Toronto public school trustees racked up high costs for conference travel

September 17 2014 04:00AM


Toronto public school trustees spent $108,000 on conferences over a three-year period, travelling to California, Boston and Whistler on the taxpayers’ dime, say two confidential reports obtained by the Star.

The biggest spenders were trustees Gerri Gershon, racking up $13,804.54 in conference costs; Elizabeth Moyer, with at least $13,727.53; and Shelley Laskin with more than $13,533.93, from 2010-11 to 2012-13, the reports show. There were no cost estimates available for three additional conferences attended by Moyer and Laskin.

These figures come as Toronto trustees face a barrage of criticism over their spending habits. As revealed by the Star, a separate internal audit, obtained through a freedom of information request, showed trustees were reimbursed for hand lotion, a floor mat, $11.30 worth of chocolate bars, a $205 aerial tour of the Alberta oilsands, and Gershon’s tour of Israel, which cost nearly $4,000.

More at thestar.com

Editorial: Voters must take Toronto District School Board mess seriously

“Taxpayers have been rightfully upset to learn about past trustee expenses at the TDSB,” said board chair Mari Rutka in a letter to the editor sent to the Star on Tuesday. She added that trustees and education director Donna Quan had asked for the internal audit to identify the problems.

“And, since and because of that report, we have made the changes needed to make sure future expenses are fully compliant with a new and much tougher expense policy, which came into effect in May of this year,” Rutka wrote.

“While I believe that some expenses — not all — were submitted with the best of intentions and that reasonable explanations for those expenses may exist, in the end, I also acknowledge the fact that some expenses were not appropriate and should not have been expensed — let alone approved.”

The confidential reports — which consist of two charts — compile, for the first time, figures from different funds that trustees can use to charge for conference travel.

In total, the 22 Toronto District School Board trustees spent a at least $108,000 on conference travel during the three school years in question. That figure includes Gershon’s controversial $3,765 tour of Israel, which she said was meant to promote interfaith relations after concerns were raised about Muslim prayers at one of her schools.

Three trustees filed no conference expenses during the time period — Stephnie Payne, Chris Tonks and Irene Atkinson — while others filed claims ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.

Laskin told the Star in an interview that she received permission for all conferences she attended and that, overall, she is one of the lowest spenders when it comes to expenses.

Trustees each have a $27,000 expense budget, but can also claim conference costs from other pots of money.

“Professional development is one of the tenets of being a trustee,” Laskin said, adding that several initiatives have come out of her travels.

This is not the first time Toronto public school board trustees have landed in hot water over food expenses or over-mileage — several reports over the years have cited inappropriate spending.

“I think generally with school boards and all levels of government, the end goal is transparency,” said Toronto Catholic board trustee John Del Grande, who was one of the first trustees in the province to post his expenses online, receipts and all, in 2006. All trustees in the Toronto Catholic board now do so.

“As an outsider and from a school board that was the first to openly post expenses online, I’m disappointed that our coterminous board wouldn’t follow suit with that . . . My advice to the public board is to just openly post, and things have a way of working themselves out,” said Del Grande.

While some professional development is warranted for elected officials, trustees must always be sure “they are being prudent in terms of travel and accommodations,” said Del Grande, who is not running for re-election.

That sentiment was echoed by former Toronto board chair Chris Bolton, who said some trustees did attend conferences without prior approval and even went to the U.S. when there was a ban on international travel. Few ever produced reports on what they learned, he said.

“There is a role for professional development, but there are two things we need to remember: we shouldn’t be doing those things during times of austerity … and the other thing that we talked about (as trustees) was that when somebody goes to a conference, they should be reporting back,” Bolton said.

Toronto public trustees voted last week to post expenses online, but in general categories only and not with receipts.

“The reality is, if you are not comfortable with your expenses being on the front page of the Sun or the Star, you need to question what you are doing,” said Del Grande. “Expenses aren’t bad, but they need to be reasonable and there needs to be a clear set of rules and guidelines.”

Unused money set aside for trustee expenses can be returned to general coffers. The Toronto Catholic board votes, as a whole, to decide where the leftover money will be spent.

Gershon said she emailed 700 people when she took her 2011 trip to Israel “and told them about its purpose and what I planned to do as a result.” No one complained, she said.

However, the internal audit found it was unclear how such a trip was relevant to her trustee duties. Gerson said she “did not operate outside of our policy” or go beyond her spending limit.

As for her high conference claims, she said, “I have a passion for what I do and I always want to improve.”

Moyer wrote in an email: “All TDSB trustees have access to a discretionary fund and I choose to use it for professional development. It is important to stay current on education issues in my role. All (professional development) is associated with my role as trustee.”

Baseball Capsules

September 16 2014 11:18PM

The Baltimore Orioles won their first AL East crown since 1997, using home runs by Steve Pearce and Jimmy Paredes to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Tuesday night.

Orioles beat Blue Jays to wrap up AL East crown: Griffin

September 16 2014 08:18PM


BALTIMORE—The Orioles finally ended their six-month hunt for Orange October on Tuesday, besting the second-place Blue Jays 8-2 and securing the club’s first AL East title since 1997. It was a different time, long ago, when Pat Gillick was GM and Robbie Alomar was the O’s second baseman.

For the second night in a row the Jays sent one of their young guns, Drew Hutchison, to the mound in an attempt to stave off division elimination. They remain barely alive in the wild-card.

