Costco pharmacies hit with $7.25M fine after probe of money the chain collected from drug companies

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Costco pharmacies have been fined $7.25 million for violating an Ontario kickback regulation designed to keep down the cost of prescription medications.

The fine, quietly posted Friday on a government website, follows a three-year investigation into “advertising services” Costco was alleged to have charged its drug suppliers to get their medications stocked at the retail chain’s stores.

Costco pharmacies have been fined $7.25 million for violating an Ontario kickback regulation designed to keep down the cost of prescription medications.
Costco pharmacies have been fined $7.25 million for violating an Ontario kickback regulation designed to keep down the cost of prescription medications.  (Toronto Star)

It’s illegal in Ontario for drug companies to give direct or indirect incentives — known as rebates — to induce a pharmacy to stock their products. The province has said these kickbacks artificially inflate the price of drugs.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care determined that Costco’s acceptance of millions of dollars for advertising services from 2013 to 2015 “violated the prohibition on rebates.”

“The Ministry takes non-compliance with the prohibition on rebates seriously and will continue to assess compliance with the prohibition by manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies,” read a notice from the executive officer of Ontario’s public drug programs, who is in charge of enforcing anti-rebate legislation.

In a statement, a Costco spokesperson said its pharmacies “honestly believed at the time that the advertising programs” did not break Ontario’s rebate rules, adding that the company used the money “to reduce dispensing fees and drug mark-ups” for its customers.

“(Costco pharmacies) would never knowingly or intentionally act in a manner which was inconsistent with the laws of Ontario,” the statement said.

The Star first revealed in March 2016 that Costco had been accused of squeezing nearly $1.3 million in unlawful rebates from Ranbaxy, a generic drug company.

At the heart of the allegations was a secretly recorded 2014 phone conversation in which a Costco pharmacy director explains to a Ranbaxy drug sales representative how much the company would have to pay to “greatly reduce the likelihood of somebody eating your business.”

That rep, Tony Gagliese, complained to Ontario’s ministry of health and the pharmacists’ regulatory college, alleging Costco was requiring Ranbaxy to pay “renamed” rebates on its Ontario sales through pricey advertising services in order to circumvent the law. The advertising services included Ranbaxy’s logo being printed in clinic handouts and the Wellness Connection, a magazine published by Costco.

Costco approached the ministry in the summer of 2015 for clarity on whether the payments were appropriate, and suspended charging for its advertising services while it awaited feedback.

In its Friday statement, Costco said it co-operated fully with the government’s investigation and is “pleased” the fine “provides further guidance on the issue of rebates.”

The government’s action is not the first time Costco has been sanctioned for the payments.

At a January 2018 hearing before the Ontario College of Pharmacists, two Costco pharmacy directors — Joseph Hanna and Lawrence Varga — admitted to professional misconduct for soliciting more than $1.2 million in improper advertising services from Ranbaxy. Neither Hanna nor Varga personally pocketed any of the money, Costco said in a statement at the time.

The two pharmacists were each fined $20,000 by the regulator.

As part of that settlement, charges that Hanna and Varga allegedly accepted illegal payments from four other generic drug companies were withdrawn.

Costco said in a statement that the regulatory college’s ruling recognized that Costco pharmacies were “operating in an area of legal uncertainty as it related to the payments.”

In the notice announcing the $7.25-million fine, the province said the penalty “will serve as a guide to the pharmaceutical industry regarding compliance with rebate prohibition.”

But the whistleblower who exposed Costco’s rebate demands said the fine does little to deter other pharmacies from collecting rebates.

“It’s weak. The only thing the government is doing is taking the money back that Costco took,” Gagliese said. “If you want to send a strong message to the whole profession, the executive officer should suspend Costco’s ability to bill” Ontario’s public drug plans.

“That would be a strong message. No one would do it again,” he said.

Jesse McLean is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @jesse_mclean

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Flash flooding, power outages, school closures hit NB

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Thursday night’s heavy rain and high winds have caused flash flooding and power outages in some communities across the province.

Several dozen houses were evacuated in riverfront areas of Sussex around 1 a.m. The Canadian Red Cross placed 17 people in emergency lodging at area hotels.

The town’s emergency control group opened an emergency shelter at Kingswood University late last night. The shelter was released early this morning.

A report on the Sussex town website from this morning says water levels reached their peak last night and are trending downward.

In Moncton, eight people were forced to flee an apartment building after powerful winds tore away part of the roof. The Canadian Red Cross has provided emergency lodging and meals for several days. There were no injuries reported form the roof damage.

