Calgarian now $16.3 million richer after Lotto 6-49 jackpot win – Calgary

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A Calgary man who won $16.3 million from a Lotto 6-49 draw says he doesn’t want to change “much” about his life.

“I have a lot to learn about how to manage this much money,” Alfonso Buonomo explained in a Thursday news release from the Western Canada Lottery Corporation. “I want to be smart, learn how to invest it properly and let it snowball.”

Buonomo discovered he had won the jackpot from the Jan. 2 draw while checking his tickets a Co-op gas bar on Symons Valley Road N.W.

“I actually thought the prize amount was a barcode number when I first scanned the ticket,” he said. “I was shocked! I couldn’t move.”


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Check your tickets! $16M winning lottery ticket sold in Calgary

Buonomo was on his way to get groceries when he stopped at the gas bar. He started to go home, but decided he needed some time to think. So, he turned around to complete his initial errand.

Buonomo said his first priority will be to pay off the mortgage on his home.

“My brother-in-law told me not to get a Lamborghini,” he laughed. “I’d be happy with a new motorcycle and a second vehicle.”

Buonomo bought his winning ticket at the same gas bar where he discovered the win.

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

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Diplomats sue Ottawa for $28 million for health problems suffered in Cuba

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OTTAWA—A group of Canadian diplomats and their family members left ill after serving in Cuba are suing the federal government for $28 million, charging that Ottawa “badly mishandled” a crisis that has left them suffering debilitating brain injuries.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Federal Court, paints a picture of a federal government that was more concerned with keeping a lid on a worsening health crisis that first surfaced for the Canadians in early 2017 in Havana.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“Throughout the crisis, Canada downplayed the seriousness of the situation, hoarded and concealed critical health and safety information and gave false, misleading and incomplete information to diplomatic staff,” the lawsuit claims.

It says the department failed to provide “reasonable or appropriate” medical support to diplomats and their families suffering an array of symptoms that has left them struggling to return to work and normal life.

Indeed, it claims that Global Affairs interfered with the health treatment of Canadians, at one point calling a Miami physician to press him to alter his assessment that one family was determined to have traumatic brain injuries.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland declined to comment on the case Wednesday but said that she has met with some of the affected diplomats.

“They told me about their situation. I’m really concerned about them. They have Canada’s utmost sympathy and support,” Freeland said in Washington, where she was attending a meeting of nations involved in the fight against Daesh.

“They were in Cuba. They were representing us. They were representing their country and their health and safety absolutely needs to be a priority,” Freeland said.

The lawsuit covers 14 people in all — five diplomats along with their spouses and children — and alleges that they were “targeted and injured, suffering severe traumatic harm.

“These mysterious but extremely serious and debilitating attacks have resulted in brain injuries,” the lawsuit states.

It’s believed the “attacks” began in late 2016, originally focused on American diplomats and intelligence officers, it said. Individuals were “targeted” in their homes. For some, symptoms followed unusual sounds or sensations of pressure, it said, such as a “loud screeching metallic noise . . . that seemed to bombard and suffocate” one Canadian.

For others, there was no warning, “leaving an individual gripped in pain, blinded by a headache, or doubled over in dizziness or nausea, confused and disoriented.”

Global Affairs has stated publicly — as recently as last month — that it has no idea what has caused the health symptoms, despite an RCMP-led investigation. But the lawsuit says that the department was immediately concerned that it was some form of sonic or microwave attack, “potentially by a hostile foreign power.”

“The plaintiffs are clearly the victims of some kind of new weaponry, or method of attack,” it states.

The incidents left personnel with symptoms consistent with traumatic brain injuries, including headaches, loss of memory, dizziness and balance problems, the lawsuit states. “Neurological assessments of victims’ brains actually show damage consistent with that seen in cases of concussion,” it states.

The lawsuit accuses the federal government of putting diplomats and family members in harm’s way despite knowing the “high and growing risk that they would sustain the brain injuries.”

It also alleges that the Ottawa kept diplomats in the dark about the risk and gave them false assurances of safety.

And later, federal officials suggested the problem was psychosomatic, leaving ill personnel to “contend with rumours that they were faking it.”