The Jays once again took a first-inning lead, but the O’s responded quickly on a three-run homer by first baseman Steve Pearce. Toronto narrowed the deficit to a run with an RBI single by Jose Reyes in the second, but another home run, this time by Jimmy Paredes brought the lead back to two.

In the seventh inning, after Hutchison set a career high with 11 strikeouts, Aaron Loup entered. He hit Nick Markakis in the shoulder and surrendered a three-run triple to Alejandro DeAza. Then, completely predictable after Monday’s incident, a Darren O’Day fastball hit Jose Bautista in the butt the very next inning. The teams have four more games against each other.

After the final out, Hutchison and his teammates were forced to watch the beginning of the Orioles’ champagne celebration on the field that continued well into the night.

“I think we are good enough to be that team,” Hutchison said. “Watching what we have to watch is probably the worst thing you can experience as a player and it’s something that we never want to have to experience again. We still have some games left here. We know what the odds are and all that, but with respect to that, we just need to win as much as we can and see what happens. We still have a lot left to play for with our pride.”

Manager John Gibbons has a contract to manage the Jays in 2015. It kicked in on January 1, 2014, which means he’s always under contract for the current season and one more, unless he’s let go before the new year. GM Alex Anthopoulos was cryptic when answering questions about his manager’s job security after a disappointing final three months.

“He’s under a contract . . . he’s always under contract, pretty much,” Anthopoulos said. “I don’t think there’s anything to take care of. He’s done a good job.”

When pressed further as to whether that revolving contract meant Gibbons was definitely his manager in 2015, Anthopoulos continued to skate around the issue.

“He’s under contract,” he repeated. “I’m a big believer that no matter what position it is in the organization: grounds crew, administrative assistant, manager, coach. You support them until you don’t support them. Until they’re no longer in these positions, you support them. That position’s going to be that way whether we’re 100 games over .500 or we’re struggling, we always support our staff.”

Playing the O’s with a chance to make them wait before celebrating their title, the Jays lost the first two games, putting up little in the way of real resistance — except for maybe Marcus Stroman’s controversial attempt at making a statement on Monday, throwing behind the neck of catcher Caleb Joseph after he had stepped on Jose Reyes’ hand.

“I think we’re all in agreement, the ball should never go near anyone’s head,” Gibbons said before the game. “And if you look at our team this year, I would venture to say we’ve had less problems with other teams than any team in baseball. That’s probably fair to say. So, we’re not a troublemaking team.”

Wait. The fact that the Jays are regarded by other teams as simply a nice opponent can be looked at in multiple ways. Perhaps the Jays in 2015 might want to play with more of an edge.

Certainly a case can be made that injuries hurt the Jays’ chances, but they’re not alone. The O’s have spent most of the season without the services of their great young third baseman Manny Machado and all-star catcher Matt Wieters. They lost slugger Chris Davis, pitchers Miguel Gonzalez, Tommy Hunter and Ubaldo Jimenez to the DL. Now Davis is suspended for 25 games.

Clearly one of the more painful losses for the Jays is left fielder and two-hole hitter Melky Cabrera, who was among the AL leaders in hits and batting average when he was injured. The 30-year-old is a free agent at the end of the season and Anthopoulos discussed that possibility — but not really.

“I’m aware that (Cabrera) wants to stay here,” Anthopoulos said. “I think it goes without saying that he’s been very productive for us, but out of respect for the other free agents on this team, the only thing I would say to that is we’re open to all these guys coming back, as long as financially it makes sense for us. But if I’ve had any contract discussions, you guys know that we keep things quiet, just out of respect to both sides. From what I understand, he has enjoyed his time in Toronto.”

Rob Ford's health status to be revealed by doctor Wednesday

September 16 2014 05:41PM


After days of ominous but cryptic comments from Mayor Rob Ford and members of his family, a doctor will give the city an official update Wednesday on the health problems that have cast a pall over the mayoral election.

The uncertainty surrounding Ford’s status has slowed a campaign that usually accelerates in September. New candidate Doug Ford stayed off the campaign trail again on Tuesday, appearing downcast and emotional when he spoke briefly to reporters outside Mount Sinai Hospital.

“It’s extremely tough right now,” he said.

Rob Ford gave another disquieting interview to the Toronto Sun’s Joe Warmington. He said Monday that he had undergone a second biopsy, this one on his lungs, and was vomiting and in pain.

“It’s pretty tricky right now,” he said.

Nobody from the Ford family will attend the doctor’s 5 p.m. news conference on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Doug Ford campaign told various media outlets. Doug Ford has no campaign events planned.

“I just want to get over this hump on Wednesday and we’ll go from there,” he said.

Rob Ford was hospitalized last Wednesday and diagnosed with an abdominal tumour. He was transferred Thursday from Humber River Hospital to Mount Sinai, where his care is being overseen by renowned colorectal surgeon Zane Cohen. He withdrew from the mayoral election on Friday — but signed up to run for council in Ward 2 (Etobicoke North).

Two mayoral debates that had been scheduled for Tuesday were cancelled after frontrunner John Tory pulled out Monday. He and Olivia Chow are planning to participate in two debates on Wednesday: one at noon for the Churchill Society, one at 6 p.m. for the commercial real estate industry.

