Canada Newswatch

The CKA Canada Newswatch is a companion to our in-house Canada News system.
The Newswatch is a collection of various Canadian news feeds in one convenient location.


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Daily Canada Newswatch

Submit News to CKA News police arrest man in Amanda Todd harassment - Toronto Sun
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:52:39 GMT

Toronto Sun

police arrest man in Amanda Todd harassment
Toronto Sun
amanda-todd A still from Amanda Todd's YouTube video telling the story of years of bullying after having a nude photo sent to classmates. (WENN.COM). Tweet. Change text size for the story; Print this story. Report an error ...
RCMP lay charges against Dutch man in Amanda Todd caseCTV News
Man's reported arrest good news for Amanda Todd's parentsTruro Daily News
RCMP lay charges in cyberbullying of Amanda ToddDigitalJournal.com
BBC News -Metro
all 207 news articles »
Submit News to CKA News Your morning five: Ukraine endures a fragile peace
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:28:18 +0000

Also: John Baird wants a fair trial for a jailed Canadian journalist

The post Your morning five: Ukraine endures a fragile peace appeared first on Macleans.ca.

Submit News to CKA News Toronto Mayor Rob Ford officially launches re-election campaign in 'the spirit of ... - Montreal Gazette
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:21:46 GMT

Montreal Gazette

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford officially launches re-election campaign in 'the spirit of ...
Montreal Gazette
TORONTO ? Ford Nation came out in droves on Thursday to a Toronto convention centre festooned with red, white and blue balloons, as Rob Ford officially launched his mayoral re-election bid wrapped in his brand of populism and appealing to a ?spirit of ...
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses 'rocky moments' during campaign launchCTV News
How Toronto Mayor Rob Ford could win againCBC.ca
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford kicks off reelection bidNew York Daily News
Straits Times -Ahram Online
all 175 news articles »
Submit News to CKA News Stubborn negatives undermine Tories? shot at another majority
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:21:16 Z
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s personal, moving eulogy Wednesday for his friend and former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, marked a turning point of sorts for the Conservative government. We’ve a year to go, perhaps a bit longer, until Election 2015. The […]
Submit News to CKA News Appeals court grants Metis Indian status - CANOE
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:20:37 GMT

Montreal Gazette

Appeals court grants Metis Indian status
CANOE
The Federal Court of Appeal upheld a landmark ruling Thursday that gave Canada's Metis population Indian status within the Constitution, allowing negotiations to begin for all the rights and services that go with it. But it denied non-status Indians the same title ...
Federal Court of Appeal upholds landmark ruling on rights of MetisTheChronicleHerald.ca
Who qualifies as a 'Status Indian' and what does it mean?CTV News
Métis win Appeal Court ruling giving them Indian statusCBC.ca

all 52 news articles »
Submit News to CKA News Toronto Mayor Rob Ford officially launches re-election campaign in ?the spirit of second chances?
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:12:05 Z
TORONTO — Ford Nation came out in droves on Thursday to a Toronto convention centre festooned with red, white and blue balloons, as Rob Ford officially launched his mayoral re-election bid wrapped in his brand of populism and appealing to a “spirit […]
Submit News to CKA News Toronto Mayor Rob Ford holds official launch of re-election campaign
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:09:49 Z
By Adam Miller TORONTO — Toronto’s controversial Mayor Rob Ford threw a large party — complete with recorded music and a live band — for the official launch of his re-election campaign. Ford, who was the first to register as […]
Submit News to CKA News NASA's moon-orbiting robot LADEE bites lunar dust
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:04:42 -0400
NASA flight controllers confirmed early Friday that its small orbiting spacecraft LADEE crashed into the back side of the moon.
Submit News to CKA News Calgary police vow Brentwood investigation will proceed 'without favour or bias' - Calgary Herald
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:04:06 GMT

Calgary Herald

Calgary police vow Brentwood investigation will proceed 'without favour or bias'
Calgary Herald
Matthew de Grood, alleged to have been the perpetrator in the stabbing murders in Brentwood Tuesday April 15, 2014, competes in the 10 kilometre portion of the 2013 Scotiabank Calgary Marathon May 26, 2013. The speedy arrest of Matt de Grood in ...
Accused killer mingled with partygoers: Calgary copsCANOE
Parents of Calgary stabbing suspect 'shocked and devastated'Toronto Star
Father of mass murder suspect would give anything to bring victims backNational Post

all 907 news articles »
Submit News to CKA News Star readers don't want profanity spelled out: Public Editor
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:00:00 EDT

“Call me old-fashioned but I don’t want to see foul language printed in full in news media,” wrote reader Barbara Dietrich.

“Swear words don’t add anything to a story. In the same vein, not spelling out the word does not diminish the story,” said Marc Petruccelli.

“Proper speech is under daily assault, so anything that can hold the line against further abuse is welcome,” said Susan Sterling. “Using dashes doesn’t hide the meaning of the word; it’s a courtesy, and one that I hope the Star will continue to extend.”

“Please maintain your high level of integrity by not changing what isn’t broken,” wrote Sandy Borradaile.

Readers have spoken and the message is clear: the Star should not spell out swear words in full or alter its long-standing policy to allow more profanity in print.

In my last column I asked you to weigh in on whether the Star’s practice of using dashes in swear words — in the rare instances when those words are even deemed newsworthy — is a coy standard of the past or an ongoing mark of respect for readers.

More than 200 readers weighed in on this matter via email, online comments, Facebook and handwritten letters. The majority told me they neither want to see swear words spelled out in full nor think the time has come for a more liberal policy.

Of 75 emails, only nine argued for the Star to reconsider its policy. The dozen or so letters readers sent all made the case to keep offensive language out of the Star.

Among those who responded on my Star Facebook page, a majority support the Star’s current policy. Not surprisingly, more vigorous debate occurred within the Star’s online comments, with commenters about evenly split in their opinions on profanity in the Star.

The Star’s current policy states that “swear words and sexually charged terms should be handled with extreme care and in consultation with a senior editor.

“Unless they are in direct quotations, they should never be used. Even in quotes, they should be used sparingly (i.e. only when the words — and the speaker — are central to the story). In publishing swear words, the Star uses short dashes following the first letter.”

Many readers told me while they understand profanity is increasingly part of common parlance, they still don’t want to see it spelled out in the pages of the Toronto Star. They expect a higher standard from us.

“I buy the Star because of the high standard of the content,” said Marie Thomson. “If I was enjoying a column or story and was suddenly hit with a full-blown vulgarity, I probably wouldn’t continue reading. It would be spoiled for me.”

Readers were thoughtful and passionate on this subject and debate online was smart and civil. Here’s a further sampling of views on my question of whether the Star’s policy is “respectful of readers and families, overly prudish and out of date or simply confusing?

“Please can we not have somewhere that we are not constantly barraged with vulgar, sexist, rude language,” wrote Kim Lowes. “It does not take a rocket scientist to understand the meaning of items in our daily papers and adding ‘swear’ words certainly will not help to better understand the gist of the story.”

Nancy Weber said the policy is “old-fashioned, maybe.” But she added, “We need to show respect and integrity and the Star does that as far as I am concerned.”

Weighing in on Facebook, Chris Jarvis said “I’m smart enough to figure out what f--- means, without having to have it spelled out for me.”

“David K” expressed the opposite view in his comment online: “Spell the damned word,” he said.

A commenter named “shirt” agreed: “I believe we are all grown up enough that we can survive having to read the dreaded F-word, especially if it is in the context of a quote or is otherwise necessary to be spelled out,” he said.

Like “shirt,” those in favour of the Star spelling out swear words argued that if the word is deemed newsworthy enough to report — particularly when within a direct quote — it should not be obscured by dashes. They make a good case on that. As I told you previously, some news organizations, such as the New Yorker and the Economist, have opted for this more liberal approach.

Still, in a recent article about the ongoing debate on the media and profanity, Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said that news organizations must consider “tradition, audience, standards and practices” in striking their own balance between “a sense of good taste and respectability in journalism” and “honesty and newsworthiness.”

All things considered — most especially, our readers’ views — it seems the Star has struck that right balance with its current policy.

publiced@thestar.ca

Submit News to CKA News Montreal-area traffic and transit update
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:48:31 Z
WITH VIDEO: The Mercier Bridge will be a trouble spot this weekend. Next week, new roadwork projects get off the ground. Here is what to expect:
Submit News to CKA News The race is over - NL News Now
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:46:19 GMT

CTV News

The race is over
NL News Now
In an emailed statement sent to media in the middle of Wednesday night, Barry said that he's removing himself from the leadership campaign for a variety of reasons. © Brandon Anstey/tc? Media. COLEMAN SET TO GO ? Corner Brook's Frank Coleman is now ...
Coleman Ready for Role as PremierVOCM
Party process 'seems disingenuous to me': Bill BarryAurora
Barry: Canada shrimp catch allocation a 'terrible decision'Undercurrent News
Cambridge Times
all 58 news articles »
Submit News to CKA News Bridge work ramps up in 2014
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:41:00 Z
Repairs to South Shore bridges will cause more traffic headaches this year.
Submit News to CKA News Mount Everest?s deadliest disaster: avalanche kills 12 Nepali guides, 3 still missing
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:37:16 EDT

KATMANDU, NEPAL—An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three missing in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak.

The Sherpa guides had gone early in the morning to fix ropes for other climbers when the avalanche hit just them below Camp 2 at about 6:30 a.m., Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said, from the base camp where he is monitoring rescue efforts.

Rescue workers pulled out 12 bodies from under mounds of snow and ice and were searching for the three missing guides, Lamsal said.

Two Sherpas who were injured were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support crews have gathered at the base camp to prepare for attempts to scale the 8,850-metre mountain early next month when weather conditions become favourable. They have been setting up camps at higher altitudes and guides have been fixing routes and ropes on the slopes above.

As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and fellow climbers rushed to help.

Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said the area where the avalanche hit is nicknamed the “popcorn field” and is just below Camp 2 at 6,400 metres.

Earlier this year, Nepal announced several steps to better manage the heavy flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations. The steps included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 5,300 metres (17,380 feet), where they will stay throughout the spring climbing season that ends in May.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds have died attempting to reach the peak.

The worst recorded disaster on Everest had been a snowstorm on May 11, 1996, that caused the deaths of eight climbers. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.

Submit News to CKA News RCMP lay charges against Dutch man in Amanda Todd case
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:28:04 -0400
Five charges including child pornography, extortion, criminal harassment and Internet luring have been laid by RCMP against a man in the Netherlands in connection with the Amanda Todd case, an online bullying story that captured millions across the world.
Submit News to CKA News Florida man smothered crying toddler to play Xbox games
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:20:33 -0400
Sheriff's deputies in northern Florida say a man suffocated his young, crying son so he could play video games.
Submit News to CKA News Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for captain of South Korean ferry
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:09:00 -0400
Prosecutors say they've asked a court to issue an arrest warrant for the captain of the South Korean ferry that sank two days ago, leaving hundreds missing and feared dead.
Submit News to CKA News 6 weeks since MH370 disappeared, not one piece of debris found
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:49:00 -0400
Six weeks into the extensive search for the lost Malaysia Airlines plane without so much as a piece of debris yet found, several Chinese relatives met Friday to pray for spouses who never came home, while begging for answers that could end their misery of not knowing.
Submit News to CKA News Closures over the long weekend - 570 News
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 10:42:31 GMT

Closures over the long weekend
570 News
The Easter long weekend has arrived, which means a number of service disruptions and closures over the next few days. For shoppers, Waterloo Region's big malls: Fairview Park, Conestoga and Cambridge Centre are closed today and Easter Sunday.

and more »
Submit News to CKA News Everest avalanche kills 12 Nepal guides, 3 missing
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:41:00 -0400
An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three missing in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.
Submit News to CKA News Pro-Russian insurgents' offer to Ukraine government: Stand down, and we will too
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:34:00 -0400
Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine's east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kyiv resigns.
Submit News to CKA News Filipino devotees re-enact Crucifixion of Christ in bloody Good Friday rites
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:23:10 -0400
Devotees in northern Philippine villages had themselves nailed to wooded crosses to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as thousands of local and foreign spectators watched the bloody annual rites to mark Good Friday in Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation.
Submit News to CKA News Human smuggler or modern-day Robin Hood?
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:00:00 EDT

ISTANBUL—In the Aksaray neighbourhood of Istanbul, in one of the countless Turkish coffee shops crammed into one of the countless winding streets, you can meet with Abo Khalil and buy your new identity.

For the right price, Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans can leave their true papers behind and become Spanish, Greek or even Canadian.

I met with Khalil in the basement of a smoky café. His dark brown eyes twinkled as he explained his profession and how western governments could easily put him out of business, if they cared to. Khalil started human smuggling 14 years ago, moving Iraqis from Turkey into Europe.

Read more of this series on thestar.com:

The Syrian dreamer: Using stars to guide the way out of Turkey

The teacher, now a fugitive, wanted in Damascus

The Syrian ‘guests’ of Istanbul

Syrian refugee family in Turkey ‘trying to leave this miserable life’

He began our meeting by voicing his negative opinion of western governments. The West, he says, has stood by complicit and watched as Syrians have engaged in a bloody civil war that has left more than 150,000 dead and displaced millions. Another 180,000 are missing inside Syrian prisons.

If America and Canada won’t help stop the conflict, at least they could open their borders to Syrians and offer them all asylum, not just the educated ones, he argues.

“Your governments don’t care. You could put me out of business by taking in Syrian refugees, but you don’t,” Khalil says, taking a drag on his cigarette.

When it comes to other wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the West only intervenes when it suits their own agenda, he says.

“Your governments — America and Canada — your leaders, they are warlords. They operate like the mafia, but with permission,” says Khalil, a Syrian.

“For us, the States and Canada are cold. They are forgotten lands.”

Italy’s Migration Policy Centre estimates 9 million Syrians, out of a pre-war population of 20 million, have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in 2011. While millions are displaced inside Syria, close to 2.5 million have gone to five countries — Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, the centre says.

Canada has accepted 512 Syrians from when the conflict began until the end of 2012, according to United Nations data.

Many arrive in other countries illegally, without proper papers, making it difficult to determine who is where.

However, the International Crisis Group believes between 500,000 and 1 million Syrians live in Turkish cities and towns — on top of the 220,000 living in refugee camps along the southern border.

Many of them seek Khalil’s services to get to Europe. They are desperate and destitute. “Most of them are poor and how do they manage to go to the EU? They sell everything they own to get enough money for the trip. They . . . are looking for safety,” he says.

“The main factor for them is the cost. The closer the destination, the cheaper it is,” adds Khalil.

If you are rich, it is a different story. Wealthy Syrians are seen throughout Istanbul, driving luxury cars. BMWs with Syrian plates are common. Turks who own properties in southern border towns have jacked up rents — some as high as 300 per cent.

If you are rich and have European contacts, Khalil continues, you just open a bank account in France, get a hotel reservation and a flight and go.

Once in Europe, they’ll need sponsors, he explains, but if they have the money, they’ll find the sponsors. “There are many Syrians who can afford it.”

Khalil laughs, then says, “There are a lot of people who are feeling sympathy to the Syrians. They come to Turkey from the West and they offer their passports. Then, they go to the consulate and say they have lost their passport.”

Khalil leans across the table and says that he could have a Syrian woman living in Canada with a valid passport within three days — before a new passport even is issued here in Turkey to replace the one that was “lost.” A Canadian passport can fetch up to $10,000.

If Canada, the United States and Europe were smart, they would issue visas to Syrians and put the smugglers out of business, he says. The Syrians could take all their money with them, begin a new life and contribute.

“Now, they pay us and they reach Canada penniless. They are a load on the Canadian government,” adds Khalil, who sees himself as more of a facilitator than a smuggler, doing his part to help his countrymen.

“I actually wish this would happen to make it easier on the poor. The Syrians would have money in their pockets. They could spend it when they get to the country.”

“That would affect my job but I am thinking as a human being. People are dying in Syria and nothing is happening,” he says. “The governments don’t care, but if they people of the world could talk, they would see and have the sense.”

After taking a sip of tea, he tells a story.

A few weeks ago, another group of smugglers operated in Istanbul. They took money from Syrians, pledging their safe passage to Europe, and instead kidnapped them, he says.