The lawsuit charges that the federal government has frustrated efforts by the ill diplomats and their family members to get proper medical treatment, restricting what medical professionals they see and what information they can share.

It even alleges that brain experts at the University of Pennsylvania — who were treating American diplomats — were instructed to “stop testing the Canadians,” cutting short the assessments of individuals who had travelled to Philadelphia at their own expense.

The lawsuit notes that in April, 2018, Global Affairs deemed Havana an unaccompanied post, meaning that family members would no longer be allowed to join diplomats. In November, it gave Havana the same rating as missions based in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in January, Global Affairs announced it would be looking at reducing its embassy staff by half, to eight, after yet another diplomat had been confirmed with health symptoms.

As was first revealed in the Star, the lawsuit notes that an American diplomat had warned his Canadian neighbour about the potential dangers. That information was passed to the Canadian ambassador, along with the symptoms suffered by the Canadians, yet the embassy “took no apparent action.”

Within weeks, the U.S. embassy officially informed the Canadian embassy that its personnel were getting ill, “possibly because of sonic attacks.” Yet that information was not shared with the Canadian diplomatic staff nor were steps taken to ensure their safety, the lawsuit states.

Even as the Americans were evacuating staff and family members, Canada took a “business as usual” approach insisting that there was no reason to believe the Canadians were being targeted,” the lawsuit says.

With files from Daniel Dale

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

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Vic Fedeli suing Patrick Brown for $8 million over memoir

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Finance Minister Vic Fedeli is suing Patrick Brown for $8 million, alleging a “vicious and petulant attack” through “false and defamatory statements” in the former Progressive Conservative leader’s memoir.

In an 18-page statement of claim, Fedeli, now a key cabinet member in Premier Doug Ford’s government, said Brown and Optimum Publishing International defamed him when the book said that he “engaged in workplace sexual harassment” as interim PC leader last winter.

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli speaks with media following meetings with federal, provincial and territorial counterparts in Ottawa on Dec. 10, 2018. Fedeli is suing former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown for $8 million.
Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli speaks with media following meetings with federal, provincial and territorial counterparts in Ottawa on Dec. 10, 2018. Fedeli is suing former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown for $8 million.  (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Fedeli’s statement of claim also says “numerous false and defamatory statements” were made about the minister in the book and in subsequent media interviews by Brown to promote the book.

Brown’s book, Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown was published the same day Fedeli delivered the PC government’s first fall economic statement last November in a deliberate attempt to cause “maximum damage,” Fedeli’s lawyer, Patrick Flaherty, said in the statement of claim said.

It was “a day that the defendants knew that Fedeli would be required to give multiple media interviews, at which he would be confronted with the allegations in Takedown,” the claim said.

None of the allegations made in the statement of claim have been proven in court.

Fedeli’s lawsuit names Brown, Optimum Publishing, its parent company JF Moore Lithographers Inc of Toronto and their owner Dean Baxendale and was filed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Wednesday. No statement of defence has been filed.

A statement was issued by Baxendale after he and Brown were contacted by the Star.

“Neither Optimum nor the author have been served with any claim at this time. If and when a claim is served, we will respond appropriately,” Baxendale said.

The statement of claim said the false and defamatory statements include a “workplace sexual harassment” allegation, descriptions of Fedeli as having a “holier-than-thou” attitude and being a “suck up,” along with descriptions of the former North Bay mayor as toxic, power-hungry, anti-democratic and a political opportunist “who employed ‘henchmen’ to do his dirty bidding.” The false statements also include the claim made in the book that “Fedeli abused his power as interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario to have a sexual-harassment complainant removed from her job and improperly paid off…from public funds to silence her,” the statement of claim said.

“Fedeli has been exposed to hatred, ridicule and contempt, including on social media such as Twitter, and has suffered, and will continue to suffer, damage to his feelings and reputation,” the statement of claim said.

Brown, as a lawyer and politician, knew or should have known because of his CTV lawsuit that “the repetition and publication of allegations against an individual involved alleged sexual misconduct, particularly when the individual is an elected representative, would be widely repeated and would be highly damaging,” the statement of claim said.

“This was even more so given the “#MeToo” movement that had emerged and come into prominence in the public consciousness,” the statement of claim said.

