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Ontario’s top bureaucrats navigate political minefields while doing more with less

Ontario’s top bureaucrats navigate political minefields while doing more with less

She or he might be the most important person you’ve never heard of. But your municipal chief administrative officer, the top administrator in a local government, is directly involved with many key decisions that impact your everyday life. In a new report by consulting firm StrategyCorp, the company conducted extensive interviews with 25 municipal CAOs from mid- to large-size Ontario cities. The report does not reveal any of their names or where they work, and in return, it provides a candid insight into what goes on inside city halls across the province. The Toronto Star interviewed one of the report’s co-authors, StrategyCorp partner John Matheson. The interview has been edited for length. Why should residents care about the job their municipal CAO does? As the head of the organization that provides the most direct level of service to Ontario residents, the CAO has a very direct influence on everything from the way we plan for 20 years into the future to the way the garbage is picked up next Tuesday, so it’s a hugely important function. What did CAOs say about the balance between acting independently and following the will of mayors and councillors who are often motivated politically? We heard again and again and again that it’s understood that the CAOs are ones who totally understand their role. Council makes the decisions and that is as it should be and it’s the job of professional administrators to propose professional recommendations as best as they can, provide a range of options that are informed by an understanding of what the political reality is, but to fundamentally take their cues from professional administrative advice, and that at the end of the day council’s going to make a decision. Do they ever feel their independence is compromised? There’s a strong recognition that the position (of CAO) is kind of an exposed one. The municipal voice is actually harder to find, because there’s the voice of the mayor and then there’s the voice of the mayor and council through a resolution — it’s harder to find the voice of the administration of the corporation. The report mentions residents who want municipalities...

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Ontario PC leader Brown calls on Liberals to ‘show respect’ to Scarborough by funding new hospital operating rooms

Ontario PC leader Brown calls on Liberals to ‘show respect’ to Scarborough by funding new hospital operating rooms

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown says Ontario’s Liberal government “sat on” its own advice calling for new operating rooms at The Scarborough Hospital. “Will you finally show the respect to the people of Scarborough by giving them the new operating rooms that your own studies show are needed?” Brown asked Wynne during Tuesday’s Question Period. The Opposition leader said he toured the rooms at the TSH’s General campus, which were built in 1956, and are the oldest in the province. His comments, and others recently by New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath are part of a wave of opposition pressure over “Liberal cuts” to hospital budgets province-wide. They might also be linked to a byelection expected to be called soon for Scarborough-Rouge River, a Liberal stronghold whose longtime MPP, Bas Balkissoon, quit in March. Hospital administrators have said for years the General’s facilities are half the size of operating rooms used today, requiring equipment to be stored in hallways. “It is unacceptable for patient care,” said Brown. In 2009, the government opened a new $72-million emergency and critical care wing at the Lawrence Avenue East campus. It also concluded that year new operating rooms were “unequivocally needed” at the General, Brown said, adding Liberals “have sat on the news for seven years.” The hospital in 2009 did propose 20 new operating rooms. The project, which had an estimated cost of $250 million, was shelved during a year of unsuccessful merger talks with TSH’s neighbour, the Rouge Valley Health System. Administrators were disappointed early in 2015 to see the operating rooms weren’t on a $11.4-billion list of large capital projects the government planned over the next 10 years. Brown on Tuesday said hospital staff don’t feel they are “on the province’s radar.” Wynne’s Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins shot back this was the first time Brown has asked about the hospital as leader, and seemed to imply the byelection may be a cause. ”I don’t know if the timing is coincidental,” Hoskins said. Hoskins, after taking five months to consider them, recently announced he was...

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Ontario promises legal rights for gay parents

Ontario promises legal rights for gay parents

TORONTO — The definition of parents in Ontario — described as a man and a woman — will soon change, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Monday as she promised to fix the “outdated” laws that require same-sex couples to adopt their own children. The provincial laws “do not reflect our views on who can form a family,” Wynne told the gay rights group EGALE. “I am committed to fixing this,” she said. “I want to see this definition changed in Ontario by the end of this year.” Wynne said she knows how important the issue is for the “LGBTQ-plus community,” saying “it’s about acceptance for all families” regardless of their makeup. “I have asked the attorney general to bring forward legislation in September that would, if passed, ensure that parents are clearly recognized in Ontario, whether they be gay or straight, and whether their children are conceived with or without assistance,” she said. New Democrat Cheri DiNovo introduced a private member’s bill last year to make birth registration services available to all LGBTQ families, saying it’s not right that parents should have to adopt their own children. DiNovo is pleased the Liberals finally decided to act on the issue, but said same-sex couples would get their parental rights more quickly if the government adopted her legislation, which already received second reading. Her bill was modelled on legislation passed in British Columbia in 2014, and similar bills have been approved in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, added DiNovo. “Four other provinces have already done this. I don’t understand the holdup,” she said Tuesday. “It’s not rocket science.” Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur said DiNovo’s bill would have had unintended consequences that would impact the rights of other parents, but she didn’t elaborate. “The draft bill that is before the house needs to be worked on because it seems like it’s going to be negative towards other families,” said Meilleur. “We’ll work collaboratively, but we want to make sure we have the right bill right from the beginning.” DiNovo said Meilleur’s comments reflect the same old arguments used in the past to deny gay and lesbian people their rights. “I...

