May 23 2013 08:12AM
HAMILTON—A second suspect charged in the disappearance and death of Tim Bosma made a brief court appearance this morning sporting several injuries.
Mark Smich, 25, of Oakville, only spoke his name and answered “yes” to several questions during a 10-minute appearance in a Hamilton court before hunching away from some four dozen reporters seated inside.
He covered a black eye and cut on his left cheek with his hand.
Smich is the second person to be charged with first-degree murder in the death of Bosma, 32. Dellen Millard, 27, of Toronto, has also been charged and remains in custody.
“At this point, Mr. Smich has planned to plead not guilty,” his lawyer Thomas Dungey told reporters after Thursday’s court appearance. “We will be defending this case vigorously”
Police allege Smich and Millard arrived at Bosma’s rural Ancaster home on May 6 to test drive his 2007 Doge Ram pickup. Bosma never returned. His truck was found parked inside a trailer belonging to Millard at his mother’s home. His body was found burned “beyond recognition” on Millard’s Waterloo farm.
Police say the two accused know each other, but have not elaborated.
Neighbours on Smich’s Oakville street, near where he was arrested on Wednesday morning, say the man was friendly in passing, often hanging out with friends on his front porch and working on cars in front of his house.
Smich, who stood at medium height with a thin build and wearing a dirty brown t-shirt and baggy jeans, appeared nervous in the courtroom as he looked around for a few seconds and did not appear to recognize anyone in the crowd.
He was remanded into custody and will appear again on June 13.
May 23 2013 07:00AM
Marinela Piedrahita is still haunted by the memory of seeing her mother pushed by her drunken father down the stairs of their Toronto home in 1981.
But nothing haunts her more, she says, than what happened next to her and her then-17-month-old brother, Felipe.
With her mother in hospital and father out of their lives, Piedrahita, then 4, remembers being taken to a Chilean woman’s house, where she and Felipe stayed for about a month before they were taken by “some strangers” to their relatives in Colombia.
A quarter of a century later, Piedrahita managed to return to Canada, her birthplace, and is now suing the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CCAS) for negligence in removing her and her brother to Colombia and for causing them hardship living in conflict and warfare in their parents’ homeland. The agency denies the allegations.
“It was a big mistake to send us to Colombia, to suffer and live by ourselves. We were moved from one relative to another. No one really took care of us,” Piedrahita, now 35 and a mother of two, said in broken English. “And now I am a stranger to the country I was born.”
Felipe, now 33, will likely never join his sister to return to Canada. He was born in Colombia during their mother’s visit there and was removed from Canada at the same time he was waiting for his permanent resident paper, which has since expired.
“My brother and I grew up together by ourselves. We are very close, but separated because he can’t come back here,” Piedrahita lamented.
According to their statement of claim, CCAS signed a temporary care agreement on Oct. 1, 1981 with Piedrahita’s mother, who was separated from their abusive father and had checked herself into the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, for substance abuse.
The temporary care agreement was for three months only and designed to allow the children’s mother time to secure treatment and resume care of them, and their mother intended to raise the children in Canada, the claim states.
However, on Nov. 12, 1981, the claim says their mother terminated the agreement at the advice of a CCAS worker and signed some documents that she only found out later had authorized the agency to send her children to their grandparents in Colombia.
The next day, on Nov. 13, 1981, the children were flown to Columbia, escorted by a volunteer couple, who placed them with their grandmother.
The siblings’ Toronto lawyer, Jeffery Wilson, says the mother was in no mental condition to understand what she was signing at the time.
“She did the commendable thing by having the CAS care for her children, but then discovered they threw her children into harm’s way,” Wilson said in an interview.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
CCAS denies any wrongdoing in a statement of defence, saying the children’s mother “wanted care of the children to be transferred to her mother Aura Saldarriaga (the grandmother) in Medellin, Colombia, because she had no relatives in Canada to care for her children.”
Their mother never advised CCAS that she intended for the children to be raised in Canada as alleged, the agency says in its defence.
“CCAS pleads that it reasonably fulfilled the statutory, common law and fiduciary duties it owed to the plaintiffs at the material times,” the defence statement says.
In seeking $1 million in damages from CCAS, Piedrahita and her brother claim they lived in constant fear in Colombia, where leftist guerrillas including the infamous FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), were in constant conflict then.
As a result, they claim they received virtually no schooling, were physically and emotionally abused, and were periodically abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
Their father passed away in Colombia years ago and the mother lives in Toronto, still struggling with substance abuse.
Piedrahita said she only discovered CCAS’s involvement in their return to Colombia when a grandmother passed away in 2008 and she came across some old documents.
The agency declined to comment on the case, but said care agencies do on occasion reunite children with family in other countries.
“This is done only when it meets the specific needs of the child or children involved and after a thorough assessment process,” executive director Mary McConville said in a written statement.
“If there are close family ties in another country where the child could receive the supports needed and all criteria to ensure the child’s safety are met, an international kinship arrangement may be in a child’s best interests.”
But cases such as the Piedrahita’s are rare, said Felipe’s immigration lawyer Angus Grant.
“While child protection agencies have frequently failed to recognize their obligation to obtain legal status for the children who come into their care, I have never seen a case like this where they have done the opposite,” said Grant.
“They took it upon themselves to effect a child’s deportation and subsequent loss of status.”
In 2010, Grant filed an immigration application for Felipe on humanitarian grounds. The application was denied last year.
