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Watchdog overseeing MPP finances demands more info on Patrick Brown's house, mortgage arrangements (ven., 23 févr. 2018)
The independent watchdog overseeing MPPs’ finances is demanding to know why Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown has not declared rental income on his upscale lakefront home, the Star has learned. Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake wrote to Brown asking for details following a Star story that raised questions about how he could afford the five-bedroom house on Lake Simcoe’s Shanty Bay. “I note that an article in the Toronto Star on February 9, 2018, an employee in your constituency office is quoted saying that you receive rental income from your home,” Wake wrote Feb. 12, well before Conservative MPP Randy Hillier filed a complaint about Brown alleging financial irregularities violating the Members’ Integrity Act earlier this week. “The Act also requires that you disclose all sources of income to my office, and as such I ask that you provide me with confirmation of same,” adds Wake’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Star. Brown, who now sits as Independent MPP after being ejected from the PC caucus, was reluctant to answer questions about the lack of disclosure Thursday in a brief interview, initially saying he was “busy.” “Everything is in compliance with the integrity commissioner,” said Brown, who quit the leaders’ job Jan. 25 after a CTV News report — which he vigorously denies — accusing him of sexual misconduct with two 19-year-old women. “We’ll have a response to the integrity commissioner shortly,” added Brown, who declined to provide details before being whisked off by a waiting minivan near Yonge and Eglinton. The embattled former PC leader would also not answer questions on whether he receives an income from his 9.9 per cent stake in the downtown Barrie restaurant and sports bar, Hooligans. Later Thursday, Brown released a letter to Wake describing the Hillier complaints as “fabricated” and accusing the Tory MPP, who supports Christine Elliott in the March 10 leadership contest, of foul play. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Hillier, a legislator who claims to represent hard-working taxpayers, has opted to usurp the resources of a taxpayer-funded institution such as the Office of the Integrity Commissioner to fight an internal party leadership race.” Brown also denied Hillier’s accusations that he accepted travel as gifts, saying all trips were “cultural outreach missions…paid for by the PC party, approved by the PC Ontario Fund, and arranged in part by senior staff now working in the office of interim leader Vic Fedeli.” But Brown, who is single and 39, did not specifically address Hillier’s concerns that international travel for his girlfriend, former $500-a-week Conservative intern Genevieve Gualtieri, 23, was paid for by others. He refused to answer Star questions on Gualtieri’s jet-setting with him to India, Lebanon and other locales. Regarding the waterfront manse in a well-to-do Lake Simcoe enclave north of Barrie, Brown said his mortgage payments were about $90,000 a year on a gross income of $180,000 as leader, or $120,000 net. “That left me with $30,000 in post-mortgage, after-tax income — which is, as it turns out, the same amount retained by the average Ontarian after taxes and mortgage/rent payments,” Brown wrote in a two-page missive frequently touting tax cuts and other promises in his moribund People’s Guarantee platform for the June 7 provincial election. Brown, who now earns $116,500 as a backbench MPP after being turfed from the PC caucus, did not make any mention of the costs of property taxes, estimated at $16,500 annually in a 2016 real estate listing, utilities or upkeep on the sprawling house. Publicly available records first reported by the Star show the home was purchased for $2.3 million in July 2016, just over a year after he became PC leader, with a mortgage of $1.72 million. The letter from Wake earlier this month states Brown in September 2017 submitted information listing the property value as just $1.91 million with a remaining mortgage of $1.64 million. Wake’s memo also notes Brown wrote to him Feb. 5 — two weeks after losing his leader’s job and taking a hefty pay cut — to say he obtained “a short-term secondary loan” on the property. Wake also called for more details on “updated financing information for the property, i.e. the amount(s) and the lender(s).” Despite the allegations against him, Brown got the green light to run in the leadership race from the party’s provincial nominations committee Wednesday, causing a stir at Queen’s Park. MPP Deb Matthews, co-chair of the Liberal re-election campaign, said the accusations against Brown suggest “unacceptable behaviour for someone who aspires to be premier of the province.” “This is a guy who has admitted to have very young women in his home with alcohol. His behaviour, by his own admission, is not okay,” said Matthews, adding his candidacy makes the Tories look bad and will leave lasting damage. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Brown imbroglio proves the Tories are not fit to govern with an election just three months after they pick a new leader. “It’s really apparent that this party does not have its house in order and they are not prepared to take the reins of government in Ontario,” said Horwath. Conservative MPP Todd Smith, a co-chair of Elliott’s leadership campaign, said he was “a bit surprised” Brown got the go-ahead. “I’m sure he’s going to give it the best he’s got to try and win back his old job. I just don’t think he can do it. I think there’s been too much damage.” Also running for the job are rookie PC candidate Caroline Mulroney, ex-Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and Tanya Granic Allen, an anti-sex education crusader. “We need to do better. We need someone who will stand up for integrity and put party before self,” Mulroney, the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, tweeted Thursday in a shot at Brown.
