Archive for September 2019

Toronto Mayor John Tory is calling on the federal and provincial governments to help fund the downtown Relief Line for a subway system transit officials say will be “saturated and overwhelmed” by 2031.

“It’s a project that still is 11 or 12 years away, so that means that the more we can be definitive about having the financing in place so that we know for sure it’s proceeding, with three partners on board, the faster we can get it up and running,” Tory told reporters during a press conference at the Yonge-Bloor subway station Monday morning.

With the provincial budget expected to come down in the coming weeks, Tory said he is waiting on funding news as the city cannot move forward with any new transit expansion projects without the help of the Ontario government.

WATCH: Mayor John Tory says future of Toronto transit in the hands of the province. Marianne Dimain reports.

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“Projects which are not funded don’t go anywhere,” Tory said. “If this project can be funded by the other two orders of the government, I think it will put an onus on us to proceed ahead to determine how our share is going to be determined.”

Tory said Toronto was dealt a huge blow earlier this year after the provincial government nixed the city’s plan to implement road tolls on the municipally operated Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway as a way to pay for hundreds of millions in new transit costs.

“The road tolls decision was a huge setback for us because it would have put the funding in place that would have allowed us to say that our share is guaranteed,” Tory said.

READ MORE: Ontario announces $150M for planning, design of proposed subway Downtown Relief Line

Tory also lashed out at the possibility that the Yonge subway expansion north to York Region may be on the province’s transit priorities ahead of Toronto’s relief line.

“As much as I understand why that is desirable for people in York Region, but it would be irresponsible for me and my colleagues on city council to agree to expand that subway north before we had certainty with respect to the relief line because the subway is already stressed out,” Tory explained.

Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford said the Yonge-Bloor exchange station will be unable to deal with the projected growth in ridership by 2031 if a relief line is not in place by then.

READ MORE: Toronto mayor fumes at being treated like ‘little boy’ after Ontario nixes road tolls plan

“So although we’re taking additional measures up until that point to keep the service moving and that’s with these rocket trains and automatic train control which will be end-to-end on Line One by the end of 2019,” Byford said. “If by 2031 the relief line has not been constructed and it’s not opened than this station will not be able to cope.”

Tory said city officials cannot be satisfied and rest on their laurels with regards to current projects such as the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension in Vaughan, which is expected to open by the end of the year, and the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

“We must be building and planning and designing continuously and the relief line has been on the priority list for a long time,” he said.

“It is on the council approved priority list submitted to the federal government together with the Scarborough East LRT, the Waterfront LRT and SmartTrack and those are projects that must move forward.”

Westmount Mayor Peter Trent has announced he will be stepping down from public office.

“It’s time for the next generation to take over the mayoralty,” he said in a statement released Monday.

The political veteran first took public office as a city councillor in 1983, before being elected as Westmount mayor in 1991.

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    In 2001, he left politics over the forced merger with the City of Montreal on Jan. 1, 2002.

    “If it weren’t for Peter Trent, all 14 independent cities on the island of Montreal — including Westmount — would still be part of the City of Montreal,” explained city councillor Victor M. Drury.

    The merger was part of an ongoing re-organization of municipalities in Quebec by the Parti Québécois (PQ) from 2000 to 2006.

    Trent later documented the merger in his book, The Merger Delusion, which was named a finalist for the best Canadian political book in 2012.

    He was again named Westmount mayor by acclamation during the Nov. 1, 2009 municipal elections.

    “This is an incredible man who has applied himself in municipal affairs heart and soul for over 25 years,” said Montreal mayor Denis Coderre.

    “It is not only a friend, but a brother, who is stepping down today. I wish him a wonderful retirement from Montreal politics and hope he enjoys a well-deserved rest after so many years of service to Westmount residents.”

    WATCH BELOW: City of Westmount #MannequinChallenge

    The 71-year-old was the driving force behind the Westmount Recreation Centre, completed in 2013, which houses what the city claims are the world’s first underground rinks.

    He has served five terms as Westmount mayor, always being elected without opposition.

    “I want to leave while still at the top of my game,” Trent, who is originally from Loughborough, Leicestershire, U.K., said.

    “A run at it in November would mean seeking a sixth term. That’s just too long.”

    Trent said he will step down in the next few weeks to allow Westmount city council to elect an interim mayor until the November election.

Beaconsfield native Ted Ty has a lot to boast about when it comes to his 22-year career as an animator in Hollywood.

After graduating from Concordia University’s communications studies program, Ty went on to study animation at the California Institute of the Arts, a Disney-founded school.

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    Soon after, he landed a job as an animation drawer for Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he worked for 10 years before moving to DreamWorks as a CG (computer generated) animator.