Khalil went after the errant smugglers and caught them, releasing the Syrians. He went to the Turkish police, he says, but was thrown out. “They said if we record this then you will be convicted. You’ll be convicted along with the kidnappers. They said it wasn’t my job to arrest people. Now, I’m under threat and the government won’t do anything,” he says.

“When Robin Hood existed, he was considered a criminal but for the people, he was a hero.”

Submit News to CKA News An Easter funeral: Death is not the final word
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:00:00 -0400
?The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever?
Submit News to CKA News Secret memo urged minister to steer Downsview Park plan to avoid a sell-off
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:00:00 EDT

Weeks after Ottawa abruptly handed Downsview Park over to a Crown land company, there was uneasiness within the government about whether the green space might be sold off, a secret memo obtained by the Star reveals.

Former public works minister Rona Ambrose’s decision in November 2012 to give Canada Lands Co. control of the 231-hectare property at Keele St. and Sheppard Ave. W. was controversial, coming just as many believed the long-awaited park project was finally seeing progress.

Some critics questioned what a company with expertise in selling Crown land had in store for the surplus military base, which Ottawa had trumpeted as “Canada’s first national urban park” in 1999.

Internal communications obtained by the Star reveal that Public Works Deputy Minister Michelle d’Auray expressed similar concerns about the future of the park, which will be the subject of a public consultation next week.

In a December 2012 memorandum to the minister marked “secret,” d’Auray remarked on the “fundamental difference” between the mandate of Canada Lands and that of the Crown entities that had previously controlled the Downsview property and the Old Port of Montreal — which was also handed over in November 2012.

Canada Lands Co. “is commercially oriented toward the disposal of certain properties for profit” as well as holding and managing other properties,” d’Auray wrote.

In contrast, the Parc Downsview Park organization was dedicated to managing “the Downsview lands a a national urban park for all Canadians,” d’Auray observed.

“In the absence of direction from you, (Canada Lands Co.) may be inclined to propose disposal of some or all of the property at the two urban parks, consistent with its mandate, or propose a commercially oriented use of the property,” she said.

D’Auray recommended the minister “address this potential area of conflict” through a “letter of expectations” to Canada Lands Co.

Public Works Minister Diane Finley declined a request for an interview on Tuesday.

In response to questions about what direction she has given Canada Lands Co., Finley’s spokesman, Alyson Queen, told the Star in an email: “As we’ve indicated many times, there is no intention to sell the parkland at Downsview Park. This has not changed.”

Robert Howald, senior vice-president of real estate for Canada Lands Co., said the company received a letter of expectations from the minister in January 2013.

Howald declined to share the letter with the Star, but said the minister provided “sufficient direction for us to have understood” government priorities.

“There was the direction to ensure that any plans that we had for Downsview or the Old Port of Montreal were spelled out in our corporate plan drafts, so that the minister would be aware of what it is we were looking to do, and would certainly have the opportunity to comment further,” he said.

The “strategic priorities” for Downsview listed in the recent corporate plan are to “implement a comprehensive development plan for its development sites and begin the creation of a new and innovative community.” (The company’s plans are approved annually by the federal treasury department.)

Howald said the company has “no plans” to seek changes to the current secondary plan, which identifies five sites for development as well as a large public space and would be “extremely difficult” to alter.

However, former Downsview Park chairman David Soknacki said that while the secondary plan places tight control on development in the southernmost neighbourhood, that is less the case “on the other areas of the park that still need to be filled in.”

Soknacki, who is now running for mayor, said d’Auray’s memo confirms that the concerns he had when the park changed hands “had at least a kernel of validity.”

“I am relieved that the safeguards that we put in place in the planning process are there. I don’t know if they will be challenged from the different mandate from Canada Lands,” he said. “That is the key issue. Everything else falls from that difference.”

The documents obtained by the Star through a freedom of information request show the consulting group Sussex Circle delivered a “scoping study” of the parent company Canada Lands Co. Ltd. and its three subsidiaries — Canada Lands Co., Parc Downsview Park and the Old Port of Montreal — to public works in January 2012.

The report, also marked “secret,” included a proposal to give the City of Toronto control of Downsview.

A spokesman for public works said city officials were not consulted about this option.

Although the report recommended consolidating Parc Downsview Park and the Old Port of Montreal with Canada Lands Co., it advised that government “proceed carefully” because of “local stakeholder interest.”

The next public meeting on the future of Downsview will be held at the Warehouse Event Venue on April 23 at 6:30 p.m.

Submit News to CKA News Swimming in dirty water? Toronto considers DineSafe-style transparency to ensure pools are safe
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:00:00 EDT

Operators of pools, spas, hot tubs and wading pools in Toronto could soon be required to post on-site inspection notices, letting the public know if any health and safety violations have taken place.

In 2011, the Star revealed that pool operators were racking up multiple infractions for everything from dirty water and malfunctioning equipment to missing safety gear, but those inspection results were not revealed to the public.

The news that swimmers, spa-goers and students were being put at potential risk of disease and injury prompted Councillor John Filion, then chair of the Toronto Board of Health, to call for a prominent display of proof as to whether the facilities met city standards.

On April 28, the board will consider a new proposal from the medical officer of health to determine whether the city should draft a bylaw that compelling operators of pools, public spas (hot tubs) and wading pools to post a sign or document showing inspection outcomes. The medical officer will report, with the city solicitor, on the content of the proposed bylaw.

If the board votes to proceed, the proposal will then be considered by city council on May 6. Council will make the final decision. The proposed bylaw would apply to more than 1,600 facilities.

Filion, who promised a crackdown on dirty pools following the Star story, said there is “no reason for that information not to be public.”

“Consumers, or just people trying to protect their own health in particular, should have all the information on what public authorities have found when they did an inspection,” Filion said in response to the proposed bylaw.

In addition to pushing for increased transparency and pool safety, the medical officer is also calling for inspection results related to food safety be posted at up to 2,000 “institutional food establishments” operating in the city, including nursing homes, retirement homes and daycare centres.

The facilities serve food but do not require a municipal licence to do so and are exempt from Toronto’s DineSafe program, which requires restaurants to post a coloured card that reveals their latest inspection results.

Filion helped introduce the DineSafe program in early 2001, after a Star investigation revealed that serious health and safety violations at restaurants were being withheld from the public. That program contributed significantly to compliance with the city’s food safety standards, with more than 90 per cent of restaurants passing inspection in 2013, up from 50 per cent in 2000, according to information provided by the city.

Filion said he expects the recommended bylaw for pools and spas will ensure that standards are being adhered to and will boost public confidence.

“Consumers do pay attention to these types of signs,” said Filion. “If you belong to a fitness club that has repeatedly negative results, you are going to go join a different club,” he said.

The Star obtained public health data detailing 10,000 health and safety violations documented at pools and spas over a two-year period. The data revealed that a number of high-end health clubs, luxury condos and children’s swim schools had repeatedly failed to meet health and safety standards set by the city.

Under the current system, if an inspector identifies a violation — including cloudy water or missing emergency equipment — the pool could be closed, but operators could reopen once the issue was fixed without informing the public of any details.

Submit News to CKA News NDP quietly working behind the scenes for spring election
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:00:00 EDT

In the clearest indication yet the New Democrats are set to trigger a spring election, the party is holding two days of “intensive” campaign-readiness training next week in Toronto, the Star has learned.

While NDP Leader Andrea Horwath sidesteps most questions on whether she will topple Premier Kathleen Wynne’s minority Liberals, her party is busy behind the scenes plotting strategy in the event the May 1 budget is not passed by a majority of the legislature.

A party source told the Star the New Democrats are running two days of intensive campaign training for potential volunteers in Toronto.

“This is a minority and we need to be ready,” the NDP source said, adding that some of the political manoeuvring that proved successful in U.S. President Barack Obama’s two campaigns will figure prominently if and when the provincial election happens.

“The content of training is increasingly oriented toward a heavy focus on having volunteers tell their personal stories — the things in their lives that motivated them to become engaged.”

This approach is largely associated with Marshall Ganz, a senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, whose theories of political organizing were central to the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012.

“It won’t be a surprise to learn that the model for 2014 is heavily influenced by lessons from the U.S. presidential cycle of 2012. New Democratic operatives spent a fair bit of time observing or briefing with Democrats about their successes.”

Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s May 1 budget could launch the province toward a June 26 election.

That’s because the budget must be debated for at least eight hours over 12 sessional days. The legislature does not sit Fridays, so 12 sessional days is the equivalent of three work weeks. But because of the Victoria Day break, MPPs do not sit for the third week in May.

So the budget vote may not happen in the legislature until May 29, setting the stage for a June 26 provincial election.

Horwath said that for the past two years her party has been working to “stimulate activism” at the riding association level.

“Much of the activism comes with the nomination process. People start thinking about elections, people start considering getting connected with the ridings to volunteer their time. But in a minority parliament we pretty much have to be doing that all the time,” she told the Star.

Horwath said the nine byelections since 2012 — four of them won by the NDP — have maintained a buzz in the party.

“We have had a lot of contested nominations this time around. We are getting a great deal of interest, We have a lot more candidates lined up already that are city councillors, school board trustees, chairs of school board, so the experience of our candidates is quite positive,” she said.

Even so, Horwath has refused to show her hand publicly on whether she plans to pull the plug on the Liberals, who have been plagued with spending scandals.

In the meantime, the party’s volunteers are getting their marching orders, knowing that a strong, organized ground war especially counts at a time when Ontario is suffering from low voter turnout.

The party source said experience in other jurisdictions has shown that building a tightly knit network of volunteers with a strong commitment to winning, particularly in the early phase of campaigning, has a direct correlation with higher rates of voter contact and more effective persuasion of voters.

“The party has also identified top organizers from across the country — not all of them New Democrats — who believe in Andrea and want to be part of the Ontario campaign. The common denominator seems to be that as campaign aficionados they’ve admired Andrea from a distance and/or watched the byelection wins in places that we weren’t expected to win like Kitchener-Waterloo and London West,” the source said.

In September 2012 byelection, New Democrat Catherine Fife, then head of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, won the long-held Tory riding of Kitchener-Waterloo.

Then in August last year when five byelections were held, New Democrat Percy Hatfield, a former Windsor councillor, easily stole the Liberal riding of Windsor-Tecumseh and NDP’s Peggy Sattler captured London West after former Liberal cabinet minister Chris Bentley resigned his seat in February 2013.

Most recently, Wayne Gates, a longtime unionist, won the byelection in Niagara Falls, edging out the Tories. It had been a Liberal seat until Kim Craitor resigned.

While poll results have been varied in recent weeks, a Forum Research’s survey published in the Star earlier this month found Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives leading with 38 per cent support to 31 per cent for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, 23 per cent for Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats and 7 per cent for Mike Schreiner’s Green Party.

It was the firm’s first sampling of public opinion since it was revealed Ontario Provincial Police are investigating David Livingston, Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff, over the alleged wiping of government computers last year.

Forum’s Lorne Bozinoff said his projected seat count in the 107-member legislature would be 49 Tories (up from the current 37), 45 Liberals (down from 48, including Speaker Dave Levac), and 13 New Democrats (now at 21).

Submit News to CKA News RCMP charge Dutch man in case of Amanda Todd
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:55:41 +0000

Five charges include child pornography, extortion, criminal harassment and Internet luring

The post RCMP charge Dutch man in case of Amanda Todd appeared first on Macleans.ca.

Submit News to CKA News The makeup-brush market is booming
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:35:54 +0000

Today?s priciest and most obsessed-over beauty must-have isn?t one you?ll ever wear

The post The makeup-brush market is booming appeared first on Macleans.ca.

Submit News to CKA News Let the light in
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:34:20 +0000

Harper has often denied his critics an avenue to attack him. The future may not be so easily controlled.

The post Let the light in appeared first on Macleans.ca.

Submit News to CKA News Jesus was son of god?and a husband?
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:32:50 +0000

New evidence suggests Jesus may have been married, rekindling a debate that?s as old as Christianity itself

The post Jesus was son of god?and a husband? appeared first on Macleans.ca.

Submit News to CKA News A cautionary tale on electoral reform
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:32:48 +0000

Colby Cosh on gaming the system from the fringes

The post A cautionary tale on electoral reform appeared first on Macleans.ca.

Submit News to CKA News Newfoundlanders' Fortunes Found and Lost in BC (in News)
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:40:00Z
Thirty years ago, BC mills beckoned with stable work -- as did the cod fishery of the east. Fourth in a series.
Submit News to CKA News BC Wolf Killing Plan Based on 'Unreliable Data': Advocate (in News)
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:30:00Z
Newly released strategy outlines difficulties in counting wolves.
Submit News to CKA News Alberta Moves to Strike Down Anti-Fracker Ernst's Lawsuit (in News)
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:20:00Z
Landmark case could spark a flood of litigation against the province, lawyers argue.
Submit News to CKA News B.C. government must act to end abuse of foreign workers: advocates
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 05:40:56 Z
A group of politicians, labour advocates and community leaders called upon both levels of government to stop pitting Canadian workers against foreigners, with some condemning the Temporary Foreign Worker program as a form of modern slavery. There is a growing anti-immigrant backlash in response to recent revelations that certain fast-food franchises are hiring temporary foreign workers instead of unemployed locals, NDP MLA Mable Elmore said at a press conference at a Filipino-Chinese restaurant near her Vancouver-Kensington constituency office.
Submit News to CKA News Supreme Court of Canada to hear appeals in human smuggling cases
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 05:40:20 Z
Canada’s highest court has agreed to hear the appeals of four denied refugee claimants who say they were ensnared in overly broad interpretations of this country’s human-smuggling laws.
Submit News to CKA News Father of Calgary stabbing suspect says family will ?never recover from this?
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 05:06:34 Z
Declaring their unconditional love for their son, the parents of the man accused of the worst mass slaying in Calgary’s history said they, too, are struggling to comprehend a crime that continues to confound investigators. Matthew de Grood, 22, is […]
Submit News to CKA News Raging pit bull shot dead by Ottawa cops
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 00:32:24 -0400

A pit bull that witnesses say was attacking people was shot dead by city police in Gloucester on Thursday.
Submit News to CKA News BC teachers' job action Wednesday - CBC.ca
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 04:25:24 GMT

CBC.ca

BC teachers' job action Wednesday
CBC.ca
Citing a lack of meaningful progress at the bargaining table, B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker has announced his union is issuing 72 hours strike notice, but that job action will be confined to a teacher withdrawal of administrative service. Iker says ...
BC teachers plan to start work-to-rule action next weekThe Globe and Mail
B.C. teachers issue 72-hour strike notice, but job action won't impact classroomsThe Province
Job action planned for Richmond schoolsRichmond News
Castanet.net -North Shore News
all 34 news articles »
Submit News to CKA News Beer Store?s ad campaign shows fear of competition: Editorial
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 00:01:00 EDT

It’s enough to give Don Draper a bad hangover. The Beer Store’s new advertising campaign — warning of a spike in underage drinking if Ontario convenience stores win the right to sell suds — is generating a public backlash of painful proportions.

From tweets to talk shows, Ontarians seem unimpressed with the ad, which could be mistaken for a Saturday Night Live parody of the modern temperance movement. Of course, this is no joke. Clearly, growing public demand for beer and wine sales in corner stores has The Beer Store running scared of losing its multi-billion-dollar grip on the province.

Hopefully Premier Kathleen Wynne, who needs all the public support she can get, will finally recognize that Ontarians want a choice in where they buy their beer. Her government should shake up the system and allow corner stores to sell beer and wine – under strict controls – despite the fierce opposition of the foreign-owned monopoly that owns The Beer Store.

The ad everyone is talking about shows a paunchy convenience-store worker or owner watching with approval as a trio of baby-faced teenage boys buy liquor and beer – without being asked for age identification. “Have fun tonight boys,” says the dishevelled representative of Ontario’s convenience store industry.

The ad’s kicker: “Alcohol in corner stores?” intones a motherly voice of disapproval. “It’s just not right for our kids.”

Thank goodness our teens can rely on the moral protection of Molson Coors Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch InBev and Sleeman Breweries Ltd. (Sapporo Breweries Ltd.). It appears The Beer Store’s raison d’être — aside from piling up profits for its off-shore owners – is saving our children from the menace of corner stores.

Of course, that’s all posturing. In reality, Ontario convenience stores already face severe fines (or even closure) if they sell cigarettes or lottery tickets to minors. Owners have a powerful incentive to follow rules that demand ID for anyone who appears to be under 25.

