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North Korea launches apparent ballistic missile in latest test, South Korea military says

Sun, 28 May 2017 18:13:48 EDT


SEOUL—North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan’s maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, in the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland.

The suspected Scud-type missile launched from the coastal town of Wonsan flew about 450 kilometres, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. It landed in Japan’s exclusive maritime economic zone, which is set about 200 nautical miles off the Japanese coast, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. He said there was no report of damage to planes or vessels in the area.

Read more:

North Korea says it’s ready to deploy, mass-produce combat-ready missiles

North Korea calls most recent missile test a success

Why does North Korea hate the U. S.? Let’s go back to the Korean War

North Korea is still thought to be several years from its goal of being able to target U.S. mainland cities with a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile. It has a strong arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles that could hit Japan and South Korea as well as U.S. forces in the region, and it is working to perfect its longer-range missiles.

North Korea’s state-controlled media had no immediate comment. But a day earlier, the North said leader Kim Jong Un had watched a successful test of a new type of anti-aircraft guided weapon system. It wasn’t clear from the state media report when the test happened.

Kim found that the weapon system’s ability to detect and track targets had “remarkably” improved and was more accurate, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. KCNA cited Kim as ordering officials to mass-produce and deploy the system all over the country so as to “completely spoil the enemy’s wild dream to command the air.”

The North’s nuclear and missile programs are perhaps the biggest foreign policy challenges to the new leaders in Washington and Seoul.

President Donald Trump has alternated between bellicosity and flattery in his public statements about North Korea, but his administration is still working to solidify a policy to handle its nuclear ambitions.

Monday’s launch was the third ballistic missile launch by North Korea since South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in was inaugurated on May 10. He has signalled an interest in expanding civilian exchange with North Korea, but many analysts say he won’t likely push for any major rapprochement because North Korea has gone too far in developing its nuclear program.

Moon called a National Security Council meeting Monday morning to discuss the North’s launch. In a separate statement, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff warned North Korea’s repeated provocation would further deepen its international isolation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who just returned from a G7 meeting in Italy, told reporters that “North Korea’s provocation by ignoring repeated warnings from the international society is absolutely unacceptable.”

The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement that it tracked a short-range missile for six minutes until it landed in the Sea of Japan.

Suga, the Japanese cabinet secretary, told reporters that the missile fell about 300 kilometres north of the Oki islands in southwestern Japan and 500 kilometres west of Sado island in central Japan.

Suga said Japanese officials will discuss North Korea with a senior foreign policy adviser to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Yang Jiechi, who is scheduled to visit Japan later Monday. He said China has been increasingly stepping up and using its influence over North Korea and that the two sides will thoroughly discuss the situation.

Besides its regular ballistic missile test-launches, the North carried out two nuclear tests last year — in January and September. Outside analysts believe North Korea may be able to arm some of its shorter-range missiles with nuclear warheads, though the exact state of the North’s secretive weapons program is unknown.

Despite the missile launches, South Korea under Moon has made tentative steps toward engaging the North by restarting stalled civilian aid and exchange programs. It said last week it would allow a civic group to contact North Korea about potentially offering help in treating malaria, the first government approval on cross-border civilian exchanges since January 2016.


This music lover takes Doors Open Toronto literally

Sun, 28 May 2017 21:31:00 EDT


Toronto musician Tim McCready regularly opens the doors to strangers at the two-storey house he rents in Little Portugal, but this year it became official.

McCready’s home was one of the latest additions to Doors Open Toronto, a free annual event held over the weekend that gives the public the rare chance to tour buildings across the city that have historical, cultural or social significance.

The Manning Ave. house resembles most others on the street, so it’s not an architectural marvel like the Aga Khan Museum or St. Michael’s Cathedral, or a heritage site like John McKenzie House in Willowdale.

But this year the city of Toronto approached the open-hearted 39-year-old McCready — who has invited many local acts and music lovers into his home over the past decade for concerts in his living room and backyard — to add a cultural twist to the popular Doors Open program.

“I’ve always been obsessed with music, and people appreciate it, which makes it special,” he explained.

His kindly father, Ray, flipped garden burgers and handed them to visitors free of charge all day Saturday and Sunday while bands like Crazy Bones, Hot Garbage and the Fuzzy Undertones took to both the makeshift backyard stage and the cosy living room.

“We just came from the (U of T’s) Daniels Building, and we thought this was certainly unusual, so we wanted to see what it was about,” said one woman in a stylish black leather jacket, sitting with her husband under the trees as singer Allie Sunshine belted out some tunes and played the keyboard.

Hundreds of visitors came by and were welcome to use the washroom, check out local artwork during the friendly backyard barbecue, and even peruse McCready’s extensive library of books in the front room. It all had a small-town, folksy feel, which the McCreadys said is pretty much the point.

The family hails from Windsor, Ont., where Tim started a punk band in his teens “and I was his roadie,” joked his father, a retired pastor who recorded a vinyl gospel album in 1970.

When Tim started working in Toronto 12 years ago, he tried to find a way to connect to the big city through his passion for music. He plays keyboards, drums and guitar, and launched Good Enough Live Karaoke, in which his four-piece band backs up karaoke singers at bars with a 300-song catalogue of popular tunes.

With an ever-shrinking pool of music venues in Toronto for musicians to find an audience — the Silver Dollar and Harlem are the latest to shut their doors — the simple performance space is at least an alternative for many local acts.

He regularly holds one big concert in summer and on New Year’s Eve. One time 2,000 people showed up, “so I kept the last one on the down low and we had 200 people over,” Tim said, noting even Buck 65 and Sloan have performed at his pad.

Surprisingly the landlord, who lives down the street, is fine with it and of course has an open invite, McCready says.