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Raymond Cormier found not guilty in death of Tina Fontaine (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
WINNIPEG—A man accused of killing a 15-year-old Indigenous girl and dumping her body in Winnipeg’s Red River has been found not guilty of second-degree murder. Tina Fontaine’s remains were discovered eight days after she was reported missing in August 2014. Raymond Cormier was charged more than a year later. The jury deliberated for 11 hours before coming to its decision. There were gasps from Tina’s family and their supporters as the verdict was read. Her great-aunt, Thelma Favel, who raised the girl wept. Read more: Jury to decide fate of Raymond Cormier, accused of killing Tina Fontaine Prosecutors argue Raymond Cormier’s own words convict him in Tina Fontaine’s death Jury finished hearing evidence in trial of man accused of killing Tina Fontaine “Do you really think you’re going to get away with it?” yelled one woman who was escorted out of court. The Crown had argued that Cormier convicted himself with his own admissions on secret police recordings, but the defence said numerous forensic holes in the prosecution’s case had left reasonable doubt. Tina was being sexually exploited after coming to Winnipeg from her home on the Sagkeeng First Nation. Her death prompted renewed calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. There was no DNA evidence linking Cormier to the teen and doctors who were called to testify said they could not definitively say how Tina died. Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Glenn Joyal had told jurors that if they weren’t satisfied that Tina’s death was caused by an unlawful act, such as being smothered or dumped in the water while unconscious, then they had to find Cormier not guilty. If they decided her death was unlawful, then jurors were to determine if Cormier was responsible. Over three weeks of testimony, the jury heard how Tina’s relatively stable upbringing spiralled out of control when her father was murdered. Her mother came back into her life and Tina had gone to visit her in Winnipeg, where the girl descended into life on the streets. She and her boyfriend met the much-older Cormier in the summer of 2014. The jury heard Cormier gave the couple a place to stay, gave Tina drugs and had sex with her. Witnesses remember Tina and Cormier fighting in the street over a stolen truck and Tina accusing him of selling her bike for drugs. Tina went so far as to report a stolen truck to police. She was in the care of social services and was staying at a Winnipeg hotel when she disappeared. Her body was found wrapped in a Costco duvet cover that several witnesses said was similar to one Cormier owned. Experts testified the river had washed away any DNA on the cover. Investigators went undercover and offered Cormier an apartment. Audio bugs captured what formed the heart of the Crown’s case. Cormier was recorded telling a woman that he would make a bet that Tina was killed because he had had sex with her and then “I found out she was 15 years old.” In another recording, Cormier was heard arguing with a woman and saying that there was a little girl in a “grave someplace screaming at the top of her lungs for me to finish the job. And guess what? I finished the job.” The defence took issue with the quality of the recordings and argued that without DNA evidence and no cause of death, the Crown couldn’t prove that Tina didn’t die from a drug overdose or naturally in what Cormier’s lawyer called the “underbelly of the city.”
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‘Bully’ bosses issue ‘swept under the carpet’ until junior government lawyer sent email (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
A junior lawyer’s decision to speak out — with an email copied to dozens of government lawyers — about an allegedly “abusive” boss at Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General caused Queen’s Park to finally take notice of historic problems that were later called a “festering” sore in a government report. “I write to express my profound disappointment and deep sense of shame in the organization I work for under your leadership,” the young lawyer wrote in November 2016 to then-deputy attorney general Patrick Monahan. Seeking maximum impact, the junior lawyer copied her two-page letter of complaint to the executive management group and dozens of rank and file lawyers at the attorney general’s ministry. She was responding to Monahan’s glowing description in a staff email of Malliha Wilson, his assistant deputy attorney general who had just received a lateral posting to another part of the Ontario public service. “Your memo is particularly distressing given that you and other senior leadership in government . . . are fully aware of this pattern of behaviour,” the junior lawyer wrote. “Yet you chose to sweep all of this under the carpet.” Wednesday, the Star reported on a secret government report into the behaviour of “bully” bosses at the ministry. In short, report author Leslie Macleod found that the workplace at the Civil Law Division is a “toxic” cesspool where senior bureaucrats — male and female — bully, harass and discriminate against hundreds of lawyers and administrative assistants. In response to the story, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told reporters at Queen’s Park that he had previously been briefed about the situation, the report and how there “are some challenges by the officials.” “Now that the report is there I know that the ministry is taking the responsibility very seriously and working hard to implement the recommendations of the report.” Neither Naqvi nor senior ministry bureaucrats would answer specific questions by the Star. Naqvi said secrecy around the report (it was never released publicly) existed to protect employees, although no specific examples of complaints are in the completed document. “Over 250 people were interviewed. They came forward and discussed their perspective and their opinions on the basis of confidentiality because they did not want any negative repercussions towards their careers and the work they do,” Naqvi said. The Star has attempted numerous times