And, a recent study cited by the convenience store association found that when tested on age rules with “mystery shoppers,” chain convenience stores had an 87.3 per cent pass rate, compared to The Beer Store with 80.7 per cent.

Of course, there’s a study for everything and The Beer Store’s new website, OntarioBeerFacts.ca, has plenty to say about the perils of loosening Ontario alcohol sales. At the same time, Tom Moher, vice-president of operations for Mac’s Convenience Stores, calls that ad campaign a “gross misrepresentation.”

Obviously, there’s a lot at stake for both sides. And The Beer Stores’ ad blitz, however outrageous, makes it clear that the game is on. But in the battle for beer-drinking Ontarians’ hearts and minds, it’s clear which side is winning. If only Premier Wynne would listen.

Submit News to CKA News Video: Inside The Ledge April 14, 2014
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:40:59 Z
Vancouver Sun reporter Rob Shaw and Global TV political bureau chief Keith Baldrey discuss the government's retreat on changing environmental assessments for ski resorts and natural gas facilities, as well as the Kitimat vote on Enbridge and the growing influence of B.C.'s interior in the premier's cabinet.
Submit News to CKA News A 'government of all Quebecers,' Couillard says - Montreal Gazette
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:38:20 GMT

Montreal Gazette

A 'government of all Quebecers,' Couillard says
Montreal Gazette
QUEBEC ? Premier-designate Philippe Couillard said Thursday, at the close of a swearing-in ceremony for 68 of the 70 Liberals elected in the provincial election last week, that Quebecers ?judged us worthy of their confidence.? ?We will not disappoint them,? ...
Couillard vows Quebec will strengthen ties to CanadaThe Globe and Mail
Liberals sworn in under dark cloudCBC.ca
Liberal MNAs' swearing-in spoiled by allegations of illegal fundraisingCTV News
The Province
all 70 news articles »
Submit News to CKA News Repairs close Burrard Bridge on Friday and Saturday
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:37:40 Z
Road crews expect to shut down the Burrard Bridge from 3:30 a.m. until noon on Friday and Saturday to clear the way for paving at Burrard and Cornwall. The bridge is slated to reopen one southbound and two northbound lanes by the afternoon.
Submit News to CKA News Chris Hadfield thrills Coquitlam kids by flying paper airplanes
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:37:29 Z
CCanadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's passion for space travel isn't limited to rockets — he was just as happy flying paper airplanes with a bunch of giddy Grade 5 kids in Coquitlam, B.C.
Submit News to CKA News A ?government of all Quebecers,? Couillard says
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:37:27 Z
QUEBEC — Premier-designate Philippe Couillard said Thursday, at the close of a swearing-in ceremony for 68 of the 70 Liberals elected in the provincial election last week, that Quebecers “judged us worthy of their confidence.” “We will not disappoint them,” Couillard said.
Submit News to CKA News Victoria approves major coal terminal expansion on Texada Island
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:37:22 Z
Groups that want a full environmental review of an expansion at a Texada Island coal-handling facility are outraged the B.C. government quietly approved an amended permit without telling local residents or First Nations. The amended permit allows Lafarge to store 800,000 tonnes of coal, double the previous amount. The will enable Lafarge to handle thermal coal from the proposed $15-million Fraser Surrey Docks coal-handling facility.
Submit News to CKA News Disenchanted Surrey First councillor considers mayoral run
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:36:31 Z
The Surrey First team is facing a major shakeup after outspoken Coun. Barinder Rasode announced Thursday that she has split from the “coalition of independents” and is seriously considering a run for mayor. Rasode, who has served two terms as a Surrey First councillor, said she felt she could no longer freely speak her mind as part of Mayor Dianne Watts’s coalition, which up until now has held every seat on Surrey council. Her decision to serve as an independent leaves Watts facing at least two councillor vacancies — and possibly a mayoral candidate spot — to fill on the right-wing slate ahead of this November’s municipal elections.
Submit News to CKA News Police seek man with ties to Hells Angels
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:36:30 Z
A man with ties to the Hells Angels, and described by police as dangerous, is currently being sought on a warrant accusing him of extortion.
Submit News to CKA News Tories mull rule that would block Anders from seeking new riding
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:36:03 Z
The Conservative party is debating changing the rules to allow the party to block MPs who have lost a nomination race in one riding from running in another, which could prevent Rob Anders from returning to the House of Commons.

Canadian Editorial/Opinion Newswatch

Warning: MagpieRSS: Failed to parse RSS file. (Undeclared entity error at line 56, column 54) in D:\Hosted Sites\canadaka.net\www\includes\rss_fetch\rss_fetch.inc on line 238 Submit News to CKA News Star readers don't want profanity spelled out: Public Editor
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:00:00 EDT

“Call me old-fashioned but I don’t want to see foul language printed in full in news media,” wrote reader Barbara Dietrich.

“Swear words don’t add anything to a story. In the same vein, not spelling out the word does not diminish the story,” said Marc Petruccelli.

“Proper speech is under daily assault, so anything that can hold the line against further abuse is welcome,” said Susan Sterling. “Using dashes doesn’t hide the meaning of the word; it’s a courtesy, and one that I hope the Star will continue to extend.”

“Please maintain your high level of integrity by not changing what isn’t broken,” wrote Sandy Borradaile.

Readers have spoken and the message is clear: the Star should not spell out swear words in full or alter its long-standing policy to allow more profanity in print.

In my last column I asked you to weigh in on whether the Star’s practice of using dashes in swear words — in the rare instances when those words are even deemed newsworthy — is a coy standard of the past or an ongoing mark of respect for readers.

More than 200 readers weighed in on this matter via email, online comments, Facebook and handwritten letters. The majority told me they neither want to see swear words spelled out in full nor think the time has come for a more liberal policy.

Of 75 emails, only nine argued for the Star to reconsider its policy. The dozen or so letters readers sent all made the case to keep offensive language out of the Star.

Among those who responded on my Star Facebook page, a majority support the Star’s current policy. Not surprisingly, more vigorous debate occurred within the Star’s online comments, with commenters about evenly split in their opinions on profanity in the Star.

The Star’s current policy states that “swear words and sexually charged terms should be handled with extreme care and in consultation with a senior editor.

“Unless they are in direct quotations, they should never be used. Even in quotes, they should be used sparingly (i.e. only when the words — and the speaker — are central to the story). In publishing swear words, the Star uses short dashes following the first letter.”

Many readers told me while they understand profanity is increasingly part of common parlance, they still don’t want to see it spelled out in the pages of the Toronto Star. They expect a higher standard from us.

“I buy the Star because of the high standard of the content,” said Marie Thomson. “If I was enjoying a column or story and was suddenly hit with a full-blown vulgarity, I probably wouldn’t continue reading. It would be spoiled for me.”

Readers were thoughtful and passionate on this subject and debate online was smart and civil. Here’s a further sampling of views on my question of whether the Star’s policy is “respectful of readers and families, overly prudish and out of date or simply confusing?

“Please can we not have somewhere that we are not constantly barraged with vulgar, sexist, rude language,” wrote Kim Lowes. “It does not take a rocket scientist to understand the meaning of items in our daily papers and adding ‘swear’ words certainly will not help to better understand the gist of the story.”

Nancy Weber said the policy is “old-fashioned, maybe.” But she added, “We need to show respect and integrity and the Star does that as far as I am concerned.”

Weighing in on Facebook, Chris Jarvis said “I’m smart enough to figure out what f--- means, without having to have it spelled out for me.”

“David K” expressed the opposite view in his comment online: “Spell the damned word,” he said.

A commenter named “shirt” agreed: “I believe we are all grown up enough that we can survive having to read the dreaded F-word, especially if it is in the context of a quote or is otherwise necessary to be spelled out,” he said.

Like “shirt,” those in favour of the Star spelling out swear words argued that if the word is deemed newsworthy enough to report — particularly when within a direct quote — it should not be obscured by dashes. They make a good case on that. As I told you previously, some news organizations, such as the New Yorker and the Economist, have opted for this more liberal approach.

Still, in a recent article about the ongoing debate on the media and profanity, Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said that news organizations must consider “tradition, audience, standards and practices” in striking their own balance between “a sense of good taste and respectability in journalism” and “honesty and newsworthiness.”

All things considered — most especially, our readers’ views — it seems the Star has struck that right balance with its current policy.

publiced@thestar.ca

Submit News to CKA News Mount Everest?s deadliest disaster: avalanche kills 12 Nepali guides, 3 still missing
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:37:16 EDT

KATMANDU, NEPAL—An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three missing in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak.

The Sherpa guides had gone early in the morning to fix ropes for other climbers when the avalanche hit just them below Camp 2 at about 6:30 a.m., Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said, from the base camp where he is monitoring rescue efforts.

Rescue workers pulled out 12 bodies from under mounds of snow and ice and were searching for the three missing guides, Lamsal said.

Two Sherpas who were injured were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support crews have gathered at the base camp to prepare for attempts to scale the 8,850-metre mountain early next month when weather conditions become favourable. They have been setting up camps at higher altitudes and guides have been fixing routes and ropes on the slopes above.

As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and fellow climbers rushed to help.

Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said the area where the avalanche hit is nicknamed the “popcorn field” and is just below Camp 2 at 6,400 metres.

Earlier this year, Nepal announced several steps to better manage the heavy flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations. The steps included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 5,300 metres (17,380 feet), where they will stay throughout the spring climbing season that ends in May.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds have died attempting to reach the peak.

The worst recorded disaster on Everest had been a snowstorm on May 11, 1996, that caused the deaths of eight climbers. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.

Submit News to CKA News Human smuggler or modern-day Robin Hood?
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:00:00 EDT

ISTANBUL—In the Aksaray neighbourhood of Istanbul, in one of the countless Turkish coffee shops crammed into one of the countless winding streets, you can meet with Abo Khalil and buy your new identity.

For the right price, Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans can leave their true papers behind and become Spanish, Greek or even Canadian.

I met with Khalil in the basement of a smoky café. His dark brown eyes twinkled as he explained his profession and how western governments could easily put him out of business, if they cared to. Khalil started human smuggling 14 years ago, moving Iraqis from Turkey into Europe.

Read more of this series on thestar.com:

The Syrian dreamer: Using stars to guide the way out of Turkey

The teacher, now a fugitive, wanted in Damascus

The Syrian ‘guests’ of Istanbul

Syrian refugee family in Turkey ‘trying to leave this miserable life’

He began our meeting by voicing his negative opinion of western governments. The West, he says, has stood by complicit and watched as Syrians have engaged in a bloody civil war that has left more than 150,000 dead and displaced millions. Another 180,000 are missing inside Syrian prisons.

If America and Canada won’t help stop the conflict, at least they could open their borders to Syrians and offer them all asylum, not just the educated ones, he argues.

“Your governments don’t care. You could put me out of business by taking in Syrian refugees, but you don’t,” Khalil says, taking a drag on his cigarette.

When it comes to other wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the West only intervenes when it suits their own agenda, he says.

“Your governments — America and Canada — your leaders, they are warlords. They operate like the mafia, but with permission,” says Khalil, a Syrian.

“For us, the States and Canada are cold. They are forgotten lands.”

Italy’s Migration Policy Centre estimates 9 million Syrians, out of a pre-war population of 20 million, have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in 2011. While millions are displaced inside Syria, close to 2.5 million have gone to five countries — Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, the centre says.

Canada has accepted 512 Syrians from when the conflict began until the end of 2012, according to United Nations data.

Many arrive in other countries illegally, without proper papers, making it difficult to determine who is where.

However, the International Crisis Group believes between 500,000 and 1 million Syrians live in Turkish cities and towns — on top of the 220,000 living in refugee camps along the southern border.

Many of them seek Khalil’s services to get to Europe. They are desperate and destitute. “Most of them are poor and how do they manage to go to the EU? They sell everything they own to get enough money for the trip. They . . . are looking for safety,” he says.

“The main factor for them is the cost. The closer the destination, the cheaper it is,” adds Khalil.

If you are rich, it is a different story. Wealthy Syrians are seen throughout Istanbul, driving luxury cars. BMWs with Syrian plates are common. Turks who own properties in southern border towns have jacked up rents — some as high as 300 per cent.

If you are rich and have European contacts, Khalil continues, you just open a bank account in France, get a hotel reservation and a flight and go.

Once in Europe, they’ll need sponsors, he explains, but if they have the money, they’ll find the sponsors. “There are many Syrians who can afford it.”

Khalil laughs, then says, “There are a lot of people who are feeling sympathy to the Syrians. They come to Turkey from the West and they offer their passports. Then, they go to the consulate and say they have lost their passport.”

Khalil leans across the table and says that he could have a Syrian woman living in Canada with a valid passport within three days — before a new passport even is issued here in Turkey to replace the one that was “lost.” A Canadian passport can fetch up to $10,000.

If Canada, the United States and Europe were smart, they would issue visas to Syrians and put the smugglers out of business, he says. The Syrians could take all their money with them, begin a new life and contribute.

“Now, they pay us and they reach Canada penniless. They are a load on the Canadian government,” adds Khalil, who sees himself as more of a facilitator than a smuggler, doing his part to help his countrymen.

“I actually wish this would happen to make it easier on the poor. The Syrians would have money in their pockets. They could spend it when they get to the country.”

“That would affect my job but I am thinking as a human being. People are dying in Syria and nothing is happening,” he says. “The governments don’t care, but if they people of the world could talk, they would see and have the sense.”

After taking a sip of tea, he tells a story.

A few weeks ago, another group of smugglers operated in Istanbul. They took money from Syrians, pledging their safe passage to Europe, and instead kidnapped them, he says.

Khalil went after the errant smugglers and caught them, releasing the Syrians. He went to the Turkish police, he says, but was thrown out. “They said if we record this then you will be convicted. You’ll be convicted along with the kidnappers. They said it wasn’t my job to arrest people. Now, I’m under threat and the government won’t do anything,” he says.

“When Robin Hood existed, he was considered a criminal but for the people, he was a hero.”

Submit News to CKA News Swimming in dirty water? Toronto considers DineSafe-style transparency to ensure pools are safe
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:00:00 EDT

Operators of pools, spas, hot tubs and wading pools in Toronto could soon be required to post on-site inspection notices, letting the public know if any health and safety violations have taken place.

In 2011, the Star revealed that pool operators were racking up multiple infractions for everything from dirty water and malfunctioning equipment to missing safety gear, but those inspection results were not revealed to the public.

The news that swimmers, spa-goers and students were being put at potential risk of disease and injury prompted Councillor John Filion, then chair of the Toronto Board of Health, to call for a prominent display of proof as to whether the facilities met city standards.

On April 28, the board will consider a new proposal from the medical officer of health to determine whether the city should draft a bylaw that compelling operators of pools, public spas (hot tubs) and wading pools to post a sign or document showing inspection outcomes. The medical officer will report, with the city solicitor, on the content of the proposed bylaw.

If the board votes to proceed, the proposal will then be considered by city council on May 6. Council will make the final decision. The proposed bylaw would apply to more than 1,600 facilities.

Filion, who promised a crackdown on dirty pools following the Star story, said there is “no reason for that information not to be public.”

“Consumers, or just people trying to protect their own health in particular, should have all the information on what public authorities have found when they did an inspection,” Filion said in response to the proposed bylaw.

In addition to pushing for increased transparency and pool safety, the medical officer is also calling for inspection results related to food safety be posted at up to 2,000 “institutional food establishments” operating in the city, including nursing homes, retirement homes and daycare centres.

The facilities serve food but do not require a municipal licence to do so and are exempt from Toronto’s DineSafe program, which requires restaurants to post a coloured card that reveals their latest inspection results.

Filion helped introduce the DineSafe program in early 2001, after a Star investigation revealed that serious health and safety violations at restaurants were being withheld from the public. That program contributed significantly to compliance with the city’s food safety standards, with more than 90 per cent of restaurants passing inspection in 2013, up from 50 per cent in 2000, according to information provided by the city.

Filion said he expects the recommended bylaw for pools and spas will ensure that standards are being adhered to and will boost public confidence.

“Consumers do pay attention to these types of signs,” said Filion. “If you belong to a fitness club that has repeatedly negative results, you are going to go join a different club,” he said.