Almost 6,000 NB Power customers are without power as of 6 a.m. Friday morning, most in the Kennebecasis Valley Fundy, Central York Sunbury and Kings/Queens regions.

In the Anglophone South School District, schools are closed Friday in Apohaqui, Norton, and Sussex Corner.
Elsewhere in the district all buses are running on a one-hour delay.

Schools are also closed across the Anglophone North and Francophone Northeast school districts.

In Anglophone West, schools are closed in Zones 5 through 9. That includes the Stanley, Boiestown, Doaktown area, the Greater Fredericton area – including New Maryland, Keswick Ridge and Nashwaak Valley, Lincoln, Oromocto, Burton, Geary, and Fredericton Junction, Chipman and Minto and Gagetown and Cambridge Narrows.

In Francophone South, schools are closed in Baie-Ste-Anne, Fredericton, Miramichi, Oromocto, Richibucto, Rogersville, and St-Louis-de-Kent.

On the highways, the transportation department is reporting conditions are much improved across the south.

The no-travel advisory has finally been lifted on the Trans Canada between the Grand Lake area and Moncton.

Most highways are bare wet, with some icy and slushy patches.

In the north, parts of Route 2 and Route 11 are snow covered or snow packed, with ice and slush.

Miramichi city police urged people to stay off city streets last night because of « extreme flooding. » 

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Mother of two happy to be alive after coming within seconds of being hit by train

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An Île-Perrot mother says she and her four-year-old daughter are grateful to be alive after coming within seconds of being struck by a freight train.

Amanda Collins was on her way to pick her son up from school when she drove over a snow-covered railway crossing.

She drove over the first set of tracks, then skidded and came to a stop in the deep snow, right on top of the second set of tracks.

« I reversed and went forward repeatedly, » Collins said. « I heard the train honking at me like crazy, and I looked over, and I could see it coming at me. »

She and her daughter escaped from the car just before it was struck by the Canadian National freight train.

« [My daughter] was screaming ‘No, mommy, no!’ when it hit the car, and I’ve never seen her react so emotionally to anything like that before, » Collins said.

Amanda Collins, who recently moved back to Quebec from B.C., says she is grateful she and her daughter escaped with their lives after her car got stuck in snow-covered rail tracks just as a freight train bore down on them Wednesday. (CBC)

Canadian National says its trains were rolling slower than usual because of bad weather, and that it’s still investigating the incident.

The City of Île-Perrot is responsible for keeping the tracks clear, and it says a snow plow cleared the roads between 2 and 3 p.m. — just before Collins drove over the tracks.

‘It could have been so different’

Her car is a write-off, and Collins doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to replace it.

Collins, a single mother of two, recently moved back to her native Quebec from British Columbia to find work and because of the cheaper cost of living.

Having a car is crucial for her, she says, and she isn’t used to relying on other people to get around.

Some of her friends have started an online fundraiser to help Collins replace her vehicle.

She says for now, she is just happy she and her daughter are alive.

« It could have been so different, » Collins said. « I could have been waking up in a hospital room. It was really close. »

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Brampton man among those who hit jackpot in Ontario’s cannabis store lottery

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Clint Seukeran has no experience in the cannabis business.

But he’s long been an evangelist for the health and artistic benefits of the newly legalized plant.

Shoppers line up to purchase cannabis from a store in Calgary after recreational marijuana was legalized nationwide in October. The first retail pot stores in Ontario will open by April 1.
Shoppers line up to purchase cannabis from a store in Calgary after recreational marijuana was legalized nationwide in October. The first retail pot stores in Ontario will open by April 1.  (Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press file photo)

Now Seukeran will have the chance to put his passion to practical use, as one of the first 25 people and companies given the chance to apply for a cannabis store licence in Ontario.

He was a winner of the provincial lottery held last week to open up the first group of licences.

“I thought it was junk mail. I thought there’s no way,” the Brampton man said of being notified of his win Friday evening.

Seukeran — who claimed one of the six spots awarded for the regions surrounding Toronto — quickly shifted from disbelief to glee as the news sank in.

“I was elated,” he said. “I was absolutely thrilled to become part of this movement.

“Basically I was in bliss … once I discovered it was real.”

Seukeran faced long odds to claim the opportunity.

The 25 winners, who were notified by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, were selected from some 16,905 applicants by purpose-built lottery software.

That gave entrants a 1-in-676.2 chance of winning. By comparison, Lotto 6/49 offers ticket buyers a 1-in-6.6 chance at some sort of prize.

But industry experts, such as Lift & Co. head Matei Olaru, say the store licences — which the lottery gave winners a chance to apply for — could be worth millions of dollars to the initial shop owners.