to reach former assistant deputy attorney general Wilson, now in private practice. The Star has also sought comment from former deputy attorney general Monahan, but he was recently appointed to a judgeship and a spokesperson said he would not be commenting. “It is not appropriate for Judges of the Superior Court of Justice to discuss such matters in the media,” said spokesperson Norine Nathanson. Wilson, who was assistant deputy attorney general from 2008 to 2016, was transferred to the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario in November 2016, stayed for one year and recently formed her own law firm. Here is what sparked the report into her conduct and that of dozens of other senior managers at the ministry, which is generally thought of as the “law firm for Ontario,” according to people who work at the ministry. Sources within the ministry say that for several years government lawyers were complaining to Monahan and others about bully bosses, including Wilson. Nothing substantive was done. Among the complaints were allegations that senior management frequently ordered lawyers to change their well-researched legal opinions, sometimes for political reasons. In the summer of 2016 a group of senior lawyers who reported to Wilson and Monahan contacted Steve Orsini, the secretary of cabinet in Ontario who serves as the province’s top civil servant. Orsini stepped in and Monahan was told to look into the allegations against his assistant deputy (Wilson). A “survey” was done, apparently without Wilson’s knowledge, and it confirmed at least some of the allegations. A decision was made to move Wilson out of the attorney general’s ministry to another government posting with similar salary. On Nov. 18, 2016, Monahan wrote a glowing memo about Wilson’s years of service, saying “our colleague Malliha Wilson has decided to pursue an exciting new opportunity” at the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario. The six-paragraph note lauded her for many accomplishments, including “breaking down silos and co-ordinating the delivery of legal services.” Finally, Monahan wrote, “I want to personally acknowledge the extremely valuable support Malliha has provided me during my time as deputy . . . her departure will be a loss for (the ministry). That went out on a Friday. The following Monday afternoon, a junior lawyer who had worked for Wilson wrote a strongly worded note to Monahan, and copied others in the ministry. “In my view, your memorandum illustrates a lack of sensitivity to, or basic understanding of, the experiences of the many people who served or have served under you. At the very least, it has raised deep cynicism about the possibility that, despite the clear evidence of (assistant deputy attorney general) Wilson’s long history of abusive behaviour, senior leadership might subscribe to the views expressed in the memo.” The Star has been unable to reach the junior lawyer and is not publishing her name at this time. The junior lawyer wrote in her note, sent to some of the highest-ranked civil servants in Ontario, that Monahan’s laudatory memo “serves to minimize and silence those of us who were subject to her abusive behaviour and it re-subjects us to the humiliation and cruelty that characterized her relationships with so many of the people that worked for her.” The junior lawyer said that after observing poor treatment of many others by Wilson she finally “walked out” of Wilson’s office “after suffering a particularly abusive attack.” In her note she writes of numerous times when she was “proud to work as a public servant” at the ministry. “But today I am ashamed of the institution I work for.” She said it would have been better if Monahan had written a simple, neutral note announcing Wilson’s departure. She called on Monahan to show “strong leadership and a commitment to integrity and honesty.” By January 2017, Monahan and other senior leaders in the provincial government had hired Macleod, a former public servant, to conduct an in-depth investigation into allegations of harassment, threatening and verbal abuse at the ministry. Among her conclusions after a six-month probe were that “many employees work in an atmosphere of constant fear of retribution and a culture of silence prevails.” Irwin Glasberg was brought in to take over from Wilson on an interim basis after she moved to another government department. Monahan became a judge, and a new deputy appointed to replace him in early 2018 (Paul Boniferro, previously a lawyer in private practice at McCarthy Tetrault) Macleod’s report, concluded in July 2017, has remained under wraps. It was shared with lawyers in the ministry, but they were all warned not to distribute it. She made more than 100 recommendations but the ministry will not say which are being implemented. The report is called “Turning the Ship Around.” Thursday, the Star was contacted by five current ministry lawyers who said they continue to have the same concerns about the ministry as they did two years ago. Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-312-3503 or kdonovan@thestar.ca
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Newmarket man claims $250,000 Instant Ice prize OLG flagged as ‘insider win’ (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
What must have felt like a really long wait has finally ended for lottery winner Larry Allen. On Wednesday, the Newmarket man claimed his $250,000 prize, won playing Instant Ice, following a 30-day waiting period imposed after the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation deemed his victory an “insider win.” Allen, 55, had to wait because his sister-in-law is an employee at an OLG retail location, according to a news release. Before Allen could claim his prize, he had to wait 30 days while OLG publicized the win. “I usually play Pro-Line as well as Lotto Max and Lotto 6/49,” Allen said while picking up his winnings at the OLG Prize Centre in Toronto. “After I picked up my Pro-Line ticket, I happened to have an extra $10 and decided to try Instant Ice.” Allen said he checked his ticket at home and did a double take when he realized he’d won. “I had to look over my ticket twice,” he said. “My mother, two sisters and niece were all quite happy about my win.” Whenever a winner is identified as an “insider,” or someone with a close connection to the lottery process — a long list of those who’d qualify is posted online — OLG sends the case to a third-party reviewer. “It happens often, but it’s because of the process,” said OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti. While no statistics were immediately available on the typical wait or how frequently it happens, Bitonti said OLG sends out a news release in every case. In most cases, as with Allen’s, all is well and the winner gets their prize. Allen said he’s going to put some of the prize money in the bank, but he also plans to share some of it with his family. Allen bought his winning ticket at Newmarket Smokes and Convenience on Davis Dr. With files from Emma McIntosh
