Stroman again stifles Boston in Jays' 4-2 win

July 29 2014 08:32PM

Marcus Stroman had his second solid start against Boston in five days, Colby Rasmus hit a solo homer and the Toronto Blue Bays beat the Red Sox 4-2 on Tuesday night.

EU, western nations hit Russia with economic sanctions

July 29 2014 06:14PM

The European Union and western nations joined on Tuesday to try to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop his military aggression in Ukraine by isolating Russia from the global economy with a series of sanctions targeted at banks, the arms industry and the oil sector.

After a lengthy debate in Brussels, the EU agreed to impose a series of restrictive measures against Russia, or phase three sanctions that hit entire chunks of the economy. Along with new sanctions coming from the United States and Canada, this combined move is said to be is the boldest swipe against Russia economically since the end of the Cold War.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama made separate statements on Tuesday saying they would move in concert with the EU. On July 24, Harper announced Canada would impose sectoral sanctions against Russian arms manufacturers, energy and financial entities with links to the Kremlin.

“In the wake of continued aggression by Russia, which includes the ongoing supply of logistical support and weapons systems to agents of the Putin regime in eastern Ukraine, Canada is announcing its intent to once again increase economic and political pressure, in the coming days, by imposing additional sanctions on the regime and those closest to it,” Harper said. The EU sanctions will also be detailed in the days ahead.

The sanctions are punishment against Putin’s continued refusal to back a ceasefire in east Ukraine and his refusal to stop shipping arms and support to separatist fighters there. The sanctions come nearly two weeks after a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot out of the sky with a surface-to-air missile system, killing 298 people.

The 28-member EU has been reluctant to impose financial sanctions due to the fragile state of the European economy, numerous business ties between Germany and Russia and the EU’s reliance on Russian energy.

But after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down on July 17, the court of public opinion swayed European leaders to take a stand, said Janice Stein, director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

“Once you impose meaningful financial sanctions ... it does bite. The reason being the EU and the U.S. still control the policy levers in the global financial community,” said Stein.

This is the closest the Europeans and North Americans have come to “talking in a single voice” since Russia annexed Crimea in March, she said.

While sanctions are slow moving, the only alternative is some kind of use of force and that is a “very risky, very dangerous option,” Stein said.

Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, Obama said Russia and “its proxies in Ukraine” have failed to cooperate with the crash investigation and pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine.

“The Russian backed separatists continued to interfere in the crash investigation and tamper with the evidence. They have continued to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft in the region and because of their actions, scores of Ukrainian civilians have continued to die needlessly every day. Meanwhile Russia continues to support the separatists and encourage them, and train them and arm them,” Obama said adding that satellite images show Russian forces have launched artillery strikes into Ukraine, a violation against the country’s sovereignty.

“Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of progress,” he said.

The U.S. sanctions will severely limit Russian banks’ access to medium and longer term U.S. dollar financing. The sanctions prohibit Americans and persons within the U.S. from transacting in, financing for or otherwise dealing in new debt of longer than 90 days maturity or new equity for the Bank of Moscow, the Russian Agricultural Bank, and the VTB Bank OAO and all of their interests, according to the U.S. Treasury.

EU Commission President José Barroso and EU Council President Herman Von Rumpuy said in a joint statement the sanctions are meant as a warning to Russia.

“Illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilization of a neighbouring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe,” the leaders’ statement said.

The EU sanctions limit access to European capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions; they impose an embargo on the arms trade and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the oil industry.

However, the 1.2 billion euro French deal with Russia regarding the sale of warships will be allowed to continue. French President François Hollande had argued the deal with Russia was already done and all they had to do was to deliver.

While economic sanctions are an attempt to weaken the Russian $2.1-trillion economy — and they will hurt Russia itself — the overall global effect is probably limited, said Benjamin Reitzes, a senior economist and vice-president at the Bank of Montreal.