Olaru, whose Toronto company acts as an industry resource and information provider, told the Star these first entrants into the brick-and-mortar pot sector will almost certainly prosper from being the earliest recreational merchants in Canada’s most populous province.

"I was elated. I was absolutely thrilled to become part of this movement," said Clint Seukeran, who learned Friday he was one of 25 winners of the province's pot lottery. The win gives him a chance to apply for one of the first cannabis retail licences in Ontario.
« I was elated. I was absolutely thrilled to become part of this movement, » said Clint Seukeran, who learned Friday he was one of 25 winners of the province’s pot lottery. The win gives him a chance to apply for one of the first cannabis retail licences in Ontario.  (supplied)

But Seukeran, who owns the coconut water bottling company CGS Foods Inc., says he’s more interested in the health benefits he’ll help spread than in the monetary rewards.

Once an aspiring doctor, he said he’s been interested in the health effects of marijuana since he came to Canada in 1996 to study medicine.

“I didn’t finish my degree in medicine because I wanted to do something that was preventative rather than a solution,” he said.

“So I decided to get into health foods and healthy natural products, and I was interested in (the active cannabis ingredient CBD) specifically.

“The efficacy of these new compounds were so entrancing for me. I thought they (had) so many uses that I wanted to be part of that health movement.”

While he never sold medical marijuana, Seukeran did earn an MBA in the agriculture and food business from the University of Guelph.

And with a second manufacturing business in his native Trinidad and Tobago, he says he has the financial resources to open and operate his new endeavour.

But Seukeran readily admits the pot business is new to him and that he lacks enough knowledge to get started on his own.

“I’m not involved in the industry. I know nothing about it,” he said. “So I’ll defer to the expertise of the ones who do have it.”

To that end, Seukeran has turned to Cannabis Compliance Inc. of Mississauga to help him navigate his entrance into the trade.

That initial foray includes a rigorous and expensive licensing process that demands applicants provide a $50,000 line of credit to the commission and spend some $10,000 in non-refundable fees for licensing and store permits.

The first stores will be required to open by April 1 or face stiff fines. They will also need to train staff and install security systems, among numerous other compliance requirements.

Of the 25 winning application spots, five are in Toronto proper, six in the rest of the GTA, five more in eastern Ontario, seven in the western part of the province and two in the north.

Seukeran, 39, says he’ll have to wait until Jan. 22 — the deadline for municipalities to decide whether they will allow cannabis retail shops — to choose a store location.

Seukeran, who will submit his licence application under the CGS Foods Inc. label, was one of only seven winners who did not enter the lottery as individuals.

Some 64 per cent of all applicants were listed as sole proprietors, 33 per cent as corporations, and 4 per cent as partnerships and limited partnerships.

Joseph Hall is a Toronto-based reporter and feature writer. Reach him on email: gjhall@thestar.ca

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In 2013, 6 were killed when an Ottawa double-decker bus hit a train. Distraction was one cause

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A double-decker bus operated by Ottawa’s OC Transpo crashed into a bus shelter Friday, leaving three people dead and 23 hurt.

The incident happened just over five years after another deadly accident involving a double-decker bus, which took place in the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven.

WATCH: 23 people injured, 3 dead following fatal Ottawa bus crash: mayor






It was 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 18, 2013 when OC Transpo bus number 8017 pulled into the Fallowfield Bus Station on express route 76.

The bus was heading to downtown Ottawa on the Transitway, a private roadway that’s been set aside for commuter buses, said a report by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB).

WATCH: Sept. 24, 2014 — TSB said speed, distraction factors in Ottawa bus crash






Along the Transitway was a left-hand curve that led to Woodroffe Avenue, where the roadways ran parallel and a railway crossed them both.

At the bus’ wheel, the driver would have been faced with all the usual controls and a few additional pieces of technology — like a video monitor screen measuring six inches by four inches.

This monitor showed feeds from four different cameras on the bus: one showed the upper deck, and any OC Transpo driver was supposed to look at it at bus stops and while the vehicle was in service.

READ MORE: TSB — Multiple factors caused fatal Ottawa bus-train accident, including driver distractions

While the bus was stopped at Fallowfield, neither the driver nor his 95 passengers knew that flashing lights, bells and gates had activated along the railway some distance ahead to signal a train was coming.

The bus pulled out of the station 10 seconds after those signals were triggered — and four minutes behind schedule.

As the bus pulled out, one passenger was standing near the top of the double-decker’s stairs and would have been visible on the driver’s monitor screen.

