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O’Toole looks to woo voters in Toronto suburbs on home stretch of election campaign

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WHITBY, Ont. — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is making his pitch to voters in the Greater Toronto Area, a vote-rich region that will play a crucial role in the federal election on Sept. 20.

The GTA sprawls across more than 50 ridings, the vast majority of which are held by Liberals, including all 25 seats in Toronto proper.

But O’Toole has suburban and exurban voters in his sights as he aims to boost the Conservative share of the vote in the broader region.

The party won a majority of seats there 10 years ago, but lost out to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2015 and saw its vote share drop another five points under then-leader Andrew Scheer in 2019.

At a regional transit station in Whitby, Ont., O’Toole stressed housing affordability, rapid transit projects, tackling gang violence and improving health care.

The event in a GO Transit parking lot marked the Tory leader’s second visit to Liberal-held Whitby in two days before he flies to British Columbia to make his closing arguments to voters on the West Coast.

O’Toole’s platform plank on public transit pledges to “immediately invest in projects” that cut commute times and create jobs, but attaches no specific funding amount.

Asked Saturday if he would commit at least $5 billion to transit, O’Toole declined to offer specifics.

“I’m going to get things built. I’m going to get shovels in the ground, I’m going to get things done,” he said, accusing Trudeau of never backing up “ambition” with “achievement.”

The GTA pitch did not go off without a hitch.

On Friday, the Conservative party confirmed they had dumped Beaches-East York candidate Lisa Robinson after the riding’s Liberal incumbent, Nate Erskine-Smith, highlighted Islamophobic tweets from 2017.

“We’re running a positive campaign based on bringing the country together and getting the country back on its feet from an economic point of view. And I want people on my team to share that,” O’Toole said Saturday.

Robinson denied that the account, titled “Ward 1 city councillor, candidate,” was hers.

“The information contained in Mr. Erskine-Smith’s social media post was generated by a fake social media account which I reported to police in 2018. I have also signed an attestation confirming these facts,” she said in a post on her campaign Facebook page Friday.

“Racism and Islamophobia have no place in the Conservative Party of Canada or my campaign.”

O’Toole also appeared to give tacit approval for Tory candidates who are not fully vaccinated to campaign in retirement residences, so long as they abide by public health measures.

The question came up after Conservative candidate for Peterborough-Kawartha, Michelle Ferreri, posted photos of herself to social media canvassing in a seniors’ residence despite having received only one shot.

“We will be following all measures, including vaccines, daily rapid testing, masking and social distancing, to keep people safe. That’s not only an expectation, it’s a commitment that all members of our team have to keep people safe in a pandemic election that Mr. Trudeau called,” O’Toole said.

The Conservatives say they will prioritize construction of four rapid transit projects in the GTA: the Ontario line, which would include a section running underneath Queen Street; an extension to the Yonge subway line reaching into Markham and Richmond Hill; the controversial three-stop Scarborough subway extension; and an add-on to the Eglington light-rail line bound for Etobicoke and Mississauga.

O’Toole also zeroed in on the housing crisis, re-announcing a suite of measures to cool the heated housing market and put home ownership within reach of more Canadians. The plan, which folds into an affordability thread he’s been weaving throughout the campaign, includes building a million homes in three years and raising barriers to foreign investors.

Similarly, the Liberals have promised to build 1.4 million homes over four years and block foreign nationals from buying them for two, as well as promising to curb the practice of “flipping” properties.

“Far too many people, especially young people, are priced out of the housing market,” O’Toole said.

“And too many are already struggling with mortgage and car payments, buying gas and groceries, while Justin Trudeau drives up the cost of everything with his out-of-control spending, borrowing and debt,” he said.

Home prices have continued to climb this year — even in suburban corners of the GTA — as remote work persists and business shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic helped people save cash for big purchases.

The average price of a home in the area rose to $1.07 million in August from about $951,000 at the same time last year, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate board.

O’Toole sought to stressed his roots in the area, noting he grew up in Bowmanville, Ont., when his dad worked at a GM plant in nearby Oshawa before going on to serve as a Tory lawmaker in the provincial legislature for 19 years.

“I had a 905 phone number growing up. And I still do,” he said, adding he knows well the daily suburban commute from his time as a Bay Street lawyer.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2021.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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Mohawk Council of Kahnawake ‘repulsed’ by politicization of Habs’ land acknowledgment

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MONTREAL — The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is blasting the Quebec government for questioning a land acknowledgment by the Montreal Canadiens that refers to the unceded territory of the Mohawk Nation.

The statement, which has been read before the NHL team’s home games this season, acknowledges the hospitality of the Mohawk Nation “on this traditional and unceded territory where we are gathered today.”

Quebec Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière told reporters on Wednesday the acknowledgment may be an error.

In a statement Thursday, the elected council for the First Nations reserve across the river from Montreal commended the hockey club’s gesture as an example of true reconciliation and added it was “repulsed” by the province’s attempt to politicize the effort, which it said undermines the Mohawk presence in the Montreal region.

On Wednesday, Lafrenière told reporters that referring to a specific nation may be a mistake as historians differ on which nation was the first to live in Montreal, while adding it was important to recognize that First Nations were the first occupants.

Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said in a statement that land is an essential part of Mohawk identity.

“It holds the knowledge of our ancestors, our history and our presence, now and for the future,” Sky-Deer said. “Opinionated commentary that challenge and discredit our presence are not only insulting, they are taken as displaced attacks on our existence.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Supreme Court of Canada sides with injured woman in snow-clearing squabble

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OTTAWA — A woman will get another chance to sue for damages over a leg injury she suffered while climbing through snow piled by a city’s plow, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

Taryn Joy Marchi alleged the City of Nelson, B.C., created a hazard when it cleared snow from downtown streets after a storm in early January 2015.

The removal effort left snow piles at the edge of the street along the sidewalk early in the morning of Jan. 5.

Late in the afternoon of Jan. 6, Marchi — then a 28-year-old nurse — parked in an angled spot on the street and, wearing running shoes with a good tread, tried to cross a snow pile to get on to the sidewalk.

Her right foot dropped through the snow and she fell forward, seriously injuring her leg.

Marchi contended the city should have left openings in the snowbank to allow safe passage to the sidewalk.

She pointed to the neighbouring municipalities of Castlegar, Rossland and Penticton in arguing there were preferable ways to clear the streets so as to ensure safe access for pedestrians.

However, the trial judge dismissed her case, saying the city was immune from liability because it made legitimate policy decisions about snow clearing based on the availability of personnel and resources.

In any event, the judge concluded, Marchi assumed the risk of crossing the snow pile and was “the author of her own misfortune.”

The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the decision and ordered a new trial, saying the judge erred in addressing the city’s duty of care and the question of Marchi’s negligence.

The ruling prompted the City of Nelson to seek a hearing in the Supreme Court.

In a written submission to the high court, the city said its actions amount to “a clear example of a core policy decision” that should be immune from liability.

In her filing with the court, Marchi said city employees made a number of operational decisions that fell below the expected standard of care of a municipality — decisions not required by the written policy.

In its 7-0 ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court said a fresh trial should take place because the city has not proved that its decision on how to clear the snow was “a core policy decision” immune from liability.

While there is no suggestion the city made an irrational or “bad faith decision,” the city’s core policy defence fails and it owed Ms. Marchi a duty of care, justices Sheilah Martin and Andromache Karakatsanis wrote on behalf of the court.

“The regular principles of negligence law apply in determining whether the City breached the duty of care and, if so, whether it should be liable for Ms. Marchi’s damages.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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