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Rejecting cannabis stores would cost Toronto millions, John Tory says

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Following Mississauga’s lead by banning cannabis shops would cost Toronto millions of dollars in provincial funding, Mayor John Tory warned Wednesday.

Tory told reporters he will urge city council at Thursday’s meeting to opt into Premier Doug Ford’s plan for regulated by privately run pot shops, but lobby Ford to give municipalities more control over where those shops will go.

“I think to say no would … do us out of quite a lot of money, millions of dollars,” in provincial funds earmarked for cities and towns who say they are willing to host stores legally selling recreational marijuana, Tory told reporters Wednesday after an unrelated announcement.

Tory said he will vote to opt in to regulated shops rather than see a black market continue, but plans to send a letter to the Progressive Conservative government asking that municipalities be given “some latitude” to prevent clusters of shops together, or shops too close to schools or playgrounds.

A report going to Toronto council from city staff recommends opting in to retail sales. It says Toronto stands to get $3 million as part of a first provincial payment to all municipalities, and then millions more through a per-household formula for cities and town that agree to host shops.

They advocated a wait-and-see approach based on how retail stores affect other municipalities over the next six months to a year.

“I don’t want Mississauga to be a guinea pig,” said Councillor Dipika Damerla. “I think we’re better off taking a prudent approach.”

Markham’s council also voted Wednesday to opt out of hosting retail cannabis stores.

Tory said provincial officials told him on a conference call that municipalities must decide if they will host privately run pot shops by Jan. 22. If they opt out, he said, extra funding to cover the costs of regulating the shops disappears.

“I asked the question on the conference call I had repeatedly — ‘If you opt out and you don’t then get the millions of dollars, can you opt in later and get the money?’ And they said no, once you opt out, you’re out.

“I think we want to have an orderly regulation of cannabis sales in Toronto, and we want to have the financial assistance which I think we rightly deserve for the costs that are being incurred to regulate this. I think the wiser approach is to opt in with conditions, » Tory said, while acknowledging the province has given no indication it would let municipalities supersede provincial rules that, for example, say the buffer between pot shops and schools can be as little as 150 metres.

The federal government legalized recreational cannabis on Oct. 17. Ontario residents can buy it now at the Ontario Cannabis Store website.

The Ford government scrapped a plan by the previous Liberal government that would have seen cannabis sales tightly regulated through LCBO-type stores that would not have been allowed to within 500 metres of schools.

The province plans to let private licensed and approved retailers start selling pot April 1.

But some municipalities are saying the province is moving too quickly and being too inflexible. Tory, for example, is unhappy that, under current guidelines, a municipality would be just another party to a shop licence application, with no right to appeal the provincial regulator’s decision.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis (Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt) says he’ll ask Toronto council to say he can ban cannabis stores in his ward, and other wards can opt out, too. But an Ontario government official told the Star there is no provision allowing specific parts of a municipality to opt out.

Tory said he doubted the argument would work, calling it a “difficult proposition.”

Meanwhile Councillor Paula Fletcher, who had seen a proliferation of pot shops in Ward 14 Toronto-Danforth, says some of the dispensaries are now closed but display a phone number for people to call and get cannabis delivered to them.

“Under the Ford model it’s still the wild west because you’re going to have a proliferation of home delivery” by unauthorized sellers operating among private providers licensed by the province, said Fletcher, who wants a return to the plan for LCBO-type cannabis stores.

“You can’t put a sign up on your door and say if you want booze, phone such and such a number, but now we have this new delivery model emerging and we need the government to have control,” she said.

With files from Francine Kopun and Ali Raza, Mississauga News

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider



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A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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