No passenger was supposed to be standing on the top deck — and it was the driver’s job to look at the screen and remind them.

WATCH: Debris lines transitway in Ottawa after fatal bus crash






As the bus approached the left-hand curve on the Transitway, the driver would have heard passengers talking about seating that was available on the deck above them.

The driver looked up toward the monitor at this time.

Along the railway, Via Rail passenger train number 51 was about to cross Woodroffe Avenue and the Transitway en route to Toronto.

Warnings had been activated for more than 30 seconds.

READ MORE: Photos and videos from devastating Ottawa bus crash

Inside the bus, however, no one would have been able to hear the bells — and with the gates and flashing lights hidden by trees, foliage, signage and the bus’ front pillars, the driver wouldn’t have been able to see that a train was coming.

The bus was travelling at 67.6 km/h — 7.6 km/h above the speed limit.

Suddenly, passengers noticed the train and yelled out at the driver to stop and look out.

The driver then hit the brakes smoothly — as he had been trained to do — and that lengthened the bus’ stopping distance.

The bus in which six people died is towed away from the site of the fatal bus and train crash in Ottawa, Thursday, September 19, 2013. Six people died in the crash between a Via Rail train and a city bus on Wednesday.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand .

The bus hit the train after its speed had slowed to 7.7 km/h.

The collision killed the driver and five passengers, hurt nine others seriously and left 25 passengers with minor injuries. No one was hurt on the train.

The double-decker might have avoided the collision had it stopped just 0.4 metres sooner.

TSB investigators blamed the crash on a number of factors, none were driver error.

“Given the circumstances, this accident could have happened to just about any driver,” TSB lead investigator Rob Johnston said in 2015, when the board’s report was released.

Visual distraction was one factor identified in the crash.

Drivers are expected to inspect the video monitor when their buses reach stops, and when they’re in service.

Drivers, the TSB determined, would need to “periodically glance at the screen” while the bus was moving in order to monitor passengers standing on the upper deck.

READ MORE: Bus in deadly Ottawa train crash was ‘over the speed limit,’ says TSB

“Research has determined that a driver’s glances away from the forward visual scene, especially glances lasting two seconds or longer, are significantly associated with accidents and near accidents,” the report said.

Cognitive distraction was another factor.

The driver had spoken with at least one more passenger about sitting on the bus’ upper deck before the vehicle left Fallowfield station, the report said.

And as the bus travelled, the driver would have heard passengers discuss seating.

WATCH: Sept. 24, 2014 — City of Ottawa responds to TSB report on fatal bus/train crash






“This combination of factors, along with the perceived need to make a no-standing-on-upper-deck announcement, created a situation where the driver was likely cognitively distracted in the seconds prior to the accident,” the report said.

The TSB recommended “comprehensive guidelines” for the use of in-vehicle video monitoring displays to lower the risk of driver distraction.

WATCH: Sept. 18, 2014 — Survivor remembers fatal Ottawa bus crash one year later






Distraction wasn’t the only factor in this crash, however.

Also blamed were the driver’s obstructed view, grade separation on the road and the bus’ “crashworthiness” — it was lacking a front bumper and its front end wasn’t designed to protect against the impact of a collision.

The Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, it turned out, had “no requirements for frontal impact, side impact, rollover, or crush protection” for buses in this category.

“Although not required by regulation, a more robust front structure and crash energy management design might have reduced the damage to the bus and prevented the loss of a protective shell for the occupants,” the report said.

  • With files from The Canadian Press

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

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17 Sleeper Hit Recipes You May Have Forgotten About—But We Didn’t

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Carla Lalli Music submitted a recipe that slides under the radar because it’s TOO BEAUTIFUL. “I don’t understand why more people don’t make this,” she said. “Oh wait, maybe it’s because you have to perfectly slice a bunch of potatoes, par-cook them in batches with homemade clarified butter, then shingle them in a mesmerizing spiral pattern, working in layers and drizzling with more butter all the time. Once that’s accomplished, you have to cook it in stages, first on the stovetop and finally in the oven. But: My word. When this thing comes out of the oven it is a testament to everything holy about potatoes, butter, and salt, and why they belong together, forever.”

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Government funding cuts hit ‘youth most in need,’ Toronto school board says

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The province has axed funding for programs that “were making a positive difference for at-risk youth,” the Toronto District School Board said Friday in a memo that details the impact that losing $744,500 in grants will have.

The board says 127 part-time jobs for students — 75 from priority neighbourhoods, as well as 52 for post-secondary students — will disappear following the cancellation of the Focus on Youth after-school jobs program and a tutoring program for struggling elementary students as part of a surprise $25-million funding cut.

