Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Toronto's municipal election is still six months away and it's already spawned its first attack ad against infamous incumbent Mayor Rob Ford.

    The campaign for Olivia Chow, the former New Democrat MP who's seen as the front-runner to unseat Ford, released the ad this week attacking one of the keystone elements of his popularity, the belief he's in personal touch with citizens and their concerns.

    Ford, who formally launched his re-election bid Thursday night, likes to boast that he spends much of his time on the phone dealing with people's complaints.

    But in the minute-long video, a woman identified only as Laura claims Ford never returned any of the roughly 20 calls she's made to the mayor's office to complain about the city's transit service.

    “Rob Ford is always bragging that he’s too busy to do this or he’s too busy to do that because he’s calling people back. Well, he didn’t call me back,” Laura says in the video.

    "I have Rob Ford programmed into my phone and he's never called me

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  • Political stakes are high for Quebec’s new federalist premier

    The newly installed premier of Quebec has signalled that federalism is no longer a dirty word in the province.

    Liberal Philippe Couillard was sworn in Thursday, after upsetting the minority Parti Quebecois government in the April 7 election.

    “We believe that our full participation in the Canadian federation contributes to Quebec’s success,” Couillard said in a speech at the National Assembly following the swearing-in ceremony for MNAs, according to the Globe and Mail.

    “Quebec will be a leader and an active participant in the Canadian federation and use every opportunity to help Quebec progress within it.”

    The bearded neurosurgeon led the Liberals to a substantial majority, taking 70 of 125 seats while reducing the sovereigntist PQ to 30 in spite of Couillard's candid embrace of Canada.

    While the PQ controls the separatist file, the Quebec nationalist vein runs deeply across party lines. Even past Liberal governments have been careful not to be seen cozying up too closely with Ottawa.

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  • RCMP announce charges against Dutch man in Amanda Todd case

    Crown prosecutors in British Columbia have laid five charges against a man arrested in the Netherlands in connection with the online extortion of 15-year-old Amanda Todd, which led to her suicide in 2012.

    RCMP told a news conference Thursday evening that the man, who hasn't been identified, faces single counts of extortion, Internet luring, criminal harassment, possession of child pornography and possession of child porn for the purpose of distribution.

    Insp. Paulette Friel, chief of operations at Coquitlam RCMP, said her officers began investigating in December 2010, after Amanda and her parents came forward with allegations of harassment and extortion.

    The investigation mushroomed after Todd's suicide, its scope expanding "in ways we could not have imagined," Friel said.

    The case eventually involved the RCMP's major crimes section and the national child-exploitation units of Canada and the United Kingdom, she said. The RCMP had 30 investigators at work who eventually helped identify

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  • Halifax high school student the latest teen to face child-porn charges for sexting

    Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers have issued warnings about the dangers of sexting for teens.Charges laid against a Halifax-area high school student is the latest evidence that police in Canada are serious about going after sexting teens, even if some of the kids still aren't serious about the risk.

    The Halifax Chronicle Herald reports a student at Auburn Drive High School in the suburb of Cole Harbour has been charged with possessing and distributing child pornography.

    Police said the 17-year-old was arrested April 11 but has been released from custody and is scheduled to appear in Halifax youth court May 8.

    The investigation began Jan. 9 after police received a complaint from the school. A 16-year-old female student told school staff a male student had shared a partially nude photo of her without her consent, the Chronicle Herald said.

    Police said the images were distributed to other students and investigators seized a number of cell phones.

    "In this case, all I can say is images were distributed in a child pornography sense by a 16-year-old male [who has since turned 17],"

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  • Rob Ford, Justin Trudeau taking heat for selfies outside Flaherty’s state funeral

    When it comes to politics I'm a knee-jerk moderate, so it's very rare I find myself agreeing with the folks over at Sun News Network. It happens about as often as the lunar eclipse we had this week.

    But we're more or less on the same page over word that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford took time to pose for photos with people outside Jim Flaherty's funeral.

    Commentators on the conservative-oriented news network especially took Trudeau to task for leaning in for a selfie on his way into the solemn church service for the former finance minister, who died suddenly of a heart attack last week.

    A smiling Trudeau is shown gazing into a woman's smart phone before heading into the Toronto's St. James Cathedral.

    Ford, a close family friend of Flaherty (who once publicly broke into tears over the mayor's drug problems), also allowed himself to be photographed in a shot that went up on Instagram.

    [ Related: Obama’s Mandela ‘selfie’ controversy overblown: photographer ]

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  • Good Samaritans rescue baby boy pinned under car

    Chances are a six-month-old boy who was struck by a car Tuesday won't have any memory of the accident that nearly cost him his young life or the guardian angels who rescued him.

