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Premier Doug Ford

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The buck starts here!

 

Many People may have complained about the lack of details in Doug Ford’s campaign platform; however, one thing is certain, Doug Ford is planning to keep his promises. One of the key promises of his election campaign, “buck-a-beer” will be kept starting August 27 just before Labour Day weekend. The plan is to lower the minimum price of a can or a bottle of beer with an alcohol volume below 5.6 percent to $1 from $1.25. The announcement was made this week, conveniently before Civic Holiday weekend when Premier Ford didn’t forget to wish everyone a “responsible” long weekend “with your beverage of choice”. Being responsible does not always go hand in hand with alcohol. A spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) who fear cheaper beer sends the wrong message, stated that “increased consumption can in turn lead to increase alcohol related problems, including impaired driving.”

Of course, the buck-a-beer approach is not new to Ontario. In 2008, the Liberal government scraped it to increase the minimum price claiming “social responsibility”. With the costs of making beer going up and an increase in the provincial and federal taxes, brewers could not afford to sell their product at the minimum price.

A few questions sprung to mind as I heard the news. Is a 25-cent reduction significant to beer aficionados? How is it even possible to produce good quality beer at a cheaper cost? Why show so much care for consumers’ pockets and none for the brewers who will have to somehow lower production costs while still keeping the potion potable? Premier Ford claims that “for too long beer consumers have been forced to pay inflated prices for beer in order to increase the profits of big corporations. We’re going to allow price competition for beer and this will save consumers money.” He also claims that buck-a-beer will increase the competition in the beer market. Maybe the program will appeal to those brewers that are willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of more sales. Whereas small brewers have already stated that they will not embrace the plan as too costly, large companies will benefit from the program as with a wide range of products they will be able to make a cheaper one at the minimum price and still make a bit of profit.

The Government has stated that this initiative will not cost taxpayers anything; it is all on the brewers’ shoulders to carry the weight of the price reduction. The plan is totally voluntary and to participating brewers, the Ontario government will offer “non-financial incentives” such as prime spots in LCBO stores, free ads in flyers and magazine among the rewards. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park, said that these incentives will come at a cost to the province as these LCBO promotions “have monetary value”.

What’s more, the buck-a-beer benefit to the people sits in stark contrast with the news of the scraping of the basic income project. Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod stated that it is too expensive. The basic income pilot started in 2017 and was being tested over a period of three years to help make a difference in the lives of people on low income. Unlike the buck-a-beer plan, the promise that Ford made to support people on basic incomes is not being kept.

Doug Ford receives backlash for plan to cut city council

After Premier Doug Ford announced that he would be introducing a bill to slash Toronto’s city council from 47 members to 25, NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Mayor John Tory are criticizing the decision.

On Monday Ford introduced the Better Local Government Act at the provincial legislature. The plan would be to cut city council nearly in half, a move that brought forth criticism from city council, John Tory, and opposing leader Andrea Horwath.

The Premier’s office released further information last Friday on why they’re choosing to introduce such a controversial bill. “At 44 seats, growing to 47 seats, Toronto City Council has become increasingly dysfunctional and inefficient through a combination of entrenched incumbency and established special interests,” they wrote. A streamlined Toronto City Council would empower Toronto’s mayor and help ensure that Toronto taxpayers can count on an efficient and effective municipal government.” They added that the bill could help save Toronto taxpayers over $25.5 million over the next four years but didn’t provide any specifics.

The bill will also extend the nomination period for city council candidates to September 14, 2018, though the deadline for Mayor would remain the same.

Mayor John Tory told reporters that the bill was “absolutely not right” to introduce without consulting with Torontonians. “I’m angry at the process because I think it is disrespectful of the people, most of all, in that I think people, when there’s a major change being made to their civic democracy, deserve to be consulted in one way, shape or form,” he said. “It wasn’t put on the basis that he was planning to do it. He said that he’s talked about it before and I actually sort of dismissed it on the basis of saying, ‘Well, that’s not something that could be done. We’re in the middle of an election campaign,’” he added. “The matter dropped at that stage because I didn’t have the sense he was pursuing it, either.”