“From a global perspective the impact (of sanctions) is probably relatively limited as long as this doesn’t get meaningful worse and devolve into war with other countries involved. Russia is only 3 per cent of the global economy and at that size, they are a player but they are not a make or break player and growth is already expected to be weak there in the first place,” Reitzes said.

However, there are some gaps in the sanctions. The Russian gas technology industry has been left alone because of European reliance on Russian gas.

As well, Russia’s other big trading partner is China, yet China is not part of the sanctions regime, Stein added.

Leafs Agree To Terms With Gardiner

July 29 2014 05:30PM

David Nonis, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced Tuesday that the hockey club has signed defenceman Jake Gardiner to a five-year contract. Gardiner, 24, played in 80 games for the Maple Leafs and collec...

Jake Gardiner agrees to 5-year deal worth $20.25, million deal with Maple Leafs

July 29 2014 05:25PM

TORONTO - Jake Gardiner and the Maple Leafs are finalizing a deal that will keep the restricted-free-agent defenceman in Toronto for the long haul.

The 24-year-old will make US$20.25 million over the course of the five-year contract, a cap hi...

Maple Leafs sign Jake Gardiner to five-year deal

July 29 2014 04:40PM

The Maple Leafs have gone all in on Jake Gardiner, giving the defenceman a five-year contract, according to Sportsnet.

Gardiner is the last of the Leafs’ restricted free agents to sign a deal.

According to Sportsnet, the deal is worth $20.25 million for a cap hit of $4.05 million. The deal makes the smooth-skating Gardiner the team’s second-highest paid defenceman, behind captain Dion Phaneuf ($7 million salary cap).

It theoretically puts the Leafs over the salary cap by $1 million, but the team has too many forwards signed. Some could be traded, or more likely sent to the Marlies to make room.

Leafs sign Gardiner to 5-year deal

July 29 2014 04:31PM

Leafs sign Gardiner to 5-year deal

Gardiner signs 5-year contract with Toronto: report

July 29 2014 04:22PM

Defenseman Jake Gardiner signed a five-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, according to Sportsnet.

It is worth $20.25 million with an average annual value of $4.05 million, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reported.

Gardiner, ...

MLS Preview from The Sports Network (ET)

July 29 2014 02:45PM

D.C. United will attempt to continue its strong run of form on Wednesday when the club welcomes Toronto FC to RFK Stadium.

Flat-rate hydro proposal stirs debate

July 29 2014 02:27PM

It sounds like a simple idea: Pay your local hydro utility a fixed rate each month for its portion of the bill, no matter how much power you use.

But the proposal has attracted a blizzard of commentary from consumer, business and hydro industry groups since it was floated earlier this year by the Ontario Energy Board in a draft report.

And no one is yet rushing to embrace the idea, in submissions filed with the board..

Many, like the Consumers Council of Canada, warn that the idea faces challenges that are “significant, and some issues potentially insurmountable.”

Others warn that changing the rate system raises not only questions about how much customers should pay, but also about how much profit the local hydro utilities should be allowed to earn.

The proposal focuses on smaller power users, including householders, and applies only to the portion of the bill that flows to the local hydro utility, which normally gets 20 to 25 per cent of the total payment.

Part of the local utility’s share is a flat fee, while part depends on how much power the customer uses.

The energy board’s suggestion is to make the entire charge a flat fee. It’s responding in part to the financial impact of energy conservation programs, which are decreasing the amount of electricity flowing over the utilities’ lines.

The lower volume of electricity reduces the local utilities’ revenue. But the utilities argue that the expense of building and maintaining their systems of wires, poles and transformers doesn’t decrease with the lower volumes.

There are different ways of setting a fixed rate. It could be simply a one-size-fits-all fee. It could be based on a customer’s peak usage. Or it could be based on the size of the customer’s connection to the system.

The Electricity Distributors Association, which represents the local hydros, says on balance it prefers the one-size-fits-all fee (although it would prefer to see some sub-categories created for “very large residences” and multi-residential buildings).