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Economic growth slows down in first quarter

Economic growth slows down in first quarter

OTTAWA — The Canadian economy appears to be losing steam as it heads into the second quarter, which is expected to be a tough period made worse by the Alberta wildfires. Statistics Canada said Tuesday the economy contracted by 0.2 per cent in March for a second consecutive negative month as real gross domestic product grew at a slower-than-expected pace in the first quarter. David Watt, chief economist at HSBC Bank Canada, says the economy is struggling to maintain its underlying momentum. “The important takeaway from my perspective is that we had this weakness unfolding even before we start talking about the wildfires in Alberta, which is going to just disrupt economic data over the next couple of months,” he said. “My concern is that we lack drivers of the economy heading into the second quarter and into the second half of the year.” The economy grew at an annual rate of 2.4 per cent in the first quarter, Statistics Canada said. That was slower than the 2.9 per cent pace economists had expected, according to Thomson Reuters. Overall, growth in the first quarter was helped by exports, which were up 1.7 per cent following a drop of 0.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015. Investment in housing was also up in the first quarter, with business investment in residential structures up 2.7 per cent and household final consumption spending rising 0.6 per cent. But Watt says weak business investment has raised concerns. “Non-commodity manufacturers should be a sector that would benefit from a weaker Canadian dollar and U.S. demand and they’re cutting investment,” he said. Going forward, Watt said the trade figures for May will likely be weak due to the wildfires. But he said they should bounce back in June and July as the oilsands restart operations. The Bank of Canada said last week that the fires that devastated parts of Fort McMurray, Alta., and forced the shutdown of several oilsands operations would shave 1.25 percentage points off real GDP growth in the second quarter. The prediction implies the economy will contract in the second three months of the year based on the...

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Wynne promises legal rights for gay parents

Wynne promises legal rights for gay parents

TORONTO — Premier Kathleen Wynne says the Ontario government will pass legislation to change the definition of parents so same-sex couples don’t have to adopt their own children. Wynne says the province’s laws are outdated and do not reflect current views on who can form a family. New Democrat Cheri DiNovo introduced a private member’s bill last fall to make birth registration services available to all LGBTQ families, saying it’s not right that parents should have to adopt their own children. In a speech today to the gay rights group EGALE, Wynne thanked DiNovo for her efforts to help gay and lesbian parents get the same legal rights as male-and-female couples. Wynne says she is committed to fixing the problem and wants to see the definition of parents changed in law by the end of this year. The Liberals will introduce their own legislation in September that Wynne said will ensure parents are clearly recognized, “whether they be gay or straight, and whether their children are conceived with or without assistance.” She promised the government would work with DiNovo and will draft a bill that is consistent with the veteran New Democrat’s work on the file. An Ontario judge ruled in 2006 that the Children’s Law Reform Act was “clearly outdated,” but it still hasn’t been updated, which has forced some gay and lesbian couples to go to court to be legally recognized as parents of their own children. Follow @CPnewsboy on Twitter By The Canadian Press Source...

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Saks Fifth Avenue to open Calgary store

Saks Fifth Avenue to open Calgary store

TORONTO — Saks Fifth Avenue says it will open its third Canadian store in Calgary in January 2018. The luxury retailer says the 115,00-square-foot Calgary store will be located in the city’s Chinook Centre. Saks has so far opened two stores in Canada, both in Toronto, and has said it plans to open up to seven stores across the country. President Marc Metrick said the chain wants to open stores where the location is right, the customer base lives and the company is able to deliver a consistent Saks brand experience. He said Calgary fits the criteria and is a logical next step in the company’s Canadian expansion, even as the Alberta economy has struggled amid a protracted downturn in oil prices. Saks opened its Toronto flagship location at the Eaton Centre earlier this year, followed by its Sherway Gardens location in Etobicoke, Ont. By The Canadian Press Source...

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Assisted death bill up for 3rd reading today

Assisted death bill up for 3rd reading today

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government’s controversial assisted dying bill is expected to receive third and final reading today in the Commons, before heading to the Senate. MPs voted Monday night on an array of amendments to bill C-14, though all proposed changes were rejected. The bill cleared report stage by a vote of 192-to-129. With just one week to go, the government is acknowledging that it may not be able to meet the Supreme Court’s June 6 deadline for passing a law to govern medically assisted death. Health Minister Jane Philpott says the government now risks missing next week’s court-imposed deadline. In February 2015, the high court recognized the right of consenting adults enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to end their lives with a doctor’s help. Bill C-14 has touched off a deafening chorus of disappointment from a multitude of constitutional experts, medical professionals and human-rights advocates. The critics have noted that not even Kay Carter — the 89-year-old B.C. woman at the centre of the case that gave rise to the Supreme Court decision — would have qualified for an assisted death under the proposed law. — By The Canadian Press Source...