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After endorsement from Trump, NRA denounces FBI, calls Democrats ‘saboteurs,’ says reporters ‘love mass shootings’ (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
WASHINGTON—Emerging from their defensive crouch, officials from the National Rifle Association, America’s top gun-rights lobby group, went on the attack Thursday with a series of wild claims — accusing members of the media of being happy about mass shootings and the Democratic Party of being “infested” with America-hating “socialists” and “saboteurs” looking to seize control of the country. NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch and executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, both known for inflammatory rhetoric, delivered consecutive speeches filled with conspiratorial and aggressive assertions at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington — just before a speech by Vice-President Mike Pence. Loesch accused the reporters in the room and the companies they work for of secretly enjoying massacres like the mass shooting in which 17 people were killed at a Florida high school last week. “I’ll say it really slowly so all the people on the platform in the back can hear me loud and clear: Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” she said, emphasizing each word. “You guys love it. Now, I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media in the back.” Her remark was roundly condemned by members of the media. “I’ve covered a lot of mass shootings, and no, journalists don’t love them. May God have mercy on your soul, you horrible person,” television host Soledad O’Brien wrote on Twitter. The NRA had remained quiet in the days following the Florida massacre even as gun control advocates seized public attention. Their temporary silence was “absolutely standard practice,” said Robert Spitzer, a professor and chair of political science at SUNY Cortland who has written five books on gun policy: the organization typically adopts a “duck-and-cover” strategy following a massacre, “waiting for the storm to pass,” he said. They didn’t wait long this time. LaPierre, like President Donald Trump did on Wednesday, argued that the solution to school shootings is more armed employees and other security measures in schools; he said “schools must the most hardened targets in this country.” But his speech was not limited to a defence of gun rights. The NRA has morphed from a single-issue entity, focused on guns, into an open supporter of the Republican Party. As is his usual practice at CPAC, LaPierre launched a broadside at the Democratic Party, alleging that Democratic leaders are not progressives or left-wingers but “socialists” bent on destroying American values like “faith” and “patriotism.” Read more: Analysis | Trump tells grieving students the U.S. needs more guns in schools How a despicable Parkland conspiracy video hit No. 1 on YouTube ‘Last night I told my wife I would take a bullet for the kids’ LaPierre painted a frightening picture of the state of American society, warning conservatives to be afraid of lurking dangers to their liberty. The goal of “elites,” he said, is not to protect children but “to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.” LaPierre offered little or no evidence for many of his claims. Much of his rhetoric about a hidden socialist menace — he warned that many college students are being assigned to read the Communist Manifesto — hearkened back to the Cold War. But this was no old-fashioned CPAC. The conference, one of the country’s top conservative gatherings, was thoroughly suffused with Trump’s influence. The day’s first panel was titled “An Affair to Remember: How the Far Left and the Mainstream Media Got in Bed Together.” Shortly after Pence, the conference was to hear from Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a member of France’s far-right National Front political dynasty. In between, a radio host taped a show featuring controversial former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, who railed against the Russia probe. Le Pen complained about what she said was a growing influence of Muslim immigrants in France. “I want America first for the American people, Britain first for the British people, and France first for the French people,” Le Pen said to cheers — referring both to a Trump slogan and the name of a British extreme-right party. Trump’s impact was felt in both NRA speeches. Loesch and LaPierre departed from the organization’s typical effusive praise of law enforcement to denounce the FBI — not only for its failure to heed warnings about the Florida shooter but over the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. “Even the FBI is not free of its own corruption and its own unethical agents,” said LaPierre, complaining that nobody at the organization had stood up against its “rogue leadership.” Trump offered praise for LaPierre and his NRA colleagues soon before the speech. “What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump wrote on Twitter. Pence followed LaPierre with a well-received speech in which he listed Trump’s conservative accomplishments, from cutting regulations to withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. He declared that “2017 was the most consequential year in the history of the conservative movement.” He also complained that there is “too much anger in America.”