Each candidate held a public event on Tuesday. Chow announced the unsurprising endorsements of four left-leaning sitting councillors — her stepson Mike Layton, Gord Perks, Joe Mihevc, and Sarah Doucette — and one favoured candidate, Joe Cressy, who helped organize her campaign.

Mihevc called her a “healing presence.” Doucette cited their shared concern for affordable child care. Chow explicitly promised, for the first time, that she will release a child care policy.

Asked how she would take advantage of the slow transition between Rob Ford and Doug Ford, she said, “I wouldn’t want to take advantage of people when they’re sick.”

Tory, who leans right, has been publicly endorsed by left-leaning John Filion and centrist Jaye Robinson.

Tory appeared outside his campaign office to talk about his proposals to address traffic congestion. He promised to personally chair a roadworks committee that would vet projects a year in advance and ensure there are alternate routes available when construction forces road closures.

“It’s not that I bring any particular genius to this, it’s about the fact that the head of the city government is deeming this to be important enough that you’re going to sit there with the people involved and say, ‘We’re not going to put up with having these things that are, in my view, either incompetent or insensitive,’” he said.

Ipsos Reid released its first poll of the campaign. It put Tory at 43 per cent, Chow 29 per cent and Doug Ford 28 per cent. Chow had been languishing near 20 per cent, in third place, in recent polls by other pollsters.

A narrow majority, 53 per cent, thought it was “appropriate” that Doug Ford replaced Rob Ford on the ballot. Forty-seven per cent said it was not appropriate.

The Ipsos poll included 596people who opted into the firm’s online panels. As a non-random survey, it did not have a margin of error; Ipsos gave its “credibility interval” as 4.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from Tess Kalinowski, David Rider and Sadiya Ansari

Carlyle unplugged: A conversation with the Leafs coach

September 16 2014 05:22PM


Unplugged: Leafs coach Randy Carlyle

Furrowed brows Kathleen Wynne at plowing match

September 16 2014 04:43PM


IVY, ONT. — The political urban-rural divide ran through the centre of the International Plowing Match on Tuesday.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and her almost entirely urban Liberal caucus were heckled by visitors to the opening day of the annual fair.

“You guys are all from Toronto,” yelled a man from the Sarnia area, who refused to give his name‎, as the Liberal float went by.

“Why don’t you do something (for) southwestern Ontario,” he said to Wynne — while others chimed in — as the premier headed for the grandstand.

Some grew angry as they called for the government to quit imposing wind turbines on rural Ontario.

Later, Wynne disagreed that there is a rift between urban and rural.

“I could choose any street in Ontario and there will be people who love us and people who don’t love us,” she told reporters.

“I just don’t buy the notion that somehow you can divide up the province and say the Ontario government is only for this section of the province. This is just not the case.”

Interim Tory Leader Jim Wilson said the “huge sentiment” among plowing match visitors and across rural Ontario was that they feel cut off from Queen’s Park.

“The premier is being disingenuous when she doesn’t admit that (the divide) exists,” Wilson told reporters.

“They (the Liberals) have figured out that rural Ontario is less than 5 per cent of the vote and they treat us that way,” said the Tory MPP from Simcoe-Grey.

Wilson said part of the problem is the province imposing wind turbines on communities.

Rural Ontario, he said, is “mad as hell” that the government is so stubborn.

‎“We recognize that there are communities that are not happy with the placement of wind turbines,” Wynne said, but added that every effort is being made to give communities a greater say about where they’re placed.

“Let me just say that the clean renewable energy thrust of our government is extremely important to us,” she told reporters.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she has picked up on “frustrations” over the implementation of the Green Energy Act and the decimation of the horse racing industry.

“I think the folks in rural Ontario feel that often times their voices are not being heard at Queen’s Park,” she told reporters.

Five Maple Leafs prospects who impressed at rookie tournament

September 16 2014 04:24PM


LONDON, ONT.—Antoine Bibeau is a name that is rocketing up the charts.

Bibeau backstopped the Maple Leafs rookies to a 2-0 shutout of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday as the Toronto prospects finished their four-team tournament with a 2-1-0 record.

It was perhaps fitting that Bibeau got the 25-save shutout at Budweiser Gardens. This is the home of the OHL’s London Knights and here in May he recorded a 51-save shutout in a 1-0 win by his Val d’Or Foreurs over the Knights in the Memorial Cup.

It was a performance that made the hockey world say, “Wait. Who?”

The 20-year-old was drafted 172nd overall by the Leafs in the 2013 draft and though he might be fifth on the depth chart — maybe even sixth if training camp invitee Cal Heeter catches on — he won’t be that far down for long.

“Whenever I have a chance to make an impression, I want to,” said Bibeau. “Today was that day. I’m going to try to do the same thing every day for training camp.

The six-foot-two goalie made a few outstanding saves in his only performance here, including a reaction glove save that kept the game scoreless in the first period. But his hallmark seems to be holding his ground, with little extra movements.

“I’m a big goalie. I like playing that way,” he said.

Bibeau is most definitely in the mix for the Marlies job, competing with Garret Sparks and Christopher Gibson.

“He is calm and at times we had a few barrages in our own end and that’s what you want from a goalie,” said Marlies assistant coach Derek King, who handled the bench Tuesday. “There was no panic to his game.

“He was very composed.”

Leafs camp opens Thursday with medicals. Outside of Bibeau’s performance, there were a few other players who had a solid rookie tournament.