Doors Open 2017 was the 18th edition since the festival began, and coincided this year with TO Canada With Love, Toronto’s yearlong program of events and celebrations in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. This year 150 buildings were open to the public with the theme “Fifteen Decades: Canadian Architecture.”

Attendees also got a sneak peek at two new subway stations for the soon-to-open Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. Downsview Park station, at 1245 Sheppard Ave. W., features a green roof and public art. York University station is deep in the York University campus, at 4700 Keele St., and boasts the bold design of a boomerang shape, with north and south entrances under the wing of each end. Both stations were open on Saturday only.


Community commemorates Vaughan Road Academy, closing after nine decades

Sun, 28 May 2017 19:54:00 EDT


Hundreds of current and former high schoolers wandered the halls of Vaughan Road Academy on Saturday to say goodbye to the institution that will be closing next month after nine decades.

Some talked about meeting the loves of their lives in those halls. Others shrieked in excitement, as they recognized their former classmates. One former student remembered the horrid blue rompers she had to wear during gym class. Another felt anxious as she recalled how divided between programs the place seemed to her when she was there.

Last December, Toronto District School Board trustees voted to close the school at 529 Vaughan Rd. (that was previously known as Vaughan Road Collegiate Institute) — perhaps best known as the school Drake once went to — citing decades of dropping enrolment. At the time that decision was made, the high school was at 20 per cent of its capacity with just over 200 students.

Since news of the school’s impending closure was made official, a group of volunteers have been busy making sure it wasn’t going to go out without a party.

Read more:

School trustees vote to close Vaughan Road Academy

Vaughan Rd. residents want closed school turned into community hub

Optional attendance is killing neighbourhood schools

Saturday’s gathering saw classrooms around the school designated for each generation (featuring decade-appropriate music and photos to match) of the school’s near century-long existence.

The day also served as a chance for the school to welcome a handful of new alumni into its already stacked Hall of Fame. Among them were swimmer Michelle Williams (who won a bronze medal for team Canada last summer at the Olympics in Rio) and Toronto Maple Leafs scout and former head coach Tom Watt.

Ursula and Vic Collins met while teaching at the school in the ’60s — she taught business and he taught math. They got married in 1970 (and invited the school’s entire staff to their wedding) and continued to teach together there for decades.

When the now-retired couple came back to school Saturday, Ursula brought a purse filled with letters sent to her from her former students. Before she had even made it up the stairs, she bumped into one of the students who had sent them.

“There were so many fond memories here,” she said, noting that the school felt like a second home to her. “You got involved.”

Vic noted that when he started teaching there, the place had so many students enrolled that it needed several portables to accommodate all of them.

Cynthia Zwicker-Reston is the last principal Vaughan Road Academy will ever have.

She said her students are resilient and that she’s aware attending a high school that closes halfway through a student’s education isn’t easy or ideal. Zwicker-Reston said the school’s current students will get to choose which Toronto District School Board school they will attend next fall.

Vaughan Road Academy’s Interact program (the one alumni Drake and Ellen Page took, which lets students customize their curriculum to focus on extracurricular activities such as music, acting or sports) and its staff will be moving to Oakwood Collegiate Institute. The school’s International Baccalaureate program will relocate to Weston Collegiate, she said.

As for the open house on Saturday, Zwicker-Reston hoped it served as a chance to celebrate everything thing the institution once was.

“It’s a tribute,” she said. “To all of the people, all of the students, all of the teachers and community members who have really appreciated this place as an institution and all of the people who have studied and worked here over the years.”

The school’s last day is June 30.


Man arrested after driving stolen Cambridge ambulance through GTA

Sun, 28 May 2017 13:21:01 EDT


A 29-year-old man has been taken into custody after he stole an empty ambulance in Cambridge and went on an “erratic” joy ride across the GTA early Sunday morning.

At around midnight, a man in the Cambridge Memorial Hospital ambulance parking lot, near 700 Coronation Blvd., hopped into an empty ambulance and took off, according to Waterloo police spokesperson Christopher Goss.

“A distracted paramedic, who was not in the ambulance, was in the area,” but did not notice the man, said Goss.

The hospital immediately notified Waterloo police of the situation.

Later in the night, “an officer driving in the area of Hwy. 401 towards Toronto then located the suspect driving the ambulance erratically, with sirens on,” said Goss.

“The officer followed the ambulance, and when it got closer to the Halton region, he notified OPP (Ontario Provincial Police).”

After a lengthy pursuit by OPP, officers decided to deploy “a controlled tire deflation device, commonly referred to as a spike belt in the area of Rainbow Valley Road West on Highway 26 and successfully, without incident stopped the stolen ambulance,” police said in a news release.

The suspect travelled approximately 190 kilometres through the GTA, before being taken into custody by OPP.

The driver, of no fixed address, has since been charged with possession of stolen property, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, and flight from police.

He is being held for bail hearing.

According to Goss, the suspect’s motivation for stealing the ambulance is unclear.

No injuries or collisions were reported during the pursuit.


Halton police staff sergeant charged after investigation into drug evidence tampering

Sun, 28 May 2017 14:59:55 EDT


The former head of Halton Region’s police drug squad, who once boasted of major busts and encouraged residents to drop off their unused prescription painkillers so police could properly dispose of them, has been arrested and accused of using his position to steal drug exhibits stored in an evidence vault.

Brad Murray, a staff sergeant with 16 years on the Halton force, was charged Sunday with obstruction of justice and two counts each of theft under $5,000 and breach of trust following a seven-month internal probe and external investigation by Toronto police.

The probe revealed that more than 30 exhibits from a series of court cases had been tampered with. In all instances, the affected exhibits were prescription painkillers such as OxyContin.

“In all likelihood, all of these cases will have to be stayed or withdrawn, which is a shame,” Halton police Chief Stephen Tanner said in an interview Sunday. “But that’s the cost of what this person did.”

