates and are not finalized. Based on the current Games plans, the total security cost is estimated at $239 million for the Integrated Security Unit (includes costs for OPP, municipal policing and private security services),” he said.

McDonell explained security costs could increase based on a number of factors: changes to the scope and scale of the Games; changes to the threat level and municipal policing contracts.

New Democrat MPP Paul Miller pointed to 2010’s riot-plagued G20 summit, when the Toronto Police Service alone handed the federal government a bill of more than $89 million, much of it in overtime costs.

“It all boils down to the same thing, no matter how they shroud it . . . it’s the taxpayer’s dollar,” he said.

Coteau brushed aside the comparison to the violent G20 summit. “This is a sporting event. It’s like going to a Blue Jays game,” he said.

Tory MPP Todd Smith said the cost of the Pan Am Games jumped from $1.4 billion to $2.5 billion when the athletes’ village was factored in, so he says it is naive to think the cost is not going to go any higher.

Smith said last week the province bailed out the TO2015 organizing committee to the tune of $74 million and “it does appear that he is at the mercy of policing officials . . . security costs can be very expensive.”

Meanwhile, Coteau told the legislative committee that new TO2015 hires will not get a bonus if the Games come in on budget and on time, which is controversial practice exposed by the Star a year ago.

'Extraordinary' demand for Barrie-area farmland

September 30 2014 02:16PM

As development has leapfrogged the Greenbelt area north of the GTA into the fast-growing area around Barrie, many farmers have been playing a lucrative game of musical chairs.

They’ve been selling off valuable spreads for development that their families have farmed, in some cases for generations, and been snapping up cheaper land within an hour’s drive where they start all over again.

That double demand, of sorts, for farmland in the South Simcoe area has been “extraordinary,” according to ReMax’s annual farm report released Tuesday. That high-demand stretch, largely along Highway 400, includes Barrie, Tottenham, Innisfil, Springwater and Bradford.

There developers have paid up to $54,000 an acre for hay fields that can be converted to housing. Just down the road – in areas where land is designated solely for farming – prices have also been escalating, but to a relatively affordable $10,000 to $12,000 per acre, says ReMax.

That’s encouraged some long-time farmers to even split their businesses, says former farmer and now ReMax farm specialist George Atkinson: Dad maintains some of the valuable old parcel and sells off the rest to help the kids buy up new, cheaper farms within easy commuting distance so they can share costly farm equipment.

In Kitchener-Waterloo, where prices have started to level off, farmland is now amongst the priciest in the province — $14,000 to $18,000 per acre. That’s also lead to relocations, with some Mennonite families moving to Quinte and Renfrew counties to the northeast. There farmland is a more affordable $8,000 to $12,000 per acre, notes ReMax.

For the most part, the price of farmland across Canada has largely held steady or increased just slightly over 2013, says the report, after years of substantive price escalation.

Alberta, however, has been plagued with the same inventory problem now driving up prices in the Toronto house market: Bidding wars caused by too much demand for too little supply.

Alberta farmers looking to expand, as well as urbanites looking for the country life, have driven up competition to the point where farm prices have increased 20 per cent in the last year alone, says ReMax.

LIVE: Yorkville businesses host mayoral debate

September 30 2014 01:31PM

Yorkville Business Associations hosts mayoral debate. Mayoral candidates John Tory, Olivia Chow and Doug Ford are set to attend.

Doug Ford on Chinese residents: 'I know one thing. They want subways'

September 30 2014 12:48PM

Appearing at a city hall flag-raising with China’s consul general, mayoral candidate Doug Ford said Tuesday that Toronto’s Chinese residents are fiscal conservatives who “want subways.”

“They’re extremely hard-working people, they have an entrepreneurial spirit, they helped build this city, they helped build this country, and I just want to pay my respects,” Ford told a reporter for a Chinese-language media outlet on city hall’s podium roof.

“I think any flag-raising ceremony is about being proud of your country. I think it’s great. We’re like-minded in the way that the Chinese community is very fiscally responsible. And I know one thing: they want subways. They don’t want anything else.”

Ford’s generalizations prompted a cheeky but pointed reply from rival Olivia Chow, who is from Hong Kong.

“I appreciate his salute of my hard-working nature, and that I've helped build this city,” Chow said in an email.

“As to public transit, his belief that Chinese-Canadians don't want anything else but subways must be the reason why he cut bus routes in northeast Scarborough. I guess he hasn't been on a bus in Scarborough and noticed the number of Chinese-Canadians on it.”