Tory also called for a referendum, which was approved by city council. “I will continue to advocate that the province pushes the pause button on this process and let the municipal election already underway proceed,” he added in a Twitter thread on July 30.

Ford received further criticism from opposing leader Andrea Horwath, who released a statement about the bill, saying that he didn’t announce these plans on the campaign trail or consult people. “It’s clear that Mr. Ford wants a smaller number of councillors to have more power, fewer checks and balances, and less accountability. This is obviously a move to make it easier for the premier to control Toronto City Hall. The actions we hear Mr. Ford plans to take not only mean less accountability and transparency at City Hall, but that each Torontonian will have less help and less access to their city councillor,” she said.

Horwath also tweeted about the bill, calling it something Ford “cooked up in a backroom.”

Ford is defending his decision at City Hall and on social media since July 27. “I promised to reduce the size and cost of government, and end the culture of waste and mismanagement. More politicians are not the answer. These changes will dramatically improve the decision making process, and help restore accountability and trust in local governments,” he wrote on Friday.

Ford posted a video of him yesterday addressing the concerns of his bill. “We’re gonna create jobs. We’re gonna create transit. We’re gonna fix the infrastructure and we’re gonna take care of the billion dollars backlogged of housing. People are sleeping on the streets cause too much money’s going to politicians,” he said. He accompanied the 0: 15-second clip with a tweet saying, “We’re going to make government work for the people. We can’t allow political gridlock and dysfunction at City Hall to keep delaying progress on critical issues. By streamlining City Council, we will help Toronto move forward on transit, infrastructure and housing.”

Progress Toronto, an advocacy group supporting democracy, started a petition to stop Ford’s bill called “Stop Ford’s takeover of Toronto politics.” They wrote that Ford is “abusing his power as premier and he is messing with our political system in the middle of an election to try to control Toronto City Hall from Queen’s Park.”

Police resume normal operations after Toronto concerns

Normal police operations have resumed after Toronto’s force responded to threats of a van attack occurring at the CN Tower and surrounding areas.

On July 12, Toronto police received a threat suggesting that a copycat van attack would take place near the CN Tower and surrounding areas. Toronto was already struck with tragedy in April when Alek Minassian deliberately drove a rental truck into pedestrians near Yonge and Finch. He killed 10 people and injured another 16, making it one of the deadliest attacks in Canadian history.

The police report, which was obtained by several publications, stated that “On Wednesday, July 11th, 2018, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) received credible information regarding a potential vehicle ramming attack in the area of the CN Tower on Thursday, July 12th.” It continued that the TPS would increase the number of police patrolling the surrounding areas.

A tweet was published by Toronto police at 9:30 a.m. on July 12 stating: “We are responding to an unconfirmed, uncorroborated piece of information relating to the GTA. As a result of this information, you will see an increased number of police officers throughout the city and, specifically, in the downtown core ^sm”

Premier Doug Ford also released a statement on Twitter saying, “We are aware of the reported potential threat in the City of Toronto. While the information is unsubstantiated, the Premier has been briefed by the Provincial Security Advisor and is actively monitoring the situation.”

TPS added that a statement would be provided to reporters at 11:30 a.m. in Bobby Rosenfeld Park. Acting superintendent Mike Barksy spoke with reporters at the time.

“As such, we have increased what we call our ‘footprint of police presence’ in the downtown core,” he said. It was also said that police presence has already increased in the areas surrounding the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Ripley’s Aquarium due to the playoffs.