Brown is suing CTV News for $8 million in a separate defamation action over allegations of sexual misconduct with two young women in a Jan. 24, 2018 story that prompted Brown to resign as PC leader. Brown has denied the allegations. CTV stands by its reporting.

Fedeli was interim leader after Brown’s departure and held the post until Doug Ford took over following a leadership convention last March.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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Toronto’s plan for ‘balanced’ budget has $79 million in unknown funding and cuts

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City staff say the budget can be balanced by raising property taxes in line with inflation, increasing TTC fares and relying on tens of millions in unknown cuts and yet-to-be secured funding.

The $13.46 billion operating budget was presented to members of council, the media and the public Monday morning. It is a first attempt at balancing the many services and programs the city provides — from snow-clearing to swim classes — with the various ways the city raises money, such as taxing property owners.

The residential property tax increase staff are recommending for 2019 is 2.55 per cent, which the city says is the rate of inflation.

But that first attempt by staff to put together a “balanced” budget includes $79 million in funding or cuts that have not been identified or received, putting that balancing act at risk of tumbling.

Still, Mayor John Tory’s hand-picked budget chief Councillor Gary Crawford claimed the budget is currently balanced at this early stage, saying he hopes the federal government steps up to help with the city’s housing crisis.

“It’s going to be a tough budget year. There are not a lot of extras,” said Crawford. “We will continue to provide the kind of investments that we have over the last number of years, whether it’s poverty reduction, youth hubs, child care, but there will be some challenges, no doubt.”

Crawford said that the city plans to invest in transit, community safety, libraries, Toronto Community Housing repairs and in child care. He said the city will also invest in speeding up the work on the relief line subway and hire an additional 300 police officers. Policing remains the biggest single line item in the budget.

The unclear balancing is the result of three separate issues.

The city is budgeting for $45 million in additional shelter costs but planning to cover that spending by requesting the funds from the federal government, which has not yet promised to cover those costs. Staff attribute the added pressure on the city’s already overcrowded shelters to number of refugees that have migrated to Toronto. City officials have maintained that the federal government has a responsibility to help offset those costs because they are responsible for the policies that control the flow of refugees across the border.

Also unclear is where the TTC will find $24 million in cuts — what senior staff acknowledged at a board meeting last week was required to actually achieve balance, calling it “undetermined corporate reductions.”

And on Monday, new city manager Chris Murray said they still need to find $10 million in additional savings to find balance, which he told committee members is not an insurmountable problem.

Part of the challenge this year is the fact that Toronto can no longer bank on an incredibly hot housing market as it has over the past four years. The MLTT, introduced in 2008, is a tax paid by homebuyers when they take ownership of a property. A slowing housing market has been cited as the reason for the decline.

The staff-attempted balancing also includes a plan to cut the rebates on garbage bins of all sizes. In 2019, cutting the rebate for large bins first would save the city $35 million, staff say.

Critics who have long opposed the strategy of making inflation the target for property tax increases note it does not account for the growing number of new residents moving to the city also rely on public libraries, road maintenance and other daily services.

“I think it’s uninspired,” said Councillor Mike Layton, who sits on the budget committee. “It’s not really leaving us with something that Torontonians can be proud of, that works towards long term solutions in our city around transit, around housing.”

“What I think that the people of Toronto want to see is a government that is wiling to be brave enough to make bold proposals to resolve these issues across our city that we’re seeing and not just hide behind the same old, same old, status quo budget which is what is reflected here.”

The budget launch Monday is just the first step in a process that begins anew each year. After making its way through debates at committee and being subject to comments from the public, the budget will be finalized by council in March.

Because last year was an election year, council has not yet provided staff with direction on the budget.

However, as in previous years, Murray asked all city divisions and agencies to try to keep their budgets at 2018 levels.

Murray said they looked at past direction from council to assume an inflationary-only increase in property taxes.

As he did in 2014, Tory promised to keep property taxes at or below the rate of inflation this term.

Councillors like Gord Perks say once again that plan is not good enough. He plans to propose an above-inflation tax increase.

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags

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Brother, sister from Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask. win $1 million with lottery ticket

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Saskatchewan Lotteries says Fort Qu’Appelle siblings won $1 million on the Jan. 11 Western Max draw.