The board also warned the original Focus on Youth program, which has provided thousands of inner-city youth with summer jobs since it began in 2007 — following the shooting death of Jordan Manners in his Toronto high school — is also under threat.

“Many of the program/funding cancellations were aimed at helping youth most in need,” the board says. “The board’s experience is that the programs were making a positive difference for at-risk youth.”

Chair Robin Pilkey said she is concerned by the potential loss of the summer jobs, because hundreds of teens are hired for those positions.

“It would be terrible if it was just cut, and gone.”

Last week, the government sent out a series of emails to school boards outlining changes to the funding for “other” education programs — known as “EPO” — which includes the after-school jobs, classroom tutors and Indigenous-focused projects, as well as support for teachers in providing daily physical activity to students.

Opposition parties have been heavily critical of the move. NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles has slammed the government for leaving boards on the hook for funding, saying they are “out of pocket covering for this government’s mismanagement” and losing programs vital to student success.

But Education Minister Lisa Thompson has said the grants had become “somewhat of a slush fund” and that some of the spending was redundant, and wasteful.

Thompson said school boards are free to continue offering the jobs programs, but must find the money from within their existing budgets.

Liberal MPP Michael Coteau told the legislature Thursday that Manners’s death “brought attention to an issue that for too long had gone unaddressed, namely, the lack of school supports and programs in our schools that were targeting low-income, marginalized and racialized youth.”

Toronto Catholic Board Chair Maria Rizzo said her board alone is losing $655,000 in grants and laying off 95 students.

The funding was promised last spring by the previous Liberal government. The Toronto public board says it believes “any changes the ministry makes to funding of programs in the middle of the school year should not penalize the board financially.”

Pilkey said she’s very worried about the loss of $137,615 for a “re-engagement” program, where a guidance counsellor sought out youth who have left school with just a couple of credits to go, “to make contact with them again” and see if there’s a way to get them back into class to graduate.

“Our graduation rates have only increased,” she said, wondering why that program would be targeted. “I think, given what the job market looks like, there aren’t jobs for people who don’t have a high school diploma.”

On Friday, the Toronto Catholic board was notified that it would be receiving $141,491 for “parent reaching out grants” to run programs or support initiatives in its schools, starting in January.

The ministry had put the funding on pause despite an outcry from parents, who volunteered their time to apply for the grants last spring to run math nights or host speakers on issues like cyberbullying.

The move prompted Stiles to tweet “this is good news … but unfortunate that some schools had to cancel planned events … while the government sorted out a mess of their own creation. Honestly, it is mind-boggling.”

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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Federal environment minister says Canada will hit Paris emissions target even after ‘setback’ in Ontario

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OTTAWA—Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says Canada will meet its climate commitment under the Paris Agreement, even though new government projections show the country will have to make up for a greater shortfall in emissions reductions than previously expected, thanks in large part to Ontario’s decision to scrap its cap-and-trade program.

The new projections were part of a year-end report from McKenna and senior government officials on Canada’s plan to fight climate change. Officials also unveiled new details on how the federal carbon price will apply to heavy emitters, and laid out proposed regulations to make fuels like gasoline cleaner.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is reflected in a television display as she speaks during a press conference on Canada's climate plan, in the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Dec. 20, 2018. The federal government’s carbon plan has two parts: a fuel tax that will begin in April, and a separate pricing system for heavy industrial emitters.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is reflected in a television display as she speaks during a press conference on Canada’s climate plan, in the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Dec. 20, 2018. The federal government’s carbon plan has two parts: a fuel tax that will begin in April, and a separate pricing system for heavy industrial emitters.  (Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Despite the latest projections, McKenna insisted Canada will hit its target to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — a target that federal and provincial environment commissioners, as well as an estimate from the United Nations, say Canada is on track to miss.

The government’s new projections say Canada will reap 223 megatonnes of emissions reductions in 2030 based on measures to fight climate change in the oil and gas, electricity, transportation, agriculture and other sectors. But it leaves a gap of 79 megatonnes that still need to be cut to hit the Paris target that year — a gap that is 13 megatonnes larger than the government projected last year.

McKenna attributed “setbacks” to Ontario’s decision to scrap the provinces cap-and-trade system and implement a new plan based on a $400-million fund to encourage clean-tech investment, which the minister characterized as a “backtrack.”

But she said the larger shortfall will still be covered by the impacts of government investments in new public transit and clean technology, more robust provincial plans like the one recently set forth in British Columbia, as well as future improvements in carbon capture and other technologies that can be expected in the coming years.