“While I recognize that you and (your sister) endured difficulties throughout your childhood, you are now 31 years old and are no longer subject to abuse,” Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in its rejection letter.
May 23 2013 06:45AM
Police say no charges will be laid against a woman who took the purse of another woman who died by jumping onto the tracks at the College subway station Wednesday morning.
Investigators have identified the woman who took the purse, said Toronto police Const. Victor Kwong, but will not release her name.
“After an interview, it became apparent that the woman was dealing with mental-health issues,” police said in a statement released Thursday. “As a result, no charges will be laid.”
Police have also now identified the woman who died on the tracks.
The search for the purse began shortly after a woman died by jumping onto the tracks at the College subway station during the morning rush hour, leaving her purse behind on the platform.
During the confusion that ensued, another woman walked over, picked up the purse and left.
Police later released security camera stills and asked for the public’s help to identify the woman who took the purse.
May 23 2013 06:00AM
A man, a mess of microphones, and a swinging-from-the-heels miss.
“The mayor is my brother. I love him and he’ll speak for himself.’’
“Rob is telling me these stories are untrue, that these accusations are ridiculous, and I believe him.’’
· As the world gawks, Toronto police wait and watch
· Inept statement from Doug did nothing to help Mayor: Editorial
· Ford Brothers’ damage control effort blows up in their faces: James
· Full coverage
“I will always support my brother as the mayor of this city because I believe in his track record.’’
Thank you, Doug Ford, for the irrelevancies, the dissonance and the staggering example of how not to manage damage control.
If advisers and spin doctors had anything to do with that thing at city hall, they should be shot.
Six days to block out a response, send it up the flagpole, try it on for size, and this is what Toronto got — a Ford once-removed: a whole lot of self-aggrandizement, deflective posturing, media bashing and whining.
Surely even the Ford Truthers — those who see conspiracies everywhere, who pummel both facts and allegations into a gerrymandered version of events they can swallow without gagging — were taken aback by the spectacle the mayor’s brother made of himself on Wednesday.
The long stall was transformed into sputtering farce.
We are now in DEFCON 2, people, one stage away from annihilation for the Ford regime — which, at the moment, has been reduced to a hard-core cadre of about half a dozen political allies and one (1) lackey local newspaper.
You know what? It’s over.
Doesn’t even matter anymore if the videotape of Rob Ford apparently smoking a crack pipe is authentic. His countering performance in the past week — Run Rob Run — has been so wobbly, so moot, so mute, that it’s impossible to imagine any salvaging of reputation or integrity.
When CTV’s Austin Delaney buttonholed Hizzoner at a Tim Hortons Wednesday morning, the mayor had the cheek to joke about the Ford Watch, ribbing the reporter about journalists with sleeping bags dogging his movements. “You want me to make your bed for you tonight?’’
MORE FROM THESTAR.COM:
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· Police make second arrest in Tim Bosma murder case
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That might help explain why Ford’s handlers have clearly told him to put a sock in it — the talking sock that is Doug. Just about every time the mayor opens his pie-hole, un-scripted, he’s historically made matters worse.
But the time for a lawyer-crafted cone of silence has passed, because the story isn’t fading away. It grows ever-more shrill in this city and on mocking U.S. talk shows, where Ford has become a piñata target, the donkey’s-tail face of Toronto. And Doug as Rob stand-in is a stunt double catastrophe.
The peek-a-boo mayor has missed every opportunity to get in front of the story, as any image specialist will tell you. He could not possibly have played it any more badly. Rather than shout from the mountaintop that he’s no crack user, that the cellphone video shopped around by purported drug dealers is a fake, that he’s been the victim of a fraud of colossal proportions, he’s flitted from home to city hall to cottage to, on Wednesday, the funeral of Toronto Sun founding editor Peter Worthington, where his presence was an unnecessary distraction and yet one more slapstick episode of duck-the-reporters and switch-the-cars.
What planet does Ford inhabit? Because even Ford Nation is abandoning it.
On Planet Ford, journalists chasing down one of the biggest stories ever to break in Toronto — and chasing because the mayor won’t square up to the allegations — are jackals disturbing the calm (as if) of his home and hearth. On Planet Ford, evidence seeming to show the mayor smoking crack in the company of drug dealers is grounds for hee-haw jocularity. On Planet Ford, the city’s politician-in-chief can blandly go about his (limited) business without confronting the allegations, just pretend there’s no crisis swirling.
Denial, of course, has always been Ford’s de facto hidey-hole. But the truth has a habit of emerging —just as that Exhibit A tape will undoubtedly see the public light of day eventually, whether purchased with crowd-sourcing funds by Gawker, the U.S.-based website that broke the bombshell last Thursday, or some benefactor doing the city a huge service. The only way the tape never surfaces is if it’s already been snatched and stashed, possibly destroyed.
The “People’s Mayor,’’ Doug Ford called his brother yesterday, borrowing the language then-prime minister Tony Blair used to describe the dead Princess of Wales. If so, then the People’s Mayor is giving the People a middle-finger up-yours.
“Never has the mayor been so accessible or cared so much about the issues facing residents,’’ an emotional Ford the Elder told the no-questions-allowed press conference.
Not so accessible at the moment, though, huh?
“Now our mayor faces yet another accusation, an accusation driven by questionable reporting from a news outlet that has proven they would do anything to stop the mayor’s agenda.’’