William Nylander, F

The eighth overall pick from the June draft played only one game, but showed his explosive speed and talent that separated him from the rest of the players. He wanted the puck, he set up plays and he backchecked, twice stopping scoring chances. He picked up one assist on a great pass to David Broll.

Viktor Loov, D

Outside of Nylander, he was the Leaf most were talking about. He’s an imposing physical player at six-foot-two, 194 pounds. A Swede taken in the seventh round in 2012, he is not afraid to lay out a check and looks like he might thrive on smaller ice. “When he hits, he goes through people,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen. He may have to learn to fight, given the reaction of the opposition whenever he got off a big hit. If he doesn’t make the Leafs, he’ll be sent to Sweden. The AHL is not an option, give his contract with Modo.

Connor Brown, F

He played twice and had a goal and an assist. At six feet, the 20-year-old, sixth-rounder from the 2012 draft has put together a complete two-way game and feels increasingly comfortable with the pro life that awaits. “I want to play as best as I can at camp and end up in the best place possible.” He could go back to junior as an over-age player, but if he can get serious minutes with the Marlies, that might be the best fit for him.

Brett Findlay, F

You probably haven’t heard of him, but the 21-year-old led the Leaf rookies in scoring with two goals and two assists. He has signed with the Marlies, but is aiming higher. “I came in here with nothing to lose,” said Findlay. “A lot of people didn’t know too much about me and I just tried to make a good impression.” One executive who does know about him: Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas, who had Findlay on his Soo Greyhounds roster.

I am shocked, appalled and offended: Mallick

September 16 2014 03:50PM


It’s easy to be offended by a Kent State University sweatshirt splattered with blood — a style statement that will fail because no one remembers the 1970s student slaughter anyway — but then it’s always easy to take offence. As emotional reactions go, nothing could be simpler.

Remember this: the more instant the rage, the less value it has.

For years I have been offended that the museum in the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas from which JFK was shot has a floor for wedding receptions. Then there’s the 9/11 Memorial in New York, which sold a huge U.S.-shaped commemorative cheese plate until it was ridiculed into stopping. And the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam sells a key-chain at the gift shop checkout with a plastic severed ear.

I am saddened by all violent death but maybe tastelessness is a corrective. Maybe it’s just funny. Canadians are a polite people who try not to offend. Brits love filthy humour. Americans offend blithely, out of innocence or calculation.

Urban Outfitters, an American fast fashion chain, clamours for attention. It’s a cheapskate replacement for buying advertising, as Toronto Star reporter Riley Sparks has pointed out, and it sort of works. But people don’t buy their silly Kent State shirt. I follow the Last Seen Wearing rule. I am always haunted by how the police list the ill-chosen garments of a missing person. You left the house in that? Plus imagine getting shot in that sweatshirt.

Today I was offended on Twitter by a photograph of Doug Ford beating John Tory on the buttocks with a cricket bat. Both are dressed in cricket whites and laughing madly. Without context (I’m praying these two middle-aged men posed for the photo and had a plan) it reminds me of how dreadful this city has become under Ford, a northern Bentonville, Arkansas.

I’m offended, no, disgusted by President Barack Obama’s endless bombing campaigns. The U.S. propensity for bombing brown-skinned people is a war strategy that does not work and enrages other nations to the point where they take a terrible revenge decades later. That was 9/11. Years later, one stands in the Memorial gift shop staring at a serving platter and taking offence over cheesy comestibles. How small one’s anger seems.

If you read comments — and you never should — you’ll be astounded by the level of offence-taking. People aren’t just bridling, they’re breaking and tearing their own heads off. Childless pet owners are the most sensitive to possible insult even though pets are never offended by humans. The smaller the difference between people, the greater the narcissism. The more tinted the car window, the more easily offended the driver.

I wrote a column recently praising grand arching trees on Toronto front lawns and got hissing emails from people with tall slender trees. Write a column mocking Stephen Harper’s hair and you will hear from three kinds of people: underfed young white men with hunting rifles, the “anti-urban elitist” Angry Pajamas, and a weird new cohort, elderly women — thankfully they are never violent — calling me a “stupid stupid girl.” Of course this might just be my Aunt Moira. But still it astonishes me.

As for selfies and sex videos, I no longer think them mortifying. Go ahead and take them so you can congratulate yourself in later years with how fanciable you once were. Once the kids leave home, run them on a screen as living room wallpaper. You rated hot. Once.

I see Rihanna is deeply offended that she and her new song were dumped from a CBS show by the NFL because her status as an obedient battered woman would draw attention to an industry flaw: depraved players who punch women unconscious, and cut into the flesh of small children with tree-branch whips.

That’s a big issue. Mine are tiny. I’m offended by Loblaws dropping my favourite sauces, people naming their children Khaleesi and Jayden, NDP leader Andrea Horwath refusing to resign, the universal hideousness of three-ply tissue boxes, Amazon’s “usually ships in three to five weeks,” and lastly, an ISIS executioner complaining that Obama was wasting “taxpayer dollars” on bombing. He sounded like a Ford brother. How did the Etobicoke Ratepayers Association cross the world to Syria?

The list goes on, rocking wildly from appalling to absurd. The lesson? Best not to take offence but to observe calmly and comment. I shall attempt it, wish me luck.