If bigger houses pay the same as smaller houses, the association says, it will lead to the perception that big energy users are getting a discount, and are being subsidized by low-volume users.

But the flat-fee system has the virtue of simplicity and stability, it says.

The association makes a final observation in its submission. It states that a flat-fee billing system will not change the business risk for utilities.

And that’s important, it says, because it means the rate of return that the energy board permits utilities to earn should not be reduced.

In the world of regulated utilities, lower business risk generally means the profit they’re permitted to earn gets reduced.

The risk-and-reward issue puts the utilities squarely at odds with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

“The adoption of fixed rate design methods materially reduces the business and financial risk which utilities face,” the CME’s brief argues.

The CME brief argues that the energy board shouldn’t implement any system of fixed rates until it completes a review of what return local utilities should be allowed to earn.

That’s a complex question. Many local hydros — including Toronto Hydro — are owned wholly or in part by municipalities, who benefit from those profits. And the biggest hydro company of all, Hydro One, is owned by the province.

The municipalities and the province earn healthy returns each year from those utilities.

The consumers’ council urges a go-slow approach to the whole issue, arguing that more study is needed on how the proposals might affect low-income consumers, or conservation programs.

Brookfield Condominium Services, which manages 70,000 condominium units, has filed sharply worded comments critical of the proposals in general.

“It is not obvious that any of the proposals focus on delivering value to the consumer,” Brookfield says.

It says that grouping all households — from large, single-family homes to compact condos — in the same rate group is “completely unacceptable.”

Brookfield says condos should have their own sub-class, with its own rate. Lumping all residential customers together “unjustly penalizes the condominium sector,” the company argues.

Energy board spokesman Alan Findlay says the board doesn’t have a set timetable for deciding on the issue, and will study the comments submitted.

The board also has to consider how the flat-fee issue fits with other policies the board is considering, such as time-of-use pricing.

Ontario attorney general asked to probe ‘extreme’ custody case

July 29 2014 02:15PM

Ontario’s attorney general is being asked to investigate an “extreme” child custody case that has resulted in a single mother languishing in jail for nine months for disobeying a court order to return her daughter home from China.

“The entire situation is shocking,” Toronto lawyer Barry Swadron, who represents the woman’s family, wrote in a letter to Madeleine Meilleur.

The woman has alleged she was mentally and sexually abused for a decade by a Toronto man, whom police charged with a slew of offences, charges that have since been stayed. He denies the allegations, and is seeking the girl’s return.

Swadron says the woman reached a point where she was physically and financially unable to return her daughter to Canada from China, where the 11-year-old has been living with relatives since late 2010.

“She is charged with disobeying a court order. She tried to comply, but it became impossible for her to obey it. She is languishing in prison in a manner which is akin to debtors’ imprisonment,” wrote Swadron, referring to a long abolished practice of jailing people who could not pay debts.

Swadron and the woman’s family are asking that the Crown use its discretion to withdraw the charge that has kept her jailed at the Vanier Centre for Women since October and that she be released “immediately.”

The letter was delivered to Meilleur on July 14. She has yet to respond to Swadron, and the ministry would not address specific and general questions posed by the Star, citing the fact that the case is before the courts.

Amanda Dale, executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, is familiar with the case and calls it an “extreme example” of what the legal clinic sees with women dealing simultaneously with family and criminal court matters.

“There are these contradictory intersections in the legal system where women are trying to deal with their family matters at the same time as there are outstanding, or pending, or never fully prosecuted, criminal charges, and the twain shall never meet,” said Dale. “There’s no sensible accounting for what’s going on in both sets of legal proceedings.

“The facts of the case appear to clearly call for further investigation. It appears to be an incredible Catch-22 that she’s caught in.”

The Star first reported on the case two months ago. Because it involves allegations of sexual assault — and the fact the woman did not give consent to be named and did not wish to be part of any stories — her identity and that of the man she alleges abused her are being withheld.