That agenda has been thwarted not because of the Star but because Ford’s currency has become so devalued among his colleagues on city council.
Doug Ford then went off on a jaw-dropping review of his brother’s accomplishments over the past two years, as if it can all be sourced to the mayor’s office — right down to counting construction cranes and hotel room occupancy.
What does any of this have to do with the price of eggs? A promotional digest isn’t what the city needs to hear at this point of scandalizing convulsion — and revulsion.
“All of this of course is overshadowed by the constant stream of accusations coming forward against this mayor,’’ Ford continued. “Never, never, has a Canadian politician or his family been targeted by the media this way.’’
That’s not true, actually. But possibly “never, never, has a Canadian politician’’ provided critics with such an arsenal of ammunition: allegedly hanging out with drug dealers, seemingly drunk and incoherent at a public function, DUI-nailed in Florida, endlessly insulting and foul-mouthed, a chronic embarrassment.
Oh, you like that scabrous human edge, do you? Rather flawed than slick?
Doug Ford, shifting the focus, slammed Gawker. “Giving away prizes to try to raise money for drug dealers and extortionists is disgraceful.’’
Proportionately, less disgraceful than a mayor captured apparently sucking on a glass crack pipe, calling Justin Trudeau a “fag’’ and dissing those football teenagers he coaches as “f---ing minorities.’’
He won’t be coaching the Don Bosco Eagles anymore. Toronto’s Catholic school board dumped him Wednesday.
Barring an about-face from the mayor — stepping down at least temporarily while the whole video wrangle is investigated (are cops even doing that?) — Toronto voters won’t get a chance to do the same until the next election.
Pig-headed, heedless — and, one must admit, a slippery survivor — Ford won’t talk until he damn well feels like it, says his mouthpiece brother.
“When the mayor faces serious accusations, by no means will he be pressured by the Toronto Star to answer their questions on their time frame.’’
No answer is an answer.
And it’s not the Star filling in that blank.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
May 23 2013 05:00AM
Nina Penteado strides past fashionable shops and restaurants on Yonge St. near Summerhill Ave., where she was once a familiar sight walking her beloved dog, Colombo.
“He was a wonderful little creature,” she says. “He was like my boy.”
Penteado raised her shepherd crossbreed from a puppy, kept him 11 years, and made the gut-wrenching decision to put him down two years ago. She is now suing Rosedale Animal Hospital, its operators and two of its veterinarians in small claims court for $25,000, the maximum allowed.
She claims in court documents that vet Dr. Ian Sandler gave an ailing Colombo unnecessary vaccinations without her consent, which led to the dog’s rapid decline. “The defendants fell below the average competent standards under the circumstances,” a statement of claim says.
But the hospital and its vets adamantly deny any wrongdoing. “The defendants did not cause or contribute to Colombo’s worsening health,” they say in their statement of defence.
They insist Penteado indicated her consent for the “core vaccines” Colombo was given, which they say were nearly a year overdue. “Nor did she express any dissatisfaction when paying for Rosedale’s services,” they add in their statement.
Penteado, a licensed paralegal, says she was “shocked” at the time, but agrees she did not protest immediately because she had a good relationship with Sandler.
She spent $7,000 trying to save her dog, but is also claiming punitive damages and for her pain and suffering.
She says she wants to warn others of the perils of unneeded vaccinations.
Her lawsuit echoes a growing U.S. trend of pet owners suing vets for pain and suffering, also thought to be on the rise in Canada. No Ontario statistics are available.
Marg McKillop, a lawyer for the defendants, wrote in an email to the Star in March that they expect to call expert evidence to show the vaccinations were appropriate and met American Animal Hospital Association guidelines.
The defence will demonstrate that “the clinic and its staff at no time acted in a manner that could be considered to have contributed to the death of Colombo,” McKillop wrote.
When asked to respond to more specific allegations on Tuesday, McKillop refused. “In our view those issues ought not to be ‘tried’ in the Toronto Star but in the courtroom,” she said in an email.
According to Penteado’s claim, she phoned Rosedale Animal Hospital in February 2011 for a “general wellness” appointment for Colombo, who had chronic diarrhea due to a change in his kibble.
“The plaintiff specifically stated to the receptionist she wanted Colombo only” to be vaccinated with the “rabies shot until his underlying condition (chronic diarrhea) was resolved,” her claim says.
At the March 3 appointment, she was “shocked to find out her dog had been vaccinated regardless with a full range of shots” — distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, Bordetella, as well as rabies, according to her claim.
She came back the next day, “concerned over his ongoing diarrhea,” and a vet prescribed Colombo special foods and a probiotic, her claim says.
On March 11, she called the hospital “once again expressing concern over a wide range of symptoms” to the receptionist, the document says.
She called again on March 22 and, “gravely concerned,” spoke to Dr. Steven Davidson, saying Colombo was having trouble walking, was panting, had a thick, gelatinous drool, and had lost six to seven pounds, her claim says. Colombo was prescribed a nutritional supplement to help his joints, it adds.
On April 6, despite “his obvious deterioration,” Davidson “continued to insist Colombo was ‘extremely healthy,’” Penteado’s claim alleges.
She says she phoned again on April 7 to express concerns about his failing eyesight and wanted to see if he had diabetes because he had been frequently urinating and drinking water.