Murray has been suspended with pay. The allegations against him have not been proven in court. The veteran officer was already facing internal discipline for an incident in which he allegedly obtained prescription painkillers from an officer under his command, Tanner said.

Murray has not responded to numerous requests for comment from the Star.

A Star investigation previously revealed that an internal Halton police audit in November found at least 36 exhibits whose packaging had been compromised, throwing prosecutions into jeopardy. A summary of the findings indicated the contents of the exhibits may have been compromised as well.

Tanner asked Toronto police to conduct an independent criminal probe into the tampered exhibits.

“We recognize the impact such news brings to you, the people we serve, and to the reputation of our service,” Tanner said in a release on Sunday. “It violates public trust in the work we do and is an affront to the Canadian justice system as a whole. As such we are committed to dealing with this issue transparently and thoroughly.”

Murray was a member and supervisor of Halton’s drug and morality unit from January 2013 to May 2016, “during which time the criminal offences are alleged to have occurred,” the release stated.

As staff sergeant, Murray would have had a swipe card that allowed him access to the drug vault, Tanner told the Star. While it was preferred that two officers go into the vault together, this might not always have been the case, he said. According to sources with knowledge of the investigation who spoke to the Star, Murray was transferred in mid-2016 to a supervisory role in Milton, where he oversaw a platoon of officers. Tanner said Murray had previously requested the transfer.

He remained in that role until fall 2016, when he went on leave, sources said.

While commanding that platoon, Murray allegedly received prescription painkillers from a junior officer, Tanner said. Halton police asked nearby Waterloo police to investigate the incident to determine whether there were grounds for a drug trafficking charge. Tanner said Waterloo detectives and a Crown prosecutor determined it did not warrant charges and it became an internal police discipline matter.

Murray will also face internal charges related to the alleged stealing of drugs from the evidence vault, and Tanner said “dismissal is definitely one possible outcome.”

Last year, Murray earned $140,000, according to Ontario salary disclosures.

Murray’s arrest also raises questions about a program he ran encouraging the public to drop off unwanted medications — including prescription painkillers — at local police stations and pharmacies.

In 2013, as a detective on the newly formed integrated drug, gun and gang unit, he was the force’s public face announcing the squad’s first arrests, in which officers seized three pounds of marijuana and some cocaine.

“It won’t affect the supply and demand. What it will do is put the word out that we’re here,” he said.

Murray later became the head of the drug and gang unit. He warned the public of the black market’s increasing thirst for opiate-based prescription painkillers, and championed a program encouraging the public to dispose of their unwanted and potentially harmful medications at local pharmacies or police stations.

Each month, the program collected roughly 80 pounds of medicine — everything from narcotics to blood pressure pills to herbal remedies — preventing the drugs from being flushed down the toilet or ending up on the street.

“Most harmful drugs are found at home. Essentially, the (inadvertent drug) trafficker is living at home,” Murray told the Burlington Post in 2015.

Pharmacist Samir Patel worked with Murray in the program, collecting customers’ unwanted drugs at his pharmacies.

“He would call me or text me, say, ‘Hey, how much do you have? Do you have a lot of stuff there?’ I’d say, ‘Yup, we have this much. If you want to come by it’s a good amount,’” Patel said in an interview.

Patel said he would occasionally call Murray if someone had dropped off a large supply of prescription painkillers or “something I was worried about.”

When the drugs were ready for pickup, Patel’s pharmacy staff would seal them with a tamper-proof lid.

“As far as I was concerned, there was nothing unbecoming,” Patel said. “At the end of the day, the whole point was let’s get this off the street as much as possible.”

The program with Halton police ended once Murray moved from the drug squad, said Patel, though the pharmacist continues to dispose of unwanted medications through another program.

Tanner said there is no current evidence suggesting any of the pharmaceutical drugs collected by Murray or Halton police through the program have been misused or stolen.

“In hindsight, I have concern that it is certainly possible,” he told the Star.

In a press release, Halton police said it has implemented additional measures to preserve the integrity of all seized drug exhibits.

Murray is scheduled to appear in a Milton court June 27.


Safety of Toronto trails to be reviewed after 5-year-old cyclistâ??s death

Sun, 28 May 2017 19:24:12 EDT


City hall is undertaking an immediate safety review of Toronto’s approximately 300-kilometre network of multi-use trails following the death last week of a boy riding his bike along Martin Goodman Trail.

The first order of business will be addressing pressing safety risks, including problems on the stretch of Lake Shore Blvd. W. where 5-year-old Xavier Morgan died after falling from a bike path into traffic.

Safety advocates have said a simple guardrail could have saved the boy’s life.

In an interview Sunday, Mayor John Tory said he wants to do everything possible to ensure no child or adult can fall onto a roadway from that trail.

“It’s just not something that is an acceptable risk, and sometimes you learn the tragic way,” he said.

Councillor Jaye Robinson, chair of the city’s public works and infrastructure committee, will meet Monday with Toronto’s general manager of transportation services to begin a review of trails throughout the city.

The aim will be both to make immediate changes to problem areas and to consider longer-term solutions that may require construction, or even moving a trail that may be too close to a roadway.

Tory said the review will consider safety issues that arise when trails are adjacent to vehicle traffic, as well as paths where the danger might arise from a busy mix of cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, rollerbladers and more — particularly as the weather gets warmer and traffic increases.

Tory says he expects a report on the most pressing safety risks “within a very short period.”

Xavier, called an “exuberant, loving and happy little boy” by his school principal, was with an adult Wednesday evening when he lost control, fell onto the roadway and was struck by a car.

Toronto police arrived at the site, near Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Jameson Ave., at about 6:30 p.m. The driver of the vehicle remained at the scene.

Paramedics transported the boy to the Hospital for Sick Children, where he died.

Jared Kolb, with the not-for-profit advocacy group Cycle Toronto, told the Star last week that he puts the blame for the death squarely on city infrastructure.