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New-home sales in Toronto hit 10-year low (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
New construction home sales — houses and condos — declined by 48 per cent in January in the Toronto region, compared to the frenzied real estate market in the same month last year. It's a 31 per cent drop from the 10-year average and reflects a supply shortage that has also helped push up prices in the same period, says Toronto's building industry association. The single-family benchmark home price rose 19.6 per cent year-over-year last month to $1.23 million — up from about $1 million last January. Condo prices climbed about 41 per cent year-over-year to a benchmark of $714,430, said the Building and Land Development Association (BILD). Prices remained flat, however, from December, according to the research compiled by Altus Group. Of the 1,251 new construction homes sold last month in the Toronto region, only 365 were single-family units. That marks a 10-year low and a 53 per cent decline from last year. Condo sales were down 47 per cent year-over-year, 5 per cent below the 10-year average. The supply of new homes increased by 350 units in January from December to 11,750 — a three- to four-month supply based on the pace of sales in the last year. "A healthy new home market should have nine to 12 months' worth of inventory," said BILD in a Thursday press release. "The GTA is expected to grow by 9.7 million people by 2041. How are we going to house them," said the association's CEO Dave Wilkes in the release. Meanwhile, despite the high cost of new-build housing in the region, there are some good values available to consumers, says an analysis of searches on BuzzBuzzHome, an online hub for new home developments. The website had more than 1 million hits last month, up 58 per cent from January 2017, with first-time buyers the biggest segment searching online for a home, according to its “Residential Real Estate Round Up Report.” The analysis looks at the size, location and price of low-rise and high-rise housing developments throughout the Toronto region. The east end of the GTA will give buyers the most bang for their buck, but there are some good values to be had in the west, where condos in Brampton and Mississauga are under-valued compared to other kinds of homes in those communities, said Ben Myers of Bullpen Research and Consulting, the report's author. The most popular floor plans that home buyers searched were three-bedroom townhouses and four-bedroom detached homes. Downtown Toronto continues to be the hottest condo market, with units at 357 King attracting the most searches. Those buyers are looking for smaller, less expensive apartments. The most popular units tend to be studios and small one-bedrooms between 375 sq. ft. and 550 sq. ft., priced for less than $500,000. Interest in condos is also spreading to secondary markets such as Hamilton and Waterloo, said Myers. In Hamilton, the average condo was priced under $300,000. Projects in that city drew 44 per cent more page views in January compared to December, says the report. Empty nesters looking to cash out of the city are looking at secondary condo markets such as Grimsby, Collingwood, Barrie, Guelph and Orillia, said Myers. He warned that the continued price growth in the condo market will push rents higher as investment buyers look for returns on their purchases. Average asking price for new construction homes $1.6 million Detached house $988,343 Townhouse $903,054 Semi-detached house $782,488 Condominium Source: Research by Altus Group for the Building and Land Development Association
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Special counsel brings new charges against ex-Trump associates Manafort and Gates (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
WASHINGTON—Dramatically escalating the pressure and stakes, special counsel Robert Mueller filed additional criminal charges Thursday against U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and his business associate. The filing adds allegations of tax evasion and bank fraud and significantly increases the legal jeopardy facing Paul Manafort, who managed Trump’s campaign for several months in 2016, and longtime associate Rick Gates. Both had already faced the prospect of at least a decade in prison if convicted at trial. The two men were initially charged in a 12-count indictment in October that accused them of a multimillion-dollar money-laundering conspiracy tied to lobbying work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party. The new charges, contained in a 32-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Virginia, allege that Manafort and Gates doctored financial documents, lied to tax preparers and defrauded banks — using money they cycled through offshore accounts to spend lavishly, including on real estate, interior decorating and other luxury goods. Read more: Special counsel charges Russian troll farm, 13 individuals over meddling to help Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign Manafort and Gates plead not guilty on Trump-Russia probe charges. Third aide pleads guilty to lying to FBI Manafort and Gates face decades in prison, millions in fines. Here’s what’s in their indictment The new criminal case comes a week after a separate Mueller indictment charged 13 Russians in a conspiracy to undermine the U.S. presidential election through a hidden social media propaganda effort. The charges against Manafort and Gates don’t relate to any allegations of misconduct related to Trump’s campaign, though Mueller is continuing to investigate potential ties to the Kremlin. The charges against Manafort and Gates arise from their foreign lobbying and efforts that prosecutors say they made to conceal their income by disguising it as loans from offshore companies. More recently, after their Ukrainian work dwindled, the indictment also accuses them of fraudulently obtaining more than $20 million (U.S.) in loans from financial institutions. The new indictment increases the amount of money Manafort, with the assistance of Gates, is accused of laundering to $30 million. It also charges Manafort and Gates with filing false tax returns from 2010 through 2014 and in most of those years concealing their foreign bank accounts from the IRS. In a document that accompanied the new indictment, prosecutors said they had filed the charges in Virginia, rather than Washington where the other case is pending, because the alleged conduct occurred there and one of the defendants objected to them being brought in Washington. The indictment comes amid ongoing turmoil in the Manafort and Gates defence camps. Manafort has been unable to reach an agreement with prosecutors over the terms of his bail and remains under house arrest, while Gates’s lawyers withdrew from the case after acknowledging “irreconcilable differences” with their client. A new lawyer, Thomas Green, entered an appearance Thursday on Gates’s behalf. Mueller was appointed in May to investigate potential co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. He took over an ongoing FBI investigation into Manafort’s foreign lobbying work. After a two-month stretch that produced no charges, the new indictment is part of a flurry of activity for Mueller’s team within the past week. Besides the charges against the Russians, Mueller’s team on Tuesday unsealed a guilty plea from a Dutch lawyer who admitted he lied to investigators about his contacts with Gates. Manafort and Gates, who also worked on Trump’s campaign, both pleaded not guilty after their indictment last fall. Two other people who aided Trump in the campaign or in the White House — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos — have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about their foreign contacts. Neither man has been sentenced. Both are co-operating with the investigation. Mueller is also examining whether Trump obstructed justice through actions including the firing last May of FBI Director James Comey. His team has expressed interest in interviewing the president.