    Over the course of his career, Ty has worked on many familiar animations, including Disney blockbusters The Lion King, Mulan and Kung Fu Panda.

    “It was called King of the Jungle...everyone was thinking it would be less of a hit than Aladdin,” he told Global’s Laura Casella on Global News Morning.

    “Things turned out a little differently.”

    Ty describes the field of animation as “being an actor with a pencil,” but with the changing times, now sees himself more as an actor with a computer.

    Most recently, the veteran animator moved back to Montreal to take a position as animation director at l’Atelier Animation.

    A much smaller production house compared to behemoths Disney and Dreamworks, Ty said he enjoys the synergy that comes from a more tight-knit team.

    “It’s different in the sense that we have a smaller budget,” Ty said.

    “But it’s much better in the sense that it’s very flexible and quick and we can react quickly to story changes or anything artistic. We have a really good team there.”

    L’Atelier Animation’s 3D feature, Ballerina (Leap in the U.S.), is slated to be released in North America later this year.

    The film tells the story of Félicie, a young orphan girl with a passion for dancing.

    With the help of her best friend, Victor, she manages to escape from an orphanage and travel to Paris, where many challenges and intriguing encounters await her.

    It has already earned more than $70 million in box-office sales since its release in Europe on Dec. 14.

By late Monday night, the House of Commons will have five new MPs.

It’s federal byelection day in Canada, with races underway to replace a crop of familiar faces that includes four former cabinet ministers and a former prime minister.

In Toronto, Markham-Thornhill opened up when John McCallum left cabinet earlier this year. The same happened in Montreal’s Saint-Laurent riding when Stephane Dion bowed out of political life. In Ottawa-Vanier, the death of Liberal MP Mauril Belanger triggered the race.

WATCH: The rough road to the Saint-Laurent byelection 

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Finally, there are the two Calgary-area ridings, once held by Jason Kenney, who jumped to provincial politics, and former PM Stephen Harper.

Whoever wins these seats, the House will see a generational shift of sorts, as newcomers replace the old guard in Ottawa.

Controversy

The road to the polling station hasn’t been smooth, especially in the ridings currently held by the Liberals.

READ MORE: Trudeau tours Montreal riding ahead of federal byelection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under fire late last month for campaigning in the byelection races. The opposition Tories said it created questions about who is paying for the visits and puts public servants in a tough position.

There were also questions surrounding the Liberals’ refusal to allow a borough mayor to run for the nomination in Saint-Laurent, followed by a stunning upset. Emmanuella Lambropoulos, a 26-year-old high school teacher, bested former Quebec cabinet minister Yolande James for the nomination.

And finally, over the weekend, the National Post reported on potential rule-breaking behaviour by the NDP in Ottawa-Vanier, where a third-party organization was allegedly provided with guidance and research assistance as it worked in support of the local NDP and Green candidates.

Chance of an upset?

Most experts and pollsters agree that there’s little chance one or more ridings will swing to a different party. The Ottawa-Vanier seat has been held by a Liberal MP since it was created in 1935, so an upset there would be unprecedented.

Seeing the Calgary strongholds swing away from the Conservatives is also unlikely, but slight movement up or down for the major parties in each of the ridings — especially McCallum’s coveted GTA riding — could prove interesting.

WATCH: Do Liberals stand a chance in byelections in historically Conservative Calgary?

With the government nearly 18 months into its mandate, results of Monday’s races could provide a midterm report card. If the Liberals lose ground in any of their strongholds, it could indicate trouble ahead for Team Trudeau. But the opposite could be true if the Liberals make a stronger than expected showing in Alberta.

The NDP, meanwhile, have been pushing hard to make gains in Ottawa in particular, telling the Canadian Press they are being realistic.

“We’re not expecting a major upset, but at the same time … there are lots of folks feeling that the government has taken them and their support for granted,” said Robert Fox, national director of the NDP, who said the Liberals’ broken promise on electoral reform is getting some traction.

A recent poll conducted on behalf of Global News for Ipsos Public Affairs revealed that if a federal election were held tomorrow, Justin Trudeau’s party would again form government. That said, the poll also suggested that Trudeau himself has seen a slide in his approval ratings.

READ MORE: Trudeau would win another federal election tomorrow, poll suggests

In addition, extremely low approval ratings for Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals could rub off on her party’s federal cousins as people head to the polls.

“Something people who watch the political tea leaves will be looking to see, is if there is any impact the provincial numbers may be having on federal ridings,” said Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal strategist who is now at lobby firm Environics Communications.

If you are a resident of one of the five ridings, click here to find out more about where and when to vote today.

— With files from

An Ontario woman says the federal government is letting down residents with disabilities by forbidding staff at Passport Canada from helping applicants fill out their forms.