Ford offered a similarly sweeping assessment of the city’s Jewish community last year.

“Rob absolutely loves the Jewish community and they’re supportive, very supportive — they’re business people,” he told the Toronto Sun then.

Mayor Rob Ford was widely criticized in 2008for saying that “Oriental people work like dogs” and are “slowly taking over.”

The flag of China was raised on city hall’s ceremonial flagpole in honour of the country’s National Day on Oct. 1. The city regularly raises the flags of foreign countries in honour of national days and other special occasions; Canadian flags always stay up on other poles.

A group of about 10 Hong Kong protesters demonstrated at the ceremony, one of them holding a sign that said “Hong Kong, fight for democracy.” Doug Ford would not directly respond to a question on the events in Hong Kong .

“I just want to focus on the ceremony today and congratulate the people for coming out today,” he said.

Chow pledges $15 million for 3,000 new child-care spots

September 30 2014 11:30AM

Olivia Chow says she would invest $15 million in city funds over four years to create 3,000 desperately needed new child-care spaces if she is elected Toronto mayor.

Half of the new spots would be subsidized to help parents pay fees that can run as high as $20,000 a year for babies and toddlers, she said Tuesday morning.

“At the beginning of the campaign I said I would put children and families at the heart of our city,” she said outside a downtown daycare centre where she released her long-awaited child care plan.

“We can expand child care and make it more affordable, and with me as mayor we will,” she said.

Chow noted she is the only mayoral candidate talking about children’s services.

John Tory and Doug Ford have not released policy initiatives on the issue. In a July debate, Tory said the city doesn’t have the money to expand the child care system. However he told the Star earlier this week he would invest more city resources in the service.

Currently, there are licensed child-care spaces for barely one in five Toronto children and the soaring costs mean more than 20,000 kids are waiting for fee subsidies.

“I am the only candidate talking about investing in after-school programs, school nutrition, and now affordable, accessible child care,” she said. “Families need more support and with me as their new mayor, I will provide that support.”

Chow said she would use $15 million in city capital funds to renovate and build new facilities to address the severe shortage of licensed child care, especially for babies and toddlers. An additional $20 million a year from the province’s new child-care funding formula would help the city add another 700 subsidies to the 668 brought on-line this year, Chow added.

For older children, Chow said she would work with school boards to better integrate before- and after-school care for students in Kindergarten to grade 3.

For those from Grades 4 to 6, she proposes more flexible — and less costly — care by expanding the city’s after-school recreation and arts program she helped start more than a decade ago when she was a councillor.

To help the city save money, she would introduce bulk buying for child-care centres. Chow would create a central waiting list, to ease the stress on parents, who now have to put their names on multiple daycare lists in the hope of securing a spot.

As a former city councillor and school trustee with a long track record on the issue, Chow said she is the only mayoral candidate with the experience to work with the province and school boards to make Toronto’s child-care system more child-friendly and easier for parents.

“I am creating more services for children, making sure existing services are more integrated, flexible and more effective,” she said.

Councillor Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches—East York), who joined Chow at the announcement, said it is “irresponsible” for any mayoral candidate to not have a child-care policy.

“It is the number one priority issue I hear from parents at the door,” she added.

Although Tuesday’s announcement focused on child care, she was asked by reporters how her transit policy would address a serious delay on the Bloor subway earlier in the morning.

“I am the only candidate talking about state-of-good-repair,” she replied. Her plan to build an LRT instead of a subway in Scarborough would free up $1 billion to buy more buses, streetcars and subway cars and handle maintenance, such as repairing the Bloor subway tracks and upgrading the signal system, she said.

Toronto's newest park will be in the sky

September 30 2014 08:27AM

Toronto's newest public park won't be on the ground but in the sky.

The park is part of a combined 250,000 square metre business complex and new GO bus terminal on Bay St. at Lake Shore Blvd. announced Tuesday.

The one-acre park will connect two new 48-storey office towers at the fourth floor that will be built to the north and south of the rail corridor. The complex will be linked to Union Station.

The design is still in the works but the so called “Skypark” will be landscaped and will include a restaurant.

Similar to New York's skyline, the park will be accessible by elevator and stairs.

The development is a joint project by Metrolinx, the regional transportation authority for the GTA and Hamilton area, and Ivanhoé Cambridge, the real estate arm of Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec.

Construction is scheduled to begin in Spring, 2015, with the new bus terminal opening three years after construction begins.