“I don’t put blame on the driver, the parent or whoever was with the child,” Kolb said.

Xavier Morgan was a junior kindergarten student at Swansea Public School. On Friday, a group of his classmates and their parents gathered at the school to remember the boy. The flag was lowered to half-mast.

A memorial bike ride in Xavier’s honour, organized by the group Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, is planned Saturday, June 3, at 10 a.m., beginning at Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. W.


MPP Jack MacLaren out of Tory caucus after comments about French language rights

Sun, 28 May 2017 09:30:00 EDT


It was an ejection or a rejection.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown has finally turfed controversial MPP Jack MacLaren from caucus after a fourth incident embarrassing to the party.

But MacLaren claimed Sunday he quit the Tories to join the fledgling right-wing Trillium party “after months of deliberation and discussion with my constituents.”

“The Trillium party will give me the opportunity to speak freely on my constituents’ behalf, to vote freely on their behalf, and to have input into all policy-making on their behalf,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

Earlier on Sunday, MacLaren, who did not return messages from the Star, was removed from the Tory caucus after CFRA Radio in Ottawa posted video of him from 2012 disparaging bilingualism in Eastern Ontario.

“You don’t have to convince me what’s wrong with French-language education in Ontario,” the Carleton—Mississippi Mills MPP told people lamenting French-language requirements for many jobs in the Ottawa area.

“You’re right, but you won’t hear it because we’re trying to get elected. We have lots of things that we’re going to do that we won’t say before the election because we won’t get elected,” he continued in the 23-minute video.

While MacLaren was a key player in Brown’s successful 2015 leadership campaign, that fourth transgression was the tipping point.

“I am building a modern, inclusive Ontario PC Party, one where it doesn’t matter where you’re from, who you love, where you worship, what language you speak or how much money you make,” said Brown.

“Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that Jack MacLaren does not share these values. Once again, Jack MacLaren has been caught making comments that are unacceptable. This video is the final straw. I have expelled Jack MacLaren from the PC caucus. The expulsion is indefinite. He will not be a PC candidate in the next provincial election,” said the Tory leader.

Brown, who speaks French and recently hosted a Franco-Ontarian day at Queen’s Park to showcase his party’s new focus on bilingualism, had defended MacLaren after his three past gaffes.

“Each time Jack MacLaren is caught making disparaging or insensitive remarks about others, he asks for forgiveness and a second chance. And a third chance. And a fourth. And each and every time, he has disappointed those who have put their trust in him,” the PC chief said.

“This video is part of a pattern with Jack MacLaren. Clearly the real Jack MacLaren is the one we heard making derogatory comments towards women at the Carp Fair Men’s Night, who published fake testimonials praising himself from fake constituents on his website, and who came out against a zero-tolerance policy against sexual abuse.”

That’s a reference to the Star revealing last spring that MacLaren made sexist remarks about his federal counterpart, Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon, at a Carp Fair cancer fundraiser in front of 350 people.

Afterward, Brown ordered MacLaren to stay away from the legislature until he completed sensitivity training.

The Ottawa Citizen then found the MPP’s official website contained six fake testimonials from satisfied “constituents” accompanied by photos lifted from the Internet.

And MacLaren was forced to apologize for declaring that it was dangerous to have a zero-tolerance policy for doctors accused of sexually abusing their patients.

His former Conservative caucus mates praised Brown for taking action, saying MacLaren was a liability who could have jeopardized the Tories’ chances of toppling Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals next year.

“Not a team player. Bye bye,” tweeted popular Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton).

MacLeod was among several MPPs helping rival candidates challenging MacLaren for the nomination in the newly redistributed riding of Kanata-Carleton, just west of Ottawa.

He will now run as a Trillium candidate, which could hurt the Tories’ chances in the riding if there is vote-splitting among conservatives.

Against that backdrop, some PC activists are questioning Brown’s timing.

One insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal party machinations, wondered if Brown kicked MacLaren out because he might have won the Kanata-Carleton nomination over preferred candidate Merrilee Fullerton, a doctor who has been touted as a future health minister in a Brown government.

“This video has been around for years — it was well known that Jack had publicly said this kind of stuff. So why now?” the insider said.

MacLaren’s expulsion is the latest setback for Brown in his efforts to brand the party as modern and inclusive.

Last year, he ordered MPP Rick Nicholls (Chatham-Kent-Essex) to retract his comments after telling a group of Christian supporters that social issues are “very important” to the party and once they form government, “Watch us go.” Nicholls was also mocked in the legislature after saying he doesn’t believe in evolution.

Brown himself publicly split from social conservatives last August after reversing his stance and endorsing the Liberal sex education curriculum.

With files from The Canadian Press


The stage has found P.K. Subban again: Arthur

Sun, 28 May 2017 18:59:44 EDT


PITTSBURGH—The day dawned sunny and pleasant in Pittsburgh, one day before a Stanley Cup final begins that will feature Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and a blossoming hockey underdog, and the only player being followed by the NHL’s fancy documentary-style cameras was P.K. Subban. There is, after all, only one of him, and he can’t help himself.

“Have you ever played with a personality bigger than P.K.’s?” someone asked Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg.

“I don’t know if there is a bigger personality,” said Forsberg.

Read more:

Penguins, Predators playing for one moment with the Cup

Predators hope defence, goaltending can offset Pittsburgh’s star power up front

A Stanley Cup could be a Conn job for Predators’ Pekka Rinne

Penguins have taken nothing for granted in Cup run

It could be a big series. The Pittsburgh Penguins can become the first repeat winners since Detroit in 1998. Nashville is a 16th seed, and a fascinating underdog. Nashville is a group of strong, mostly bearded personalities that took the West by storm; the Penguins are looking for a modern dynasty.