Heather Mallick’s column appears Monday and Wednesday on the op-ed page and Saturday in News. hmallick@thestar.ca

Growing inequality in society a corrosive thing: TD chief

September 16 2014 03:35PM


Canadians have become complacent about the challenges that lie ahead for the economy and the growing problem of inequality, in part because Canada didn’t suffer heavy impact from the global financial crisis, the president and chief executive of TD Bank Group says.

“We have to deal with the fact that technological change, combined with globalization, increases inequality. I believe that growing inequality is a very corrosive thing in society,” Ed Clark said in an interview.

“The risk is that Canadians are too complacent because we did so well that they don’t really see that these problems are going to come.”

Clark made the remarks prior to a speech to the Empire Club of Canada on Tuesday. The sold-out event marked Clark’s last major public address as the head of TD.

The 67-year-old executive retires on Nov. 1, after more than a decade in the corner office. He will be succeeded by Bharat Masrani, chief operating officer since July 1, 2013. Masrani previously headed up TD’s U.S. personal and commercial banking group.

In his wide-ranging address, Clark discussed his tenure at Canada Trust, the banking industry’s role in the 2008 financial crisis, and the importance of leadership.

Canada Trust had $35 billion in assets with earnings of about $200 million when Clark joined the firm in 1991.

At the time Canada Trust “was losing market share heavily to the “big Bad 5 Banks’ despite having a fabulous brand and great focus on customer service,” Clark said in his speech.

Nine years later, Canada Trust’s assets had ballooned to $50 billion with earnings of about $360 million.

Toronto-Dominion Bank bought the trust company in 2000, and Clark was put in charge of merging the two retail banks.

“What was our vision? It won’t surprise you: Start with what customers want — not what banks want to do. It’s amazing how many organizations have such profound tendencies to start at the centre, do what they like doing and forget the customer,” Clark said.

By the time the financial crisis hit in 2008, many of the worlds’ banks lost their way, Clark told the business crowd.

“They didn’t understand their risk; they took too much of it; they relied too much on markets for liquidity; they carried too little capital; and they allowed the greed culture to grow unrestrained,” he said.

But banks “had a lot of help creating the crisis,” Clark added, citing regulators, central bankers, politicians, and regulators.

Today, TD and Royal Bank of Canada are Canada’s biggest banks by assets, and TD is among the 10 largest in the U.S.

Clark said during a roundtable session with reporters following his speech that he worries that rich compensation packages for bank CEOs contribute to inequality.

“You’re living in an industry that has moved in that direction,” he said.

Clark pointed out that he has never been among the highest-paid bank CEOs in Canada, “even though our total shareholder return has been the highest,” he said.

“I say that I should do the right thing with [the money] and give it to people who need it more than me and my kids need it.”

As head of TD, Clark spearheaded philanthropic causes that included funding for homeless shelters that support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth, and Homeward Bound, a Toronto program that helps single women and their children move from shelters to economic self-sufficiency.

Clark said that he has worked hard to build a great culture at TD.

“A great culture leaves prejudices at home. It celebrates diversity – not as a gimmick to attract customers – but because it is right. It serves the broader interests of the community – if those around us are doing well, then we will do well,” Clark said in his address.

“It celebrates generosity of spirit – people who care – care about people individually, care about society, care that others are given credit and grow.”

Clark will get an annual pension of $2.49 million in retirement. The payout will continue to his surviving spouse for her lifetime following his death, according to his employment contract.

MORE AT THESTAR.COM

TD Bank CEO Ed Clark’s pay down to 11.3 million in 2011

TD Bank CEO Ed Clark to retire

The repeatable success of Ed Clark: Olive

How Burger King wooed Tim Hortons

September 16 2014 02:39PM


The proposed $12.5 billion merger of Tim Hortons and Burger King began in early March with a phone call to Warren Buffett.

Alexandre Behring, chairman of Burger King and managing partner of the burger chain’s majority owner, 3G Capital, called Buffett to see if the American billionaire would be willing to finance the transaction.

Buffett, who had previously helped 3G Capital, a Brazilian investment firm, buy H.J. Heinz Company in 2013, said yes, according to regulatory filings jointly submitted by the companies on Tuesday as part of the process of winning shareholders’ approval of the deal.

Tim Hortons board of directors was not so quick to agree. The coffee and doughnut chain had just embarked on its own multi-year strategic plan to boost sales and profits under its relatively new chief executive officer Marc Caira.

Still, Tim Hortons didn’t immediately say no, either.

Over the next six months, the Canadian company would repeatedly hold out for more money and greater assurances that benefits to Canadian franchisees, employees and other stakeholders would not be lost in the merger, the filings show.

Among the more controversial decisions the parties made was one that would see the newly combined company headquartered in Canada.

The move set off a firestorm of controversy in the U.S., where Burger King was accused of moving its head office to Canada to take advantage of Canada’s lower corporate tax rate.

Burger King has said it wouldn’t see any meaningful change to its tax rate, as it would still be subject to federal, state and local taxes in Miami, where the burger chain’s operations would continue to be based.

The practice of using mergers to shift head offices to lower tax jurisdictions has become a global worry. In a report prepared for a G20 meeting of finance ministers this week in Cairns, Australia, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has proposed a number of measures for limiting its use.

Behring first put Burger King’s offer to Caira at an informal dinner meeting between the two in Toronto on March 20.

