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Readers have lots of ideas for Ontario Place redevelopment

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Nadine Spencer, president of the Black Business and Professional Association, remembers attending a reggae concert at Ontario Place when she was a teenager recently arrived from Jamaica, and the way it brought people together.

“I came to Canada in 1979, when I was 12. And I remember going to Ontario Place with my family as a new immigrant, and seeing Peter Tosh play.

Nadine Spencer remembers how attending a concert at Ontario Place when she was a child helped her feel connected to the city, and wants new generations of residents to have the same experience.
Nadine Spencer remembers how attending a concert at Ontario Place when she was a child helped her feel connected to the city, and wants new generations of residents to have the same experience.  (CECIL / NI Photography)

“It wasn’t just Jamaicans. Everyone was there … from all different races, and there we were, sitting on the grass, eating and dancing and just celebrating.”

The memory of that day is with her still, at 50, and Spencer wants to see newcomers have the opportunity to enjoy the same kind of experience.

“I think Ontario Place should be a space where people meet, where families meet and communities meet and we get to know each other and learn from each other — maybe this is just a part of the solution to the bigger issues in the city, to have a space that’s inclusive,” said Spencer, who is also CEO of BrandEQ Group Inc., a global marketing and communications agency.

We reached out to followers on Facebook and Twitter and Reddit and put calls in to people we thought might have something informed, fresh or profound to say.

The ideas were silly and solemn and earnest and out there.

A theme park for cannabis. A penal colony. A beer garden with a retractable roof so it can be used 365 days a year, with a rotating selection of Ontario craft beers on tap, Ontario wines and spirits, and paired with local restaurants for snacks.

Blue Jays fan Robert Fulton proposed an open-air baseball stadium for the Blue Jays, with the city as a backdrop, pointing out that cities in the U.S. have been building popular new parks that hearken back to a different era, pointing to Pittsburgh’s PNC Park as an example.

“The throwback-style parks MLB has been building the last 20 years or so are so beautiful — they alone bring people out,” said Fulton, who has visited Pittsburgh three times since PNC Park was built.

“Whenever I see baseball highlights on TV from PNC Park, the glimpses of Pittsburgh are so nice it made me want to visit the city,” said Fulton.

“We all know how beautiful Toronto is and showcasing it that way is free tourism and advertising.”

Preserving Ontario Place as a park was the most popular response on social media. Many people mentioned the importance of better transit links to the site, including a shuttle from Union Station. There was strong support for keeping the existing structures on the property — the Cinesphere and the pods — and also for adding restaurants, festivals and a marketplace. A couple of people spoke up in support of a mall or casino, but not a majority.

“I bristle incandescently at the thought of a mall or casino rendering yet more prime land to soulless commercial ghetto,” said Cavan Campbell, @CCamOperator, on Twitter.

Water sports were mentioned often, including canoeing, kayaking, sailing and a log ride for kids.

Urban planner Joe Berridge, partner at Urban Strategies, with planning experience in the Ontario Place and Exhibition Place area, envisions it as part of a new convention centre including Exhibition Place to the north, replacing the existing Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Front St.

Ontario Place would provide the entertainment and relaxation elements of the convention centre site, preserving the Cinesphere, the islands as parks and the pods as event venues.

“They’re beautiful buildings inside and they have glorious views,” said Berridge, adding that it’s crucial to redevelop the site hand-in-hand with Exhibition Place, which has the transit connectivity and activity needed to rejuvenate and connect Ontario Place.

Berridge envisions hotel, retail and entertainment uses on the existing Ontario Place parking lots, including a winter spa.

Phil Myrick, CEO, Projects for Public Spaces, a non-profit planning, design and educational organization, said redeveloping such a large piece of the waterfront is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Waterfronts are the single most valuable piece of any city’s land and they’re totally unique in terms of the opportunity.”

Online views:

People online had plenty to say about what they thought Ontario Place should be:

  • The magic of Ontario Place for me as a child was the ability to climb and play; the huge space. Why not re-make it into a public park, with wildlife zones, playscapes, quiet gardens; a place to celebrate the physical world. A place to breathe. Toronto’s gift to people? — Megan O’Connor, Twitter
  • Nothing commercial. Keep the William G. Davis Trail in honour of the last real Tory. Keep Cinesphere in honour of great Canadian IMAX technology. Let nature rule everywhere else. Maybe a Tanglewood style concert venue. Splice to the TTC. No parking lots — David Hammer, Twitter
  • Establish an Indigenous cultural and learning centre or university or healing truth-and-reconciliation place in order to reinterpret the name Ontario Place, bringing it back to its roots, making it a place of growth and renewal — Graziano Galati, Twitter
  • How about a boardwalk with restaurants and bars? There’s nowhere near enough patios in Toronto during the summer. Everything is packed. Good example of this is Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia — Jenn Heard, Twitter
  • Casino with a huge poker room! — Jon McKenzie, Twitter
  • Maintain the Cinesphere. Maintain as many of the old buildings as possible. Clean it up a bit and keep it going as a park. The In Future festival was truly stunning, and many of the seasonal festivals have been great, as well. I would love to see more festivals and events held there. If possible open up the buildings in the water as event spaces or restaurants. I also think it’s important to protect, maintain and expand public green spaces on the waterfront — Reddit user
  • No cars. Pedestrians and bikes only. Maybe a fun little railway to move people around the site (especially important to keep all aspects of the site accessible for those that may have issues with mobility). A gem on the waterfront that shines a light on the best parts of the province, and is for all Ontarians, where the whole province can feel at home and find something fun to do (ideally at all times of the year): regardless of their financial means, age, etc. Toronto is the provincial capital. If we’re not going to play host to something that celebrates the province as a whole, who is? — Reddit user
  • I think this should be rebuilt as a mega mall. The mall should be built similar to Woodbine, Yorkdale and BCE mall. These three malls all have one great feature; why not build a mega mall that contains all of the features? Inside the mall I think there should be a Fantasy Fair, a cinema and a daycare centre. This way, it will be used all year round (as) it is set in such a great location. Everyone is welcome — Reddit user
  • Erect a GIGANTIC statue of a golfer in mid swing about to hit the Cinesphere. If you build it, they will come — Reddit user
  • How about a mega mall and a casino, with a dedicated monorail from Union Station. This will put Ontario place back on the map — James MacDonald, Facebook
  • Make it into a complete entertainment strip with hotels, restaurants, shops, whatever else — Joshua Rubinger
  • Bio dome with aviary and planetarium — Eric Henry, Facebook
  • Should be a theme park for cannabis — Reddit user

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF



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Personal Injury firm to pay an estimated $4 million to settle class-action with former clients

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A personal injury law firm has agreed to pay an estimated $4 million to settle claims that the firm double-dipped from the settlements of nearly 1,800 accident victims it represented.

The settlement between Neinstein & Associates LLP, a prominent personal injury law firm, and its clients was approved Wednesday by Justice Paul Perell.

Cassie Hodge, one of nearly 1,800 accident victims who joined a class-action lawsuit against Neinstein & Associates LLP. The firm has agreed to pay an estimated $4 million to settle the claims.
Cassie Hodge, one of nearly 1,800 accident victims who joined a class-action lawsuit against Neinstein & Associates LLP. The firm has agreed to pay an estimated $4 million to settle the claims.  (Andrew Lahodynskyj / Toronto Star)

Perell’s sign-off on the settlement effectively ends a class-action lawsuit that was certified in June 2017 but never made it to trial.

At the time the class-action commenced, lawyers working on contingency — “you don’t pay unless we win” — were not allowed to take a sum of money called “costs” in addition to a percentage of the settlement, according to the Solicitor’s Act governing lawyers.

In 2012, the roughly 1,800 class members alleged that Gary Neinstein and the law firm breached provincial law and their “fiduciary duties because they charged an amount for costs” in addition to the fee spelled out in their contingency fee agreement, according to Perell’s settlement approval decision. The firm denied the allegations.

Jeff Neinstein, managing partner of Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers, told the Star in an email his firm is “pleased that this issue has been resolved.”

“We appreciate the trust and confidence that our clients have continued to place in us and we remain dedicated to providing compassionate legal representation for all victims across Ontario.”

During a brief hearing in a second-floor courtroom at downtown Toronto’s Osgoode Hall, Perell additionally approved $1 million in legal fees and assorted charges incurred during the litigation for plaintiff lawyers Peter Waldmann and Andrew Stein, plus a $10,000 honorarium to accident victim Cassie Hodge, the 46-year-old mother of two at the heart of the case.

Waldmann, who represented Hodge and the other class members, said the settlement is “a compromise,” but he is pleased the accident victims are getting some remedy.

A Star investigation that began in 2016 found personal injury lawyers in Ontario had routinely taken their fees then also taken the “costs,” which a Divisional Court judge had called “double dipping.” As a result, the Star story said, many Ontario residents had been overcharged thousands of dollars and likely did not know it.

On the heels of the Star’s findings, the Law Society of Ontario decided to make changes to the way personal injury lawyers can advertise their services, bill their clients and charge and collect referral fees.