And it’s all about P.K., because that’s how it works. Montreal loved him. The Canadiens traded him. Their coach used to tell people he could never win a Cup with P.K., and P.K. is second on his new team in playoff ice time, matched up against Vladimir Tarasenko in the second round and Ryan Getzlaf in the third. Along with Mattias Ekholm, he will see Sid or Geno in this series, all the way. If the Predators defence can hold those guys down, they win the series. It’s the biggest matchup test in the sport. Here he is.

“I know what he’s going through, and what he dealt with,” said Phil Kessel, a fellow iconic exile. “Obviously he wants to win really bad because he got, you know, I’d say, the shaft in Montreal a little bit. That’s how it goes. You want to prove people wrong. I know what he’s feeling like.”

“I respect him as a player and I respect his opinion,” said Subban, who dropped by Kessel’s Stanley Cup party in Toronto. “Phil’s a guy who speaks his mind and I respect him for that.”

Meanwhile, Subban is on the big stage now, and he knows it. In a prearranged move, he cut short his media session to grab a mic and ask teammates questions for the NHL Network: He asked Mike Fisher what it was like to be so good-looking, and he asked Vern Fiddler the same question but about Fisher, and he asked Ryan Ellis about playing for Nashville. Ellis started with, “Get out of here, Subbie,” but he played along. They all did, more or less.

Ellis: “It’s my teammates. I mean, guys that go out and battle with me every day. I mean, you’ve got P.K. Subban on your team: Imagine playing with P.K. Subban. Oh, it’s a dream come true. That’s all it is.”

Subban: “And you’ve seen him in the shower. You have, right?”

Ellis: “I try to avoid that part.”

Subban: “We’re going to go off-script. I know that you’re not married yet, you have a girlfriend, but Ryan, you must have had a lot of girlfriends coming through junior, with all the success that you had. How did you manage that?”

Ellis, rolling his eyes: “Yeah, I mean, it was just models at every turn, Victoria’s Secret shows, all that. That’s more your alley, I guess. For me it’s just, I’ve got my girl, and I’m pretty happy. I know for you, that’s the wild card you can play.”

P.K. has a long history of driving teammates nuts, even when he doesn’t make . . . er, shower jokes. He drove them nuts in Montreal with his constant need for attention, his happiness win or lose, his incessant P.K.-ness in a sport that tries to stuff personality and individualism in a box and throw it into the sea. I mean, even his buddy Carey Price didn’t go out of his way to visit with P.K. when the Habs were in Nashville. But now, whether his teammates are grinding their teeth or not, the organization has enough room for him, in every way. Did the trade change him? Has Nashville?

“No,” said the 28-year-old Subban. “No. I don’t think so. I think that, if anything, it’s allowed me to be the way I’ve always been.”

He talked about how as a hockey player, being himself is what got him here; he talked about how after the trade Nashville general manager David Poile brought him and his people in to talk, and the Predators took interest in his charitable foundation, and in him. The Habs ran things one way, he said, and Nashville another. Of course, part of that friction in Montreal might have been P.K., too. Nobody from the organization was at his famed $10-million pledge to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, and it presumably wasn’t because owner Geoff Molson — the man who insisted on giving Subban that eight-year, US$72-million contract — was opposed to children’s health. If you were to guess P.K. went on a solo rush there, leaving teammates behind, you might be right.

“We obviously heard a lot about things that happened in Montreal, some good, maybe some not so good,” said Poile. “The whole idea was to get on the same page. Just like the meeting with him, the first meeting we had, like, ‘What are your goals?’ He said, ‘To win the Stanley Cup.’ I said, ‘That’s what our goals are, too.’ If we can get that straightened away in terms of your desires to be the best hockey player you can be, and we can both work towards winning the Stanley Cup together, we’ve got mostly everything covered.”

And then P.K. arrived and he jumped right on stage at an iconic Nashville venue, because he never stops.

“Well, I mean, when I got traded, it’s not like it popped up into my head that I was going to fly into Nashville and perform ‘Folsom Prison (Blues)’ on stage at Tootsie’s,” said Subban. “It was sort of like a spontaneous thing that just sort of happened, and I honestly walked in, and they were just walking me down the strip to show me the strip and I walked in, there must have been 15 or 20 people in there, and the owner’s like, why don’t you sing us a song, get up there? And what am I going to say, no? Everyone’s looking at me. So I just hopped up there and did it.”

Many NHL players probably would have demurred, because hockey players don’t self-promote. They play, but rarely aim to entertain. But to P.K., the idea of not performing — of being asked to perform and saying no, thank you — is foreign. He really can’t help himself. It’s mostly pretty great.

So, P.K. was asked, in Nashville, are you freer to be you?

“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” said Subban, before cutting the interview off. He said, “Guys, I gotta go. I gotta ask questions of myself.”

He meant of others, of course. Everyone questions P.K., it seems, but the man himself.


In choosing Andrew Scheer, Conservatives buck global populist trend

Sun, 28 May 2017 18:16:04 EDT


Conservatives around the world have sought to shake up the political status quo in the last year, voting for Britain to leave the European Union, electing a complete political neophyte as president of the United States.

For a time, it looked like Canadian conservatives were headed down a similar path.

For the first 12 rounds of counting Saturday night, the leader they were poised to elect was Maxime Bernier, a Quebec MP with a libertarian bent whose policy proposals included slaying sacred cows like supply management in agriculture and federal health care funding.

Read more:

All your Andrew Scheer questions answered

Andrew Scheer’s got the style, but success will depend on the substance: Editorial

Scheer, the man with the impish grin, will grow into his job: Tim Harper

Trudeau, Scheer discuss Parliament, U.S. trade in first call after Conservative leadership race

But in the end, the Tories couldn’t bring themselves to do it, instead handing Andrew Scheer the keys to the Opposition leader’s residence, giving him 50.95 per cent of the available points over Bernier’s 49.05.