To illustrate the point, she held up her smart phone.

“This iPhone didn’t exist 10 years ago. We’re talking about 2030. That’s 12 years,” she said. “We’re going to figure out the way forward in a cost-effective manner, but we’re committed to meeting our target.”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said the federal targets, which were set by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, are too weak. She pointed to the bombshell report issued this fall that said global emissions will need to drop by 45 per cent below 2005 levels in 2030 and hit net zero by mid-century if the world is to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

“We’re pretending that we’re climate leaders,” she said. “If we’re going to maintain a livable world, we have to do much more and we literally are out of time.”

The government’s plan to reduce emissions is based on a slew of measures, including the implementation of a carbon price in each province and territory that meets a minimum set of federal standards. In October, Ottawa announced it would impose its carbon price in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick, where provincial governments argue a carbon price will hurt their economies and that they can cut emissions in other ways.

The federal carbon plan has two prongs: a fuel tax that will begin in April, and a separate pricing system for heavy industrial emitters.

On Thursday, officials provided more details on the industrial system, which kicks in Jan. 1 and will apply to 74 sectors. The government will set an emissions threshold for each sector; companies that emit less than that threshold will receive credits, and those that emit more will have to buy credits from others or pay the carbon price to Ottawa.

Most sectors will have their threshold set at 80 per cent of average emissions in their industry, but some — including petrochemicals, nitrogen fertilizers, iron and steel — will have a 90 per cent threshold. The cement and lime sectors will have a 95 per cent threshold, officials said Thursday.

Conservatives have criticized this part of the carbon price as an unfair break for big business, McKenna denied the government was letting emitters off the hook. She said the idea is to make sure the carbon price doesn’t put these companies at a disadvantage with international peers.

“How do you make sure they’re competitive, and keep these companies here in Canada, innovating, creating solutions? And that’s how we arrived at these numbers,” she said.

Officials also outlined proposed regulations to make fuel cleaner — a key part of Canada’s climate plan that mainly affects the transportation sector, which is currently responsible for 25 per cent of Canada’s emissions. The plan aims to ensure the carbon intensity — emissions per unit burned — of liquid fuels is reduced by 11 per cent over the next 12 years. The idea is that regulations will encourage producers to find ways to make cleaner fuel and increase the use of lower-emission fuels like ethanol and renewable diesel.

McKenna didn’t say how much this would increase gas prices, but that the proposed measures would lead to “very minimal costs to consumers” while spurring innovation that could create up to 31,000 new jobs in the coming years.

“This is a huge economic opportunity. This is where the world is going,” she said.

With files from Susan Delacourt

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga

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New Air Jordan 11 Concord sneakers hit shelves in Calgary – Calgary

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It’s the most anticipated day on the sneakerhead calendar: Air Jordan release day.

On Saturday, the Air Jordan 11 Concords went on sale, ushering in the latest generation of the iconic sneakers.

In Calgary, stores at CF Chinook Centre did away with the lineups that usually precede these types of releases. Instead, a raffle was held and those with a winning ticket were guaranteed the chance to purchase the $300 sneakers. If shoes went unclaimed by the afternoon, they were fair game.

Francesca Costelo was lucky enough to have her name selected and said the latest Air Jordans will make a nice addition to her collection.

“Jordan 11s are probably the biggest drop of the year,” said Costelo. “It’s something that everyone looks forward to.”

As of 4 p.m., both stores in Chinook were sold out of all adult sizes.


READ MORE:
Teen surprises high school janitor with new Air Jordan sneakers: ‘I got 4 kids, I can’t shop for myself’

This year’s model pays homage to the original Air Jordans that Michael Jordan wore during his return to basketball in 1995.

The 11 Concords feature a number 45 on the heel, a nod to the number Jordan chose to wear after being told he couldn’t bring back his retired number, 23.

Adam Keresztes, co-founder of Calgary sneaker community YYCSOLEdiers, is excited to see a sneaker that throws back to the original Jordans.

“The shoe is very unique,” said Keresztes. “It came with patent leather. [Jordan] wanted it to be a dress shoe that’s also a basketball shoe with the best technology.”

Keresztes said YYCSOLEdiers do what they can to introduce sneakers to a wider audience but the price tag can sometimes get in the way.


WATCH:
Sneakernomics: The buying and selling of sneakers

“I definitely know people that will forgo eating to buy sneakers,” said Keresztes, “but we never advocate buying shoes over anything else.”