Caira said the company was not for sale but agreed to communicate any offer to Tim Horton’s board if Burger King provided it in writing.

Burger King did so.

Tim Hortons board rejected Burger King’s initial offer, of $73 a share in cash and shares in the combined company, as too low.

Over a series of meetings, Burger King raised its offer three times, to $88.50 on Aug. 15.

But for Tim Hortons’ board the deal was not just about the money. It was also about preserving Tim Hortons’ status as a Canadian brand as iconic as the Royal Canadian Mounties.

Tim Hortons board held out for a series of commitments it said were critical to winning its approval.

That included assurances the brand would be separately managed and headquartered in Canada. Its franchisees would get a five-year freeze on rent and royalty increases.

It would be able to nominate three seats on the combined company’s board and maintain a “meaningful number” of Canadians in the combined company’s headquarters.

Tim Hortons also wanted assurances it would be able to maintain its commitments to charitable organizations.

Burger King, which early on signaled it recognized Tim Hortons “rich heritage,” said it would likely be able to agree to its demands.

The deal, which must still receive the approval of shareholders and regulators, was eventually sealed on Aug. 26 with $3 billion in financing from Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The merged entity would combine the second largest burger chain in the U.S., with Canada’s largest coffee and doughnut business — though the companies say they plan to keep their brands and operations separate.

Still, the deal is seen as helping Tim Hortons compete against better known rivals in the U.S., while giving Burger King a stake in the fast growing breakfast market.

Burger King’s chief executive Daniel Swartz would chair the combined entity. Caira would become vice-chairman of the new company The company, which would be listed on both the TSE and New York stock exchange would be the world’s third largest quick serve restaurant company, with $23 billion (U.S.) in annual sales.

How the Toronto Star covered the 1920 Wall Street bombing

September 16 2014 02:05PM


At 12:01 pm, on Sept. 20, 1920 an explosion goes off in front of the Wall Street headquarters of Morgan and Company. The bomb is in a horse-drawn wagon carrying dynamite and about 225 kilos of iron shrapnel. Thirty-eight people are killed and hundreds injured.

Six hours later, the Toronto Daily Star's “Six O’clock Edition” comes off the presses with the headline “Terrific Explosion in Wall Street, New York”. It’s a fair September day in Toronto, according to the paper’s front-page weather report.

No charges were ever laid. At the time, some believed it was an accident. The FBI would later reopen the case and argue that it was the work of Italian anarchists, citing a flyer found nearby from “American Anarchist Fighters.”

Today is the 94th anniversary of the Wall Street explosion, one of the first acts of domestic terrorism in the U.S. Here’s a look at the Star’s coverage.

The Lead

The story was written by The Canadian Press and “Special Dispatches.” Considering how soon the paper came out after the explosion, it’s remarkable how many facts the story got right. The body count is off by 14, but the number of injured and what caused the explosion is right.

“A terrific explosion which killed at least six-teen person (sic) and burned or otherwise injured upwards of 200 shook the financial district of New York to-day. The police believe that other bodies may have been blown to atoms and the death list may reach thirty. The property damage is estimated at $2,500,000 . . . the cause of the explosion was dynamite in the street”

The Images

There are no photos from the scene. Instead we have what looks to be a file photo of Wall Street and another of the offices of J.P. Morgan and Company. The graphics are crude by today’s standards, but effective, telling us where the explosion happened and a human angle to the story through the photos of the two bankers who survived.

The Article

Here are a few excerpts that capture the essence of the story:

“The financial district this afternoon presented a scene of greatest demolition. Great blotches of blood appeared on the white walls of several of Wall Street’s office buildings. Almost every pane of glass in the vicinity was shattered and beside a mantle of broken crystal the streets were covered with fragments of brick and stone blasted from the base walls of the skyscrapers.”

“Those who reached the hospital first were utterly amazed to find themselves in a hospital when they recovered consciousness. The last they remembered they were leaving their offices for lunch. They had stepped out into the street. Some remember a blinding flash and then all was blank.”

“It was reported, however that shortly before noon an automobile with two men drew up in front of Morgan offices and that when Morgan detectives approached the machine one man alighted and either accidentally or purposely dropped what appeared to be a bomb.”

Here is a pdf of the day's coverage:

Giller Prize money doubles to $140,000

September 16 2014 09:27AM


The winner of this year’s Giller Prize will walk away with $100,000 in prize money, making it one of the world’s richest literary prizes.

The announcement of the 12 Canadian authors on the longlist — and the doubling of the monetary value of the award — was made Tuesday in Montreal.

The Scotiabank Giller Prize purse has doubled from $50,000 for the winner and $5,000 for each of the shortlist finalists to $100,000 for the winner, and $10,000 for each of the other four finalists. It’s the highest payout for a literary prize in Canada — and richer than Britain’s Man Booker Prize of 50,000 pounds (about $89,000 Cdn.).

“When we started this prize 21 years ago with the assistance of Mordecai Richler, David Staines and Alice Munro, the intent was to highlight and reward Canadian fiction authors,” Giller founder Jack Rabinovitch said in a statement.

“The award then was $25,000 and we had a great deal of help from Canadian booksellers. Now with the warm and unique partnership with Scotiabank and its entire executive group, we are able to achieve this objective in a manner we never thought possible. Canadian storytellers deserve this recognition. I can hardly imagine what Doris would say.”