On April 11, she says, she switched to another veterinarian who soon referred Colombo to the Veterinary Emergency Clinic, where he was diagnosed with sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome and pneumonia. She opted to euthanize him on June 14.
Penteado claims Rosedale veterinarians Davidson and Sandler failed to perform screening tests or refer to specialists and consistently dismissed her concerns.
But the defence document says they “met or exceeded the applicable standard of care.”
They will show the hospital’s communication with Penteado was timely and consistent, McKillop wrote.
Penteado has commissioned an expert’s report from California vet Dr. Jean Dodds, who said the vaccinations were unnecessary and unwise and “likely contributed adversely to his health.”
McKillop says their expert will show adverse vaccine reactions tend to occur within 72 hours of vaccination and there is no connection between Colombo’s shots and his bout, three months later, with the aspirational pneumonia that most likely caused his death.
The case returns to court June 4.
While not commenting on this case, Dr. Anne Walker, a Beamsville-based vet and lawyer who has practised animal law, says the number of Canadian pet owners suing for personal distress seems to be rising.
Under existing laws, owners generally can sue only for the value of pets as property and for vet bills, but Ontario courts have begun awarding damages for mental and emotional distress, Walker says.
May 23 2013 05:00AM
Yung Kum Kim’s first child died of starvation in North Korea.
She was a little girl named Sulim. She was 2 years old.
“After the death of (longtime dictator) Kim Il Sung, they stopped rations. There was nothing to eat. Most days, we didn’t eat anything,” Kim, 41, said through a translator.
After that tragedy in 1995, she launched an illegal brewery, so her next baby might survive. She made moonshine out of acorns and bartered it for fish and seafood from fishermen. But that didn’t provide enough nutrients for her blooming body.
Her second child lived for only one day. He was a little boy, no name. He died, she says, of in-utero malnutrition.
“My older brother had a 7-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Both died from starvation,” she said. “The little boy had been able to walk and talk, but they he stopped being able to walk and talk.”
She told me all this Wednesday afternoon inside a shipping container set on the sidewalk near Bathurst St. and Dundas St. W. A growing row of shipping containers surrounds Scadding Court Community Centre. Most of them have been transformed into mini-kitchens, from which restaurateurs sell ceviche, chicken pot pie, dim sum, delicious goat cheese . . . Two new containers, retrofitted with air conditioning units, electricity and glass doors, have recently been added.
They will open soon as small stores. One of them is the first North Koreans in Canada centre.
That’s where we sat together, at a table, surrounded by scenic oil paintings that had been smuggled out of the Communist country.
While Kim spoke, a painted pink orchid peaked over her head. So delicate, like the freckle on her nose and her small gold hoop earrings.
How could such beauty emerge from such misery?
The translator, Toronto Councillor Raymond Cho’s assistant Jihyun Kwon, gasped repeatedly as Kim told her story.
Kim’s husband, a coal miner, died next, in a mine accident. She was pregnant again, with a girl.
“Everyone was dead in my family. I wanted my daughter to live,” she said. “I didn’t want to have another memory of misery.”
Kim was sold across the frozen Tumen River into China. One broker sold her to another, she said. The buyer: an older Chinese peasant, who wanted a wife to share his bed and work his rice paddies.
“I said ‘no,’ but I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “Otherwise, they’d have killed me.
“One thing I want Canadians to know. North Koreans who go to China — we are sold to old men. One of the girls I escaped with was a 16-year-old girl. She was sold too.”
A month later, Kim gave birth to her third child. She named her Seohee.
She’d escaped a physical jail for a mental one. One report to the Chinese police would spell deportation back to North Korea and brutal punishment. All North Korean defectors have to escape a second time, along a 5,000-kilometre route to Thailand, as Toronto director Ann Shin documents in her brilliant new film The Defector. Most pay brokers to guide them through a network of trains, cars, vans, and finally across the mountainous jungle of Laos to the Thai border.
For Kim, that escape nine years involved skirting a narrow cliff for two hours with her daughter, before boarding a boat on the Mekong River.
“It was so frightening. I didn’t want to lose another child.”
After a brief stay in Thailand, they went to South Korea, where Kim married a factory worker.
Last summer, she arrived in Canada with her daughter, who is now 14, and her baby girl, Kanghee. They are waiting for their refugee hearing.
“My daughter is so happy here,” she said. “Since I’ve come to Canada, I feel comfortable and safe. I love it.”
She is pregnant again — just three months.
When she told me this, we both smiled.
The North Koreans in Canada centre officially opens June 1. That night, Scadding Court Community Centre is The Defectorhosting a screening of The Defector, along with a North Korean dance performance starting at 6 p.m. Tickets, as well as painting sales, go to support North Korean refugees in Toronto. You can buy them at www.nkincanada.webstarts.com.
The North Koreans in Canada centre will open for one month. Drop in to learn first-hand about life in North Korea from remarkable, brave people, like Kim.
Catherine Porter’s column usually appears on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 23 2013 04:00AM
Keep that maple leaf patch on your backpack for at least another year.
Canada’s reputation is improving overseas, according to a new public-opinion survey of respondents in 20 countries.
Fifty-six per cent of about 20,000 respondents view Canada favourably, up from 53 per cent last year. The findings are included in a report by polling firm GlobeScan to be released Thursday.
Canada’s reputation outside its own borders trails only Germany, which is regarded positively by 59 per cent of respondents.
