Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • How did a devout mild-mannered man end up in Ontario’s court shootout?

    Mystery still surrounds the reason why a reputed drug dealer walked into the courthouse in Brampton, Ont., and got into a deadly shootout with police.

    Neighbours and acquaintances of Charnjit "Sonny" Bassi said the 45-year-old Brampton man was quiet, decent and helpful, as well as recently religious, the Toronto Sun reported.

    Bassi, who had a criminal record dating back 15 years, was killed in the lobby of the Brampton courthouse Friday morning in an exchange of gunfire that wounded a police officer in the stomach.

    Police said Bassi was known by police to be heavily involved in the drug trade, the Sun said, but his previous run-ins with the law were not drug related. He'd been previously charged with aggravated assault and credit-card fraud, the Toronto Star reported.

    Bassi apparently had no scheduled court appearances the day he walked into the building.

    [ Related: Police officer shot at Brampton, Ont. courthouse in stable condition ]

    Sources told the Sun it's believed he may have

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  • Former B.C. NDP premier Mike Harcourt quits own party, calls it “out of touch”

    Mike Harcourt (L) and Gov. Gen. David Johnston
    B.C. was hit with a political bombshell today: The man who led the NDP to election victory in 1991, after almost two decades in opposition, has quit the party.

    Former B.C. New Democrat premier Mike Harcourt, a elder statesman highly respected across party lines and still courted for his advice on public policy matters, has revealed he has let his NDP membership lapse out of disillusionment with the party's direction and leadership.

    The news rippled through social media Tuesday, with some feeling obliged to say it should be taken seriously, despite the announcement coming on April 1.

    In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Harcourt said the NDP is not ready to govern and its policies hostile to resource development have alienated it from voters outside big urban centres like Metro Vancouver and

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  • Rob Ford’s boast that Toronto economy is booming on shaky ground, report suggests

    Toronto, in the midst of what must be the most drawn-out mayoral campaign in Canada, pits notorious incumbent Rob Ford against rivals from both the left and right determined to unseat the crack-smoking chief magistrate.

    Ford's continued base of support hinges mainly on two things; his hands-on approach solving individual ratepayers' problems, plus his claim the city's prospering thanks to his focus on cutting taxes and service costs.

    But new research is questioning how real that prosperity is.

    Toronto region business leaders were treated to a cold shower of data Monday that indicated worker productivity actually shrank between 2000 and 2010, the only North American city out of 12 sampled to experience serious negative growth in that period (Montreal's was essentially flat).

    Admittedly, Ford didn't become mayor until the end of 2010, but he was a city councillor in the decade covered by the report prepared by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and the Institute for Competitiveness and

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  • It isn't enough that some are risking the health of other Canadians by refusing to vaccinate their kids against measles; now we're exporting the problem.

    The Canadian Press reports a U.S. health officer has confirmed an American living across the border from Abbotsford, B.C., contracted the disease while on a B.C. visit.

    The Fraser Health Authority declared an outbreak of measles earlier this month following a cluster of cases centred around an Abbotsford Christian school. As of last week, there were 228 confirmed cases, including a student who attends a post-secondary institution in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.

    Health officials blamed the outbreak on low rates of immunization among children from religious communities and schools.

    The Washington state resident who contracted the disease is isolated at home, Greg Stern of the Whatcom County Health Department told CP. It was not revealed whether the patient was an adult or child.

    Health authorities in Hamilton, Ont., are also trying

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  • B.C. man arrested after allegedly cooking meth on his barbecue

    Jesse Pinkman and Walter White cook meth in a scene of 'Breaking Bad.'

    Walter White and Jesse Pinkman would be rolling their eyes at this guy. The cops certainly are.

    Police in Abbotsford, B.C., arrested a man on the weekend for allegedly cooking up a batch of methamphetamine on the barbeque on his apartment balcony.

    Shrimp on the barbie, brats on the barbie. Meth on the barbie?

    Police showed up Saturday night after complaints of a bad smell coming from an apartment and a man yelling at neighbours in what sounded like Russian, CTV News reported.

    "We had smelled the fumes earlier in the day and it was pretty strong [and] closed the windows,” Leslie Pambrun, whose family lives in the suite below, told CTV News.

    “Then I got a heads up from another person that lives here that the cops were coming in and about midnight there was the dog, the cops, and they busted down the door . . . it was pretty crazy."

    When the cops showed up, the 32-year-old man hid in his apartment. Police used a search warrant to enter and arrested him, the Abbotsford News reported.

    [

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  • As Quebec election enters final week, how solid is the Liberals’ lead?

    A lot of eyes will be on Quebec as the province heads into the last full week of campaigning for the April 7 general election.