Scheer’s campaign slogan was “Scheer excitement,” and there was no doubt in the aftermath of his win supporters were vibrating with just that.

“He just hit the right balance of values and experience and he was a very genuine person,” supporter Leslie Whicher said.

“He’s the kind of person the whole team can rally around. He’s not too far on one direction or another.”

In his platform with boutique tax cuts, tough talk on extremism, even his release of his “five key priorities,” Scheer was also the candidate many saw as any echo of Stephen Harper, the party’s first and only leader.

So what came to mind for some observers was a button available on the leadership event floor reading “Scheer Bored.”

Scheer is the “Goldilocks” candidate, not too hot, not too cold, said Gerry Nicholls, the former vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative lobby group.

“I guess they call them conservatives for a reason,” he said.

“They didn’t want to take that radical, sort of populist step, or even maybe that libertarian step. They’d rather just sort of be safe.”

The thing is, pollster Frank Graves said, it seemed like the Conservatives were in fact ready to not just take the step, but jump.

The majority of Canadian Conservative supporters he’s polled have backed not just Trump, but the right-wing candidate Marine LePen who mounted a strong campaign in the recent elections in France.

While yes, social conservatives did help Trump win and are understood to have helped Scheer too, those views are out of lockstep with the majority of Canadians, and there’s little political traction to be gained from seizing on them nationally, Graves said.

And while Scheer promises to put an optimistic, positive tone on Conservative politics, Canadian conservatives have a dark view of the economy, and like conservatives in the U.S. and U.K., have deep concerns about free trade and immigration, Graves said.

“I have no idea how Mr. Scheer will be able to capitalize on that kind of populist wind,” Graves said.

Kellie Leitch had hoped she could, running a campaign seizing on populist themes of anti-elitism and a Canadian values test for newcomers.

She captured 7 per cent of the vote on the first ballot and never gained more than 8, dropping off at the 10th round of counting.

This despite having what everyone said was one of the best organized campaigns among the 13 candidates in the race, and the fact that she raised over $1.3 million.

Another contender with a populist appeal — celebrity businessman Kevin O’Leary — had dropped out of the race just three months after launching his own campaign this year, though his name remained on the ballot until the fifth round.

“We had a very successful ten-year run, it’s only been two years since we were in power,” said Mike Coates, who for a time was running O’Leary’s campaign, of the party’s choice to reject a populist agenda.

“And I think a lot of members just didn’t want to break up what they thought was a winning formula.”

Another candidate advocating for a 180 degree policy turn, Michael Chong, did hang on until the 11th round of counting.

His policy for a price on carbon is heresy in the party, but that he could finish as high as he did sends a sign, said Peter Kent, a Toronto-area MP who was backing Chong.

“Michael and Maxime were the two candidates who stepped outside of the conservative policy envelope,” Kent said.

“I think it was good because both of them realized they would have to defend those policies and argue those policies before the party and the caucus and I think both of them . . . will have important contributions to make to the forthcoming policy discussions.”

Those policy discussions — the party will convene in Halifax in August 2018 for its next convention — will be of utmost importance, said Chris Alexander, who sought the leadership as well but dropped off after the fifth ballot.

“Winning in a democracy is finding that fine balance between blowing things up and too much inertia,” he said.

“You have to find the sweet spot, turn the page of the past without giving up the principles. That’s what we’ll be searching for in the weeks and months to come.”


Trump mulls overhaul of White House staff amid Russia allegations

Sun, 28 May 2017 10:09:16 EDT


WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump is considering overhauling his White House staff and bringing back top campaign strategists, frustrated by what he views as his team’s inability to contain the burgeoning crisis involving alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Expanding teams of lawyers and experienced public relations hands are being recruited to deal with the drumbeat of new revelations about Moscow’s interference and possible improper dealings with the Trump campaign and associates. The disclosures dogged the president during his first trip abroad since taking office and threaten to overwhelm and stall the agenda for his young administration.

Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

As he mulls outside reinforcements to his operation, Trump returned late Saturday from his nine-day journey to a White House seemingly in crisis mode, with a barrage of reports hitting close to the Oval Office and involving Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and influential adviser.

A rally planned Thursday in Iowa was postponed due to “an unforeseen change” in Trump’s schedule.

After maintaining a limited social media presence throughout his trip, Trump on Sunday unleashed a furious flurry of tweets, lashing out at what he called the “fake news” media. He focused heavily on leaks — both those coming out of the White House and an intelligence leak blamed on Americans about this week’s deadly bombing at a concert in England.

On the bombing investigation Trump said: “British Prime Minister May was very angry that the info the U.K. gave to U.S. about Manchester was leaked. Gave me full details!”

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Trump also said that “many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies.” He added that it is “very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers.”

Even when authorized, however, top officials in the Trump White House frequently request anonymity to brief reporters “on background,” meaning their names will not be disclosed.

The latest reports in the Russia matter said Kushner spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the United States about setting up secret communications with Moscow during the presidential transition.

While overseas, Trump’s longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, joined a still-forming legal team to help the president shoulder the intensifying investigations into Russian interference in the election and his associates’ potential involvement. More attorneys with deep experience in Washington investigations are expected to be added, along with crisis communication experts, to help the White House in the weeks ahead.

“They need to quarantine this stuff and put the investigations in a separate communications operation,” said Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel for President Bill Clinton.

During the Monica Lewinsky investigation, the Clinton White House brought on a dedicated group of lawyers and a created a separate media operation to handle investigation-related inquiries so they didn’t completely subsume the president’s agenda.

Trump, according to one person familiar with his thinking, believed he was facing more of a communications problem than a legal one, despite the intensifying inquiries. The person, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations.

As he mulls changes, Trump has entertained bringing his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, formally back into the fold. Both Lewandowski and Bossie discussed the prospect with the president before his trip, according to one person told of the conversations.