The survey, commissioned by the BBC, comes as debate intensifies over whether Canada is losing influence on the international stage, thanks to its controversial foreign policies on issues such as climate change, Israel and international aid in Africa.
Earlier this year, Canada was criticized for its decision to withdraw from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. While the government justified the move because of the treaty’s $300,000 annual cost, critics said it would isolate Canada, which is the only country to withdraw from the convention.
The countries where Canada did best in the GlobeScan survey aren’t surprising. In the U.S., 84 per cent of respondents view Canada positively, compared to 82 per cent in France, 80 per cent in the U.K., and 79 per cent in Australia.
More national news stories on Thestar.com
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John Kirton, director of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, said Canada has historically done well in the GlobeScan survey.
Canada, he said, is generally liked in the world, “for our demographic openness and multicultural tolerance, as well as our natural environment and peace and safety at home. Our economic performance is less important.”
Canada’s reputation has been trending positively, Mountford said, since at least 2010, when 51 per cent of survey respondents had a favourable opinion of Canada.
In 2005, the survey’s first year, 57 per cent of respondents in 11 countries had a favourable opinion of Canada. The country’s performance in the survey topped out in 2011, when 62 per cent said they had a good impression.
The GlobeScan survey relies on phone and in-person interviews conducted over three months with 26,000 respondents in 26 countries. Views of Canada in six countries such as Russia and Poland that were included in the survey this year for the first time were not included in the results because their results couldn’t be compared to a prior year.
Canada’s international reputation has become a popular topic of discussion among foreign diplomats in recent years, said Salman Haidar, India’s former permanent representative to the United Nations.
“I used to see Canada as an honest broker, able to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries,” Haidar said. “Countries felt comfortable having Canada help solve disputes because Canada didn’t have an axe to grind.
“Canada has lost that position,” Haidar said. “It’s not as visible as it once was and the proof is that developing countries no longer look to Canada for solutions to problems in a way they did earlier.”
Current and former diplomats said one way Canada’s visibility overseas has been hurt is with the reduction of development aid. Canada last year said it would cut 7.5 per cent, or $377.6 million, from its $5.16-billion international aid budget by 2015.
Canada’s support of Israel has alienated many Islamic countries, while its stance on climate change has similarly angered many Oceanic countries.
Professor Kishore Mahbubani, a retired Singaporean diplomat and dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said he repeatedly hears discussions about Canada’s “curious” diplomatic decisions.
“Canada once said ‘yes, we are rich, but we will not forget others,’” Mahbubani said. “You were thoughtful, committed to making the world a better place, similar to Scandinavian countries. Canada has become more selfish. The Canadian government sees shale gas and says ‘So what it if affects global warming?’ Canadians may not be aware, but the world watches. I hear all the time people asking what has Canada become.
“All that political capital that was built up over the years? It’s gone. You have lost a vast ocean of goodwill. I’m sorry to say for your travelers, a Canadian passport doesn’t mean what it once did.”
Of the countries surveyed, Canada is regarded least favourably in Pakistan, where 27 per cent of respondents view Canada positively.
Sam Mountford, GlobeScan’s director of engagement, said many respondents approved of Canada because “it is seen as a prosperous, stable country with an open economy.”
May 23 2013 04:00AM
At 60, Kathleen Wynne is living her life 100 days at a time.
It took her that long to win the Liberal leadership campaign. On Tuesday, Wynne celebrated her birthday by marking her first 100 days in power.
Flanked by the usual entourage of bodyguards and courtiers that attach themselves to any new premier, she strode into the historic cabinet room at Queen’s Park to cut the cake. The icing on that birthday cake, Wynne joked to her staff, was a gift from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
Minutes before, Horwath had publicly announced that New Democrats would renew the Liberals’ lease on life by backing the spring budget: No parliamentary defeat. No election for now.
Winning over Horwath has been one of Wynne’s biggest achievements. Without the NDP, the premier’s first 100 days might well have been her last.
But the relationship works both ways:
Winning over Wynne has also given Horwath big gains. Wielding the balance of power in a minority legislature, the NDP leader used her leverage to advance her party’s progressive agenda.
It all made for an unprecedented budgetary collaboration. Still, there is something contrived about applying a 100-day countdown to Queen’s Park: It is an Americanism, imported from a presidential system of government where the incoming leader enjoys a three-month transition period to firm up his or her agenda even before taking power.
Wynne’s timetable was far more hectic. When Dalton McGuinty resigned suddenly last fall, she threw together a leadership campaign, then cobbled together a cabinet, hired new staff, composed a February throne speech, and drafted a May budget while delivering on NDP demands.
It was 100 days on the fly. Post-prorogation, many old hands thought Wynne was tempting fate by recalling the legislature so soon. But Wynne had campaigned on the promise that she would hit the ground running — and find enough common ground with the NDP to stay above water.
Their relationship of convenience is symbiotic and opportunistic: Wynne is using Horwath as political cover to do what might otherwise be impolitic, while the New Democrats rely on the Liberals to do what an NDP government would shy away from.
In a minority government they are useful to one another.
Tagged as a Liberal leftie, Wynne might feel constrained, in a majority government, from pushing her budgetary reforms to welfare rules, higher rates and youth job-creation. Now, she can say Horwath made her do it.