The Star is referring to the woman by the pseudonym Lin, and the man by the pseudonym Yousef.

In two interviews with the Star, Yousef said Lin’s story of abuse at his hands is a complete fabrication.

Whatever the case, Lin’s story highlights how family court cases and criminal cases can intertwine and become complex, particularly so when one of the parties does not have proper legal help.

Lin — a Canadian citizen who came from China in 2001 — had no legal assistance in family court, where a judge gave her time to obey an order to return her daughter from China but eventually issued a warrant for her arrest. That landed her in criminal court, where she has had some legal help.

Lin was handed a series of successive jail terms by the family court judge and was denied bail in criminal court.

In tandem with the custody dispute are 34 now inactive domestic and sexual assault criminal charges that were laid against Yousef in 2011 by Toronto police after Lin told detectives of a decade-long period of alleged threats, abuse and forced sex, and time spent in a shelter.

All of those criminal charges were stayed by the Crown in 2012 after failed police attempts to locate Lin to testify.

Court material gathered by Swadron shows the Crown believed Lin was in China based on information that came from Yousef and his lawyer. In fact, Lin was living and working in Toronto.

Swadron is asking how the Crown could rely on information from an alleged abuser in staying charges and why the charges have not been reactivated.

“She is available to testify as a witness in a trial against him,” Swadron wrote in his letter to Meilleur.

Lin’s family says she fears Yousef, who according to the most current court orders would have sole custody of the girl if she were returned.

For his part, Yousef told the Star he loves the girl and is prepared to be her sole parent.

Lin sent the girl to live with relatives in China in late 2010 during a probationary period at her job that involved shift work that made it impossible to care for the girl.

In February 2011, Lin sought to extend her daughter’s visa and contacted Yousef, who is registered as the girl’s father. That’s when Yousef, who had not seen the girl in five to six months, went to police alleging child abduction. Police called in Lin for questioning, during which she made the abuse allegations.

Yousef was charged. Lin, without a family lawyer, initiated custody proceedings as well.

She would later tell police of sexual assault allegations and, after an investigation that verified time she spent in shelters and looked at medical history, more charges were laid.

Yousef, with a lawyer, fought Lin’s custody application, and when Lin failed to bring her daughter back to Canada, he was granted sole custody. Yousef told the Star he would welcome a reactivation of the criminal charges against him and have a trial, which he is certain would prove he is innocent.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General told the Star in May that the Crown has not sought to recommence the proceedings against Yousef but that could change.

“As in all cases,” said the spokesperson, “any additional evidence or circumstances warranting new proceedings will be considered by the Crown.”

At the behest of Lin’s sister in Belgium, the Star visited Lin at the Vanier jail several times over several months earlier this year. She told a story consistent with what she told police and grew teary at times when talking about her daughter. She cancelled a final visit with the Star and through Swadron said she did not want to be part of a newspaper story about her situation.

The Star was also present at one family court hearing where Lin arrived in handcuffs and shackles and had no legal counsel present. There are no future appearances scheduled for family court.

Lin, according to the Ministry of the Attorney General, is charged with one count of abduction in contravention of a custody order and three counts of disobeying a court order. Her next criminal court appearance on those charges is scheduled for July 30, which will mark her 275th day in custody.

Jets re-sign Frolik; Reimer on return; Sharks' troubling offseason (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)

