• Toronto politics tends to dominate the headlines, especially in southern Ontario. But beyond the circus tents at Toronto City Hall, to borrow a phrase, elections worth watching are looming in cities across the Greater Toronto Area.

    Mississauga will choose a new mayor for the first time in 36 years, following news that octogenarian Mayor Hazel McCallion is not seeking re-election.

    But Brampton, often lost in the shadows of larger GTA communities, has an election tale of its own to tell, and from recent accounts it an intriguing one.

    The Toronto Star reports that Mayor Susan Fennell is facing questions after quietly requesting her salary be lowered ahead of a provincial audit last year. The move comes after Fennell was found to be the highest-paid mayor in the country.

    The issue was to be discussed at a city council meeting on Wednesday, but Fennell was a no-show.

    In a statement released that day, Fennell said her husband was admitted to hospital to undergo heart surgery. "As a result, I

    Read More »from Where will Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell rank on next list of highest-paid mayors?
  • 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

    Read More »from Travel expenses: Are politicians only sorry when they’re caught?
  • Making a life in northern Canada has never been easy and it's no secret food prices are astronomical compared with south of 60.

    But a study just released by the Council of Canadian Academies offers a picture of just how difficult things are for aboriginal northerners, especially Inuit people, when it comes to food security.

    The study, released Thursday, looks at the state of knowledge about aboriginal food insecurity in the North among First Nations, Inuit and Metis households.

    It shows that aboriginal households across Canada experience food insecurity at more than twice the rate of their non-aboriginal counterparts – 27 per cent versus 12 per cent.

    [ Related: Northerners blast high prices for basic foods, including $20 for jug of milk ]

    And when you move north, the problem skyrockets, especially among Inuit people.

    It found almost 70 per cent of Inuit preschool-age children live in food-insecure households, with 56 per cent of living in homes with child-specific food insecurity.

    As

    Read More »from Many Inuit children regularly going hungry due to food insecurity: report
  • By most accounts, Mayor Rob Ford was the hands-down winner of Wednesday's televised Toronto mayoral debate, based on his ability to stay on message and the almost dispiriting inability of other candidates to pin him down on his record, either personal or political.

    The debate was a messy affair, with Toronto television station CityNews intentionally slotting in three segments of unregulated "discussion," which descended so quickly into a pointless shouting match that moderator and veteran news anchor Gord Martineau at one point threw his hands up in despair.

    The chaos was music to the mayor’s ears. You could see Ford smiling as the mousey voices of his four competitors fought to reach a pitch his own reaches naturally.

    The chaotic tone to the first televised debate of the 2014 Toronto mayoral election – still seven months from voting day – was the perfect environment for Ford to excel. And he did, by relying on blunt talking points and misinformation, to which his opponents had little

    Read More »from The political genius of Rob Ford’s ‘billion-dollar’ savings claim
  • A Toronto woman is warning dog owners to keep extra vigilant after a terrifying elevator accident nearly cost the life of one of her pets.

    Tamara Seibert told the Toronto Sun that the leash of her 50-kg Rottweiler was caught in the door of her condominium's elevator, lifting the hefty creature off of the ground and nearly choking it to death.

    She fought to free him from the leash, breaking two fingers in the process, before finally the leash snapped and the dog fell to the ground, panicked but alive.

    Seibert posted a video of the incident her Facebook page and warned followers that the accident, which happened nearly a month ago, could happen to anyone.

    "I am posting this because thank god my dog survived but I want to warn people how fast something so simple can go horribly wrong," she wrote. "I never want anyone else to ever go through this. You can't see my face but I've never been so hysterical in my life."

    [ Related: Toronto mayoral debate: Who won, who lost? ]

    Seibert concedes

    Read More »from Dog nearly strangled in terrifying Toronto elevator mishap
  • Toronto mayoral debate: Who won, who lost?

    The Toronto mayoral debate Wednesday night featured more fidgeting than fireworks, more campaign slogans than strong campaign platforms.

    Mayor Rob Ford defended himself against four of the top contenders for his job — Karen Stintz, John Tory, Olivia Chow and David Soknacki in a debate televised on CityNews.

    How did Ford perform in his first debate since the infamous crack scandal that limited his powers in city hall and made him a running punchline on late-night talk shows?

    Our old Pulse of Canada panel reunited to weigh in on the first televised debate in the Toronto municipal election.