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India-Canada relations at ‘rock bottom’ after Trudeau invitation error, ex-Liberal cabinet minister says (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
OTTAWA—The stunning oversight that allowed a man convicted of attempted murder to be invited to a party in New Delhi with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is rocking Canada’s ties with India just as the government is trying to boost trade in Asia. The fiasco has left relations between the two countries at an all-time low, said one former Liberal cabinet minister, while other observers call it proof the government must jettison the photo ops in traditional Indian clothing in favour of a more serious foreign policy stance. Ujjal Dosanjh, a former Liberal health minister, ex-premier of British Columbia and one-time provincial attorney general, accused his old federal party of being too close to Sikh separatists even before Trudeau’s arrival Sunday in India. Inviting Jaspal Atwal to a reception, however, was the last straw, Dosanjh suggested. Atwal was convicted of attempting to kill Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island in 1986. He was also charged, but not convicted, in connection with a 1985 attack on Dosanjh, a staunch opponent of the Sikh separatist movement’s push for an independent state of Khalistan. “Mr. Trudeau can perhaps salvage our relationship (with India), but I think it hit rock bottom with this,” Dosanjh said in an interview Thursday. “It was already sliding downwards from the moment they got to India.” Trudeau’s office said the invitation was a mistake and was rescinded as soon as Atwal was discovered on the guest list. However, He showed up at a reception earlier in the week in Mumbai and was photographed with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the prime minister’s wife. Read more: Trudeau says convicted Sikh extremist should not have been invited to event in India Trudeau’s office rescinds invite to convicted Canadian Sikh extremist who reportedly attended prime minister’s event in India Trudeau denies Indian politician’s allegations that Canadian ministers are Sikh separatists Dosanjh said he couldn’t believe what he was seeing when he saw the photograph. “I don’t particularly want the man punished again, but it was disbelief that he would be able to associate with a reception in Mumbai,” said Dosanjh. “How could the RCMP, how could the PMO, how could the high commissioner — how could all three of them — be blind to this?” Atwal was added to the guest list by British Columbia MP Randeep Sarai, one of 14 MPs in India with Trudeau. Sarai has acknowledged he should have used better judgment. Either the RCMP dropped the ball in properly vetting the guest list, or they were given a false name that didn’t raise a flag, said David Hyde, a Toronto-based security and risk management specialist. “To me, it’s pretty unconscionable that it would happen.” The incident is embarrassing for the prime minister, said Chris Mathers, a security consultant who helped protect 24 Sussex Drive as a young Mountie when Trudeau’s father held office. But Sarai didn’t help matters by independently inviting Atwal to the reception. “If the members of Parliament themselves are working at cross-purposes to the security services, how are we supposed to prevent stuff like this?” The incident raises questions about the ability of Trudeau’s office to plan and execute a foreign trip, said David Mulroney, a career public servant who served as a foreign policy adviser to former prime minister Stephen Harper. “We shouldn’t be sending the prime minister into situations that are uncertain and where the visit is consumed by the drama of whether something that should have been predictable happens or not. That’s happening too much.” Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, recalled Trudeau’s December trip to the People’s Republic, where he faced criticism for being unable to announce the start of formal free trade talks. All of it is a symptom of something more serious: a failure to think seriously about our interests in the world, said Mulroney. “We’re relying too much on how photogenic and how popular we think the prime minister is, and it’s beginning to backfire on us.” Trudeau’s turbulent trip to India has drawn criticism from the Conservatives and raised eyebrows internationally. Trudeau had to profess his support for a united India after local journalists and pundits accused him of being soft on Sikh separatists. And some critics insist Trudeau is being snubbed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even though the two are to meet on Friday. Modi tweeted he is looking forward to meeting Trudeau and that he appreciated “his deep commitment to ties between our two countries.” But his decision to wait five days to meet Trudeau is a deliberate demonstration of his displeasure over Canada’s handling of the Sikh issue, Mulroney said. “It is a real signal that all is not well and he doesn’t appreciate what he’s hearing about our position,” he said. “He’s got a strong personality and he’s not afraid of sending strong messages.”
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Province moves ahead with pursuit of trains powered by hydrogen fuel cells for GO Transit (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
The provincial government is pushing ahead with plans to explore the use of untested hydrogen train technology for a major expansion of GO Transit service. Transportation Minister Kathryn McGarry announced Thursday that a study launched by Metrolinx last year has concluded it would be “technically feasible” to run trains powered by hydrogen fuel cells on GO lines as an alternative to traditional electrification, which uses overhead wires. The province has contracted two European rail manufacturers, Alstom and Siemens, to create “concept designs” for a self-propelled hydrogen-powered coach. McGarry also announced the government has issued a request for proposals for the design of a hydrogen-powered locomotive to pull GO coaches. “The decisions we make today will determine what the next 50 years of GO Transit will be. We need to make sure that we have carefully considered all of our options before we make a decision that will impact the landscape and the environment of our province for generations,” said McGarry at a press conference at the MaRS Centre in downtown Toronto. “Knowing that it should be possible to electrify GO Transit using trains powered by hydrogen fuel cells, we are now asking industry if they can deliver on this technology.” Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the GTHA, is in the midst of a major $13.5-billion expansion called regional express rail (RER), under which parts of the GO network will be electrified to allow for more frequent and efficient service. The project is scheduled for completion by 2025. Last June the province made the surprise announcement that it would explore hydrogen rail technology, or “hydrail,” as a possible alternative to traditional overhead electrification for the RER program. Metrolinx considers the newer technology a form of electrification, because hydrogen fuel can be produced using only electricity and water. Depending on the source of the electricity, the process is effectively emissions-free. Hydrogen trains would have many potential advantages over traditional electrification, including lower set-up costs and minimal impact on the local environment, McGarry said. The technology would also allow GO to run trains powered by green technology on parts of the network where overhead wiring isn’t possible. According to a Metrolinx summary, the feasibility study determined that the cost of building and operating a hydrogen rail system would be “equivalent” to traditional electrification. But it also found “implementation of (a hydrogen rail system) of this scale and complexity has never been undertaken, and presents a different set of risks.” Hydrogen-powered commuter trains aren’t in regular service anywhere in the world. Last year, Alstom signed a contract to build 14 hydrogen trains for a transportation authority in Germany, but the vehicles, which are scheduled for delivery in 2021, are significantly smaller than GO’s heavy double-decker carriages. It’s not clear if the technology could be adapted to Metrolinx’s needs and manufactured by 2025. The agency has estimated it could require 300 self-propelled coaches for the level of service required by RER, which McGarry described as the largest commuter rail project in the country. Despite the unknowns, Phil Verster, Metrolinx’s CEO, told reporters he doesn’t believe the agency is going out on a limb by exploring hydrogen. “I think we are in exactly the right place,” he said. “We’re not saying this must be the solution . . . . So let’s be sure we understand exactly what risks we’ve got, what opportunities we’ve got, and then make the choice.” Metrolinx plans to issue a request for proposals for RER at the end of 2018. The winning consortium will be responsible for designing, building, operating, and maintaining the rail network, and it will be up to the bidders to propose either traditional electrification or hydrogen trains. “We have left the door open with parallel processes . . . . We’ll continue to look at all technologies,” McGarry said. A Metrolinx spokesperson said the entire hydrogen exercise is costing Metrolinx $7.4 million. Alstom and Siemens will receive $1.5 million each for the vehicle design work. Ben Spurr can be reached at 416 869-4547, or bspurr@thestar.ca.
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Gambling boss hit with 2-year prison term (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
The head of a multi-million dollar illegal sports gambling operation managed a broad smile in University Avenue court on Wednesday despite being sentenced to two years in prison and fined $3-million. The grimace from David Hair, 50, came as a loud rooster-crowing sound interrupted his sentencing for running Platinum Sports Book, an online gambling enterprise that grossed more than $100 million in five years before it was shut down on Super Bowl Sunday in February 2013. “It’s not a real rooster,” Justice John McMahon said of what seemed to be the sounds coming from a cellphone, before resuming his sentencing, which also included a $3-million fine. The justice noted that the Crown Harry Poon and defense lawyer David Bayliss agreed to the sentence and fine, which spared the court a four to six-month trial. Hair, who wore a dark blue Adidas track suit to court, presented the court with a cheque for $2-million. He has three years to pay the remaining $1-million, or spend another year in prison after pleading guilty to bookmaking for a criminal organization. Asked if he had any words for the court, Hair replied: “No thank you.” The judge noted that Hair has complied with conditions of his $400,000 bail over the past five years. Platinum took bets across Southern Ontario on a variety of sports, including horse racing, college football and the NFL. Five years ago, police said they found $680,000 in bundled cash in his London, Ont. home that was believed to be Platinum SB revenues. Police also found a special BlackBerry phone called a “Zapper” in his home, which was programmed to destroy Platinum communications to avoid detection by police. An agreed statement of facts described Hair as “a leading member of the upper-echelon management group” of Platinum SB, which was run through computers located in Costa Rica. Poon told court last month that Platinum had been in operation since as early as 2004. It employed hundreds of bookies or agents across Canada, who signed up thousands of bettors. Hair was one of 31 people arrested at a posh Super Bowl party at a Markham banquet hall in February 2013 held for more than 2,000 gamblers. The 2013 Platinum Super Bowl party cost $100,000 to stage, and featured door prizes like jetskis and big-screen TVs. Also arrested at the time was Billy Miller, former president of the London and Toronto North chapters of the Hells Angels, who moved to the Dominican Republic. Court heard he was also involved in a cigar business there. Miller was sentenced to 15 months in custody in September by Justice Michael Brown. Rob Barletta, president of the London, Ont. Hells Angels was charged with committing a crime for a criminal organization and bookmaking, but those charges were later withdrawn. A government audit suggested Platinum grossed more than $103 million between 2009 and 2013. Court earlier heard that alternate gambling websites were set up almost immediately after the Platinum sites were disabled. The agreed statement of facts stated that Platinum bookies generally didn’t need to resort to muscle to collect debts. “While delinquent debts could be collected by intimidation, the 18-month long investigation revealed little evidence of intimidation,” the court document stated.