YYCSOLEdiers organizes sneaker swaps throughout the year for rookie and veteran collectors to buy, trade and talk shoes.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Toronto appears to have hit a one-year high in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Over 40 per cent of those deaths happened in Scarborough

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The morning of Sept. 26 began just like any other for Maria Dorsey and her partner, Jack Miehm. The pair had coffee and, before he left the house to catch a TTC bus, Jack asked what they would do for dinner that night.

“All that boring stuff, it seems like now, but it’s not boring,” Dorsey recalled.

Toronto appears to have hit a one-year high in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Maria Dorsey lost her Jack Miehm in September.
Toronto appears to have hit a one-year high in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Maria Dorsey lost her Jack Miehm in September.  (MOE DOIRON / TORONTO STAR)

“I gave him a kiss goodbye and said I’ll see you later, and that was it.”

Moments after he left the house to go help a friend with drywall work, Miehm, a 61-year-old semi-retired contractor, was struck by a driver as he crossed at a stoplight at St. Clair Ave. E. and Jeanette St. in the Scarborough Junction neighbourhood. He was about two minutes from his front door.

The impact was so powerful Miehm was thrown 50 metres, police later told Dorsey, and the side mirror of the van was ripped off. The driver fled the scene; a suspect was arrested two days later.

Those who knew him say Miehm, who had two children and two grandchildren, was a quiet, friendly man. At the time of his death, he had been recovering from a stroke he had about six years ago with what Dorsey described as characteristic optimism.

“He said, ‘it could be worse.’ That was his favourite line,” she said. “They say the voice is the first thing people (forget) when you lose someone, but I can still hear his laugh.”

Miehm was one of 46 pedestrians or cyclists who have died in Toronto so far in 2018, a number that appears to mark a recent one-year high for the city.

According to statistics compiled by the Star using police and media reports, 41 pedestrians and five cyclists, who together are classified as “vulnerable road users,” have been killed on the streets so far this year.

The most recent death occurred Friday, when a woman in her 70s was found at the intersection of Finch Ave. East and Wayside Ave. in Scarborough.

The 46 deaths so far in 2018 exceeds the number of combined pedestrian and cyclist fatalities recorded in any year in a police database that goes back to 2007. The highest number in the database is 44, which the city reached in both 2013 and 2016.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Brimley and Heather Rds. (Jan. 2); Steeles Ave. E. and Eastvale Dr. (Jan. 7); Eglinton Ave. E. and Birchmount Rd. (Jan. 9); Warden Ave. and Bambaugh Circle. (Jan. 24)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Brimley and Heather Rds. (Jan. 2); Steeles Ave. E. and Eastvale Dr. (Jan. 7); Eglinton Ave. E. and Birchmount Rd. (Jan. 9); Warden Ave. and Bambaugh Circle. (Jan. 24)  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star; Moe Doiron / For Toronto Star)

The Star began keeping its own count of traffic deaths last year, in order to fill gaps in the police numbers, which don’t include fatalities that occur on private property or provincially owned 400 series highways.

The Star’s count for 2017 showed 41 pedestrians and four cyclists were killed that year, for a total of 45. The number of deaths in 2018 has now exceeded that total as well, with more than three weeks left in the year.

The numbers show two years after city council adopted the Vision Zero plan intended to eliminate traffic fatalities, the deaths of vulnerable road users haven’t slowed.

The city is spending $100 million over five years on the plan, which calls for reducing speed limits, deploying additional red light cameras, increasing signage, reconfiguring intersections, and adding traffic calming measures such as speed humps.

The victims in 2018 have ranged in age from 5 to 92 years old, although more than half were over the age of 55. At least four of the older victims were riding mobility scooters or motorized wheelchairs when they were killed.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Kennedy and William Kitchen Rds. (Feb.21); Cannongate Trail and Purcell Sq. (Feb. 27); Highway 401 and Warden Ave. (March 1); Greencedar Circuit and Daphne Rd. (March 2)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Kennedy and William Kitchen Rds. (Feb.21); Cannongate Trail and Purcell Sq. (Feb. 27); Highway 401 and Warden Ave. (March 1); Greencedar Circuit and Daphne Rd. (March 2)  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star; Moe Doiron / For Toronto Star)

Those who died this year include 5-year-old cancer survivor Camila Torcato, who was pinned by a vehicle outside her school in January; 21-year-old University of Toronto student Emma Leckey, who was run down by an alleged drunk driver downtown; 54-year-old Doug Crosbie, who was clipped by a truck driver while riding his bike on Dundas St. E.; and 50-year-old Isabel Soria, who was struck by an alleged hit-and-run driver while her husband was steps away.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for more than 46 per cent (or 19 of 41) of pedestrian deaths this year, despite the eastern borough containing just 23 per cent of the city’s population and about 26 per cent of its road kilometrage.