The Giller Prize was founded in 1994, a year after the death of Rabinovitch’s wife, Doris Giller, who was once an editor at the Toronto Star.

Related: Giller Prize effect inspires new university course

The Giller Effect

This year’s longlist for the 21st Scotiabank Giller Prize is:

Arjun Basu for his novel Waiting for the Man published by ECW Press David Bezmogis for his novel The Betrayers published by HarperCollins Canada Rivka Galchen for her short story collection American Innovations published by HarperCollins Canada Frances Itani for her book Tell published by HarperCollins Canada Jennifer LoveGrove for her novel Watch How We Walk published by ECW Press Sean Michaels for his novel Us Conductors published by Random House Canada Shani Mootoo for her novel Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab published by Doubleday Canada Heather O’Neill for her novel The Girl Who Was Saturday Night published by HarperCollins Canada Kathy Page for her short story collection Paradise and Elsewhere published by John Metcalf Books/Biblioasis Claire Holden Rothman for her book My October published by Penguin Canada Miriam Toews for her novel All My Puny Sorrows published by Knopf Canada Padma Viswanathan for her book The Ever After of Ashwin Rao published by Random House Canada

The 12 titles were chosen from a field of 161 books, submitted by 63 publishers from every region of the country. The three-member jury panel for this year consists of Canadian author Shauna Singh Baldwin, British novelist Justin Cartwright and American writer Francine Prose.

The jury said collectively in a statement: “We’re celebrating writers brave enough to change public discourse, generous with their empathy, offering deeply immersive experiences. Some delve into the sack of memory and retrieve the wisdom we need for our times, others turn the unfamiliar beloved. All are literary achievements we feel will touch and even transform you.”

The shortlist will be released on Monday, Oct. 6 in Toronto. The Scotiabank Giller Prize will air on CBC Television on Nov. 10 at 9 p.m.

Prize awards for works of Fiction (winners only)

Novel Prize in Literature 8 million Swedish kroner* (about $1,240,000 Canadian)

Impac Dublin Literary Award 100,000 euros (about $143,000)

Scotiabank Giller Prize$100,000

Man Booker Prize 50,000 pounds (about $89,000)

Governor General’s Literary Awards$25,000

Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize$25,000

*The Nobel Prize amount is variable. This is the 2013 number

Debate roundup: Olivia Chow, John Tory spar over the role of government

September 16 2014 09:10AM


Though John Tory was the leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives and Olivia Chow was an NDP MP, few of their policy disagreements are genuinely ideological.

They had two stereotypical right-left exchanges on Monday.

Early in their debate at St. Andrew's Church, Chow touted her proposal to “create” jobs for young people by forcing companies who get big city infrastructure contracts to set aside positions for local youth.

She said that system had worked well during the Regent Park redevelopment project. Tory, though, said many of the set-aside Regent Park jobs were created by negotiating with the companies involved.

“I would prefer to do it by way of negotiation,” he said, “as opposed to you, who will set up some sort of bureaucracy.”

Later, moderator Evan Solomon of CBC asked the candidates what the mayor can do to help older adults who have been laid off. Tory said he doesn't think the municipal government gets enough money from property taxes to provide job-transition programs. As mayor, he said, he would try to persuade the federal and provincial governments to increase their own support.

“It is the proper responsibility of the federal and provincial governments,” he said.

Chow said the city already spends money on retraining and should continue to do so. Then she went broader.

“Mr. Tory — listen to his answers very carefully,” she said. “There's really no role for the city government to play in asking governments that do business with the city to sign an agreement. No role to play. No role to play on dealing with senior workers. No role to play in almost everything.” Returning to her own voice, she added: “We do not believe that we should leave people behind.”

Tory scoffed.

“If we're going to try and pretend — this is what we do, especially in election campaigns — we pretend that the city hall, after the election, there's going to be some magic, gigantic pot of money that's going to be available, when we can't even keep up public housing and keep the roads in proper repair...I'm saying let's get real.”

“If you think the private sector is the solution for everything,” Chow responded, “then why are you running for mayor, if you don't see any role the city would play?”

Define 'identical'

Chow emphatically challenged Tory to admit that her promise on property taxes — to keep increases “around” the rate of inflation — is “identical” to his own promise to keep increases “within” the rate of inflation. As Tory pointed out, they are, in fact, not identical: Chow's is less specific, and she has mused about a 3 per cent increase even though inflation is about 2 per cent.

Where are we again? Part 1

Chow trotted out one of her scripted zingers, accusing Tory of going from a faith-based schools plan — the one that doomed him in the 2007 provincial election — to a “faith-based” transit funding plan, tax increment financing. She was, still, in a church, so some people booed. During a subsequent exchange on the island airport, Tory, who endorses council's unanimous vote to wait for more information before making a final decision, accused the anti-jets Chow of saying “to hell with the experts.”

Where are we again? Part 2

Tory blamed Chow, a former city councillor, for the traffic nightmare that is Liberty Village. The problem: as she pointed out, Liberty Village is in the ward beside her old ward, not her old ward itself. Scrambling gamely, he tried a new argument: part of the problem at city hall, he said, is that councillors don't take ownership of issues outside their wards.

Section 37

Tory used the topic of “Section 37” money to portray himself as a fiscal watchdog. Chow used it to portray him as ignorant.