“When this issue was first raised, it became clear that there was confusion regarding the interpretation of the Solicitors Act,” Jeff Neinstein said Wednesday. “We took these concerns very seriously. We worked collaboratively to ensure that these issues were responsibly addressed. We are proud of the work that we do and continue to promote access to justice.”

In his settlement approval order, Justice Perell said negotiations between both sides were “intensive.” He said the settlement is “a good result for the class particularly having regard to the litigation risks and the long litigation road that would await them.”

As part of the settlement, a class member could get 30 per cent of what Neinstein referred to on his accounts as costs, the court said, provided she or he signed or amended a contingency fee agreement with the firm after October 1, 2004 and paid their fees before December 9, 2015.

Their cases must also have settled for at least $40,000 and their bills included at least $15,000 for an amount the firm called “party and party costs,” “partial indemnity costs” or another term using equivalent language.

Perell said that he awarded Hodge the honorarium to pay her personal expenses during the case and “to acknowledge her extraordinary contribution.”

Hodge’s battle against Neinstein began in 2010 after the law firm settled her car accident case for $150,000, sending her a final account that included charges for “legal fees” of $30,326 and “costs” of $30,000. She was also charged for $48,924 of “disbursements,” charges incurred by the lawyer in the course of litigation, which included $4,008 for photocopies, $2,791 for “laser copies,” and $1,372 for “interest recovery,” according to an earlier appeal court ruling that upheld the certification of the class.

Hodge alleges she was left with a fraction of her settlement.

Hodge had retained the Neinstein firm after a 2002 accident that left her with a concussion, whiplash, a retinal tear, soft tissue injures and chronic pain.

“Justice is served,” Hodge said outside the courtroom after the hearing. “Now people are aware of what was happening at law firms, and they know that they do have recourse.”

Michele Henry is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow her on Twitter: @michelehenry

Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: kwallace@thestar.ca



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Westmount Park Elementary School students to be temporarily relocated to 2 separate buildings – Montreal

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A contentious plan to split Westmount Park Elementary School students up during a two-year renovation blitz is officially moving forward.

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) announced at a special meeting on Wednesday that students will be temporarily transferred to two different buildings for the duration of the project.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board parents weigh in on disputed school moves

Students will be relocated to Marymount Academy in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and the former St. John Bosco Elementary School in Ville Émard for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.

Both locations will house kindergarten to Grade 6 students in order not to split up siblings, according to the school board.

The $12.5-million overhaul of the elementary school, which was built in 1913, will fix major structural issues.

READ MORE: Parents voice concerns over relocation of students at Westmount Park School

The plan has been met with both praise and concern from parents at school board meetings. Some said they were worried about where their kids will be transferred and separated from their friends.

At a consultation meeting last week, parents of Marymount students also voiced concerns over taking in hundreds of Westmount Park students.

WATCH: Westmount Park Elementary School students will have to move out of their school for two years






New French immersion school delayed

After announcing last October it would open a new French immersion school in NDG in September 2019, the school board says those plans have now been pushed back.

The elementary school was slated to open at 4850 Coronation Ave. — but now that building could instead house students from three other EMSB schools that are currently overcrowded.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board plans to open new French immersion school in NDG

The EMSB says it is considering its options and that it will consult with the schools and their committees.

A decision is expected to be made by the school board’s council of commissioners on Feb. 20.

— With files from Global’s Elysia Bryan Baynes

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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RCMP seek help finding Canadian actress and nephew ‘considered missing’ from Kamloops since Sunday

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Kamloops RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance locating a six-year-old boy and his 28-year-old aunt, actress Roseanne Supernault

RCMP say they received a report on Sunday to check on the well-being of Nikaeo Supernault who was being looked after by his aunt.

They say the boy and his aunt have not been in contact with the boy’s mother since Jan. 13, and the pair is « considered missing. »

Police say they believe the boy is with his aunt.

Roseanne Supernault, a Métis/Cree actress, has starred in several TV series, including Blackstone, Strange Empire and The Drive, as well as the independent film, Neither Wolf Nor Dog.

Metis/Cree actress Rosanne Supernault in the film Neither Wolf nor Dog that played in select theatres across Canada in 2017. (InYo Entertainment)

Police describe six-year-old Nikaeo as three feet six inches tall, 45 pounds with light brown hair, brown eyes and wearing a blue jacket, black pants and tan boots.

His aunt, Roseanne, is five feet seven inches tall, 190 pounds, dyed blonde hair, brown eyes, wearing a black jacket with white fur on the hood, jeans and black boots.

The Kamloops RCMP is asking anyone with information on their whereabouts to contact them at 1-250-828-3000 or make an anonymous report to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



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