When asked by reporters what specific buildings were targeted, police would not comment as it related to their investigation. “Whenever we have a report of a potential risk, we take that seriously. And because of that, we know that the downtown core of Toronto is a significant area for people who travel to the city, live in the city, and come to the visit the city,” Barsky told reporters. “And as such, we’ve called upon our partners from neighbouring police divisions to come and assist us in ensuring that people can continue to come down and enjoy those luxuries.”

They added that shops and hot spots were still open in the surrounding areas at the time and that one of the biggest events of the night, the Foo Fighters concert, was not cancelled. Hondo Indy Toronto also tweeted out that their event remained open and they were following a site and security plan.

Around the time of the press conference, Metrolinx also released a statement saying, “safety of our customers and staff is central to everything we do at Metrolinx.” Their statement also included reassurance that transit safety officers were deployed in “important areas of service to ensure passenger and staff safety.”

Late Thursday evening Toronto police released a statement saying that they were resuming normal police operations in the area. “We know this heightened security can be concerning for the public. Our goal is always to be as transparent as possible while protecting the integrity of our investigations,” it read.

Toronto leaders speak out amidst current gun violence

After the weekend shooting in Toronto’s Kensington Market, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, Premier Doug Ford, and Mayor John Tory have released statements on the current state of the city.

On Saturday evening around 8:00 p.m., shots rang out at Peter Street and Queen Street West and left two rappers dead and one woman in the hospital. The two rappers were identified as Smoke Dawg (Jahvante Smart), 21, and Koba Prime (Ernest Modekwe), 28.

The violence didn’t end on Saturday, however. On Sunday, police were called to the College Street and Augusta Avenue area when shots rang out around 10:30 p.m. Reports say that four people were injured during the crime. After the shooting, four suspects were seen fleeing the scene but police have yet to release a description of them.

Since the shootings took place on Canada Day, one of the busiest times in Toronto, Chief Saunders spoke with CP24 about the gun violence. “This is not the norm,” he told CP24. “Right in broad daylight on some of the busiest intersections of our city where there is gunplay. The gunplay usually occurs at night in particular neighbourhoods where there is not as much capacity of people. The brazenness is a concern.”

He added that the violence can be traced back to gang violence. “This is pointed to specific people. A random person walking down the street, it is highly unlikely that they are going to be in harm’s way,” he added.

A statement released by Tory read: “The unacceptable gun violence we’ve seen in the last few weeks has left me incredibly angry but resolved to work with the police to stamp it out. As Mayor, the safety of our city is my top priority and one that I share with Chief Mark Saunders and the men and women of the Toronto Police Service. That’s why we’re hiring 200 police officers this year, why I’ve always advocated for tougher gun control and tougher bail conditions for gun crime, and why we’re modernizing the police service to ensure there are more officers patrolling the streets.”

He added that he spoke with Chief Saunders who said that police are working to get to the bottom of the crimes. He also said that he plans to reach out to Premier Doug Ford and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to discuss how they can better their efforts to combat gang violence.

“As I said at City Council last week, we need to toughen up bail guidelines for those caught committing gun crimes. Countless police officers – from constables to the Chief himself – have told me how frustrated they are by the fact someone they arrest for a gun crime can be back out on the street on bail quickly and ready to cause more mayhem. That is not right and that is something we can stop right now,” the statement also read.

Tory added that the city leaders need to work together to deploy more police and support law enforcement to keep criminals behind bars.

On Monday Ford released a statement on Twitter saying: “My heart goes out to the victims of the shootings in Toronto over the Canada Day long weekend. This has been a very difficult summer in our city, and thoughts and prayers just aren’t going to cut it anymore. We need action.” He added that Toronto is home to the greatest police officers and “we need to make sure they have the resources to round up these criminals, build relationships in communities, and prevent these shootings.” He concluded his statement by saying he looks forward to meeting with representatives from Toronto police forces to city leaders and law enforcement can work together to end “this senseless violence.”

Hopefully, Toronto’s leaders can band together to successfully get to the bottom of the gun violence currently happening in the city and make its citizens feel safe again.