A majority of the deaths in Scarborough occurred on or near wide, busy roads such as Ellesmere Rd., Warden Ave. and Victoria Park Ave.

Dorsey said drivers routinely sped down the section of St. Clair Ave. where Miehm was killed.

“We would sit in the backyard in summer, and it’s like a freeway. They race down that street, and I would say to Jack, someone’s going to get hit,” she said.

Nancy Smith Lea, director of the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), said the city’s wide streets “really facilitate high speeds.”

“It’s absolutely tragic that people are continuing to be killed on the streets, but it’s unfortunately not surprising because we’re still designing our streets in a way that kills people, especially outside of the downtown core,” Smith Lea said.

She said the road design in Scarborough and the city’s other suburbs, which were planned and built decades ago, have left “a challenging legacy” that can’t be quickly or easily addressed.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Warden Ave. and Fairfax Crescent. (July 30); Claremore Ave. and Craiglee Dr. (Aug. 6); Highway 2A, east of the Highland Creek Overpass. (Aug. 9); St. Clair Ave. and Jeanette St. (Sept. 26)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Warden Ave. and Fairfax Crescent. (July 30); Claremore Ave. and Craiglee Dr. (Aug. 6); Highway 2A, east of the Highland Creek Overpass. (Aug. 9); St. Clair Ave. and Jeanette St. (Sept. 26)  (Moe Doiron/For Toronto Star)

As part of Vision Zero, the city has reduced speed limits on portions of Kingston Rd., Midland Ave., Finch Ave. and other major streets, and deployed about two dozen red-light cameras in Scarborough.

But the physical changes that Smith Lea and other experts say are crucial to slow traffic and making streets safer — such as adding bike lanes and reducing pedestrian crossing distance at intersections — would take longer to install throughout Scarborough.

“There’s not a really easy answer. It’s going to take some time,” she said. She argued a key first step is getting suburban political leaders onside with road safety initiatives.

Smith Lea complained that when a coalition of groups that included her organization sent councillors a survey about making commitments to road safety in the run-up to October’s municipal election, just one out of seven incumbents running for re-election in Scarborough filled it out.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Sheppard Ave. E. and Allanford Rd. (Sept. 26); Victoria Park Ave. and Esquire Rd. (Sept. 29); Ellesmere and Birchmount Rds. (Nov. 9); Ellesmere and Neilson Rds. (Nov. 12)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Sheppard Ave. E. and Allanford Rd. (Sept. 26); Victoria Park Ave. and Esquire Rd. (Sept. 29); Ellesmere and Birchmount Rds. (Nov. 9); Ellesmere and Neilson Rds. (Nov. 12)  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star; Moe Doiron / For Toronto Star)

Councillor Gary Crawford, who represents Ward 20, Scarborough Southwest, didn’t fill out the survey. But he blamed a particularly chaotic election season, and said he has heard loud and clear from voters that road safety is a priority issue.

“Major roads, even residential roads out in the suburbs, Scarborough in particular, were designed for certain speeds,” Crawford said.

He singled out Kingston Rd. in particular as a trouble area because it’s “almost a major highway, but it is through residential areas.”

Crawford said in addition to lowering speeds on the street, he’d like the city to consider adding on-street parking in order to slow drivers.

The councillor, who served as Mayor John Tory’s budget chief during this council term, said he could support accelerating and adding more funding to Vision Zero if city staff recommended it.

“Every death is absolutely tragic. We need to continue doing what we’re doing with our Vision Zero. We need to continue the investments, and if need be through the advice of staff, further enhance these,” he said.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were two of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Left: Bellamy Rd. N. and Cedar Brae Blvd. (Nov. 25); Midland and Dorcot Aves. (Dec. 4).
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were two of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Left: Bellamy Rd. N. and Cedar Brae Blvd. (Nov. 25); Midland and Dorcot Aves. (Dec. 4).  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star; Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

Don Peat, a spokesperson for the mayor, said Tory “firmly believes the central message of Vision Zero that fatalities and serious injuries on our roads are preventable, and we must strive to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries to zero.”

Peat said the mayor has joined with a majority of council and supported expanding Vision Zero, and receives “regular updates” on the implementation of road safety measures “to ensure the work is being done as quickly as possible.”

Tory initially supported a version of the road safety plan put forward by city staff in 2016, which set a target of reducing traffic deaths and serious injury by 20 per cent over 10 years. Under heavy criticism from safety advocates, Tory supported changing the plan to set a goal of eliminating road deaths altogether.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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