    So, was there a clear winner in the first Toronto mayoral debate?

    Thomas Bink: Meh, I don’t think so. John Tory was particularly disappointing in not revealing much of his platform beyond slogans. Chow took a couple of surprisingly personal swipes that I think fell flat. Karen Stintz and David Soknacki were little more than noise. If anything, Rob Ford did well pounding forward with his talking points

    Read More »from Toronto mayoral debate: Who won, who lost?
  • Karen Stintz, John Tory, Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and Rob Ford shake hands before the first Toronto mayoral debate.

    Toronto’s first televised 2014 mayoral debate resolved very little on Wednesday evening as Mayor Rob Ford and his four top opponents shouted and scratched at one another while repeating reheated talking points and, occasionally, reminding the public of the laughingstock Ford had become.

    But there was too much of the former, very little of the latter and not enough actual substance to drastically change the direction of a tight mayoral campaign, still seven months away from election day.

    In a one-and-a-half-hour debate on CityNews on Wednesday, Ford joined candidates Olivia Chow, John Tory, Karen Stintz and David Soknacki in a debate focused on three key issues: transit, finance and leadership.

    But the real question at the centre of the debate was the series of scandals that have followed Ford for the past two years, plaguing his term as mayor and leaving him without power or allies in city hall.

    And on that front, only Olivia Chow seemed prepared to address the elephant in the room.

    [

    Read More »from Toronto mayoral debate: Rob Ford says crack scandal is ‘rewind, rewind, rewind’
  • A Sikorsky Cyclone helicopter is pictured during a flight test.

    There's a certain amount of irony in word that Canada is selling new military helicopters to the Philippines when it's in its third decade of trying to procure replacements for the navy's ancient Sea Kings.

    Postmedia News reports the sprawling Pacific island nation will spend more than $100 million to buy eight Bell 412 helicopters from Canadian Commercial Corporation, a federal Crown corporation that helps industry with government-to-government business.

    The purchase, along with the purchase of 12 Korean-built jet fighter-trainers for $420 million, is part of a program to bolster the Philippine military against growing Chinese pressure in the South China Sea.

    "This is significant because we need to give our armed forces the minimum capability to perform its mission and responsibility," Philippine Defence Undersecretary Fernado Manalo told reporters in Manila after completing negotiations, according to the country's GMA News site.

    [ Related: Canada says back on track to buy Sikorsky

    Read More »from While its own navy waits, Canada sells military helicopters to the Philippines
  • Toronto's Garrison Ball is one of those old-school affairs where the men wear black tie (dress uniforms if they're in the military) and women their best cocktail dresses.

    Normally it's a must for Toronto's mayor but the city's current chief magistrate has been left off the guest list for Saturday's event. It has nothing whatever to do with him showing up stinko last year. Got that?

    But Rob Ford is suggesting he might crash the party. Judging from past experience, it might be wrong to doubt him.

    The annual Garrison Ball attracts about 800 military personnel, their guests and a who's who of Toronto's political and business elite, the Toronto Star said.

    The mayor is normally invited, but event chairman John Wright told the Star that Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly will attend instead.

    The official reason is that Ford is effectively mayor in name only after city council stripped him of most of his power last fall.

    [ Related: Conflicting accounts: Was Rob Ford asked to leave gala? ]

    “We wanted to

    Read More »from Rob Ford warned not to crash Toronto’s Garrison Ball, which he was forced to leave last year
  • Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois.The Parti Quebecois hoped to steer its stumbling re-election campaign back on track this week by refocusing on its proposed values charter but some Montreal high school students are skewering the controversial document, apparently using policy that Premier Pauline Marois herself supported in the past.

    The charter enshrines secularism as a core principle and bans display of religious symbols and headgear by public servants, including teachers. It's popular among francophone voters, especially outside of Montreal and Quebec City. It drove the PQ's popularity into election-winning territory before the writ was dropped for the April 7 vote, and the party is hoping to bolster its collapsing poll numbers by refocusing on it.

    But a YouTube video posted Tuesday by students at Westmount High School does a pretty efficient job of undermining the principles behind the charter.

    [ Related: Charter to take centre stage in second half of Que election ]

    The video, entitled "A Lesson for Premier

    Read More »from Montreal students’ video counters Quebec values charter citing Marois’ 1997 education policy

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