Horwath’s margin of manoeuvre, were she ever elected premier, would be similarly constrained. She would feel pressure from credit rating agencies to show fiscal prudence. An NDP government that tried to reduce auto insurance rates by 15 per cent (as Horwath persuaded Wynne to do) would be crucified by the industry. Now, she can spread the blame (and share credit) with the Liberals.
But the arrangement only goes so far. Wynne has shown herself to be more progressive and gutsy on welfare changes than Horwath. And as premier, she is showing leadership on road tolls and other infrastructure revenues that the populist NDP keeps running away from.
Union leaders make no secret of their genuine affection for Wynne (and cautioned the NDP against bringing down her government). Labour is counting on the Liberals to raise the minimum wage. As a former education minister, Wynne can legitimately claim credit for repairing the tattered relationship with teachers’ unions after a wage freeze and anti-strike legislation.
More ambitiously, Wynne is assiduously restoring ties to rural Ontario: She made herself agriculture minister and reached out to farmers; she has sweetened transitional funding for the horse-racing industry, which felt forsaken by McGuinty’s gambling strategy; and she set up a new cabinet committee to re-examine the way wind turbines are sited across the province.
Most importantly, Wynne has bought time. While time does not heal all political wounds, it helps them fade away. So does saying sorry. Wynne’s latest public apology over the costly cancellation of gas-fired power plants has helped her change the channel after months of opposition attacks. Power plants may still be a talking point, but not a turning point. (Oh, and first gay premier? Not even much of a talking point — just saying.)
The big test for Wynne, in the hundreds of days ahead, is whether she can make headway in the Liberal no-go zone of rural Ontario. With her horn-rimmed glasses and Toronto manners, no one would accuse her of trying to insinuate herself as one of the boys. But by all accounts, she gets points for being herself, and being a good listener.
Not a bad first 100 days, given the absence of any head start. As premier, Wynne has changed the channel from scandal to renewal. All she needs now, at 60, is nine lives.
http://www.thestar.com/authors.cohn_martin_regg.html Martin Regg Cohn’s END provincial affairs column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. email@example.com , http://twitter.com/reggcohn twitter.com/reggcohn END .
May 22 2013 10:14PM
Jose Bautista homered twice and later singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Toronto Blue Jays capped a series win over the Tampa Bay Rays with a 4-3 victory at the Rogers Centre.
May 22 2013 06:30PM
The world may be watching to see if Gawker reaches its crowd sourcing goal of $200,000 to purchase the video of the mayor apparently smoking crack cocaine, but so are Toronto police.
We “will closely monitor that and if any evidence of a criminal act arises from that, we’ll deal with that,” said Police Chief Bill Blair on Wednesday, when asked what would happen if the Gawker campaign was successful.
The U.S. website neared the 60 per cent mark mid-week, raising $117,222 of the total it says will guarantee the owners hand over the video they filmed which
appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack
cocaine. Gawker then promises to publish it.
MORE ON THESTAR.COM:
How does crowd-funding money get to drug dealers?
Doug Ford on Rob Ford: 'I don't know how much more he can say'
Rob Ford dismissed as Don Bosco football coach
Rob Ford brushes off CTV reporter at Tim Hortons
The chief wouldn’t comment on the allegations that it is Ford in the video or say whether police were launching an investigation. “We’re closely monitoring everything that transpires and all the information that arises regarding that matter,” said Blair.
A photo supplied to the Star by the person selling the video appears to show Ford beside Anthony Smith, who was gunned down outside a Toronto night club two months ago.
When asked if he thought the city was taking a hit because of the bad press, Blair said “I’m the chief of police and I can only speak for the actions of the police service. And with respect to this matter, we’re keeping a close eye.”
Police board chair Alok Mukherjee said the allegations are “a serious matter. Like any other resident of Toronto, I would like to see it cleared up.”
May 22 2013 04:49PM
IndyCar says qualifying for the second race of series doubleheaders at Belle Isle, Toronto and Houston will be split into two groups.
May 22 2013 03:45PM
Ontarians report that they value their wealth more than the average Canadian, but more than a third of households in the province say they’re left strapped for cash after paying essential bills each month, says a new survey.
In a Canada-wide survey conducted for the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada, a quarter of households across the country say they never, or rarely, set aside any savings over the past year.
It also says 29 per cent of households from coast to coast are stuck tread-milling between paycheques. An analysis of the survey, co-authored by Rock Lefebvre, says those households are either breaking even, or sliding into debt.
“They felt that their incomes were not keeping pace with the cost of living,” Lefebvre told the Canadian Press.
Regionally, roughly 34 per cent of Ontario respondents said they had either no money or nearly no money after paying their bills, compared to 26 per cent of remaining Canadians.
“(Ontarians) struggle more in actually accumulating wealth and being satisfied with the results of that accumulation,” Elena Simonova, also a co-author of the analysis which examined the responses of more than 1,800 people, told The Star.
Two-thirds of national households had no expectations that their situations would get better, and reported they would continue to have no wealth accumulation.
The authors pointed towards consumer consumption as one of the things hampering the accumulation of wealth, which the analysis defined as a household’s total assets minus debt.
“This consumption pattern that has emerged over the last decade . . . is playing havoc with people’s ability to save,” Lefebvre said. “Because of the low interest rates coupled with the behaviour of borrowing, people are possibly buying homes and cars that are a little more expensive than what they would typically be able to afford.”
Canada’s household savings rate plummeted to 3.8 per cent savings of disposable income at the end of 2012 from its peak of about 20 per cent in the early 1980s, the analysis said.