Michele Hahn and her brother Gerhard Hahn plan to share the winnings with family.


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“We both decided a long time ago that if we ever won the lottery, a lot of people would benefit from the win,” Gerhard said in a press release.

“It’s really nice that we’re able to make things easier for everyone.”


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Michele bought the winning ticket at the Pharmasave on Broadway Street in Fort Qu’Appelle.

The Hahn siblings’ lucky numbers were 2, 25, 34, 36, 37, 46, and 49.

Fort Qu’Appelle is around 60 kilometres northeast of Regina.

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

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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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Ford government’s tuition cut to cost universities $360 million and colleges $80 million

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Universities and colleges will take an estimated $440 million hit under the Ontario government’s planned 10 per cent tuition decrease — and it remains unclear if the province will make up the difference.

The tuition announcement, expected Thursday from Merrilee Fullerton, minister of training, colleges and universities, will cut and then freeze tuition rates for the next two years, a $360 million loss for universities alone. For colleges, the amount is about $80 million.

Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, speaks at a news conference outlining the province’s plan for social assistance reform on Nov. 22, 2018. Fullerton is set to cut post-secondary tuition by 10 per cent.
Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, speaks at a news conference outlining the province’s plan for social assistance reform on Nov. 22, 2018. Fullerton is set to cut post-secondary tuition by 10 per cent.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

The government is also expected to make changes to the OSAP student aid system, which under the previous Liberal government provided “free tuition” for 230,000 post-secondary students.

“Students will pay for this with larger classes and fewer professors,” said New Democrat MPP Chris Glover, a former Toronto public school board trustee and York University professor, calling it a “smoke and mirrors exercise.”

“Are they going to cut OSAP grants?” added the Spadina-Fort York MPP. “Any benefits students may get from this announcement — students will end up the losers on this.”

According to government documents obtained by the Star, the province will make changes to the Tuition Free Framework, slashing rates by 10 per cent — or about $340 a year for college students, and $660 for those in universities — for this fall, and keep that rate for the 2020-1 school year.

The documents from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities say the changes will “protect students and provide a financially predictable environment” and “keep more money” in students’ pockets.

Current university tuition for undergraduate students is almost $9,000 a year.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he wants to be “optimistic that lower tuition fees will support students, but the jury is still out” and is worried about it being “an excuse for cuts to student aid or college and university budgets.”

He said “until the government announces all of its changes, we won’t know if this is yet another instance of (Premier Doug Ford) offering a shiny penny to distract from deeper cuts.”

Glover said Ontario’s post-secondary system have the lowest funding levels of all provinces and wonders about the impact on low-income students.

In her report last December, Ontario’s auditor general said the cost of the free-tuition plan would soon hit $2 billion a year, or 50 per cent higher than estimated.

Bonnie Lysyk also said there was no follow-up to ensure that the program, which provides non-repayable grants to qualifying students, was actually boosting the number of low-income students in the province’s colleges and universities. She also said there was no way to ensure that mature students receiving the grants were actually needy.

Students leaders and post-secondary institutions were waiting for more details on the Ford government’s plans before commenting.

However Gyllian Phillips, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, called it “quite concerning that an announcement of this magnitude is occurring without the government consulting any stakeholders at Ontario’s universities or colleges.”

She said while “reducing tuition fees is good public policy for increasing access to post-secondary education … any reduction must be matched with an equivalent increase in public funding.”

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

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City of Toronto staff say $3 million cost overrun for shelter conversion won’t happen again

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Toronto learned lessons from mould and other problems that boosted the cost of converting a Kingston Rd. motel into a homeless shelter by $3.2 million, and it won’t happen again, city staff say.

City councillors on the new government services and licensing committee lightly grilled bureaucrats Monday over what inspections were done on a Comfort Inn before the city agreed to pay $7.8 million in 2016 for the property and commit another $8.7 million to covert it to a city shelter.

The city didn’t realize the expensive structural problems, and others related to mould and rodent damage, until crews took down walls, city staff told committee members. The extra costs pushed the total price tag of converting the 30,000-square-foot building near Bellamy Rd. to about $20 million.