    Provincial elections in Canada generally pass unnoticed by people outside the jurisdiction where it's held. There'd be a story when the writ is dropped and another when the results are in.

    Quebec is the exception. Campaigns there are national news and a lot of Canadians collectively hold their breath as votes are tallied.

    That's because no other provincial election potentially can lead to the breakup of the country. It's been that way since the separatist Parti Quebecois first took power in 1976, resulting four years later in a referendum on sovereignty association.

    The party during another stint in government came within a hair's breadth of winning a second sovereignty referendum in 1995.

    So expect plenty of coverage as the minority PQ government tries to salvage its once promising re-election effort. In the mean time, the Liberals under new leader Phillippe

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  • Typo in B.C. man’s birth certificate turns into bureaucratic nightmare

    A birther holds up enlarged copies of Obama's supposedly forged birth certificate.You probably don't give your birth certificate much thought.

    It's an important document, to be sure. Just ask Barack Obama, some of whose opponents still don't accept his Hawaiian birth certificate as proof he's American enough to be U.S. president.

    Most of us keep our birth certificates tucked in a drawer or filing cabinet, maybe a safe deposit box at the bank, until we need it for something like getting a passport.

    But if you have a problem with your birth certificate it can strike at the core of your identity.

    Jack MacKay knows all about that. Or should we say Jack Mac Kay, which is what his birth certificate says.

    A simple typographical error has turned MacKay's official life upside down.

    [ Related: White House releases Obama birth certificate ]

    MacKay, who was born in Manitoba but now lives in Surrey, B.C., told CTV News the trouble started when he requested a replacement birth certificate from Manitoba Vital Statistics a couple of years ago.

    When the new certificate arrived, a

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  • Human rights case risks exposing secret Tim Hortons recipes, lawyers say

    Few things are more jealously guarded in the business world than trade secrets.

    Where would Kentucky Fried Chicken be without its 11 secret herbs and spices? And when someone tried to peddle the secret formula for Coca-Cola to Pepsi in 2006, the iconic soft drink's arch rival promptly went to the cops, resulting in three arrests.

    "Competition can sometimes be fierce, but also must be fair and legal," PepsiCo spokesman Dave DeCecco told Fox News at the time. "We're pleased the authorities and the FBI have identified the people responsible for this."

    So when a human rights case involving a Tim Hortons franchisee threatened to reveal the doughnut king's trove of baked-goods recipes, the company's legal team sprang into action.

    An exasperated B.C. Supreme Court judge urged the two sides to work things out themselves, but not before Christopher McHardy, representing Tim Hortons Inc., warned that key elements of the company's business could be compromised, the Globe and Mail reported.

    Just

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  • Ontario cracks down on unpaid internships at prominent Canadian magazines

    University of Victoria students Isabelle Couture and James Attfield did a survey of unpaid internships with the Canadian Intern Association. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
    The Ontario government has fired a shot across the bow of the province's magazine sector over the use of unpaid internships.

    The Ministry of Labour has ordered The Walrus and Toronto Life to kill their internship programs by Friday following complaints of unfair labour practices, the Globe and Mail reports.

    A ministry inspector found the magazines' programs employing aspiring journalists, designers and others in unpaid roles contravened the Employment Standards Act, the Globe said.

    The Walrus's web page for jobs and internships carried an announcement that no four-to-six-month unpaid internships can be offered unless the interns have a formal agreement for a work experience with a vocational school.

    According to Postmedia News, Toronto Life was using interns for work that was not tied to their studies. Only people doing work for school credit can participate in unpaid internships. The law requires all others to be paid at least minimum wage, Postmedia News said.

    [ Related: Backlash

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  • Travel expenses: Are politicians only sorry when they’re caught?

    We may be reaching a tipping point when it comes to citizens' tolerance of our political class's sense of entitlement. Politicians may be starting to realize it, but they still only seem to acknowledge it when they're caught.

    The latest outbreak of perk remorse comes from the left coast, where two New Democrat MLAs and the speaker of the B.C. legislature, who's a Liberal, have cut cheques in the last week to reimburse taxpayers for dubious travel expenses.

    On Wednesday, the NDP's Raj Chouhan, who also happens to be deputy speaker, refund the $2,200 cost of taking his wife with him on a South African junket last year. It follows Speaker Linda Reid's decision to pay back $5,500 in government funds used to bring her husband on the same trip. Why the travel cost of Reid's spouse was more than twice as much as Chouhan's is anyone's guess.

    Last week, New Democrat MLA Jenny Kwan repaid $35,000 for vacation trips bankrolled by the Portland Hotel Society. The society is a sprawling non-profit

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