The wealth of an average Canadian adult was only $6,600 in 2012, or 2.7 per cent higher when compared to the wealth controlled by households at the beginning of 2008.
Jennifer Bragg, a former researcher on the personal finance reality TV series, “Til Debt do us Part,” said the results are hardly surprising.
“It’s such a depressing statistic, it’s kind of scary,” Bragg said.
“It’s death by small costs.”
“I do know a lot of friends like that,” added Bragg. “They spend everything they have and then they run into emergency situations and they don’t really have anything left over.”
The authors of the analysis also said Canadians aren’t taking advantage of the times to save.
“This is a beautiful time to get ahead with these low interest rates. (But) people just seem to be living the life rather than make the sacrifice to get rid of this debt while it’s low interest and come out of it on the bright side,” Lefebvre said.
Jimohal Francis said he tries to save, but the cost of living adds up, even though the Torontonian is splitting rent and utilities with his aunt.
“Sometimes I find it very hard to save,” said Francis, 24, who works retail part-time. “It’s still hard to pay the bills and to get by.”
The online survey was conducted last Sept. 14-21 by Ipsos Reid with 1,805 Canadians aged 25 and older.
The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.
With files from the Canadian Press
May 22 2013 12:55PM
Toronto's Catholic school board has removed Mayor Rob Ford as head football coach at Etobicoke’s Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School, ending a decade-long affiliation that has brought Ford personal joy and political praise and criticism.
The school board's decision does not appear to be related to the crack cocaine scandal Ford is now facing — which centres around a video in which an intoxicated Ford appears to refer to Don Bosco players as "just f--ing minorities." The board had been reviewing Ford's role at Don Bosco since March.
The review was prompted by an interview with Sun News in which Ford made comments that were called inaccurate by Don Bosco’s parent council, many teachers there, and even the offensive coordinator on Ford's coaching staff. Among other contested statements, Ford said that Eagles players would not attend school if not for the football program, that many players "come from gangs" and from "broken homes," and that Don Bosco is a "tough school" in a "tough area."
“Mr. Ford has helped our students rise to the challenge and realize their potential as both football players and young men,” Bruce Rodrigues, the board’s director of education, is quoted as saying in a Wednesday statement. “This decision was based on what is best for our students, our school and the Don Bosco community.”
Rodrigues did not say that Ford is prohibited from coaching at a different Catholic school next year. In March, one of his aides, Chris Fickel, emailed schools with an unsolicited offer of up to $10,000 from Ford’s football foundation, and a “vast amount of accredited coaches,” to schools that launched new teams.
The Wednesday dismissal is the second time Ford has been ousted from a volunteer football coaching position. He was told he was unwelcome at Newtonbrook Secondary in North York after a heated 2001 confrontation with a player.
The end of his tenure at Don Bosco is no doubt painful for him. He started the program with thousands of dollars of his own money in 2001 or 2002, and he appears happier when he is interacting with his teenage charges than he does most days at city hall.
Ford’s role as coach was also a central component of his political persona. Like most everything else about him, it was polarizing.
To admirers, the mayor's devotion to the Don Bosco team was evidence of his concern for the disadvantaged and for the young — an easy rebuttal to the accusation that he was a hard-hearted slasher for opposing government grants and social programs. To detractors — and even to many council allies — his devotion was also evidence of his unwillingness to commit fully to the job of mayor.
Ford took three hours off work nearly every weekday afternoon during the three-month fall season to coach practice; his internal itineraries for September, October, and November were nearly empty after 1 p.m. In September of last year, he drew widespread criticism for skipping 5.5 hours of a meeting of his own executive committee to coach the team at a preseason "jamboree" scrimmage in Newmarket.
In November, he missed 2.5 hours of a city council meeting to coach a playoff game, then found himself embroiled in another controversy after a Don Bosco player revealed on Twitter that a TTC bus had picked the Eagles up after the game and ferried them back to their school.
Asked upon his return to the meeting why he had chosen football over work, Ford told reporters flatly: “I only missed two hours. A semi-final football game. It’s the playoffs. We’re undefeated. We’re number two in the city."
Ford had taxpayer-paid staffers help him manage the team, a practice that prompted rare criticism from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. In a likely violation of city rules, the aides used a government car to attend games and practices — once even while Ford was away on a business mission to Chicago.
Numerous allies told Ford privately that he should surrender his coaching duties while serving as mayor or at least hand the reins to an assistant coach during city meetings. Ford ignored them.
“I’ve made a commitment, I’ve done it for 20 years, and I’m not changing,” he told reporters at the meeting in November. He told the Star in 2007: "I'd do anything for these kids. Football has given many of them another life and unified them; kept them busy doing the right things and believing in themselves. I know they'll tell you the same thing. It's a credit to each of them."
Despite his investment of time and money, much of the Don Bosco community came to believe that Ford was tarnishing the reputation of the school and its students. Don Bosco students and teachers held a “Give Your School A Hug Day” in October in response to what some believed was a Ford-fuelled perception that it is a downtrodden football factory.
Nicholas Thompson, 16, delivered a speech about stereotypes. He said Don Bosco’s black students were perceived unfairly. “It’s just like, ‘We’re bad, we’re thieves, we’re criminals, we’re just sports stars,’” he told the Star.