Staff said they hired an engineering firm to do a building condition assessment, and another on soil conditions, but the owner would not allow them to do more invasive testing behind walls because it was a functioning motel with guests coming and going.

“There were no outward signs of these issues,” and past renovations might have helped make the significant problems less apparent, councillors were told.

Councillor John Filion said he still has questions about the ballooning cost and wondered if the city could have saved money by subdividing the 65,000-square-foot lot.

“Rebuilding a property at a total cost of more than $20 million, most of which is for construction, at this kind of density on Kingston Rd. doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” he said.

The shelter is being funded as part of a plan to open up beds as the city redevelops George St. downtown, including the razing and replacement of the Seaton House shelter.

The Kingston Rd. shelter is expected to open in early March, hold beds for 95 vulnerable people of all genders and to accommodate pets.

At the same meeting, committee members fast-tracked a licensing staff review of clothing drop-boxes, after one Toronto woman, Crystal Papineau, and multiple people in B.C. have been trapped and killed in the boxes.

The report with recommended changes slated to come in September will instead be ready in May, and look at multiple issues involving the bins where people drop old textiles to be sold offshore for resale and recycling.

“The largest city in Canada, having people sleeping on our streets … you look at the unfortunate circumstances of people going into bins,” to retrieve clothes or even sleep, said committee chair Councillor Paul Ainslie.

“I think we have a long way to go in this city dealing not only with these bins and make them safe but also the social aspect of why we even need these bins in the city in the first place.”

Toronto has issued 460 $100 drop-box permits to six charitable organizations and four for-profit firms, but has a “running battle” with others who illegally drop collection boxes on public and private property, committee members heard.

Councillors expressed other concerns, including garbage dumped around the boxes and even fires lit inside them.

Two representatives of Diabetes Canada told the committee their non-profit relies on more than 4,000 clothing bins across Canada to help fund research, advocacy and camps for diabetic kids.

All the Diabetes Canada bins are being retrofitted by the end of this week to eliminate “pinch points” where intruders can get stuck, they said. They encouraged Toronto to work with non-profits that use the boxes to develop a “textile diversion program,” like those in Markham and Newmarket, to regulate use of the boxes.

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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Abandoned, decrepit Scarborough mansion sells for $3.45 million

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It’s decrepit, mouldy, and has been home to more than a few critters.

But it’s symbolic of the strength of the housing market in Canada’s largest city, even as rising interest rates, higher debt levels and increased government intervention marked an uncertain year for the real estate industry. The new owners paid a cool $3.45 million for a shell of a house in a home outside Toronto’s downtown core.

The 12,900-square-foot two-storey mansion in the Scarborough Bluffs neighbourhood had been abandoned for a decade, as reported by the Star. It has 13 rooms and seven washrooms. There is a separate garage that could potentially hold up to 16 cars, and sits on a plot of land with some historical significance. But it has never been lived in.

The partially constructed home needs millions of dollars in work to be completed. Inside there is water damage and animals have been through the building over the years. Would be purchasers were advised by some agents to wear masks before entering.

It was sold under receivership in June. But the sale was initially held up after lenders who held mortgages on the home intervened, saying the sale price was too low. The home was originally listed at $3.8 million.

The estate, originally registered to Christine Drotos, was seized by creditors after a bankruptcy. The property was originally purchased for $1.95 million in 2006. In an earlier listing in April of 2009, the asking price was $5.5 million.

“That is really a bargain price,” said Royal LePage agent Normand Gautreau. “It’s hard to find a property that big overlooking Lake Ontario. It’s a massive piece of property and the views are spectacular. Gautreau estimates that the original owners put up-to $1.5 million to build the existing steel beamed shell structure before construction stopped.

“It’s built like a giant Shoppers Drug Mart. It’s a big square thing that’s really quite sturdy,” said Gautreau. “The last owners really put some money into this.”

Land registry documents first indicated that the new buyer was Frederic Kielburger. That’s also the name of famed Toronto child rights activists Craig and Marc Kielburger’s father. The duo are the founders of WE Day. But Fred Kielburger’s wife, Theresa, told the Star in an email exchange that they were not the owners of the home and Fred Kielburger’s name was on the registry “in error.”

She said the home had however been purchased by a relative and that her husband “helps him where we can with lots of support … he fixes up old houses, rents others.”