The Star obtained public health data detailing 10,000 health and safety violations documented at pools and spas over a two-year period. The data revealed that a number of high-end health clubs, luxury condos and children’s swim schools had repeatedly failed to meet health and safety standards set by the city.

Under the current system, if an inspector identifies a violation — including cloudy water or missing emergency equipment — the pool could be closed, but operators could reopen once the issue was fixed without informing the public of any details.

Submit News to CKA News NDP quietly working behind the scenes for spring election
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:00:00 EDT

In the clearest indication yet the New Democrats are set to trigger a spring election, the party is holding two days of “intensive” campaign-readiness training next week in Toronto, the Star has learned.

While NDP Leader Andrea Horwath sidesteps most questions on whether she will topple Premier Kathleen Wynne’s minority Liberals, her party is busy behind the scenes plotting strategy in the event the May 1 budget is not passed by a majority of the legislature.

A party source told the Star the New Democrats are running two days of intensive campaign training for potential volunteers in Toronto.

“This is a minority and we need to be ready,” the NDP source said, adding that some of the political manoeuvring that proved successful in U.S. President Barack Obama’s two campaigns will figure prominently if and when the provincial election happens.

“The content of training is increasingly oriented toward a heavy focus on having volunteers tell their personal stories — the things in their lives that motivated them to become engaged.”

This approach is largely associated with Marshall Ganz, a senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, whose theories of political organizing were central to the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012.

“It won’t be a surprise to learn that the model for 2014 is heavily influenced by lessons from the U.S. presidential cycle of 2012. New Democratic operatives spent a fair bit of time observing or briefing with Democrats about their successes.”

Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s May 1 budget could launch the province toward a June 26 election.

That’s because the budget must be debated for at least eight hours over 12 sessional days. The legislature does not sit Fridays, so 12 sessional days is the equivalent of three work weeks. But because of the Victoria Day break, MPPs do not sit for the third week in May.

So the budget vote may not happen in the legislature until May 29, setting the stage for a June 26 provincial election.

Horwath said that for the past two years her party has been working to “stimulate activism” at the riding association level.

“Much of the activism comes with the nomination process. People start thinking about elections, people start considering getting connected with the ridings to volunteer their time. But in a minority parliament we pretty much have to be doing that all the time,” she told the Star.

Horwath said the nine byelections since 2012 — four of them won by the NDP — have maintained a buzz in the party.

“We have had a lot of contested nominations this time around. We are getting a great deal of interest, We have a lot more candidates lined up already that are city councillors, school board trustees, chairs of school board, so the experience of our candidates is quite positive,” she said.

Even so, Horwath has refused to show her hand publicly on whether she plans to pull the plug on the Liberals, who have been plagued with spending scandals.

In the meantime, the party’s volunteers are getting their marching orders, knowing that a strong, organized ground war especially counts at a time when Ontario is suffering from low voter turnout.

The party source said experience in other jurisdictions has shown that building a tightly knit network of volunteers with a strong commitment to winning, particularly in the early phase of campaigning, has a direct correlation with higher rates of voter contact and more effective persuasion of voters.

“The party has also identified top organizers from across the country — not all of them New Democrats — who believe in Andrea and want to be part of the Ontario campaign. The common denominator seems to be that as campaign aficionados they’ve admired Andrea from a distance and/or watched the byelection wins in places that we weren’t expected to win like Kitchener-Waterloo and London West,” the source said.

In September 2012 byelection, New Democrat Catherine Fife, then head of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, won the long-held Tory riding of Kitchener-Waterloo.

Then in August last year when five byelections were held, New Democrat Percy Hatfield, a former Windsor councillor, easily stole the Liberal riding of Windsor-Tecumseh and NDP’s Peggy Sattler captured London West after former Liberal cabinet minister Chris Bentley resigned his seat in February 2013.

Most recently, Wayne Gates, a longtime unionist, won the byelection in Niagara Falls, edging out the Tories. It had been a Liberal seat until Kim Craitor resigned.

While poll results have been varied in recent weeks, a Forum Research’s survey published in the Star earlier this month found Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives leading with 38 per cent support to 31 per cent for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, 23 per cent for Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats and 7 per cent for Mike Schreiner’s Green Party.

It was the firm’s first sampling of public opinion since it was revealed Ontario Provincial Police are investigating David Livingston, Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff, over the alleged wiping of government computers last year.

Forum’s Lorne Bozinoff said his projected seat count in the 107-member legislature would be 49 Tories (up from the current 37), 45 Liberals (down from 48, including Speaker Dave Levac), and 13 New Democrats (now at 21).

Submit News to CKA News Secret memo urged minister to steer Downsview Park plan to avoid a sell-off
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:00:00 EDT

Weeks after Ottawa abruptly handed Downsview Park over to a Crown land company, there was uneasiness within the government about whether the green space might be sold off, a secret memo obtained by the Star reveals.

Former public works minister Rona Ambrose’s decision in November 2012 to give Canada Lands Co. control of the 231-hectare property at Keele St. and Sheppard Ave. W. was controversial, coming just as many believed the long-awaited park project was finally seeing progress.

Some critics questioned what a company with expertise in selling Crown land had in store for the surplus military base, which Ottawa had trumpeted as “Canada’s first national urban park” in 1999.

Internal communications obtained by the Star reveal that Public Works Deputy Minister Michelle d’Auray expressed similar concerns about the future of the park, which will be the subject of a public consultation next week.

In a December 2012 memorandum to the minister marked “secret,” d’Auray remarked on the “fundamental difference” between the mandate of Canada Lands and that of the Crown entities that had previously controlled the Downsview property and the Old Port of Montreal — which was also handed over in November 2012.

Canada Lands Co. “is commercially oriented toward the disposal of certain properties for profit” as well as holding and managing other properties,” d’Auray wrote.

In contrast, the Parc Downsview Park organization was dedicated to managing “the Downsview lands a a national urban park for all Canadians,” d’Auray observed.

“In the absence of direction from you, (Canada Lands Co.) may be inclined to propose disposal of some or all of the property at the two urban parks, consistent with its mandate, or propose a commercially oriented use of the property,” she said.

D’Auray recommended the minister “address this potential area of conflict” through a “letter of expectations” to Canada Lands Co.

Public Works Minister Diane Finley declined a request for an interview on Tuesday.

In response to questions about what direction she has given Canada Lands Co., Finley’s spokesman, Alyson Queen, told the Star in an email: “As we’ve indicated many times, there is no intention to sell the parkland at Downsview Park. This has not changed.”

Robert Howald, senior vice-president of real estate for Canada Lands Co., said the company received a letter of expectations from the minister in January 2013.

Howald declined to share the letter with the Star, but said the minister provided “sufficient direction for us to have understood” government priorities.

“There was the direction to ensure that any plans that we had for Downsview or the Old Port of Montreal were spelled out in our corporate plan drafts, so that the minister would be aware of what it is we were looking to do, and would certainly have the opportunity to comment further,” he said.

The “strategic priorities” for Downsview listed in the recent corporate plan are to “implement a comprehensive development plan for its development sites and begin the creation of a new and innovative community.” (The company’s plans are approved annually by the federal treasury department.)

Howald said the company has “no plans” to seek changes to the current secondary plan, which identifies five sites for development as well as a large public space and would be “extremely difficult” to alter.

However, former Downsview Park chairman David Soknacki said that while the secondary plan places tight control on development in the southernmost neighbourhood, that is less the case “on the other areas of the park that still need to be filled in.”

Soknacki, who is now running for mayor, said d’Auray’s memo confirms that the concerns he had when the park changed hands “had at least a kernel of validity.”

“I am relieved that the safeguards that we put in place in the planning process are there. I don’t know if they will be challenged from the different mandate from Canada Lands,” he said. “That is the key issue. Everything else falls from that difference.”

The documents obtained by the Star through a freedom of information request show the consulting group Sussex Circle delivered a “scoping study” of the parent company Canada Lands Co. Ltd. and its three subsidiaries — Canada Lands Co., Parc Downsview Park and the Old Port of Montreal — to public works in January 2012.

The report, also marked “secret,” included a proposal to give the City of Toronto control of Downsview.

A spokesman for public works said city officials were not consulted about this option.

Although the report recommended consolidating Parc Downsview Park and the Old Port of Montreal with Canada Lands Co., it advised that government “proceed carefully” because of “local stakeholder interest.”

The next public meeting on the future of Downsview will be held at the Warehouse Event Venue on April 23 at 6:30 p.m.

Submit News to CKA News Beer Store?s ad campaign shows fear of competition: Editorial
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 00:01:00 EDT

It’s enough to give Don Draper a bad hangover. The Beer Store’s new advertising campaign — warning of a spike in underage drinking if Ontario convenience stores win the right to sell suds — is generating a public backlash of painful proportions.

From tweets to talk shows, Ontarians seem unimpressed with the ad, which could be mistaken for a Saturday Night Live parody of the modern temperance movement. Of course, this is no joke. Clearly, growing public demand for beer and wine sales in corner stores has The Beer Store running scared of losing its multi-billion-dollar grip on the province.

Hopefully Premier Kathleen Wynne, who needs all the public support she can get, will finally recognize that Ontarians want a choice in where they buy their beer. Her government should shake up the system and allow corner stores to sell beer and wine – under strict controls – despite the fierce opposition of the foreign-owned monopoly that owns The Beer Store.

The ad everyone is talking about shows a paunchy convenience-store worker or owner watching with approval as a trio of baby-faced teenage boys buy liquor and beer – without being asked for age identification. “Have fun tonight boys,” says the dishevelled representative of Ontario’s convenience store industry.

The ad’s kicker: “Alcohol in corner stores?” intones a motherly voice of disapproval. “It’s just not right for our kids.”

Thank goodness our teens can rely on the moral protection of Molson Coors Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch InBev and Sleeman Breweries Ltd. (Sapporo Breweries Ltd.). It appears The Beer Store’s raison d’être — aside from piling up profits for its off-shore owners – is saving our children from the menace of corner stores.

Of course, that’s all posturing. In reality, Ontario convenience stores already face severe fines (or even closure) if they sell cigarettes or lottery tickets to minors. Owners have a powerful incentive to follow rules that demand ID for anyone who appears to be under 25.

And, a recent study cited by the convenience store association found that when tested on age rules with “mystery shoppers,” chain convenience stores had an 87.3 per cent pass rate, compared to The Beer Store with 80.7 per cent.

Of course, there’s a study for everything and The Beer Store’s new website, OntarioBeerFacts.ca, has plenty to say about the perils of loosening Ontario alcohol sales. At the same time, Tom Moher, vice-president of operations for Mac’s Convenience Stores, calls that ad campaign a “gross misrepresentation.”

Obviously, there’s a lot at stake for both sides. And The Beer Stores’ ad blitz, however outrageous, makes it clear that the game is on. But in the battle for beer-drinking Ontarians’ hearts and minds, it’s clear which side is winning. If only Premier Wynne would listen.

Submit News to CKA News Rob Ford launches campaign by thanking those who stuck by him through ?rocky? times
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:00:03 EDT

Rob Ford took to the stage at his campaign kickoff Thursday night vowing to win re-election on Oct. 27 and thanking supporters for sticking by him during the “rocky moments over the past year.”

“I soldier on day in day out because of you people,” Ford said, flanked by his family and volunteers waving “Ford for Mayor” signs.

“I have experienced how none of us can go through our life without making mistakes. I’ve learned humility, kindness of people and the spirit of second chances. I owe the people a great debt of gratitude.”

Councillor Doug Ford, Ford’s brother and campaign manager, had used many superlatives hyping the event at the Toronto Congress Centre on Dixon Rd. in Etobicoke, suggesting it would make the launches by other candidates seem like tea parties.

There was no crowd estimate but about half of the 290 tables set up in the cavernous centre were empty. His main rivals, Olivia Chow and John Tory, chose much smaller venues for their events that did not feature a bagpipe entrance, a rock band, balloons, campaign memorabilia — for sale — or a firetruck with a banner “Saving the taxpayers from getting burned.”

Its presence prompted the firefighters union to issue a news release saying it was “utterly tasteless” that the Fords were using a fire truck as a campaign prop when four fire trucks are being taken out of service due to budget cuts. Doug Ford said his brother Randy bought the vehicle for $4,000 at an auction.

The evening’s theme was that the mayor may be flawed and fallible, but he is an anti-establishment, everyman who will challenge the elites and always care about looking after regular people.

“He’s got the biggest heart around,” Doug Ford said, introducing the mayor to the crowd. “He’s always there for the people he loves and he’s there for the city he loves.”

Volunteer Johnny Cash echoed the sentiment of many attendees.

“This is Easter Holy Week, the mayor will be resurrected Oct. 27,” said Cash wearing a Ford Nation T-shirt and volunteer badge.

“Does he have faults? Does he have feelings? Absolutely. Does he have any skeletons in the closet? — Well, not really because we all know them,” he said with a laugh.

“You cannot judge a person by the mistakes they made. You have to see the good in general,” said Melba Fanelli, sprouting a cluster of Ford flags from her hair.

Some attendees blamed media reporting for making more of Ford’s scandals than they deserved.

“I’m disgusted by the way he’s been singled out,” one woman hissed while clutching her red, blue and white flag. “The media thinks he’s below them. No wonder he was ranting and raving in that video. You people hounded him.” She refused to give her name.

Ford was elected in a landslide October 2010, picking up the support of 47 per cent of Toronto voters who liked his promises to cut taxes, focus on customer service and “stop-the-gravy-train” message.

His approval rating has hovered around that number, even as the scandals — alleged ties to gang members, admitted crack cocaine use, embarrassing YouTube videos, piled up.

Olivia Chow led Rob Ford and John Tory in the latest poll on the mayoral election. She had 34 per cent support, Ford 27 per cent and Tory 24 per cent in the survey, taken Monday.

Submit News to CKA News Neanderthal genetic landscape reveals key differences with humans
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:37:46 EDT

When scientists first sequenced the genome of a Neanderthal, our extinct, heavy-browed human cousin, we learned a surprising amount about our own species too: many modern humans carry Neanderthal genes, proving we interbred with them long ago.

Now, researchers have offered the first glimpse of the Neanderthal epigenome, and once again their results offer tantalizing new theories about the modern human brain and skeleton.

While the findings are surprising, the fact that the Neanderthal epigenome holds important secrets should not be. In the past decade, scientists have discovered that epigenetics, the chemical signals that regulate how genes are expressed, are almost as important as genetics in understanding how organisms look and act.

By exploiting a trick of how ancient DNA degrades, an Israeli-led team of researchers has created a map of the Neanderthal epigenetic landscape and that of another extinct human species, the Denisovans. Their work, hailed as a “fantastically exciting” technical achievement, was published Thursday in the journal Science.

The most intriguing findings of the study are the clues that emerged when the researchers compared those archaic epigenetic maps to those of present-day humans.

More than 99 per cent of the ancient and modern maps were the same, which is what one would expect to find in closely-related human species that shared a common ancestor approximately 600,000 years ago.

But the maps were almost twice as likely to differ in regions associated with disease — and, in a third of those cases, in regions associated with psychological and neurological diseases.

Scientists are a long way from being able to understand what this means, stressed Liran Carmel, who led the study along with Eran Meshorer and David Gokhman, all of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“But this raises the hypothesis that perhaps many genes in our brain have changed recently, specifically in our lineage, the lineage leading to Homo sapiens. And perhaps things like autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s are side-effects of these very recent changes,” said Carmel.

“This is an interesting suggestion, that (brain disease) is a side-effect of us being Homo sapiens and having our unique cognitive capabilities.”

Other scientists expressed caution with that interpretation.

“It’s definitely fantastically exciting that we can get this data, but the big, big next step is: can we actually come from circumstantial evidence to proper, experimental evidence? That is very hard,” said Michael Hofreiter, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Potsdam.

Carmel and his colleagues created the maps by analyzing already-sequenced ancient genomes. They were gleaned from a 50,000-year-old female Neanderthal’s pinky-finger bone and a 40,000-year-old female Denisovan’s toe bone. The researchers were looking for areas of methylated DNA, an important epigenetic process that occurs when methyl affixes itself to cytosine, one of the building blocks of DNA, silencing the gene.

Scientists had no way of examining this process in degraded, ancient DNA until Adrian Briggs, a researcher in the lab of pioneering paleogeneticist Svante Paabo, stumbled on the discovery that methylated DNA degrades differently than regular DNA.