July 29 2014 01:17PM

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Which #stanleycup tastes better? @HockeyHallFame @NHL @lakingspr — Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) July 28, 2014 • Good question. Let's ask Hayden Panettiere .  • The Winnipeg Jets have avoided arbitration with Michael Frolik, signing the winger to a one-year, $3.3 million deal. [ Jets ] • The Minnesota Wild and Justin Fontaine done the same and signed a two-year, $2 million deal. [ PHT ] • Sean McIndoe looks at the five biggest Forrest Gumps in hockey history -- the otherwise ordinary guys who stumbled into the sport's biggest moments. [ Grantland ] • The San Jose Sharks have had a troubling offseason, but even more troubling is that they've been unable to massage it for fans so it seems less troubling, which makes it  double-troubling . [ Fear the Fin ] • Three on-ice situations where players need to change the way they think. [ The Score ] • Classic summer hockey story: The Ottawa Senators goaltending coach's neighbour's house burnt down. [ Ottawa Sun ] • How Mike Vernon set the stage for Patrick Roy's exit from Montreal. [ Habs EOTP ] • The first line of the 2014 All Good Contracts Team is basically just the first line of the Dallas Stars. Jim Nill is so good. [ Defending Big D ] • Seven rules the NHL needs to change right away. And here's a bonus eighth: there's currently nothing in the rulebook that says a giraffe can't play hockey. The league needs to close that loophole before the NHL is full of giraffes as teams try to get a leg up on the Boston Bruins. [ Puck Drunk Love ] • Former NHL blueliner Todd Gill has been hired as an assistant coach for the AHL's Adirondack Flames. [ Calgary Sun ] • The Leafs' offseason signings should give them a leg-up in the penalty-drawing department. [ Leafs Nation ] • James Reimer talks about his decision to come back, and battling for the no. 1 job a year after thinking things were through in Toronto. [ Toronto Star ] • Will the new backups in Dallas be able to give Kari Lehtonen a breather every now and then? [ Defending Big D ]   • Is Jimmy Hayes worth seven figures yet? Nah. [ Panther Parkway ]   • Have the Islanders done enough this summer to get back into the playoffs? [ The Checking Line ] • Which members of the Chicago Blackhawks are destined for the Hall of Fame? [ NBC Chicago ] • Wherein a Bruins fan has her office redecorated by Leafs fans. Clearly she's in Toronto, since she walks in with a Tim Hortons coffee, so this probably happens all the time. Video would have been better if she'd flown into a rage and started shouting "It was 4-1!" and throwing things.

TIFF goes to extremes with Docs, Midnight Madness picks

July 29 2014 09:01AM

Extremes of both fantasy and reality are on tap for TIFF 2014 as the festival unveils the film slates for its popular Midnight Madness and TIFF Docs programs.

Many world, international and North American premieres are among the selections announced Tuesday for the Toronto International Film Festival, Sept. 4-14. The rosters for the Vanguard and Master programs are included in the rollout.

In Midnight Madness, programmed by Colin Geddes, the world premiere of Kevin Smith’s Tusk promises to hook horror fans intrigued by the idea of Justin Long as a podcaster of curious things, who gets more than he bargained for when he encounters a creepy old Canadian seafarer (Red State’s Michael Parks) who believes that walruses are better than people.

In Jalmari Heleander’s Big Game, Samuel L. Jackson plays the U.S. President fighting for survival in forbidding woods after Air Force One is shot down.

Fans of the found-footage horror franchise can anticipate the fourth chapter, 4:Apocalypse, as Spain’s Jaume Balagueró goes deeper into the bloody viral mystery.

Flight of the Conchords comic Jemaine Clement offers something almost completely different in the Sundance comedy horror hit What We Do in the Shadows, as he and co-director Taika Waititi assume the roles of vampires living in a frat house where even the undead don’t want to do dishes.

In Cub, by Belgium’s Jonas Govaerts, a young lad goes to a scout camp hoping to find a monster. He’s not disappointed.

In the avant-garde Vanguard program, also programmed by Geddes, Harry Potter artistic director Dave McKean presents Luna, a highly visual fantasy about a grieving couple visiting a friend’s seaside home who relive the brief life of their recently deceased infant.

A child not yet born is the weird crux of Waste Land by Belgium’s Pieter Van Hees, as a homicide detective tries to solve a bizarre case before his wife gives birth.

There are also strange family relations in The Duke of Burgundy, Peter Strickland’s story about a woman whose fascination with butterflies and moths pushes to the brink her relationship with her lover.