Tory argued there is insufficient transparency and accountability around the spending of the millions of dollars that councillors get developers to agree to give the city in exchange for the right to build bigger buildings.

“Nobody's ever really sure what happens to it,” he said.

Chow said, “Can you give me one example? Where? Where? Give me one example.”

Tory did not give her an example. But he said he had seen a ward-by-ward list of Section 37 totals, and some wards have received “$50 million or $60 million.”

“I can tell you right now, some of that money has not been deployed, and some of it for a long period of time,” he said.” And I'm just saying that I think the taxpayers are owed better than that in terms of transparency, and if we have the transparency, we're much more likely to see whether a park was delivered somewhere that's needed with that money, or something else, or not.”

“Mr. Tory, you can't just make things up along the way,” Chow said. She said those funds are “locked in” to specific uses by legal agreement with the developers but often aren't spent until the building is done.

“You can't just look at a report and say 'oh, you know, there's money there,'“ she said. “It doesn't happen that way. If you had any experience in dealing with Section 37, you would know that the funding won't come until the development is finished.”

“Right now,” Tory countered, “you also can't tell me that all of that money that's been taken in — I'm not just including the Section 37 money, I'm including as well the development charges - was spent the way we should have seen it spent.”

‘Sick-looking’ coyote on the prowl in Scarborough neighbourhood

September 16 2014 08:59AM


Marjory Holn had just finished running some morning errands when neighbours told her news that’s kept her holed up in her Scarborough home fearing the worst.

A “sick-looking” coyote has been spotted around Larwood Boulevard near the Scarborough Bluffs in the last week and residents say their efforts to have it taken care of seem to be caught in a bureaucratic tangle.

“I can’t get out of here,” Holn told the Star, after her neighbours escorted her home as the animal lay on her lawn, scratching itself. Holn is elderly and has trouble with her vision.

“I don’t know what it’s going to do. It could probably attack me.”

Holn says she alerted police Friday morning. Police confirmed they received calls, but referred the matter to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The ministry, whose tag the coyote was wearing, says the animal was part of a study looking at coyote population dynamics in urban areas. Ministry officials say they are unsure how the animal got to the neighbourhood, but hope to “chemically immobilize” it and place it in the care of the Toronto Wildlife Centre this week.

Residents like Gloria Llewellyn, who first spotted the animal on Sept. 8 around 9 a.m., say they are concerned for its well-being because it has been seen looking ill, wandering slowly and resting for prolonged periods.

“I thought someone would have already come because I think he needs to be caught,” she says. “There might be something wrong with him and may be may need to be treated or put down.”

Mary Lou Leiher, Toronto Animal Services program manager, says city staff have looked at the animal, but have not confirmed whether it is sick.

“If it was sick enough to be captured, we would, but it sounds like it isn’t sick enough to pick up.”

The animal’s presence along the quiet, suburban street has triggered plenty of alarm, Holn says.

“We have lots of deer, but they don’t do anything. You never see a coyote lying on the street or the lawn,” she says. “There’s nearby schools and kids may think it’s a dog they can pet.”

Leiher says coyotes tend to be “elusive” and have only ever bitten one person in Toronto, but “sometimes they become less afraid and hang around houses.”

She urges anyone who sees the coyote to avoid feeding or agitating it.

UNICEF urges Harper to pitch for poor kids globally

September 16 2014 08:14AM


OTTAWA—The United Nations Children’s Fund is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to use his coming speech at the General Assembly to push for progress on saving young mothers and newborns in the developing world.

The call for action comes as UNICEF released a report Tuesday morning that showed lagging progress on the issue.

On mobile? Tap here to see highlights of the report

The report says the world is making insufficient progress on meeting the fourth UN Millennium Development Goal — to reduce the child mortality rate as of 2015 by two-thirds from the 1990 level.

The report says that at the current rate, that goal will only be met in 2026.

Harper has made maternal, newborn and child health his signature foreign aid priority, recently pledging another $3.5 billion over five years to 2020.

Harper will address the assembly in the coming week and take part in a separate event on the issue with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 25.

“With the prime minister’s emphasis on maternal, newborn child health, this is a chance to stand up before the UN and say, ‘this is Canadian leadership; we’re going to put our money where our mouth is, and we think that others should as well’,” UNICEF Canada President David Morley said in an interview.

“If we don’t step up, we won’t be able to save all these lives. Targets that we thought we’d meet now, we’re not going to meet until after 2025.”

Morley echoed an overarching finding of the report: even though great progress has been made in improving the survival of children under age five, much more needs to be done.

“But despite these advances, the toll of under-five deaths over the past two decades is staggering: between 1990 and 2013, 223 million children worldwide died before their fifth birthday,” the report says.

Although progress has been made, pneumonia, diarrhea or malaria “are still the main killers of children,” which last year accounted for one-third of deaths among children under the age of five, it says.

Change is possible, however.

“The world has the knowledge and solutions to save ever more women, newborns and children dying from causes that are easily avoidable,” the UNICEF report says.

Harper announced his focus on the health of kids and moms in poor countries when he made it his signature initiative of the 2010 G8 leaders’ summit that he hosted in Ontario.

He originally committed $2.8 billion over five years to the Muskoka Initiative.

Ban appeared at an international conference that Harper hosted in Toronto last spring and gave a ringing endorsement to the initiative before Harper pledged billions more.

The secretary general is spearheading his own international effort help mothers, newborns and young children.