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Former kids’ baseball coach faces more sexual abuse charges (ven., 23 févr. 2018)
A former baseball coach accused of sexually abusing children now faces new charges, Toronto police said Thursday. Robert Humphrey, 51, had access to children through coaching and working at hockey rinks in Toronto, police said. The allegations of abuse span from 1993 to 2017. Humphrey was first arrested by Durham police on Jan. 5. Investigators alleged he befriended a minor and sexually assaulted them several times between 2013 and 2017. Some of the alleged abuse involved a second minor. Investigators said Humphrey threatened to release photos of the victims if they went to police. Durham police charged him with three counts of sexual assault, invitation to sexual touching, sexual interference, two counts of possession of child pornography, two counts of making child pornography and two counts of extortion. Humphrey was arrested a second time Jan. 19, this time by Toronto police. Days after Durham police announced the charges, a 33-year-old woman told Toronto police she’d been sexually assaulted repeatedly between 1994 and 1996, when she was roughly 9. Days later, police arrested Humphrey and charged him with sexual assault and sexual interference. Toronto police arrested the former coach again Wednesday evening after a new alleged victim came forward. The victim, a 35-year-old man, alleged he was sexually assaulted several times between 1993 and 2001. Humphrey is now charged with another two counts of sexual assault, a count of sexual exploitation and two counts of uttering threats. With files from Metroland Media
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Police arrest suspect in fatal shooting near U of T’s Scarborough campus (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
A 21-year-old Toronto man has been charged in a fatal shooting near the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus last week. Anik Stewart, 21, was shot at 271 Old Kingston Rd., near Military Trail, at about 1 a.m. on Feb. 15. Stewart was rushed to hospital, but died from his injuries. Aruran Suthakaran of Toronto was arrested Wednesday evening, charged with second-degree murder. Stewart’s death was Toronto’s seventh homicide of 2018.
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OPP continue search for boy swept away by Grand River floodwaters (jeu., 22 févr. 2018)
The same word is used over and over to describe what happened to Kaden Young, the little 3-year-old boy swept down the Grand River and presumed dead. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare, says the grocery store owner. It’s a nightmare, says the librarian. Nightmare, says the baker. Each one has interacted with Kaden or his family in some way in this small town of Grand Valley (population: 2,956) near Orangeville. “It’s tough,” said Paul Nancekivell, the Ontario Provincial Police constable on scene. “It’s small towns, where everybody knows everybody. Everybody then shares in the tragedy because it’s such a close knit community.” Flying in a helicopter close to the treetops, two OPP officers were exploring the river banks through a powerful camera lens, looking to spot the little boy in a blue winter coat. This is Day 2 of the search — an ordeal that has traumatized everyone here. “It’s difficult for first responders because a lot of us live around this area,” he said. “We get know these people on a day-to-day basis . . . not just stopping them for tickets but our kids play hockey with them.” On Wednesday, at 12:52 a.m., Michelle Hanson was driving back from Grand Valley along the Tenth Line roadway in Dufferin County, with her son, Kaden. She left home to get cigarettes, she told police. The river was rising tremendously on the rainy, foggy night. The water was collecting almost two metres above the road, partially submerging tree trunks and mail boxes lined down the street. Hanson drove past a road closure sign marked by the orange pylons in the fog, according to police, and got stuck in the forceful waters. She tried to back up, but the current caught her metallic blue-grey Kia Sedona, dragging the van into the river, police said. Somehow, she managed to get out of the vehicle with her son. But a wave of water then hit the mother and son, and the boy slipped from her hands, according to police. Hanson was screaming when the Grand Valley fire department rescued her at the bridge hovering over the river, Nancekivell said. She has since left hospital and gone home, still suffering from shock and hypothermia. Nancekivell believes the boy is somewhere where the van went in and the ice-chunk-filled Bellwood Lake, 15 kilometres southeast. The river to the lake is huge, he said, with bends, rocky banks and trees. “There’s a sewer grate across the dam (at the lake),” Nancekivell said. “We’re thinking he’s somewhere between here and that grate. He wouldn’t be able to float further south, because the Grand River goes way down Kitchener.” Twenty-five officers are on the ground, 15 actively part of the on-ground search party, armed with long sticks to poke and prod the banks. Those remaining are housed in the Grand Valley firehouse, where they gather with equipment and computers on the white tables of the hall, in their camouflage uniform. The emergency response team of searchers are trained in GPS grid searching, and “basically beating the bushes looking for anything we can find,” Nancekivell said. A fresh crop of searchers replaced those that have been on duty since Wednesday evening. The pattern will continue until the search ends. A dive team was on site Wednesday to pull out the van and make sure no one was there. It was towed away Thursday morning to the OPP station to be processed by the forensic identification unit and commercial motor vehicle inspectors. Police don’t believe there were any mechanical defects in the vehicle, but want to make sure. On Thursday, the water is calm; the grey-ish blue current stays near the bottom of the valley, less than 15 metres deep. Nancekivell recalled the boy’s grandfather’s words to him: “I shouldn’t be burying my three-year-old grandson,” he told the officer. “And that’s the whole truth,” Nancekivell said. “At 65 years old, he’s supposed to be enjoying time with that kid. Playing hockey. Taking him to baseball games.” Kaden’s family — his grandparents, his relatives from Ottawa — are leading their own search near Bellwood Lake, trying to reach the areas the police haven’t covered yet. Kaden’s mom is heavily sedated, Nancekivill said, still in shock. Kaden has one sibling, a brother, one year older. “The hardest part is waiting. When are we going to find him? I don’t know,” Nancekivell said. “It’s frustrating. As morbid as it is to find a 3-year-old boy passed away, I have to look at the more positive side. We want to bring closure to that family. “It’s a chapter that has to be closed.”
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