After being notified by the Star, Kielburger notified the registrar of the error and the property was transferred in November to a numbered company. The sole director of the company is James Paul Altilia.

Altilia, a nephew of the Kielburgers, said in an email exchange with the Star that “I do real estate on the side, and I haven’t decided on anything regarding 4 Birchmount.”

Documents show that before the sale, there were three loans on the property, ranging from $2,534,582.27, to $1,164,755.78 to $6.7 million for a total of $9.23 million. That’s far more than it eventually sold for, and the subject of contention in an ongoing and controversial court battle between several parties, including the mortgagees.

“It’s a beautiful property, although the house isn’t in great shape,” said Brahm Rosen, president of Rosen Goldberg Inc. and official receiver for the estate. “It had a lot of notoriety over the years, but now someone will take care of it.”

An appraiser hired by the receiver had estimated the value at $3.2 million. The sale was eventually approved by Court of Appeal Judge David Paciocco who ruled that: “The Receiver made efforts to obtain the best price and achieved the offer to purchase after considering the interests of all parties.”

While the home has finally been sold to new owners, mortgagees were left fighting in court over the proceeds, says Rosen. “The outstanding issue that hadn’t been resolved after the sale is who gets what from the sale of the home. This had nothing to do with the new owners, but the former financing arrangements,” said the receiver.

The first home on the property, which was torn down, had some historic value. It was the former summer home of a prominent Toronto family who were proponents of public transit and electricity in the city. Henry Redman was the Town of Scarborough’s first solicitor and his house was the first to have electricity in the neighbourhood.

The size of the lot is huge by any standard at 135 feet frontage by 548 feet. A home with 50-feet of frontage sold four doors down in the same month for $1.239 million. Still, erosion over the years has whittled away some of the property. Gautreau says many years ago he would walk by the property and peer over the sides to see the dozens of wrecked cars, including Model T’s, pushed over the cliff to help staunch the erosion.

The realtor says earlier this year he brought clients through the home who wanted to purchase the land and build townhomes. But the lots could not be subdivided under current zoning.

He says if the existing steel structure is kept, the building would need about $2 million of work to be completed. That would mean the home would cost a total of $5.45 million to complete including the purchase price. But he said it would be worth at least $8 million to $10 million in finished form.

“It needs a lot of work. And it’s certainly a bit of a risk,” Gautreau said. “You need to have deep pockets but whoever bought it will see a lot of upside. I think they got a deal.”

Tony Wong is the Star’s television critic based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @tonydwong

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For sale: a skinny $3 million Toronto home that neighbours and critics say doesn’t ‘fit in’

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It’s an unusual-looking house.

Sandwiched behind homes on either side, the tall, skinny house at 154 Hamilton St. is set back more than a dozen metres from the sidewalk.

The home at 154 Hamilton St. in Leslieville, sandwiched between two houses and set back several metres from the street, is listed for about $3 million.
The home at 154 Hamilton St. in Leslieville, sandwiched between two houses and set back several metres from the street, is listed for about $3 million.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

It’s selling for $3 million but depending on who you talk to, the property near Dundas St. E. and Broadview Ave. is either a wonder of modern architecture well worth that amount, or an ugly, overpriced monstrosity.

The 1,300-square-foot house is four storeys tall, with floor-to-ceiling windows. A portion of the house is cantilevered — protruding and elevated from the ground. It was built after a protracted battle that pitted owners of the property against the local councillor and several nearby residents — including a next-door neighbour who had limbs from her elm tree cut off two years ago during the home’s construction.

Bitter feelings linger. “It’s a really sad story,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 14, Toronto-Danforth). “Everyone has been in a state over this particular house.”

It’s a story that began with an infill house that was a tiny garage long ago, and was later turned into a small, one-bedroom cottage.

In 2012, the city’s committee of adjustment approved the “minor variance” sought by Toronto architect Michael Mantzoris, who then owned the home. In 2016, Mantzoris, with business partner Gordon Kipping, sold the property to Cyril Borovsky, who built the existing four-storey home, which recently went on the market.

For homeowners Linda Bourgeois and Linda Clowes, who both live in a house on Munro St., one block west of Hamilton, their concern has always been the height of the house.