Other scientists have used his method to examine other ancient specimens, but Thursday’s study “is, I think, the coolest, because it was the first that actually looked at that in a sample where there were interesting biological questions,” says Briggs, now a molecular biologist at the Boston-based biotech startup AbVitro.

Aside from the discovery that the methylated regions were statistically more likely to differ in disease- and brain-disease-associated regions, Carmel’s group also discovered differences in a region known as HOXD. The HOXD gene cluster regulates limb development, so this epigenetic process may be the reason Neanderthal limbs are shorter than Homo sapiens.

More than anything else, the study opens up new avenues of inquiry. Paleogenetics, itself a newfound discipline, may soon be joined by paleoepigenetics, says Carmel.

While there are only two ancient genomes sequenced in fine enough detail to undertake this type of analysis, many more from ancient humans and even ancient animals are expected to be published in the coming years.

Submit News to CKA News Parents of Calgary stabbing suspect ?shocked and devastated?
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:56:00 EDT

CALGARY—The parents of an alleged mass murderer are struggling to understand how their son, who they describe as a “great kid full of love, kindness and respect for others,” stands accused of stabbing five young people to death.

Speaking publicly for the first time on Thursday, Douglas and Susan de Grood said they, too, want to know what happened early Tuesday when their 22-year-old son, Matthew, was arrested and charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the Calgary house party stabbings.

“We are shocked and devastated and we are trying to make sense of what happened,” said a visibly emotional Douglas de Grood, a senior Calgary police officer.

“We are deeply saddened for what the families and friends of the victims are going through. Their lives have been turned upside down. We know words cannot begin to ease your pain and suffering. Please accept our deepest condolences and know you are in our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers.”

The couple spoke to the media from the steps of the office of their son’s lawyer, Allan Fay. Douglas, who Fay said has “mobility issues” and requires a cane, was at times shaking and crying as he read his prepared statement on behalf of himself and his wife, who held onto him.

Matthew de Grood, currently remanded to the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre pending his next court date on Tuesday, was a bright child active in sports and in the community while in high school and at the University of Calgary, where he studied psychology, said his father.

Douglas said his only son — the de Groods also have a daughter — helped raise funds for charities through his passion for running, and had a bright future ahead of him as he was about to enter law school this fall.

“Like any parent can tell you, a love for your child is unconditional. And we love Matthew dearly,” he said.

The de Groods have yet to visit their son, who Fay said is lucid, but they will likely see him soon.

Matthew de Grood remains very much a mystery. The Calgary Herald, quoting an anonymous police officer and close friend of de Grood’s father, reported that he had recently become more withdrawn and had sent his parents text messages the night of the murders that led them to believe he was going to commit suicide.

The newspaper said Douglas went looking for his son, while Susan reported her concerns to police.

On Thursday, Fay said he could not “confirm or deny anything.” He did say, however, that he has not received any information that de Grood has a history of mental illness.

Ted Slone, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Calgary who was a teaching assistant for one of de Grood’s classes in 2012, said he was an above-average student, describing him as “quiet, but friendly.”

“He seemed to be normal by all accounts, socially well-adjusted, and well-liked,” said Slone.

The investigation at 11 Butler Cres., where the tragedy took place, will continue until at least Saturday. Police are still trying to establish a motive for the stabbings that took the lives of Lawrence Hong, 27, Josh Hunter, 22, and Kaiti Perras, Jordan Segura and Zackariah Rathwell, all 23, in what Police Chief Rick Hanson described as the worst mass murder in the city’s history.

Calgary police spokesman Kevin Brookwell said Thursday police are looking at de Grood’s online and texting activity.

Police have previously said he was invited to the house party in Calgary’s Brentwood neighbourhood to celebrate the end of classes, coming straight from his job at a nearby Safeway store. Brookwell said de Grood knew at least one person at the party “very well.”

Who that person is has not been made publicly available. Investigators have been interviewing and even reinterviewing the 20 or so people who were still at the party around 1:20 a.m. when the stabbings began, and are trying to determine if anyone attempted to intervene.

“We may not be able to have our answer to that question,” said Brookwell, “but I can tell you that you don’t know how you may react and it’s quite possible people didn’t even know it was going on or people froze.”

Brookwell said that even though de Grood’s father is a Calgary police officer, the investigation would be carried out “without favour or bias.”

With files from Sean Tepper

Submit News to CKA News Amanda Todd: Man arrested in Netherlands in Canadian?s online bullying
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:27:00 EDT

A 35-year-old man has been arrested in the Netherlands in connection with the online bullying of Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen who committed suicide in October 2012, the RCMP says.

He faces charges of extortion, Internet luring, criminal harassment, possession of child pornography for the purpose of distribution, and possession of child pornography, said RCMP Insp. Paulette Freill.

The man was arrested in January after an investigation into alleged offences in the Netherlands involving Dutch victims.

“This is truly a day we’ve been waiting for,” said Amanda’s mother, Carol, teary-eyed as she spoke Thursday at a news conference in Surrey, B.C.

“It is my hope and our hope that Amanda’s legacy will continue to move forward and her death and stories behind it will encompass lessons towards education and awareness,” she said.

The arrest is a turning point in a case that made international headlines after the 15-year-old girl from Port Coquitlam, B.C., posted a heart-wrenching eight-minute video on YouTube weeks before her death.

Her story and other instances of cyberbullying prompted the Canadian government to propose legislation that would make it a criminal offence to distribute intimate images without the consent of the person shown.

In the video, Todd uses flash cards to reveal the extent of the bullying after she was lured by a man to expose herself on camera during an online chat.

A year later, she received a message from an unidentified man threatening to share the photo with everyone she knew.

“I can never get that photo back, it’s out there forever,” she wrote.

The video went viral and has been viewed by more than 17 million people.

For Coquitlam’s small RCMP detachment, the scope and scale of the investigation expanded in ways that could never have been imagined, Freill said.

What started as an investigation into the alleged harassment of a local teenager quickly grew to include thousands of tips, hundreds of interviews and more than 30 officers during the first few months, she said.

The complexity of the investigation meant they were unable to share progress in the case with the public or even Amanda’s family.

“I can’t imagine how that loss has impacted either one of you or how it continues to impact you,” Freill said. “Her story touched all of us.”

Related:

Amanda Todd suicide: The Web has a lot to answer for: DiManno

A year since, the case of Amanda Todd still holds lessons

The accused man’s lawyer, Christian van Dijk, said the case against his client, whose name has not yet been released, is paper thin. He said even if there is proof of unlawful activity on the man’s computer, it may have been hacked.

“Prosecutors seem to think they have a big fish here,” he said.

Van Dijk described his client as somewhat reclusive and noted he had no wife or children.

He is suspected of blackmailing underage girls to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam in several countries, says a news release from the Netherlands’ prosecution service.

Prosecutors first publicized the case after a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

He is believed to have been arrested at a home in Oisterwijk, south of Amsterdam, after authorities were tipped off by a U.S. Internet provider, said Mathijs Pennings, a reporter for Omroep Brabant, a news outlet based in the southern region of the Netherlands.

He added that prosecutors and police believe there could be as many as 40 victims.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

Submit News to CKA News Can this man save the TTC?
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:00:00 EDT

These are tough times for the Toronto Transit Commission and its millions of users. The service simply has not kept pace with growth in ridership, leaving many fuming at their bus, streetcar and subway stops. But the system's worst critic may be its own CEO, Andy Byford, a veteran of London's tube whose tough assignment is to get Toronto's trains to run on time. In a new Star Dispatches ebook, offered here in its entirety, our transportation reporter reckons with the man facing the multi-billion-dollar challenge. Can Andy Byford make public transit in Toronto efficient, punctual, and pleasant again?

1. ?Abysmal ?

Two years from the day he was officially named CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission, Andy Byford admits it has been an ?abysmal? week. ?It?s like a blow to the heart that two days in a row we?ve screwed up our customers,? laments the British-born transit chief from his office above the Davisville subway station.

Byford has spent his brief tenure promising TTC riders and workers that if they just stick with him, he will deliver a transit renaissance within the next five years. But on March 12, signal problems between Bloor and Eglinton snarled the evening rush. And today, his anniversary, a frozen switch near Davisville is causing more than the usual delays on the Yonge subway. The platforms are backed up 12 deep with riders waiting to board at the notorious Bloor-Yonge bottleneck. To make matters worse, transit control takes a southbound train out of service, disgorging about 1,300 customers at Summerhill into the bitter cold.

If that?s not bad enough, no one has been able to immediately tell Byford why the train was taken out of service at Summerhill. Later it turns out that the crew was concerned a trainstop arm wasn?t working. It?s a vital piece of fail-safe equipment that kicks in if an operator blows past a red light in the tunnel.

Days later, Byford admits it was the right decision. But for a manager whose mantra is accountability, being unaware of just how badly that morning?s service was running, even for a short time, is simply untenable.

Riders don?t care how many customer service charters the TTC publishes. It means nothing if they?re late for work, he says in obvious frustration. And there?s the rub for Byford, viewed by many as the city?s best hope for transforming the cash-starved, over-subscribed TTC into a 21st-century operation that, as the system?s motto goes, ?makes Toronto proud.?

Byford, who rose through the ranks of the London Underground before spending nearly three years as COO of the giant RailCorp system in Sydney, Australia, has lived up to many of his promises at the TTC. The washrooms, trains and stations are cleaner. The collector booths, once a mishmash of hand scrawled post-its, are now decked in official TTC signage. There are six group station managers overseeing staff and customers at every subway stop. Even the old red TTC uniforms are getting an update, right down to the janitors who will be wearing new cargo pants and polo shirts this spring.

There are new trains, a new computerized signal system for the Yonge-University Spadina line, new streetcars and electronic fare cards in the works, and in 2016, plans to open six new subway stops northwest into York Region.

The new five-year corporate plan also promises: fewer staff members running trains and more face-to-face with customers; reduced fare cheating; standardized and more TTC signage, with information screens in every station; expanded Wi-Fi and cell service on subway platforms; more reliable service; cleaner stations; new service disruption teams to help riders when there?s a prolonged service failure; and new community-engagement strategies.

But none of it is enough. The TTC simply doesn?t have the capacity to carry its ridership, which continues to grow every year. About 85 per cent of transit trips in the Toronto region include a ride on the TTC. In 2014, the system expects to carry 540 million riders, up from 526 million last year. Every day, transit vehicles bypass customers at the curb because there is no more room on the bus or streetcar. That?s happening even though, in a cost-cutting exercise two years ago, the TTC increased the crowding levels of its buses and, more recently, introduced longer, articulated buses on the busiest routes.

For more than two years, there has been a standing slow order limiting train speeds through the busy stretch between St. Clair and Eglinton stations. That?s because the original, 60-year-old track bed, which should have been rebuilt 20 years ago, isn?t stable enough to handle higher-speed trains.

Don?t even get Byford started on the creaking Scarborough RT, which suffers regular shutdowns ? particularly in foul weather, when riders crave speed and shelter most. The SRT crews, he says, work nothing less than miracles to keep that 32-year-old system operating each day beyond its lifespan.

And then there?s the failing fleet of 35-year-old streetcars that lumber through congested downtown streets attracting a sea of criticism from riders, motorists and politicians.

At the two-year mark in his job, no one is more keenly aware than the CEO that all the goodwill the TTC has worked to restore with the riding public could turn on a dime. If he has any doubts, the riders themselves are spelling it out. Among the complaints rolling in is one that begins something to the effect of: ?You seem like a nice guy but that?s no longer enough . . . ?

One rider?s email describes being ?stuffed into a car like some animal? at Ossington station, only to be trapped in the centre of the subway and unable to leave when another customer delays the train by letting his backpack get caught in the door. ?Credibility seems to be what is desperately needed . . . I have always been supportive, but you are making it very difficult,? writes the rider.

Even after 25 years of working in public transit, Byford, who admits to being his own harshest critic, feels personally stung. ?I do have a fear that there?s sort of a honeymoon period. You raise expectations. People say, ?You said the TTC would be better.? Well, yes. But some of this takes time. I am aware of that, which is why I?m so keen to get more successes under our belt.?

People who write to Byford are frequently surprised to receive a prompt personal response. And more than one TTC customer has been shocked to find the system?s CEO boarding their bus or streetcar following a complaint. In one instance last year, a cynical rider wrote that he expected his complaint would be ignored; Byford actually showed up at his front door.

Byford, 48, describes his MO as simply this: ?Silence the critics, dumbfound the skeptics and delight the customers.? It?s the way he has always rolled, according to his former boss, now the managing director of the London Underground. ?He?s always been on the cutting edge of doing things a little bit differently than the norm,? says Mike Brown.

Byford worked for Brown in at least three different roles as the pair moved up in the Underground. But Byford was still a relatively junior manager when they teamed up on the Metropolitan line, a usually reliable route that was suffering from bouts of poor service due to an aging signal system and older trains.

One night, Brown remembers, Byford got on the public address system and announced he would be going through the trains during the evening rush to speak personally with riders about their experiences. It was something no Tube manager had done before, and it set a new benchmark for how the Underground interacted with its riders, says Brown who, even now, recalls it as a remarkable thing.

?I think he embarrassed a lot of his colleagues on some of the other lines, who thought, ?Oh my goodness, here?s this Young Turk coming in and doing this sort of stuff,? and somebody else had been running the line for years and never thought of doing it. In many ways that is probably the greatest illustration of Andy?s ability to take things on the chin and hold himself accountable for stuff directly.?

Perhaps that?s why the disappointing service on his second anniversary as CEO comes as such a blow ? the TTC?s performance looked an awful lot like it did almost exactly one year earlier.

But on March 19, 2013, following a similarly grim run, the headlines were less about frustrated customers than the transit chief himself. The TTC released a YouTube video showing Byford on the subway platform apologizing for an unacceptable commute the previous afternoon.

In May, he issued another apology following a water main break that flooded Lawrence station the same afternoon that assorted streetcar issues snarled evening commutes. In July, Byford did it again, taking to the subway PA system to apologize for a signal-related delay that stymied the morning rush service and extended into the busy midday.

But if Torontonians were somewhat mollified by the show of contrition, not all TTC staff felt the same. There were those who felt the public apologies made them look like they were to blame for the system?s inadequacies when the root cause was a longstanding lack of political and financial investment.

Still, Byford doesn?t regret telling customers he?s sorry. ?I will apologize if it is our fault,? he says. ?I?m sorry if we wash a platform down or wash the track bed and we put so much bloody water down that it causes the track surface to drop and we end up taking an hour to get from Finch to College, too right, I am going to apologize.? At the same time, he adds, rider relations shouldn?t be kowtowing. ?I do believe the customer?s always right. But the staff isn?t always wrong.?

Despite her boss?s rolled-up-sleeves determination, the enormity of his challenge occasionally shows, says Joan Taylor, the chief of staff whom Byford brought on board a year ago to build bridges within the TTC and between the transit system and city hall. ?When the system has a bad week, you can see it in him. You can see it on his face, you can hear it. He has his weekly meetings with the exec. A lot of that is performance-based and, he will be asking tough questions. I think those are times when he thinks, ?Is this ever going to get better?? ?

Some weeks, says Taylor, it doesn?t matter what you do, ?The system?s old, the signals are failing. It is what it is.? And, as the TTC tries to catch up with a generation of under-investment, it?s going to get worse before it gets better, she warns.

?How long people are going to be patient with the changes that are coming and the influx of new systems, new rail, new streetcars. All those things will make a difference, but it?s not going to happen overnight. The catching up is creating more and more problems and it?s impacting daily commutes and frustrating people to no end.?

2. A rude arrival

It was awkward, but Andy Byford could never say he wasn?t warned.

In the summer of 2011, on a visit to his Canadian wife?s family in Toronto, Byford had arranged to meet with the head of the TTC. Chief general manager Gary Webster was hiring a chief operating officer. He knew enough about Byford to believe the Sydney RailCorp executive had the breadth of experience, plus a badly needed outsider?s perspective, to lead the TTC out of a dark period in which riders and transit workers had gone to war over failing, discourteous service.

Byford had spoken with Webster before about another job, a newly created customer service management position. But it was evident to both men that chief operating officer would be a better fit for Byford.