Ford has become a vocal critic of "Section 37" agreements in which city councillors allow developers to build bigger buildings than allowed under zoning rules if they agree to spend money on "community benefits." But when Lowe's wanted approval to build in Ford’s council ward in 2010, he successfully asked the company to spend $75,000 to upgrade the locker rooms used by the Don Bosco football team.
In 2012, one of the senior officials in Ford's office, director of stakeholder and council relations Earl Provost, emailed a senior aide to the provincial infrastructure minister to ask for funding for a single project: a proposed $2.1-million to $2.8-million upgrade to Don Bosco's field. The request was not approved.
Ford led the Eagles to a Catholic title and then to the Metro Bowl championship game in the 2012 season. Despite all the controversy, and despite his late-campaign promise in 2010 to quit coaching if he were elected, he pledged to return as coach in 2013.
By many accounts, Ford served as a mentor and a father figure to many of his players. In 2007, according to The Lawyers Weekly, the law-and-order conservative even testified as a character witness at the sentencing hearing for a former player who was convicted of using a sawed-off shotgun to rob a taxi driver. Ford conceded that he did not know much about the player away from football, but he said, “I sort of have a soft spot in my heart for him.”
Don Bosco offensive coordinator Jerome Miller, a former star running back under Ford, said in March that Ford was wrong to tell a newspaper in 2008 that Miller would have been "dead or in jail" without the football team; Miller said some of Ford's comments about Don Bosco have been inaccurate. But he also praised Ford at length for his work with the team.
“He does do a whole lot, more than people see, behind closed doors for these kids. Helps them out if they need any help, for any reason at all. He’s the first one that’ll be there for them. But he just speaks his mind, and from his heart, and doesn’t really realize sometimes what he says can be portrayed in the wrong way," Miller said.
In the video that appears to show Ford smoking crack, one of the other people in the room tells him he should be a football coach because that is what he is good at. Ford nods in agreement.
May 22 2013 12:53PM
Toronto police are hunting for a woman after a purse was stolen from a dead woman at College subway station Wednesday morning.
The theft occurred at the height of the morning rush hour. Police have released security camera photographs of the suspect.
At 8 a.m., a woman suffered traumatic injuries at the College subway station. She was taken to hospital and pronounced dead shortly after.
Police allege that after the victim sustained her injuries, another woman took her purse from the subway platform and walked off with it.
Police describe the suspect as a white, about 40, 5-foot-4, with a medium build and brown hair. She was wearing a blue floral dress and white watch on her left wrist.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact them at 416-808-5100 or leave a tip with Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477.
May 22 2013 12:43PM
As beleaguered Mayor Rob Ford maintained his silence over a crack cocaine crisis that shows no signs of waning, his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, blasted the media in an unusual speech at city hall.
Doug Ford spent much of the speech reciting what he said were the mayor’s accomplishments. Repeatedly interrupted by reporters who sought answers to questions about the scandal, he fled without answering any of them — in such haste that he left behind one of the pages of his prepared text.
The Star and the U.S. website Gawker reported on Thursday about a video in which it appears that Rob Ford smokes crack cocaine and utters an anti-gay slur. Ford has refused to address the reports in detail, though he did call them “ridiculous” and accuse the Star of “going after” him on Friday.
Council allies and conservative pundits have demanded that Rob Ford explain himself. But Doug Ford began his speech by suggesting that the mayor has already said enough.
“I’m not speaking for the mayor. The mayor’s my brother. I love him and he’ll speak for himself. He has already addressed these allegations three times on Friday. I don’t know how much more he can say,” Doug Ford said. “My brother is an honest and hardworking man with integrity, a man who has dedicated his life to serving others.”
Doug Ford did not explicitly declare that the reports are false. He did say: “Rob is telling me these stories are untrue, that these accusations are ridiculous, and I believe him. I will always support my brother as the mayor of this city because I believe in his track record.”
Rob Ford ignored repeated questions on Wednesday from CTV reporter Austin Delaney in and outside a Tim Hortons outlet. Ford offered only jokes, suggesting that Delaney “camp” at city hall and wait for a statement.
“Make sure you pick up your pillow and your sleeping bag, partner,” Ford said. “Or do you want me to make your bed for you tonight?”
The video, which has not been released to the public, is in the possession of men involved in the drug trade, who shopped it around in exchange for a “six-figure payment.” The Star and Gawker declined to pay, but Gawker is now attempting to raise $200,000 from readers to make the purchase.
The “Crackstarter” campaign has surpassed $113,000. Doug Ford, speaking to “the folks at Gawker,” said it was “disgusting and morally wrong” to “raise money for drug dealers and extortionists.”
Though everyone from Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday to the mayor’s former press secretary has called for Rob Ford to quickly address the reports, Doug Ford said — to heckles from reporters — the mayor would not “be pressured by the Toronto Star to answer their questions on their timeframe.”
“If the mayor stopped and held a press conference every time the mayor made up a story about him, we would never have accomplished what we have,” Doug Ford said. “If the mayor wants to make a statement, his press secretary will notify the media.”
Doug Ford’s speech was immediately lambasted by crisis communications expert Robin Sears, who told CP24 that it was one of the worst damage-control efforts he has seen in 40 years.
Before Doug Ford spoke, Adrienne Batra, Rob Ford’s former press secretary and now a Toronto Sun editor, told Global that the mayor “needs to say something.”
“The silence is deafening right now,” Batra said.