Lewandowski’s return would be a particularly notable development, given the fact that he was fired by Trump after clashing with staff and Trump’s adult children. Nonetheless, Lewandowski has the trust of the president — an advantage that many of Trump’s aides lack.

Trump called his maiden trip abroad a “home run,” but while the White House had hoped it would serve as a reset, attention on the Russia probe has only increased.

Recently appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, is starting off an investigation with a broad mandate that will allow him to probe both the possible Russian influence and whether Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey.

Comey is expected to testify before Congress after Memorial Day about memos he kept on conversations with the president that pertained to the investigation.

The White House also grappled with reports that Kushner proposed setting up a secret back channel between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team during a December meeting. Kushner spoke with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., about creating the secret line to make it easier to hold sensitive discussions about the conflict in Syria, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The back channel was meant to connect Michael Flynn, who later became Trump’s first national security adviser, with Russian military leaders, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss private policy considerations and spoke on condition of anonymity. Flynn was fired in February, officials saying he misled Vice-President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia in a phone call.

Before departing Italy for the U.S., White House officials refused to address the reports about Kushner. But they did not dismiss the idea that the administration would go outside normal U.S. government and diplomatic channels for communications with other countries.

Other major issues await Trump at home. He has signalled he will make a decision on whether to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. And the search continues for an FBI director to replace Comey.

On the policy front, he must defend his budget plan, and the Republican health care bill that narrowly passed the House faces an uncertain future in the Senate. On that topic, Trump tweeted Sunday night: “I suggest that we add more dollars to Healthcare and make it the best anywhere. ObamaCare is dead — the Republicans will do much better!”

Trump also has to decide soon on a Pentagon recommendation to add more U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, as well as boosting reinforcement for the beleaguered Afghan military.

While taxes have taken a back seat in recent weeks, Trump tweeted Sunday: “The massive TAX CUTS/REFORM that I have submitted is moving along in the process very well, actually ahead of schedule. Big benefits to all!”


Raccoon-proof green bins? Not true, readers say

Sun, 28 May 2017 20:03:01 EDT


Never underestimate the cunning of the urban raccoon, when it comes to solving a puzzle that leads to food.

After we all but declared in our Saturday column that the city’s new green composting bins with locking lids are raccoon-proof, readers say we need to clean the egg off our face.

We quoted a city manager who said that since the rollout of new bins began in 2016, not even one report of a raccoon breach has been filed with 311. He added that “I don’t want to jinx it,” by talking about it.

Too late now. Our column prompted email from readers who may not have reported bin break-ins to 311, but say that raccoons have already figured out how to get into them.

And it appears that the critters in south Scarborough are leading the pack, in terms of the learning curve.

“Not a single report of a raccoon opening a new green bin?” asked Mike Bates. “I guess the city wasn't driving through the (Scarborough) bluffs on Friday, which is garbage day.

“A minimum of a half dozen bins were toppled over and opened, including our bin. The raccoons knock them over and then simply turn the handle.

“I have seen this first hand, at the front of my garage. Then the raccoons hiss and snarl at you when you try to chase them away,” he said, adding, “Our driveway is muck stained from raccoons opening our bin so frequently!”

Artur Arruda also took issue with the manager’s claim, saying, “I’m not sure how that assessment came about.

“Maybe the raccoons in the south of Scarborough are more ingenious than in other parts of the city, but we’ve had our ‘secure’ bin ransacked several times by some very cunning raccoons.

“Other acquaintances across the neighbourhood have had similar break-ins. We’ve reverted to drilling a hole in the top of the bin and securing it with a bungee cord.”

Joseph Andrew sent us a photo taken a couple weeks ago, of food waste spilled on an Etobicoke street in front of his new green bin, but said it was still locked when he checked it.

However, the handle “was moved very slightly off-centre. I’m 100 per cent positive I checked the positioning of the handle the evening before as being dead centre . . . I always do that.

“I do not know if the lock was slightly askew because of nimble trash panda fingers or because of the physical tipping and contact with the ground.

“When the bin was toppled (I’m guessing here), the bagged waste may have moved forward and been visible at the edge of the lid. A raccoon simply pulled at it and got the bag out.”

James Di Giacomo described the conclusion that the bins are raccoon-proof as “utter BS. Come around my neighbourhood on a Friday morning and you will see the devastation.

“These pesky little buggers have figured it all out. Tip the bins over and (fiddle) with the lock and voila, a massive mess. I now have to use two heavy duty shock cords to keep my bin safe.”

This is bad. As word gets around Raccoonville that the new bins are easy pickings, pretty soon every ringtail in the city will know how to jimmy the lock to get at the tasty stew inside.

Time to buy stock in the bungee cord business.


The Conservatives have a new leader, but not the bigger tent they need: Hébert

Sun, 28 May 2017 13:13:27 EDT


Connect the dots that lead to Andrew Scheer’s narrow Conservative leadership victory and what you have is a triumph of retail politics over big ideas.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives lived and eventually died on the battlefield of boutique policies tailored to specific segments of the electorate. Those same dynamics ultimately determined the outcome of the former prime minister’s succession on Saturday.

In the end, two unrelated but identifiable groups tipped the balance in Scheer’s favour: the party’s social conservative wing and a well-organized dairy farmers lobby.

The religious right had not one but two standard-bearers in the leadership lineup and both Pierre Lemieux and Brad Trost, despite not having served in Harper’s cabinet, finished ahead of five former Conservative ministers. Together they won 15 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

Scheer did not court the religious right over the course of his leadership campaign, but on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, he has voted along social conservative lines for as long as he has been an MP. The bulk of Lemieux and Trost’s support ended up in his column on the last ballot.