The customer service job, which ultimately went to Byford?s former London Tube colleague, Chris Upfold, had been recommended by a blue ribbon panel appointed in 2010 to figure out how the TTC could become less focused on engineering and more centred on riders. Byford was aware of the TTC?s customer service travails. Reports of sleeping subway collectors, rude operators and long lineups for subway tokens ? a daily feature in Toronto headlines since November 2010 ? had made their way across the time zones to Sydney.

But Byford, who loved the sophisticated lifestyle and coastal setting of Australia?s largest city, was attracted to the TTC?s mess. He saw it as an opportunity to get in on a high-profile corporate turnaround, and he was intrigued by the TTC?s integration of subway, bus and streetcar service into a single system.

It would also cement his position as favoured son-in-law by helping bring his wife, Alison, home to her large family in Toronto and Ottawa.

The day of the interview, Byford, a stickler for punctuality, arrived early at TTC headquarters. He walked across the road to the Starbucks for a bit and then wandered up Yonge St., mentally reviewing the points he wanted to set out in the interview.

He had heard rumblings about the politics surrounding the TTC. But as he returned to Davisville for the meeting, a newspaper headline stopped him in his tracks. ?Ford plots to oust TTC chief,? was splashed across the front page of the Toronto Star. He bought a copy, scanned the story and headed up to the seventh floor for his interview.

It was Webster who mentioned the embarrassing headline first. ?Don?t worry about that,? he told Byford. ?It?s just politics.?

The TTC?s recruitment process was slow and bureaucratic. Byford says Canada?s immigration services were as much to blame as the TTC and the city. But at the time he was interviewing, the transit company was mired in fractious politics: word was that Mayor Rob Ford was dead set on removing Webster, and he made no secret of his displeasure with his handpicked TTC chair, Councillor Karen Stintz. Both were resisting Ford?s plans to extend the Sheppard subway. Stintz wouldn?t support the mayor without a viable subway funding plan. Webster, an engineer who had come up through the ranks of the TTC, would not back down from his position that ligh rail was the most suitable transit technology for Sheppard.

When Byford finally got the call offering him the COO position, he and Alison agonized over whether to abandon Sydney so soon. Ultimately, though, the lure of family and North America?s third largest transit system won out.

When they landed, it wasn?t the gray November chill that would challenge their decision to leave Australia. It was the silence of the TTC?s seventh-floor executive offices.

Byford?s Australia employer, RailCorp ? a kind of combined GO and Via rail service that serves commuters and longer-distance travellers ? is headquartered in a modern building. The executive offices ring an open plan workspace that buzzes with collegial banter.

TTC headquarters, meanwhile, is called the MacBrien Building. The furnishings and fixtures are of a similar vintage to its namesake, former TTC chair William MacBrien, who died in 1954. ?I was stuck in this fuddy-duddy old building with this old-fashioned furniture on a silent floor,? Byford recalls. ?They showed me around the building but no one came in to see me.

?In that first month I really, really missed Australia, almost to the point that, had the minister phoned me up and said, ?Oh come on, you?ve made your point, come back,? I would have been seriously tempted. I really missed Sydney and my buddies down there, and the lifestyle.?

He nevertheless spent his first weeks riding and photographing the TTC, meeting operators and customers and taking stock of what needed doing. But as his comfort level grew, so did his curiosity about where he?d landed.

Management wasn?t using ?key performance indicators,? the standard business measures, to track the company?s progress on any number of fronts. Upfold, an immediate ally, had been talking about them since he arrived in Toronto that May. But they hadn?t been implemented. Having stickhandled some of the trickiest issues involving fares and service in London, Upfold was quite obviously not being used to his potential.

There were no ?challenge meetings? in which executives were expected to answer for their performance. There was no over-arching corporate plan to repair not only the performance but the ailing reputation of the TTC.

Then, on New Year?s Eve, Byford sent his wife home to their temporary downtown digs promising to follow her in half an hour while he went down to check on subway service at Queen, where riders were streaming out of the David Pecaut Square celebrations. He became alarmed at the lack of staff and organization on the platforms. When he asked for a bullhorn to try and move riders along the platform himself, it couldn?t be found right away. When someone finally retrieved it from a forgotten cupboard, its batteries were dead.

Returning to work, he wrote a scathing memo about the lack of planning and preparedness, a situation Byford feared could have put rider safety at risk, in part because there wasn?t enough staff working that night. He showed the missive to Webster, who immediately agreed with its direction. It was, after all, precisely why the 37-year transit head had brought an outsider in as his intended successor.

Several weeks later, on a Friday afternoon in February, TTC executives got their first inkling that the politics Webster had brushed aside the previous summer were about to explode. Stintz, who had been branded Public Enemy No. 1 by the Ford administration, was out of the country on a break with her young children. TTC general secretary Vince Rodo had received word that five of the TTC?s board members, the required majority, wanted a special meeting the Tuesday after the upcoming long weekend. The agenda: a staff member?s performance. The petition to hold the meeting was signed by five Ford loyalists: Councillors Minnan-Wong, Frank DiGiorgio, Vince Crisanti, Cesar Palacio and Norm Kelly.

On the seventh floor, TTC officials suspected what the media would be reporting by dinnertime ? that the subject of the special meeting was Webster. The chief general manager certainly knew; he had met with Minnan-Wong earlier that week in a hotel bar. The councillor had told him in no uncertain terms he had to go. Webster had refused.

There was no way to prevent the special board meeting from going ahead, so Byford and his wife headed to her parents? place outside Ottawa for the Family Day long weekend. There, on his usual run through the countryside, it hit him that only three months into the job, he might very well be in charge of the entire company after the Tuesday meeting at city hall. It didn?t occur to him that he could be fired too. He hadn?t been there long enough to make himself a target.

On Tuesday morning, Webster?s inner circle, including Rodo, TTC communications director Brad Ross and Chris Upfold, gathered in the chief executive?s corner office to consider the potential scenarios for the day. Byford, whose chief concern was making the whole day less horrible for his boss, fetched bagels and coffee from the Tim Hortons across the street. Then, in solidarity with Webster, the whole group took the subway to city hall.

No sooner was the meeting convened than the board went into private session. Webster, Ross and Byford headed to Stintz?s office. As the general secretary, Rodo was required to stay in the meeting where Stintz and three other Webster supporters on the board, Councillors Peter Milczyn, Maria Augimeri and John Parker, argued that Webster should be permitted to retire at the end of the year, as he had planned. Reporters, city councillors and TTC observers lingered in the hall straining to hear the oft-raised voices that leaked through the room?s glass walls.

It was a long wait ? about four hours. It would later emerge that much of that time was spent trying to determine whether Byford could be named immediately as Webster?s successor. His immigration visa, however, specified his job title as COO.

In Stintz?s office those hours felt much longer. ?It was awkward because after a while you run out of things to talk about,? says Byford. They chatted about what might happen. When that speculation was exhausted, the three discussed sports, other TTC business, summer cottages.

?I felt so sorry for (Gary) because he would go quiet and look down and shake his head from time to time,? Byford recalls. ?You could tell he was reflecting.? There were texts coming from inside the meeting throughout the afternoon and then, suddenly, word arrived that the board had decided it would vote on Webster?s fate. The public went back into the room. The TTC head and his team remained in Stintz?s office.

After the vote to fire Webster without cause, his supporters stopped at Stintz?s office to express their regrets at the shabby dismissal. A few minutes later, Webster maintained his dignity in the midst of a crush of reporters and cameras, expressing gratitude for the 37 years he had enjoyed working for the TTC and assuring the public that they were in good hands with Byford.

?If I could conduct myself half as professionally as Gary Webster I would be doing well,? says Byford.

After the political bloodletting, Webster went back to his office at Davisville, where he sent some notes to staff and wrote a farewell to the organization where he had, over the course of his career, led every single department.

Then, as he rode the subway back to Union Station, where he would board the GO train to his home east of the city, commuters expressed their sympathy and wished him well. His team ? Byford, Ross, Upfold and Rodo ? headed for a post-mortem over beer and wings. ?It was the weirdest day of my professional career,? says Byford. ?I had confidence I could do it but I hadn?t reached that job in the way I wanted to reach it. That?s not the way I wanted to succeed to the top.? The next morning, he rolled up his sleeves and took the tiller, reassuring staff and meeting the media.

On the weekend, Byford and Alison drove across the border to Buffalo, had a look around and crossed back at Niagara Falls so he could have his job title changed on his visa.

Stintz maintains there was never any reason to oust Webster. ?If Gary had been allowed to go on his own terms,? she says, ?we would have been in the same place now.?

3. London calling

If you work for the London Underground, it becomes embedded in your psyche, according to the TTC?s chief customer officer. Considered by some to be Byford?s closest colleague, Chris Upfold was named deputy CEO in March. And like the boss, he worked extensively in the Tube ?10 years versus Byford?s 14. The pair even knew each other in London, though they weren?t direct colleagues.

Upfold is a Canadian who married a Brit. Byford is an Englishman with a Canadian wife. But there is one area of divergence: Upfold loves his tea while Byford, when offered a cuppa, says ?Never touch the stuff? with a shudder.

At the TTC they speak the same language, literally. For example, Brits refer to the assembly that holds the wheels in place under a vehicle as ?bogies.? In North America, they?re usually called trucks.

Upfold, the witty keeper of the TTC?s increasingly sophisticated customer data, says the Tube explains a lot about Byford. It also shows that the TTC?s recent customer crisis wasn?t unique.

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In 1987, 31 people were killed and dozens more injured when a fire that started on one of the century-old wooden escalators at King?s Cross station in London left them trapped in a locked hallway. The investigation into the tragedy contained in a document known as ?The Fennell Report? was an indictment of the benign neglect that had crept into the transit system.

?They were wooden escalators and there was widespread evidence people were smoking even though smoking wasn?t allowed inside stations,? says Upfold. ?Nobody had done anything about it. It was a match. They turned a blind eye because the thinking was, ?We?re safe and we?d really never had a fire.? ? In truth, there had been fires on those escalators. But the typical response was that a ticket collector would go down and beat out the fire with a broom.

The transit organization was so traumatized by the disaster that the next 12 years were spent ingraining a culture of safety, continues Upfold ? ?Making sure our risks are managed, that we know what they are, that we get all the wooden escalators out of the system. If we say we?re not going to allow smoking, that we actively don?t allow smoking.?

It wasn?t until about 2000, when the London underground moved to privatize some of its operations, that transit officials were forced to take a hard look at riders? expectations and the service the Tube was providing.

You can overlay almost precisely the same experience on the TTC, according to Upfold. It just happened here later. In 1995, two trains collided near Russell Hill on the Yonge subway. Three people were killed and dozens injured. Under the direction of legendary chief general manager David Gunn, the TTC used that accident as justification for a tight, renewed focus on what the transit industry calls ?state of good repair.?

Gunn?s MO was to focus on making sure the existing system was running as safely and efficiently as possible. He wasn?t interested in transit expansion and, under his leadership, the organization?s focus never veered from equipment and infrastructure.

Fast-forward 15 years, and the TTC was safe. But riders were increasingly aware that their priorities were running a distant second to those of the people who operated the system. That?s when a storm of public outrage rolled in. The approval of a fare hike in late 2009 prompted transit officials to ration tokens to prevent riders from hoarding them at a lower price. The resulting lineups at subway stations as people repeatedly waited to buy more tokens was quickly followed by an outbreak of unflattering images of transit workers, notably a collector asleep in his booth.

At the same time, anger was building among transit users already at the breaking point following years of being packed into subways like sardines, streetcars turned back before reaching their destinations and crammed buses. But now the riders had a vent for their rage. Social media was also burgeoning. It provided an outlet for rider fury and a place where mainstream media were only too happy to go hunting for headlines.

Sue Motahedin, head of the TTC customer service centre. was a member of the blue-ribbon panel of mostly private sector customer service experts appointed by the TTC board in February 2010 to find answers. The following August it released 78 recommendations to make the transit system more customer-focused, chief among them appointment of a customer service executive, the job that Upfold ultimately won.

At the time of her panel appointment, Motahedin was a customer service expert with Telus, a communications company that led with the slogan, ?The future is friendly.? She remembers hearing the TTC described as militaristic. But Motahedin had a different impression. ?I got the feeling people wanted to change but didn?t know how,? she says. ?There wasn?t enough communication, not enough sharing of common goals.?

After 11 years at Telus, she saw an opportunity to take a direct role in the company?s turnaround. She?s in charge of the 65 TTC customer service employees in a sixth-floor office at Davisville ? surroundings that she says give off a nostalgic Mad Men vibe.

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Byford, whose grandfather drove a bus for 50 years and whose dad worked in insurance but also did a stint in systems administration at the Tube?s offices, joined the London Underground two years after the King?s Cross fire. Within eight years he would be the group station manager in charge of the iconic stop.

A career in transit wasn?t Byford?s first choice, although his dad had counselled him that transport was a solid option.

At university, Byford studied languages. He graduated with fluent French and German, and fancied a career as a diplomat. He almost got there, too. Byford sat the civil service exams and did well. But the British Foreign Office, still a bastion of snobbery, wasn?t sufficiently impressed with Byford?s University of Leicester credentials. ?That?s not exactly Eton or Oxford, is it?? he says.

Still, the country was eager to acquire the ambitious graduate?s services and offered Byford his choice of postings on domestic soil. He selected Her Majesty?s Custom and Excise, figuring he would spend some time riffling through luggage at Dover before getting into the investigative side of the work. He had a kind of James Bond fantasy and saw himself charging across the English Channel on an inflatable, commandeering a ship smuggling contraband.

But the public service starting salary was dire, and the wheels of the British bureaucracy turned slowly. He decided to keep his options open while waiting for his application to be processed. That?s how he ended up at a career fair in London. Coincidentally, that day the Tube was on strike and Byford remembers having to walk the entire distance.

The strike hadn?t stopped some luckless Underground recruiter from setting up at the job fair. Byford turned up to find the poor bloke set upon by angry riders. He was visibly relieved when Byford actually approached looking for career information. The Leicester grad liked what he heard.

In 1989, the Tube was a rigid, hierarchical organization. Head office staff looked down their noses at frontline workers, whose uniforms were issued with scant attention to fit. New recruits went to an office at the Park Royal Tube station, where their surname was called and they were issued shirts, hats and trousers that Byford describes as a kind of punishment ? ?unlined, scratchy, horrible synthetic.?

Byford?s proud dad, who stopped in at Regent?s Park station with a camera one day, captured his son as a station foreman in full uniform, much of his face shaded by a giant ?Elmer Fudd? style topper. As broad as it was, the hat was actually too small. It left a ring around Byford?s forehead and gave him a headache. Like many aspects of working on the Tube, it wasn?t optional.

Andy Byford during his time working for the London Tube

Byford?s 100-year-old station on the Bakerloo line was built deep underground. The hydraulic elevators were notoriously unreliable and, as the foreman, he wasn?t allowed to ride them anyway because he carried the keys to the lift.

There were no radios. So if the train operator wanted to deliver a message or speak with the station foreman, he would sound the whistle as he pulled in. Byford would be forced to run down a long spiral staircase to platform level.

Only once, tired at the end of a long shift, he actually rode the elevator back up to the station entrance. He remembers it as ?the longest ride of my life.? If the elevator failed in the shaft, he would have been forced to press the alarm summoning an inspector from Piccadilly Circus. ?Of course his first question would be, ?What were you doing riding the lift with your keys in your pocket?? ?

Byford recalls his years on the Tube with obvious affection. He remains so committed to the concept of local station management that he has implemented a similar group station manager system on the TTC, calling it one of the key decisions he has taken since coming to Toronto.

In London, group station managers are also known as centurions because they typically oversee a staff of about 100 people. At the TTC, the station manager model is off to a slow start. Six GSMs were named last April, and at least one of the new managers supervises only eight employees.

?At the time of the King?s Cross fire,? he says, ?no one really knew who their boss was, they didn?t have a named manager. So there was no accountability.? That meant when something went wrong at the station, staff could always blame someone else.

At the TTC where there is a tradition of minimal staff presence in subway stations ? a collector or two in most cases and frequently remote supervision, each property now has a named point person.

Byford hopes to staff up the subway platforms to assist riders directly as the TTC moves to electronic fare collection in the next two to three years, eliminating the role of fare collectors. In the meantime, group station managers are responsible for everything in their group of stations, from cleanliness to emergency readiness.