    The baby was being pushed in a stroller by his mother as they crossed an intersection in Nanaimo, B.C., on Tuesday when they were struck by a car running a red light, the Nanaimo Daily News reports.

    The baby, strapped into a car seat plopped into the stroller, was hurled into the street, ending up under the car.

    The mother cried for someone to help her screaming baby. That's when passersby quickly leapt into action.

    [ Related: Officers and bystanders rescue 6-year-old boy pinned under car ]

    Around five people grabbed the rear end of the new model Volkswagen Jetta and lifted it off the ground so another could pull the baby from underneath.

    The child suffered only minor brushes and scraps but was kept in hospital overnight for observation as a precaution, RCMP Const. Gary O'Brien said. Perhaps the car seat did

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  • Manitoba court system opens the door to TV cameras, but just a crack

    Television cameras are inching their way into Canada's courtrooms, ever so slowly.

    A Manitoba judge's verdict in a murder case was streamed live Wednesday afternoon, the first time ever the province's court system has allowed such a crucial element of a criminal case to be televised, CBC News reported.

    It's part of a pilot program to test the viability of cameras at all levels of the province's court system.

    Associate Chief Justice Shane Perlmutter found Cassandra Knott not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2011 death of her husband, CBC News said.

    The camera focused only on the judge, who heard the case without a jury, as he delivered his ruling. Media outlets, including the Winnipeg Free Press, relayed the live stream.

    [ Related: Woman found not guilty of murder in Manitoba's first televised verdict ]

    The experiment has the backing of the chief judges of all three levels of Manitoba's court system, the Free Press said.

    "Courts must be open to the public," Court of Appeal Chief

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  • Another Vancouver bus driver attacked; how can we protect them?

    Apparently B.C. transit authorities' efforts to curb assaults on its drivers isn't sinking in.

    An awareness campaign called "Don't Touch the Operator" was launched at the end of March after a series of vicious assaults on bus drivers in Metro Vancouver.

    But two weeks in, cameras recorded another one, this time involving a woman in a wheelchair.

    According to CTV News, the driver had stopped to pick up passengers on the Downtown Eastside on Tuesday afternoon and was lowering the bus's ramp to allow the woman to roll on. But he changed his mind when she began acting aggressively.

    “She apparently was very agitated, started hurling verbal abuse at the bus driver," transit police spokeswoman Anne Drennan told Global News. "It apparently was about another bus on that line, and its driver, but nonetheless she was very abusive.”

    But as he was raising the ramp, surveillance video shows woman leaping out of her wheelchair and, still holding onto it, launching herself onto the bus, where she

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  • Caught on video: Near-miss between cop, longboarders now under review

    For most visitors to Vancouver who gaze across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore, it's a view filled with leafy neighbourhoods marching halfway up the mountainsides of West and North Vancouver.

    But longboarders see something else: Heaven, the longboarding equivalent of surfing meccas such as Australia's Gold Coast or Hawaii's Pipeline.

    West Vancouver is especially attractive, with posh homes lining steep, twisting streets that see little traffic. Residents have to keep a wary eye for longboarders whizzing by at speeds sometimes approaching 90 kilometres an hour.

    Longboarding is illegal in the municipality but the $45 first-time-offender fine hardly seems to discourage enthusiasts.

    West Vancouver police have tried persuading longboarders to stop these clandestine runs, even participating in a meeting last year to look at the possibility of temporary road closures to accommodate the sport.

    [ Related: Longboarders at Higher Risk for Injury Than Skateboarders ]

    But I suspect part of the

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  • Veteran senior Mountie charged with underage sex offences dating back to 1982

    Insp. Ronald Patrick Makar, shown here in 1994, spent most of his career in Saskatchewan.

    The RCMP is reeling after a senior officer was charged with underage sex offences dating back to 1982, when he was a young constable in Saskatchewan.

    Insp. Ronald Patrick Makar, the chief operations officer at the Wood Buffalo Detachment in Fort McMurray, Alta., was arrested at his job Tuesday, the Mounties said in a news release reproduced by the Regina Leader-Post.

    The Mounties said they launched an investigation after the alleged victim came forward last April and said she'd been assaulted in the summer of 1982 at a home in Carlyle, Sask. Makar, a 34-year RCMP veteran, was serving in Carlyle in his first year as a constable at the time, CBC News said.

    Makar, 54, is charged with one count of sexual intercourse with a female without her consent and one count of intercourse with a female under age 14 under Criminal Code sections in force at the time. The current equivalent charges would be sexual assault.

    [ Related: RCMP dogged by yet another sexual-harassment suit ]

    Constance Haduik,

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