Rebecca Blaevoet of Windsor, Ont., says she learned of the policy last month when she went to have her passport renewed.

Blaevoet, who is totally blind, requested that Passport Canada staff write out her form according to the responses she provided, but was informed that doing so would violate official guidelines.

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Staff offered her a braille form, which would only have allowed her to read the application rather than complete it, only to retract the offer upon realizing they did not have any in stock.

In the end Blaevoet says she was asked to handwrite the form as a staff member placed a writing guide – an aid to show her where to write – on each individual line, an option she said wouldn’t have been available to people whose disabilities prevented them from holding a pen or writing in print.

READ MORE: Water-stained passport postpones Peru trip for GTA man

Passport Canada says the rule barring staff from filling in forms on behalf of others is applied across the country, adding there is no exemption in place for Canadians with disabilities.

Blaevoet, who has filed an official complaint about her experience with Passport Canada, said the policy represents a complete failure to accommodate those with disabilities.

“There is no excuse for such ethical laxity in providing decent services for all Canadians regardless of disability, race, ethnic origin, whatever,” she said in an interview.

“I just think it’s reprehensible that they have such a gap.”

Blaevoet said her experience took place on March 22 when she and her husband went to renew their passports.

READ MORE: Canada’s new passport requirements come into effect this month

Blaevoet, unaware of the existing policy, said she anticipated that having a Passport Canada employee complete the one-page, double-sided form would be the most efficient way of processing her application.

Upon arrival, however, a clerk informed her that he could not fulfil her request, adding doing so was “not his job.”

Blaevoet escalated the matter to a supervisor, who said Passport Canada staff could not complete the form for fear of “leading the applicant” to provide inaccurate answers. When Blaevoet offered to sign a document authorizing staff to assist her, she said no such accommodation could be granted.

VIDEO: Air Canada denies boarding Ontario family, cites passport water damage

Blaevoet was offered a braille form, which would have allowed her to read the application but would not provide a means of filling in answers. Staff then discovered they had no braille forms in stock.

Blaevoet was ultimately told she could handwrite the form, an option she said she accepted to illustrate what she called the absurdity of the policy.

READ MORE: DNC hack exposed U.S. passport numbers of Canadian residents

“I said, ‘fine. I’m going to stand here and handwrite it, it’s going to take me a long time, and good luck to anybody who can read my handwriting. This is outrageous,”‘ she said, adding the majority of visually impaired people do not have sufficient handwriting skills to make use of that option. The same would hold true for those with physical disabilities limiting their movements.

Blaevoet said a staff member placed a handwriting guide on each line of the form to ensure the proper fields were being filled out. To Blaevoet’s surprise, however, the staff member volunteered to take over once they reached the “references” section of the form, willingly filling in fields and even offering to look up addresses online.

VIDEO: Here’s what you need to know about Canada’s new passport requirements coming into effect

During this time, Blaevoet said staff approached her husband asking if he would complete the application on her behalf. He declined on principle, saying it was not appropriate for staff to assume a person accompanying a disabled applicant could be trusted to complete the task.

“He could have been a taxi driver who just helped me find the office and I just paid to wait for me. Or he might have been my husband, but completely dyslexic.”

READ MORE: Low loonie forces Canadians to choose homegrown travel destinations

The government said staff are barred from helping applicants fill out forms as a security measure to protect against forgery.

“Generally, any addition, modification or deletion of information on an application form must be completed by the applicant and initialled,” reads a statement from Service Canada, the agency that oversees the administration of passports.

“Although the policy in place speaks to amendments to the application form and does not reference providing assistance to visually impaired applicants, it is understood that any annotations on the application form should be completed by the applicant themselves, when possible.”

The statement said visually impaired Canadians can designate a friend or family member to complete the form for them.

The Passport Canada site also offers an accessible online form that can be completed in advance. Service Canada said, however, that there are no accessible terminals for those with disabilities at passport offices – meaning those without an Internet connection or appropriate technology would have issues. Blaevoet noted that in her case, staff at the Passport Canada office did not point her to an online form.

VIDEO: Air Canada passenger denied boarding flight

READ MORE: Airlines resent cost of paying to return passengers deemed inadmissible in Canada

Michael Prince, professor of social policy and disability studies at the University of Victoria, said the proposed solutions are typical of too many customer service experiences across Canada that limit a person’s ability to take independent action on their own affairs.

He said Blaevoet’s case exemplifies the need for federal legislation to ensure accessible customer service standards across all services provided by government, adding the ideal scenario would result in universal access in everything from banks to stores to voting booths.

“Many people with disabilities will find the existing limited set of options demeaning and insulting,” Prince said. “As a country committed to equality and to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we can do much better.”