Four storeys is not in keeping with the heights of the other homes in the area, the two argue.

“This sets a precedent. The next thing you’re going to see is an eight-storey house,” Clowes said in an interview at their home this week. She and Bourgeois have lived in their home for 22 years and were part of the unsuccessful fight to stop the construction of 154 Hamilton years ago.

“It’s a slippery slope,” Clowes adds, referring to the height issue.

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Clowes and Bourgeois were among a group of alarmed residents who came together after Mantzoris applied to build a four-storey home on the tiny 15-by-86-foot lot.

A small cottage, left, occupied the lot at 154 Hamilton until 2012. It was replaced by a four-storeys tall, 1,300-square-foot house.
A small cottage, left, occupied the lot at 154 Hamilton until 2012. It was replaced by a four-storeys tall, 1,300-square-foot house.  (Toronto Star Composite Image)

Mantzoris purchased the cottage at 154 Hamilton in 2011 for $295,000 and later applied to rebuild on the lot. He and Kipping, a New York-based architect, designed a new house, but didn’t build it.

“We were interested in developing some interesting architecture,” Mantzoris said in a recent interview.

Mantzoris said he had a “more elegant design” in mind than what was eventually built. He said he wanted a house that would “disappear” into the fabric of the street more, and certainly not a white structure.

The zoning bylaw allowed for a building four storeys tall, Mantzoris added, arguing the roof peaks for some Victorian houses on Hamilton St. matched the four storeys he and his partner envisioned.

According to property records, Kipping and Mantzoris sold the property for $530,000 in 2016 to Borovsky, who constructed the existing house.

Borovsky didn’t reply to repeated requests from the Star for comment.

The house landed in controversy again in 2016, when Borovsky cut off a large limb of a neighbour’s 100-year-old silver maple, which hung over a fence onto Borovsky’s property.

According to a CBC report at the time, Borovsky said that overhanging limbs impeded the construction of his home.

But the city had turned down his bid to trim the limbs.

After it was cut, the city issued a stop-work order, but Borovsky argued he had a building permit that allowed him to override city rules on the protection of trees, the CBC report said.

The listing refers to the home as “truly unique” and a “modern marvel with four levels of functional minimalism.”

The white, four-storey east-end house was built back from the curb. It's listed for $3 million.
The white, four-storey east-end house was built back from the curb. It’s listed for $3 million.  (Dave Dunnville/Vimeo)

But John Richards, a resident on Munro St., called the house a “foolish design” built in the wrong place, and scoffed at the $3-million price.

“It looks like something that belongs in a trailer park,” says Richards, an architectural design specialist who does lighting designs for properties in Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Canada.

He believes the homeowners could have applied for a variance and done concrete foundation work that would have allowed the home to be built closer to the curb, preserving the backyard.

“The backyards around here are secret assets,” Richards says.

But Mantzoris said that scenario wasn’t possible.

“It wasn’t possible due to their roof eaves encroaching on either side of the property, and structurally we would be limited by the integrity of (the neighbours’) foundation walls and footings.

“Don’t get me wrong, we had investigated building closer to the curb, but after reviewing a few different design proposals with the senior (city of Toronto) planner for the area, we all agreed to develop the scheme at the rear of the lot, replacing the existing foundation and going up,” Mantzoris says.

Hans Ibelings, lecturer at the Daniels faculty of architecture, landscape and design at the University of Toronto, said taller homes are needed to “densify the city,” but in architectural terms, 154 Hamilton is “totally bland.”

“I have looked up images of the interior, and that confirms that this is not exactly a masterpiece of domestic architecture,” he said.

“Given the pressure on the housing market, it would be great if infills would lead to affordable projects. I don’t think there is a real shortage of $3-million homes,” he added.

Fletcher points to other houses in her ward that are built on tiny lots but fit with the other homes nearby, unlike 154 Hamilton, she argues.

“That should be the expectation — that a tiny house should fit well with the rest of the street, the rhythm of the street, the setbacks of the street,” Fletcher said.

“This one (on Hamilton) doesn’t fit, but others fit. It’s the difference between fitting and not fitting on these really small lots. Why do the others work and this one doesn’t?”

Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent

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