That means detail. When an exit sign is turned on, that exit has to be open, says Byford. In the Eaton Centre, for example, some doors may close earlier than others. It?s important that the signs pointing to those exits aren?t lit up once the doors are locked. ?At King?s Cross, people were sent in good faith up a corridor that was found to be locked. By the time they came back, a fireball had exploded up the escalator and they were incinerated.?

From station foreman, Byford was promoted to duty station manager at Paddington and then to group station manager, overseeing 11 stations out of Harrow on the Hill in Northwest London. He had some success driving down employee absenteeism and improving customer service in many of the same ?quick win? strategies that he?s adopted in Toronto ? improvements to cleanliness, access to management for staff and customers.

Then his boss decided Byford needed more Section 12 experience. Section 12 comprises the fire safety regulations that govern the London Underground. Byford was offered a choice of locations to acquire that experience. He picked the most challenging one, King?s Cross.

At the time, King?s Cross vied with Victoria as the busiest station in the Tube. It was congested, and its downtown location meant it was frequented by drug addicts and prostitutes. The previous manager had been a hard-line authoritarian. Station staff morale had plunged as absenteeism soared.

It was an irresistible challenge for Byford. ?But I was aware that of all the stations on the Tube, you?ve got to get it right,? he says. Fires in the London Underground normally attracted the same kind of resignation as the daily ?smoke-at-track-level? announcements on the TTC. But at King?s Cross, any reference to fire would see the press, as well as Tube management, descend on the station. The London fire department would frequently turn up unannounced to inspect the station, which had about 100 rooms housing everything from switches to escalator machines to lunch tables.

Byford, who held a master key, would randomly open a few of those rooms each day looking for any potential fire contraventions. ?I had very good station supervisors,? he recalls. ?I motivated them but made it very clear that we would not and could not get a contravention of the fires safety regs. I never did get a Section 12 contravention.?

King?s Cross, which has undergone a massive expansion and renovation in the past decade, is now London?s busiest station. Byford says his time there ?really taught me about the concept of due diligence and guilty knowledge. If you know something, you?ve got to do something about it. Due diligence is basically making sure you?ve done everything possible to take the risk down to as low a level as is reasonably practical.?

4. Being Andy

The commuter rush has barely cleared on this bitterly cold February morning when Andy Byford dashes up to a waiting camera crew on the Bay station platform. He is shooting a YouTube video with the TTC?s executive director of corporate communications, Brad Ross.

This one, about the abandoned ?ghost? stations beneath Bay and Queen, is a lighter installment in a series of video explainers for system improvements and service interruptions. Byford says it?s worth his time because it helps humanize the transit system. ?(The TTC) was seen as this faceless bureaucracy, very much a humourless organization.?

Andy Byford, left, and Brad Ross, the TTC?s head of corporate communications, make a video (Tess Kalinowski/Toronto Star)

What he doesn?t say is that if riders are putting a face on the TTC these days, the one most likely to come to mind is Byford?s own. ?He?s a brilliant communicator,? says Joan Taylor, Byford?s chief of staff, who is on a secondment from city manager Joe Pennachetti?s staff. ?It?s one of his greatest strengths. For someone so young, he?s really a mature leader who resonates with people both internally and externally.?

A respected bureaucrat, Taylor liked the look of Byford but had never met him when she applied for the TTC job. She requested the position be made a secondment because she wasn?t entirely sure what to expect from the turbulent TTC, and it meant that Byford would have a chance to test-drive what was a newly created role.

Taylor says her new boss gives the same genuine attention to the mechanics at the TTC?s maintenance and repair ?Harvey Shops? as to the city councillors and civic power players who call on him.

It?s a quality that engenders fierce loyalty, says his former boss, London Underground managing director Mike Brown. As a junior manager, Byford would arouse some skepticism among older staff members on the Tube. ?By the time he moved on, which was inevitably because he?d been promoted, they were all literally mourning his departure,? continues the Irish-born head of the London subway, which carries about 4 million people a day. ?There were grown men in tears ? that?s stiff, sort of anally retentive English people.?

Colleagues describe Byford as easy to relate to. He likes to go for a Friday after-work beer ? a ?swifty? or ?sesh,? as Upfold calls it ? with some of his team or his brothers-in-law. Beer is Byford?s favoured libation, and he goes for what he calls ?proper beer, not poncy, fizzy lager? ? local brews such as Bellwoods, Steam Whistle, Amsterdam and Mill Street. His preferred drink at one of his haunts, Rebel House, is Conductor?s Craft Ale, made by Junction Craft Brewing.

A passionate sports fan, he also likes to cheer for the local team wherever he lives. Last year, Byford had season tickets for Toronto FC; this year, it?s the Argos. A framed shirt of his beloved Plymouth Argyle football team has pride of place in his office. Behind the desk there?s a signed shirt for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the rugby team owned by actor Russell Crowe that Byford cheered during the time he lived there.

His own sport is running. He does about 5 kilometres every other day. Former TTC chair Karen Stintz, something of a fanatical runner herself, admits she lost a bottle of Plymouth gin in a bet she could beat Byford in the Yonge Street 10 K last year. He came in about two minutes ahead.

Since coming to Toronto, Byford?s energy and enthusiasm have been evident. He?s been everywhere. Union Station floods, Byford?s on the scene. Overflowing subway platforms on New Year?s Eve, the CEO is making PA announcements. Collector shot at Dupont station, he?s consoling the family before meeting with the press. New signage at Bloor station, there?s Byford thanking the volunteers who helped with the launch.

His signature smooth pate is so familiar that even a manager at Loblaws addresses him by name, asking if ?Mr. Byford? has found everything he needs at the grocery store.

?When he?s on the system he?s a rock star,? gushes TTC event planner Mary Leo-Oliver. That?s an exaggeration. But at a recent meet-the-manager outing, in which TTC execs go to stations to greet riders and answer their questions, commuters are lined up three deep to speak to the system?s top man. Byford even converses in French with one rider who wonders why the TTC doesn?t impose the same business transit tax as Paris. He assures another that he would be delighted to arrange a tour of transit control for a family member who happens to be a TTC fan.

While he?s out on the system, a rider approaches him to complain about an incident with a collector. Byford takes the time to listen politely even though the customer can?t even remember some key details of the incident he claims occurred only 20 minutes earlier.

The video shoot is the second task of the day for the head of the TTC. He has been up since 5 a.m. to speak to an employee group about the TTC?s five-year corporate plan, launched last year. Standard in many companies, it?s the first of its kind at the TTC. But it?s not worth the paper it?s printed on if employees don?t know about it, he says. That?s why he?s personally attended 82 staff meetings to tell employees what the plan means to both riders and themselves. Byford is promising 13,000 employees and 1.7 million daily riders a TTC revival once the system has made good on the 100 commitments set out in that plan.

Besides cracking down on fare cheaters and providing more cell and Wi-Fi service in the system, they include:

An overhaul of the TTC?s safety and evacuation plans and a promise to reduce rider and employee injuries.

A reduction in subway crews from two operators to one and the replacement of subway station collectors with ?highly trained, proactive? station supervisors.

The use of more ?secret shoppers? in addition to the quarterly customer surveys to provide a clearer picture of what the TTC rider experience looks like.

The addition of more fare-enforcement staff.

The introduction of electronic payments with the Presto card and new fare-by-time and fare-by-distance policies.

More capacity with new vehicles and new lines.

The TTC has been holding employee town halls to let staff know about the plan and their role in delivering on the commitments. Byford tells workers that the TTC?s culture is changing, that they have a right to feel ?cherished and developed.? That means giving them everything from promotion opportunities to improved working conditions. Byford promises staff that their washrooms will be renovated and cleaned in the same way the public washrooms in TTC stations have been modernized and sanitized.

?I?ve got a nice washroom, why shouldn?t you,? he tells employees, promising them a similar overhaul within two years.

The five-year plan is a good one, says Mitch Stambler, the TTC?s head of Strategy and Service Planning. But it?s not like the TTC has never done any planning. In fact, it has had dozens of strategies. He rhymes them off: the Transit City light-rail plan, the Transit City bus plan, the TTC?s ridership growth strategy, a green plan for sustainability, a safety plan. ?We just never wove it all together. Andy took the vision we have to knit it all together.?

Byford has plowed a road through his already-packed schedule to personally attend 82 of the 83 employee town halls, including those for overnight workers that don?t start until after 11 p.m. He will stop at home for dinner in the evening before heading out to another town hall at the Roncesvalles car house. It will be 1:30 a.m. before he drops into bed.

He admits that Alison, his wife of 20 years, thinks he is overdoing it with the town hall thing. A fiercely private person who works as an IT project manager, she refused to be interviewed. They have no children.

The pair met in London when she was working as a temp at the Tube and happened to be typing a letter for Byford?s secondment to another department. They shared a passion for British pubs, beer and travel, and within a year they became engaged. Naturally, he proposed on a train.

They married in Ottawa, where they hired a repurposed double-decker to transport guests to their wedding. Byford tells people that his dad, an inveterate bus spotter, took more pictures of the bus than the bride. The couple is extremely close. He has no problem telling journalists that Alison is his rock. They still see one another off at the airport. Once, Byford got up at 4 a.m. to give his wife a proper send-off.

Andy Byford boards the double-decker bus used to transport guests to his wedding in Ottawa in 1994

Although they belong to a car-sharing program, they don?t own a car. Byford never has. He uses the TTC for both personal and professional travel.

His enthusiasm for his work extends well beyond his well-documented penchant for picking up litter on the system. For example, thousands of letters flow each year from the CEO?s office ? congratulations for years of service, condolence notes to the spouses of former employees. You name the occasion, the TTC marks it. Where his predecessors relied on an electronic signature, Byford puts his own pen to each page in the inches-thick stacks of correspondence. Conversely, he is the first TTC chief to have a computer in his office, although Webster was no Luddite and carried a BlackBerry.

Byford?s schedule is so packed ? he holds three different executive group meetings every week, plus a weekly performance snapshot meeting in which managers stand during a 20-minute review of everything from employee absenteeism to bus schedules ? that lunch is frequently out of the question.

On a mid-February morning Byford begins his day with an 8:30 a.m. executive meeting. That?s followed by a performance snapshot and then a one-on-one to give one of his managers good news. Gary Shortt, who has been acting chief operating officer for more than four months, is being given the position permanently. The brief congratulatory handshake immediately gives way to a discussion of the work ahead.

The CEO then sprints off for another meeting, this one with City Manager Joe Pennachetti. Scrolling through his emails at the elevator, Byford would love a drink of water but that will have to wait.

Out on the system, Byford?s insistence on greeting every employee he passes can make for slow progress. The morning of the video shoot, Ross and the camera team wait while Byford greets a klatch of uniformed transit workers. He returns having gleaned the latest rumour circulating among the staff. ?Apparently I?ve banned facial hair,? he says with a chuckle.

It?s ridiculous but not the most absurd bit of gossip. There is a persistent rumour that he is already preparing to leave the TTC. There have been job offers from other cities. One day he might like to work in New York, and he won?t rule out returning to London for the right position. But for now, he?s anxious to prove he can turn the TTC around.

The other stubborn bit of gossip is that Byford is here to privatize the TTC. He thinks that rumour is an offshoot of the decision to start contracting out some TTC cleaning and garbage collection last year. It was a move for which he makes no apologies, and he repeatedly points out that not a single TTC worker was laid off as a result. ?If I came into this job and said to the politicians, ?I?m not going to look at making this company more efficient,? I?d be on the first plane back to Heathrow,? he says.

The confrontational president of the TTC workers? union praises Byford?s energy. His eagerness to listen appears genuine, says Bob Kinnear. But he is skeptical of the outsider?s grasp of the TTC?s culture. ?He?s walking around making a lot of promises to people. I think some of those are things he?s not going to be able to fulfill. He?s got the ball and he?s running with it.? But, he adds, ?I think he believes he?s carrying the ball further than he actually is right now . . . I don?t think the messaging is being funnelled down the ladder to some of his managers.?

The union head is referring to Byford?s less punitive approach to employee discipline. The CEO is adamant that the TTC?s management style has to change. ?This old boys? network, excessive use of discipline, hard-line rigid approach, retribution against people who speak up cannot continue,? Byford says.

Everyone at the TTC, including Kinnear and Byford, has a story about transit workers getting the wrong end of the stick. In Kinnear?s version, it?s a female operator who was recently fired for eating a sandwich at work. When an investigation showed the employee wasn?t actually operating a vehicle while eating and she was working overtime to help out the company, management was forced to apologize and reinstate her.

Byford recalls an incident early in his tenure in which a highly commended subway collector was suspended for dozing off or reading a newspaper in his booth (Byford doesn?t remember the specifics). Both are against the rules. The discipline process escalated until it was clear the collector would be sacked. ?I shouldn?t have intervened but I did,? says Byford. It would have been a different matter if the employee was a constant source of complaint or a rule breaker. All this individual needed, the CEO says, was a discreet warning that it must not happen again. ?But no, we went straight for the nuclear option and some of that still goes on . . . The trouble is the damage is already done. A guy who loved the TTC now hates the TTC, or he certainly did for a while.?

Byford strives to be fair and thorough. He arrived at Sydney RailCorp when it was in the midst of a highly inflammatory review of the company?s more than 300 stations. It was the first time in years that anyone had looked at the distribution of employees, and it was immediately evident that some small, low-traffic stations had far more staff than bigger, busier locations.

The geography of the system was enormous, with some stations up to four hours away from Sydney. Byford visited every one. With only a couple of exceptions, he got off the trains and introduced himself to the station workers. When it came to negotiating staffing with the union, Byford had no trouble making up his own mind about what was appropriate. ?The one thing the union reps struggled with,? he says, ?was that I bothered to do the hard yard.?

5. Speaking truth to power

Gary Webster wasn?t the first TTC head to leave because of politics. His predecessor, Rick Ducharme, quit five years earlier because he was fed up with interference by the chair of the day, councillor Howard Moscoe.

Andy Byford has no illusions that the same issue that brought down Webster ? Toronto?s obsessive transit debate about subways versus LRT ? could cut short his own tenure. He?s already raised eyebrows among some city councillors and LRT supporters over his support of a subway to replace the Scarborough RT. But Byford has always qualified that support by saying that the projected ridership on the line would be at the upper end of LRT capacity or the lower end of recommended subway ridership.

Now, with Mayor Rob Ford campaigning for re-election on a similar subway platform ? only this time he wants to convert LRT plans on Finch W. and Sheppard E. to subways ? Byford can already see what the next four years might look like. He?s got numbers to support his position on the Scarborough subway. But the projections for subway ridership simply aren?t there on Sheppard, and some transit experts think the ridership on Finch barely justifies an LRT.

While Byford?s reviews have been mostly positive at city hall, many continue to wait to see what happens beyond the initial honeymoon. Minnan-Wong, the councillor who helped take down Webster, stands by that decision. ?It was absolutely the right thing to do,? he says, adding that Byford is a much better transit chief. But evaluating him isn?t straightforward. ?It?s not necessarily about what Andy does. He?s doing an admirable job with the resources he has.? What?s not yet clear, and may never be, is what Byford would do with the transit system in a less fiscally constrained environment.

Left-wing Councillor Joe Mihevc, who spent nine years on the TTC board before Ford came to power, admits he?s ?aching? to return. That could happen if the conservative Ford loses this year?s election. As soon as there?s a new mayor, Mihevc believes, the TTC should reclaim the Finch and Sheppard LRTs. The provincially funded projects are currently under the control of Metrolinx, the government?s Toronto-area transportation agency.

?Metrolinx is swamped,? says Mihevc. ?The TTC has time and capacity to undertake those projects and should be allowed to do that. That?s got to be a challenge for (Byford).? But Mihevc concedes that is a political challenge, too, a job for the TTC chair.

While he?s not a politician, there?s no question Byford operates in a political arena. It?s a forum in which he still has to prove himself, according to Mihevc. That won?t happen until Toronto public servants, the TTC CEO included, feel free to speak truth to power. ?No one at city hall does not feel the pressure of perhaps being at the end of the mayor?s assault,? says Mihevc.

?Andy?s moment will not be in this term of council. It will be in the next term of council, when he will feel comfortable feeling professional. At that point, it will be up to the TTC chief ?to give council (and the province) some unpleasant messages that it needs to hear around operating funding to the TTC.?