Read more

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Scheer, the man with the impish grin, will grow into his job: Tim Harper

In choosing Andrew Scheer, Conservatives buck global populist trend

Maxime Bernier’s leadership platform read like a hit list of sacred cows. The Canada Health Act, which allows the federal government to have a say in the provincial management of medicare, was one of them.

But it was his commitment to end the supply management system in the dairy and poultry industries that attracted the most attention. It earned him a lot of favourable editorial coverage and substantial support in some regions of Western Canada. On Saturday, Bernier came first in Alberta and Manitoba. But it also blunted his edge in his home province.

Bernier’s strategists had expected a Quebec juggernaut to lift him over the finish line. It never materialized. He won Quebec but not without a fight. He collected 55 per cent of the province’s support overall. In his own Beauce riding, a seat he has carried with more than 60 per cent of the vote in good and bad Conservative times, Bernier lost to Scheer and his dairy industry allies.

And in Atlantic Canada, where governments are major players in the economy, his libertarian ideology did not sell well.

It took 13 ballots for victory to slip from Bernier’s grasp, but the strong mandate he would have needed to put his policy stamp on the party was long gone by the time he conceded defeat to Scheer.

Had he woken up on Sunday morning with a mandate as fragile as that handed to Scheer, Bernier would have lacked the legitimacy to sell a hostile caucus and a dubious party on his controversial signature policies.

It was not just Bernier’s big ideas that bit the dust on Saturday.

Kellie Leitch believed she was onto something when she set out to talk the party into branding itself as a champion of Canadian identity. She wore her proposal of a values test on would-be immigrants like a badge of honour and contended that it put her on the right side of public opinion and in the top leadership tier. Barely 7 per cent of the membership supported that contention. For all intents and purposes, she emerges from this campaign a spent political force.

Michael Chong tried to talk his party into renouncing its anti-carbon-pricing mantra. He pleaded with the Conservatives to reconnect with the majority of voters — in particular the younger cohort — who support a more proactive climate change strategy. About one in 10 Conservatives followed his lead.

Some of Scheer’s first post-victory fighting words were aimed at Justin Trudeau’s carbon pricing scheme. Not only would the new Conservative leader reverse it, but he contends that Canadians should not pay the GST on home heating bills. If anything, the leadership campaign has cast in stone the Conservatives’ determination to continue to take a pass on the defining environmental issue of the era.

The influence of the religious right within the Conservative family is not matched by an equivalent impact in the ballot box. Over the years, flirting with restrictions on abortion and the party’s resistance to same-sex marriage have cost the Conservatives more votes than they have attracted.

As for the dairy farmers who mobilized against Bernier, they are at best fair-weather friends who cannot be counted on to automatically sign up for the larger 2019 Conservative battle against supply-management-friendly parties like the Bloc, the NDP and the Liberals.

Almost two years after their 2015 defeat, the Conservatives have a permanent leader, but not the bigger tent they need if they are to beat the Liberals in two years. On that score, Scheer’s victory is even less impressive than its modest size suggests.

Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.


Indy 500 pole sitter Scott Dixon survives fiery crash

Sun, 28 May 2017 17:57:44 EDT


INDIANAPOLIS—Pole sitter Scott Dixon was knocked out of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday by a terrifying crash that saw his car fly over the car of Jay Howard and land atop the inside safety fence, where it split in two amid sparks and flames.

Dixon’s car was shredded by the retaining wall, but the tub of the car remained intact and the 2008 champion was able to climb out on his own to a roar from the crowd. He walked to a waiting ambulance while the race was placed under red flag and crews began to clean up debris scattered over hundreds of feet.

Howard also was checked at the infield car centre and released.

“Just a little beaten up there. It was definitely a rough ride,” Dixon said. “I’m just bummed for the team, man. We had a great shot. We had gotten a little loose but they had dialed it in.”

It’s been a roller-coaster trip to Indianapolis for Dixon, a New Zealander who turned the fastest qualifying laps since 1996 to land on the pole. But that same night, Dixon was waiting in a drive-thru line at a nearby Taco Bell with three-time winner Dario Franchitti when he was held up at gunpoint.

Little did he know it wouldn’t be his only frightening incident of the week.

Howard blamed the incident on Ryan Hunter-Reay. He’d run out of fuel earlier in the race and was already a couple of laps down when Hunter-Reay tried to get around him. Howard said that forced him to the top of the track, and the British driver for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports wound up in the outside wall.

That impact sent Howard across the track, where Dixon had nowhere to go.

“We were just out there trying to pick up some laps and Hunter-Reay got a run on me,” Howard said. “I lifted, trying to be a nice guy. He comes right over on me and the rest is happy.”

Dixon’s car went airborne and flipped over before landing on the retaining barrier, where the impact punched a hole in the safety fencing. A photographer who was positioned at that point on the track ducked just in time as the car came apart; he was checked by safety crews and was OK.

Helio Castroneves was following them and barely escaped the carnage.

“It’s tough,” Dixon said. “You make those decisions, which way to go. You’re hoping Jay is going to stay against the wall. I already had picked that way to go. There was nowhere else to go to avoid him. It’s just a wild ride. You hold on and believe in the safety progress we’ve made.”

Howard was making only his 13th career IndyCar start and his first since 2011, and that led Dixon team owner Chip Ganassi to question the series’ eligibility rules.

The spectacular crash followed an incident involving Sebastien Bourdais during qualifying weekend, when he wiggled twice going through the same corner and hit the wall. The tub of his car collapsed and Bourdais was left with a fractured pelvis, hip and ribs.

Bourdais, who was at the track Sunday, joined Franchitti in visiting Dixon at the care centre.

Dixon was among the heavy favourites to win his second Indianapolis 500 this weekend. He had been fast through practice before landing on the pole, and his Honda-powered ride had him near the front of the field when the crash occurred on Lap 54.

“It was,” Dixon said, “a wild ride.”




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