Truth can be every bit as strange as fiction, something TIFF Docs promises to demonstrate again, in documentaries selected by Thom Powers.

Marah Strauch’s Sunshine Superman gives us the insane bird’s-eye view of the extreme sport of BASE jumping, as people dangerously parachute from cliffs, skyscrapers and other tall precipices.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper, by Nick Broomfield, a TIFF regular, recounts the murder spree of Los Angeles serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr.

And Gabe Polsky’s Red Army, receiving its Canadian premiere following its acclaimed Cannes bow in May, takes us inside the murderer’s row that was the Soviet hockey team of the 1970s, which shook Team Canada’s confidence in its national puck prowess.

Three other Cannes hits are headed to TIFF, as part of the Masters program of international auteurs: Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language 3D, a whimsical take on human and canine affairs; Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, a vodka-drenched drama of the perils of fighting authority in Russia; and Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu, a tragedy of African violence sparked by a cattle rancher’s wayward steer.

Masters also boasts the world premiere of 1001 Grams, the latest acerbic comedy from Norway’s Bent Hamer (O’Horten). It’s the story of a Norwegian scientist who finds she must also measure love and grief when she attends a Paris seminar on the actual weight of a kilo.

Michael Winterbottom returns to the fest with the fact-based crime story The Face of an Angel. Starring Kate Beckinsale and Daniel Brühl, it’s based on the best-selling novel Angel Face, which in turn was based on the sensational court case of Amanda Marie Knox, the American woman who was convicted, along with Raffaele Sollecito, of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher in Italy.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence may take this year’s honors for the longest TIFF film title. It will also be one of the fest’s most eagerly greeted presentations, the long-awaited new feature by Swedish absurdist Roy Andersson (Songs From the Second Floor).

Full details on these and other TIFF 2014 selections, plus ticket details, are available at

Distracted-driving blitz starts today in Toronto and York

July 29 2014 08:19AM

Drivers who are tempted to talk, text or even check their cell phones while driving are being reminded that these actions are against the law, and police in Toronto and York Region are making extra efforts to ensure motorists follow the rules.

Beginning Tuesday, the CAA South Central Ontario in partnership with members of the Traffic Safety Coalition will launch a six-week long distracted-driving initiative.

The aim of the campaign is to make drivers aware of the dangers of distracted driving and encourage them to focus on the road.

“We’ve done a lot of different proactive efforts in that area,” said Const. Laura Nicolle, “but I think people are still tempted to look at their phones and are tempted to answer that text or check something.”

Despite the fact that police have been spreading the message about the risks of distracted driving, there’s still room for improvement, said Nicolle.

“You see it. You stop at a red light and you look around and you see people with their heads down looking at their phones; it’s still happening.”

Police are always looking for drivers who aren’t paying attention to the road, but for the next six weeks officers will be targeting motorists who may be too attached to their hand-held devices.

Studies have found that drivers engaged in text-messaging on a cellphone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash event compared with drivers who are focused on the road.

Teens and adults under 35 are more likely to use cellphones while driving than any other age cohort.

Ontario’s ban on using hand-held devices while driving took effect on Oct. 26, 2009.

The fine for this offence increased in March from $155 to $280.

Motorists can still talk on their phones, but they must only use wireless devices, like an earpiece or headset, or sync their mobile devices to their vehicle’s sound system.

D'Amigo signs two-way contract with Blue Jackets

July 29 2014 07:41AM

Forward Jerry D'Amigo signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the team announced. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The 23-year-old D'Amigo was acquired by the Blue Jackets on July 1 from the Toronto Map...

Reimer Expects Opportunity To Claim No. 1 Job

July 29 2014 07:11AM

James Reimer has no intention of coming to training camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a backup goaltender.

Reimer joined The Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet's Fan 590 radio station in Toronto on Monday to talk about the two-year, $4.6 million ...