Byford is aware of the criticism. But, he warns, speaking truth to power isn?t about supporting any political position, including that of the mayor?s opponents. ?People think (the mayor) is my boss ? he?s not,? says Byford, who reports to the chair of the TTC. Councillor Maria Augimeri took that position in February when Stintz resigned to focus on her mayoral run.

Byford says he?s met Ford less than a dozen times, including a few occasions when the mayor asked for briefings, particularly on TTC budget requests. In the most recent round, Byford says, the mayor challenged him on the need for the TTC to hire 479 new positions this year ? staff required to provide more service for the TTC?s growing ridership. ?I went in and explained that to him. We agreed to disagree.?

Over the past 20 years, the TTC?s workforce has increased 18 per cent while service has expanded 27 per cent and ridership has risen by 32 per cent. After two years of cuts, the TTC this year received an $11 million increase on its city operating subsidy, which covers $428 million of the $1.6 billion budget. Byford and the TTC chair are heading a task force to try and achieve what the city has so far failed to do: Persuade senior governments to make a contribution.

The capital side of the TTC budget ? the money that pays for vehicles, equipment, repairs and maintenance ? remains a staggering challenge. The 10-year plan calls for $9 billion, 70 per cent of it for expenses in the final five years. A $2.7 billion shortfall means many critical items remain unfunded, including accessibility improvements, 59 Wheel-Trans buses, 60 low-floor Bombardier streetcars, 372 subway car replacements, 135 buses and a new bus garage.

Ford also challenged the TTC?s request for a customer information system (CIS), the communications tool that helps transit control centres communicate with operators. It would be a $90 million expense over three years, an expenditure that, according to Upfold, is the only way the TTC can significantly improve its streetcar and bus service.

In the short term, the TTC will try and increase bus and streetcar reliability by putting more supervisors on the street to prevent surface vehicle delays, bunching and turning back streetcars before the end of the route. That will improve performance by maybe 2 per cent. ?But there won?t be a fundamental change until we have CIS with a modern system,? says Upfold.

The TTC?s CIS was ?absolutely top of the line? in 1973, he said. But most other transit agencies have moved two or three generations ahead in the technology since then. With the current TTC communication system, when a supervisor detects a delay up the bus or streetcar line, transit control sends a 64-character-maximum message to 10 or 15 operators up the route. Each operator has to acknowledge receipt of the message before the next batch can be sent to operators further up the line. When you consider that the TTC typically has about 1,500 buses on the road during a weekday rush, it?s easy to see how challenging it is to keep the service running on time. ?We?ve had money in (the TTC?s budget request) for a CIS replacement for a decade,? says Upfold. Each time, it loses out to other projects competing for the TTC?s scarce capital dollars.

The small bump in its city subsidy and its commitment to the CIS seem all the more remarkable against the backdrop of Ford?s mayoralty. The city?s chief magistrate seldom misses an opportunity to express his disdain for streetcars and LRTs. Under his administration and Stintz?s leadership, the TTC opted to run fewer, more crowded buses. ?We intentionally ? the city and the TTC ? made a decision to make our service worse to save $10 million or whatever it was that year (2012),? says customer service head Upfold.

Byford takes pains to be fair about the mayor. Asked if he thinks Ford is genuinely interested in improving public transit, Byford says, ?Well he has a passion for subways.? But ?at the end of the day, by (Ford?s) own admission, he doesn?t use the TTC. I don?t see how you can really understand the challenge unless you use the system.?

The one time Byford was truly angered by Ford was in November 2012, when a TTC bus full of passengers was emptied and rerouted to pick up the Don Bosco high school football team, which Ford coached until the school terminated the relationship. The TTC chief was at city hall when he received a cellphone call from the mayor wanting to know why the bus, requested by Toronto police, was taking so long to reach the playing field.

Byford had to speak to transit control to figure out what the mayor was talking about. As the incident attracted increasing outrage over the paying customers who were kicked off a bus, Byford says he ?was sort of squirming at being drawn deeper and deeper into a hole that was not of my own making . . . It looked like I was somehow complicit in that I had no idea what the hell was going on.?

Ford, he says, likes dealing with CEOs. He treats Pennachetti, TCHC head Gene Jones and Toronto Hydro president Anthony Haines similarly. ?Things that I think are details of minutiae, his default is to go straight to the CEO. That?s his prerogative. He?s the mayor. In a way I don?t argue against it because I?m a believer in accountability, and ultimately I?m accountable for the TTC.?

6. Plan B

Andy Byford loves to travel. From the Summer Palace in Beijing to a trans-Atlantic cruise on the QE2, he has an impressive list of destinations he?s seen and others he would like to visit.

His parents used to take him and his sister to France for summer holidays and he always expected to marry a foreigner. The only surprise was that he chose a Canadian rather than a Frenchwoman.

Byford was born east of London on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, and spent his teen years in Winchester. But Plymouth, on the south coast of Devon, was the setting for his early boyhood, and he considers it his hometown. He cites a happy childhood and his beloved Plymouth Argyle football team among the attachments.

But it?s more than that. ?I have a burning passion and love of that city,? he says without a hint of self-consciousness. There?s something indomitable about Plymouth, which happens to be the largest naval base in Western Europe. ?It?s almost a siege mentality,? he says. ?I feel it?s a city that has tremendous spirit that is completely disregarded by government. They don?t see any votes in it and it?s been completely shafted by governments over the years.? Byford has fantasies about returning as the city?s CEO or a councillor.

Plymouth?s lovely Victorian downtown was decimated during World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s. ?People say, ?Oh it?s a concrete dump.? It isn?t a concrete dump. This is actually Portland stone,? he says of the material that has also been used in edifices such as St. Paul?s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace and the United Nations headquarters. ?These are beautiful 1950s buildings and it?s got the most (historically) listed buildings outside London of any British city.

?This is Plymouth Sound,? he says, pointing to a picture on his desk. ?I?ve already decided when I die I will be cremated and have my ashes spread in Plymouth Sound.?

Although he loves Canada, Byford makes no apologies for his fierce British patriotism. In pride of place under the glass on his desk is the front page of a newspaper bearing a large image of Margaret Thatcher, part of an obituary package last April. Byford calls her a hero. Broke at the end of the 1970s, Britain was ?begging from the International Monetary Fund.? Then, in 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and Thatcher took the country to war in a development that Byford saw as standing up to a great wrong. ?Rightly or wrongly,? he says, ?whoever owns the Falklands, you can?t just invade.

?I remember going to stand on Plymouth Hoe (a public space that overlooks the sea) and I could see the warships going out immaculate. Immaculate.? When the ships returned the whole city turned out to watch them from Plymouth Hoe, including Byford.

?The sad thing was all the ships didn?t come back,? he says with obvious emotion. ?A couple of Devonport ships were sunk. The ships came in covered in rust, they had bullet holes in them, holes where missiles had gone through them.?

It?s the Plymouth connection that helps make him sanguine about the politics and perils of running the TTC, says Byford. He and Alison own a flat there overlooking the sea. Byford calls it their ?bolt-hole,? a refuge. ?If the worst thing happened here and I got sacked or I just thought I can?t stand this any longer, it?s nice to know I could just go there and hide.?

That seems unlikely for a man who?s spent a career testing his performance before the public. In 1998, when he was already working at the Tube, Byford and four school friends opened a pub in London?s Barbican district. It was before Skye TV was widely available and sports bars had multiple big-screen TVs. The school chums, beer lovers all, saw an opportunity.

View of the Plymouth waterfront from Byford?s flat

?The most gratifying thing was to come out the tube station, rounding the corner and see our bar absolutely packed. It wasn?t thinking, ?Oh, ching, ching.? It was thinking, ?These people could have gone anywhere but they chose to come to our bar.? It was such fun and such a great feeling we must be doing something right.?

Byford says he?s a perfectionist and admits to occasionally being obsessive. ?I constantly reflect on, are we going too fast or, more often, are we not going fast enough, is the renaissance stalling?? He knows he won?t always get it right at the TTC. ?There will be knock-backs,? he says, referring to times when the service goes horribly wrong.

?This is indeed a big, challenging job,? he wrote in response to a rider who complained recently about crowding on the subway. Byford conceded that capacity gains from new, bigger buses, streetcars and subway trains are almost immediately swallowed up by ridership growth.

But, he continued,? I actually love and I relish the challenge of converting our critics over time and in getting the TTC back to being a network that the city can be proud of. That said . . . this is the most political environment that I have ever countered (sic) and that certainly adds to the complexity of getting things done. I am also dealing with the consequences of years of underfunding and deferral of critical decisions.?

He closed the letter with a promise: ?I am quite determined to give you and your fellow riders a transformed experience. We will get there.?

Tess Kalinowski has been reporting on transit and transportation for the Toronto Star since 2007. She joined the Star in 2000, working as an assignment editor and education reporter before taking on the transportation beat. Previously, Kalinowski was the assistant managing editor of the London Free Press. Most days she commutes by GO train from the Mississauga home she shares with her teenaged daughter, Olivia.

Can this man save the TTC? Andy Byford's mission impossible is also available in electronic book format through The Star's weekly ebook program, Star Dispatches. To subscribe for$1 a week, go to stardispatches.com . Single copies are also available, for $2.99, at stardispatches.com/starstore and on itunes at stardispatches.com/itunes .

Submit News to CKA News Adam Vaughan shakes up Trinity-Spadina, seeking seat for Liberals: Tim Harper
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:50:00 EDT

Adam Vaughan knows he surprised a lot of supporters and detractors with his decision to seek the Liberal nomination in the upcoming Trinity-Spadina byelection.

“It caught me by surprise,’’ he says.

That’s how quickly this all came together for the 52-year-old Vaughan, a man who once mulled a run for mayor but instead decided to stop pointing fingers at Ottawa and try to win a seat and work in the capital.

There’s no question that luring a man with city-wide name recognition is a coup for Justin Trudeau, and it sets up a key confrontation with 29-year-old social activist Joe Cressy, who is counting on deep NDP roots in the riding to protect the seat that belonged to mayoral candidate Olivia Chow.

Trinity-Spadina had swung between Liberals and New Democrats but in recent years New Democrats believed they had established a beachhead during Chow’s tenure.

Should Vaughan regain the seat for the Liberals, it would be the biggest victory for Trudeau in a series of byelections in which he has shown strength since becoming leader just over a year ago.

Losing Chow’s seat and all the symbolic freight that would carry would deal a crippling setback to Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats.

Put simply — it’s hard to think of a more dramatic game-changer in the riding.

The Liberals appeared in disarray in Trinity-Spadina, with spurned candidate Christine Innes suing Trudeau.

Party strategists were privately conceding they had no chance to overtake a candidate who counts the iconic Chow as a mentor, a young man with strong links to not only her, but the late Jack Layton and another party luminary, Stephen Lewis.

Until Trudeau and Vaughan closed the deal with a lunch and a handshake Wednesday.

Vaughan will still deal with a riding association loaded with unhappy Innes loyalists and he is a polarizer, but he won his Ward 20 election in 2010 with almost 75 per cent of the vote.

He is gruff, can be sarcastic and has a penchant for biting comments. But he never shies from an opinion and that has won him deep support in the riding.

Cressy, who formally won the NDP nomination a week ago, campaigned with Mulcair this week and Thursday he wished Vaughan luck with his nomination.

Vaughan says he wants to promote a national housing strategy, part of a cities’ agenda that would include funding for transit and infrastructure.

“This city cannot wait for that agenda to come to us,’’ he said. “You can continue to point fingers at Ottawa or you can go to Ottawa to make it happen. I decided it was time to go to Ottawa.

“If Ottawa is back in the housing game, people’s lives change.’’

As perhaps Rob Ford’s most pointed council critic, it is no surprise to hear Vaughan speak of city hall as a “very difficult” place to work and he will resign his seat as soon as the writ is issued in Trinity-Spadina.

He says he was not going to run for re-election anyway.

But he says the real crime for the city in the past four years is its lack of voice under Ford.

He has spoken to others big city mayors about the need for more public housing and a national transit strategy, but Ford is absent from the discussion and that hurts not just Toronto but every other city in the country, Vaughan says.

“Toronto’s voice is fundamental to the choir, but we have a mayor who won’t even leave Toronto except to go on the Jimmy Kimmel show.’’

Vaughan has never belonged to a political party until now.

He has been caricatured as a “downtown lefty” and wasn’t really clear on whether he thought of running federally as a New Democrat, but he pointed out he had to beat a New Democrat, Chow’s onetime executive assistant, to win the council seat initially in 2006.

As a journalist, he didn’t vote and when he ran for council it was as an independent, but his parents (his father was legendary television reporter Colin Vaughan) were Liberals.

“I talked to Justin and he listened and I listened to him and I want to help make him prime minister.’’

Trinity-Spadina will cease to exist next year, being carved into the new ridings of University-Rosedale and Spadina-Fort York under redistribution.

The spat between Innes and party leadership, according to Innes, hinged on her refusal to sign a form guaranteeing she would run in Spadina-Fort York. She was thought to prefer a run in University-Rosedale, where Toronto Centre MP Chrystia Freeland will be the candidate next year.

Vaughan promised Trudeau that, should he win, he will run in the riding of Spadina-Fort York next year.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. tharper@thestar.ca Twitter:@nutgraf1

Submit News to CKA News Canada?s wild digital frontier needs policing
Wed, 09 Feb 2011 03:08:26 Z
John Ivison: The copyright bill has a number of provisions that are far less favourable to Canada’s performers and creators, who are about to see take a big hit to their pocket-books
Submit News to CKA News Election buzz, stale rhetoric ? Parliament has deja vu all over again
Tue, 01 Feb 2011 11:42:28 Z
John Ivison: If you missed Question Period Monday, don’t worry — you have a golden opportunity to miss it again Tuesday
Submit News to CKA News Death of Personal Responsibility: Think outside the lunchbox
Thu, 27 Jan 2011 14:50:39 Z
Neil Seeman: So what should the role of the state be in combating obesity? It’s time to think outside of the lunchbox, and try a whole new idea: healthy living vouchers, or HLVs
Submit News to CKA News Don?t give Quebec a nickel
Wed, 26 Jan 2011 23:57:55 Z
Jonathan Kay: If Harper says no to the Bloc's demands, he will be going to the voters as a man of principle who stood his ground on a subject far more important to this country than corporate tax rates
Submit News to CKA News Stelmach more than a victim of changing attitudes
Wed, 26 Jan 2011 03:38:13 Z
Kevin Libin: Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach bet the fortune of his party’s unparalleled political dynasty on a leadership strategy that failed to pan out
Submit News to CKA News Dave Taylor a mixed blessing for fledgling Alberta Party
Tue, 25 Jan 2011 02:34:30 Z
Kevin Libin: The addition of former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor to the Alberta party gives it a legitimacy boost, but does the outspoken former radio personality fit with the party's post-partisan dreams?
Submit News to CKA News Playing by China's rules
Sun, 23 Jan 2011 19:21:17 Z
Rex Murphy: China has reached an agreement with the Newfoundland government to begin the importation of seal and seal products into its potentially vast market. This is both very good and rare news for Newfoundland sealers
Submit News to CKA News Canada: Nanny AND wimpy state?
Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:08:14 Z
Before, there actually had to be a violent protest before public institutions caved in and cancelled controversial events. Now, a group of unhinged zealots make a couple of angry phone calls and – poof! – they silence free speech and free assembly
Submit News to CKA News Executives probably not swayed by Liberal tax plan
Tue, 18 Jan 2011 23:54:00 Z
Scott Stinson: It’s a safe bet that Mr. Ignatieff did not win many converts with his tax-increase sales pitch to Canadian executives on Tuesday. This is not a great surprise
Submit News to CKA News Conservatives missed the call for more civilized debate
Mon, 17 Jan 2011 19:58:11 Z
Kelly McParland: The federal Conservatives’ brain trust must have been somewhere else when President Barack Obama delivered his speech in Arizona last week, calling for greater civility in political debate.
Submit News to CKA News Harper's five years: Canadians better off, even if they don't feel it
Sat, 15 Jan 2011 13:21:36 Z
John Ivison: Jan. 23 marks the fifth anniversary of Stephen Harper’s 2006 election victory and in early February, he will pass Lester B. Pearson’s time in office to become Canada’s 11th longest-serving Prime Minister

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