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Mexican soccer player Pulido overpowered kidnappers

Mexican soccer player Pulido overpowered kidnappers

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico — About 24 hours after he was kidnapped, Mexican soccer star Alan Pulido found himself alone with one of his captors and saw his chance. He wrestled away the man’s pistol and his cellphone and dialed Mexico’s emergency number. Within minutes, he was free. An official summary report of three calls to an emergency operator obtained by The Associated Press shows the 25-year-old forward for Olympiakos in the Greek league threatened and beat his captor while on the phone, demanding to be told where they were. The dramatic account of derring-do shows that Pulido — listed at 5-foot-9 (176 centimetres) and about 150 pounds (68 kilograms) — was the main actor in his own liberation, a contrast with initial official accounts of a rescue by police. On a first call, with the kidnapper overpowered, Pulido peered out of a window and described the white two-story house with two cars, grey and red, parked in front. In the next call, Pulido told the operator that state police had arrived outside. The operator told him to fire the pistol so they would know they were in the right spot, but Pulido said he had no bullets. He said police themselves were starting to shoot and described his shorts and tank top so they wouldn’t confuse him with the now-unconscious captor. Once police arrived, he made a third call to confirm with the operator that they were trustworthy. Tamaulipas state Attorney General Ismael Quintanilla had said at a news conference that emergency services received Pulido’s call for help after midnight Sunday due to “a careless act by his captors.” In a later interview with Imagen Radio, Quintanilla confirmed that Pulido had forcibly seized the phone from his captor. “There was an exchange of punches between them,” Quintanilla said, though he did not mention the pistol. Quintanilla said Pulido cut his wrist when he broke a window trying to escape. Pulido was nabbed by four armed people on a highway while returning from a party at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday. His girlfriend, who was not taken, alerted others. “Everyone began to activate to look for him, especially...

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Puppy snatched from 12-year-old boy walking dog in Brampton

Puppy snatched from 12-year-old boy walking dog in Brampton

Peel Regional Police are looking for at least one suspect after a man snatched a puppy from a 12-year-old boy out walking his dog in Brampton Monday afternoon. Junior, an 11-week-old American Bulldog, was grabbed from its young owner around 5 p.m., according to police. The boy was walking his dog on the playing field behind Hickory Wood Public School on Ray Lawson Boulevard, just east of Chinguacousy Road. The youngster was approached by a man who said something and then picked up the puppy and ran to the front of the school, said Const. Rachel Gibbs. Gibbs said the suspect was last seen jumping into the passenger side of a red SUV that sped off westbound on Ray Lawson Boulevard. The suspect is described as East Indian, 18-20-years-old, large build with acne blemishes, a moustache, beard, sideburns and wearing a black shirt and grey sweatpants hanging low enough to reveal black shorts underneath. Anyone who may have information to help police locate the puppy is asked to call Peel Police at 905-453-2121 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477). Source...

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May miss assisted-death deadline: Philpott

May miss assisted-death deadline: Philpott

OTTAWA — With just one week to go, the federal government acknowledged publicly for the first time Monday that it may not be able to meet the Supreme Court’s June 6 deadline for passing a law to govern medically assisted death. Health Minister Jane Philpott said the government now risks missing next Monday’s court-imposed deadline — the first time a Liberal cabinet minister has admitted what to many observers now seems patently obvious. Members of Parliament were scheduled to vote later Monday on an array of would-be amendments to the government’s controversial assisted-death bill, known as C-14, with a final third-reading vote scheduled for Tuesday. “We are at risk of not meeting the June 6 deadline,” said Philpott, noting that the bill would establish a clear legislative framework for both patients and their health care providers. “Having said that, it is my hope that we can see this piece of legislation put into effect at the very soonest possible date.” On Monday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said any public consternation over physician-assisted dying ought not be attributed to a lack of awareness about the issue. “The court initiated what was to be a process and Parliament has to play its role in that process,” McLachlin said during a question-and-answer session at the University of Calgary. “That’s where we are now.” In February 2015, the high court recognized the right of consenting adults enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to end their lives with a doctor’s help. The top court suspended its decision for a year to allow for Parliament and provincial legislatures to respond, if they chose, with a bill consistent with the constitutional parameters it set out. In January, the court agreed to allow four additional months to the federal government to produce a new law, but with an exemption for anyone who wished to ask a judge to end his or her life earlier. The result was C-14 — a bill that has touched off a deafening chorus of disappointment from a multitude of constitutional experts, medical professionals and human-rights advocates, including the Canadian Bar Association. According to the legislation, in order...

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