PETA threatens to sue Toronto, Astral Media over removal of anti-Canada Goose ads


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is threatening to sue the city of Toronto and Astral Media for removing anti-Canada Goose ads.

The animal rights group said Friday that it will commence legal action against the city and Astral, if they do not repost ads the group paid to put up in September that criticized the Toronto-based luxury jacket maker for using goose down and coyote fur in its jackets.

The ads featured images of the animals with captions saying « I’m a living being, not a piece of fur trim » and « I’m a living being, not jacket filling » and were put up at bus shelters between Canada Goose’s headquarters and the home of the company’s CEO, Dani Reiss.

PETA’s assistant manager of clothing campaigns Christina Sewell told The Canadian Press the ads were meant to run for four weeks, but were up for less than 24 hours in September.

A woman wearing a Canada Goose jacket walks past PETA protesters in front of the New York Stock Exchange during the Canadian company’s IPO in March 2017. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

« Astral let us know they had to pull the ads because they had too many numerous complaints, » she said.

A spokesperson for Bell Media Inc., which owns Astral, confirmed it removed the ads because they were not in line with a part of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards that restricts ads from disparaging organizations or causing public ridicule.

Ads didn’t violate standards, PETA says

PETA claims it is not violating the standards.

« PETA’s position remains that its right to free expression includes the right to place this particular artwork — in its current form — on city property, and that the removal of its artwork violated this right, » the group said in a letter it sent to the city, Bell Media and Astral Media on Thursday.

PETA says it will begin legal action against the city of Toronto and Astral Media, if they do not repost ads the group paid to put up in September. (PETA/Canadian Press)

Asked about the ads, city of Toronto spokesperson Eric Holmes said Astral « is responsible for applying the standards and any decisions related to the approval and removal of advertising content on these assets. »

Sewell, who called the ads « benign, » said PETA doesn’t have a timeline for how soon it will take legal action if the ads aren’t reposted, but is committed to carrying out their threat.

A Canada Goose spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Canada Goose defends use of fur

The company has long been in PETA’s crosshairs.

PETA members, sometimes dressed as coyotes, have protested in front of the apparel company’s stores and have repeatedly billed Canada Goose as a perpetrator of « shameless cruelty. »

« There are so many cruelty-free alternatives out there and things that are made out of plants or synthetic. Fur is hugely detrimental to the environment, » Sewell said, noting that Canada Goose hasn’t gotten in touch with PETA since it unveiled the ads.

« We have been campaigning for several years now and we are very hard pressed to get a direct response from the company. »

Canada Goose previously fought complaints about its use of fur, saying that it is committed to the ethical treatment of animals, that « having fur trim around a jacket hood disrupts airflow which helps protect the face from frostbite » and that it uses goose down because it is « one of the world’s best natural insulators. »

« We do not condone any willful mistreatment, neglect, or acts that maliciously cause animals undue suffering, » the company’s website says. « Our standards for the sourcing and use of fur, down and wool reflect our commitment that materials are sourced from animals that are not subject to willful mistreatment or undue harm. »


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Ford threatens walkout as provincial officials criticize agenda for first ministers conference


As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers of the provinces and territories gather for talks in Montreal, bickering over the meeting’s agenda has escalated to the point where not all of the participants are sure they still want to be there.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is now suggesting he may walk out of the meeting early — or not turn up at all — if his concerns aren’t addressed.

« No one should assume the premier of Ontario is prepared to spend his Friday sitting through a series of lectures from federal cabinet ministers, » a senior official in Doug Ford’s office told CBC News Thursday. « We are considering our options. We hope it doesn’t come to that. »

The agenda for the meeting — originally intended to be a stock-taking on a range of economic and trade issues, including the recently signed revised North American trade agreement and stalled efforts to reduce internal trade barriers — is now the focus of a dispute that threatens to overshadow policy discussions.

On Tuesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe wrote to Trudeau asking that the « crisis facing the energy industry » be added to the agenda. The Prime Minister’s Office told CBC News on Tuesday that the energy crisis would fit in with the planned discussion.

Provincial officials told CBC News Wednesday that they want Trudeau and his ministers to listen to their priorities. The draft agenda that was circulated, said one provincial official, « had the prime minister fitting in a train of his cabinet ministers to lecture the premiers on the topics of his choosing. »

The official in Ford’s office said the premier will make his decision after he meets privately with Trudeau Thursday afternoon in Montreal, just before 4 p.m. ET.

« As it stands right now, the agenda is one we are not happy with, » the official said. « And certainly we are leaving our options open to how we respond if the prime minister digs his heels in. »

In an interview Wednesday, Moe said he didn’t intend to leave the Montreal meeting early, despite his concerns over whether the agenda addresses issues that matter to his government — oil prices, the federal carbon tax, pipeline construction and controversial federal reforms to the rules for environmental assessments on energy projects.

Separately, Quebec Premier ​François ​Legault said he wants the discussion Friday to focus on American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products and compensation for dairy farmers hurt by the revised NAFTA deal. In a statement, Legault said he’d also be raising Quebec’s demand for more compensation to cover the cost of irregular asylum seekers.

Premiers requested meeting

When the Council of the Federation met last July, the premiers as a group — including Ford — asked Trudeau for a first ministers meeting focused on the economy by the end of the year.

Trudeau obliged quickly with a statement inviting the premiers to join him for talks focused on trade and the economy this fall, although the precise date and location for the talks now set for Friday in Montreal took several months to schedule.

The provincial committee tasked with working to reduce interprovincial trade barriers met last month but has yet to show significant progress. 

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister noted Wednesday that current interprovincial trade barriers impose great costs on Canada’s economy, equivalent to a seven per cent tariff on goods that cross provincial borders.

Friday’s agenda, as it stands, is supposed to begin with a meeting between all the premiers and Indigenous leaders, followed by talks between the premiers, Trudeau and three members of his cabinet: Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

A private working dinner has been organized for the prime minister and the premiers for Thursday evening.


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Pilot shortage threatens Canada’s fleet of fighter jets


OTTAWA—The air force is desperately short pilots and technicians, and, with no strategy to tackle the shortfall, Canada’s fleet of fighter jets will be hobbled for years to come, the auditor general warns.

Michael Ferguson cautions that the aging CF-18 fighters are fast becoming toothless tigers as it’s been a decade since any significant upgrade to their combat capabilities.

In a new report released Tuesday, Ferguson takes aim at the $3-billion plan to augment Canada’s aging CF-18s, and bluntly concludes it will do little good, because of air force personnel shortages.

That’s because the defence department lacks a plan to deal with the “biggest obstacles” in meeting the demands on the fighter fleet: a shortage of pilots and the declining capabilities of jets that are three decades old.

“Although National Defence has plans to address some risks, these investment decisions will not be enough to ensure that it can have the number of aircraft available daily to meet the highest NORAD alert level and Canada’s NATO commitment at the same time,” the auditor said in the report.

Yet that is the very reason why the defence department earmarked $3 billion to extend the life of the fighters it has and to buy and operate an interim fleet of used jets.

In 2016, the federal government directed the military to have enough fighters to meet its obligations to both NORAD and NATO at once.

Prior to this, the military put a priority on its NORAD commitment and when alert levels were low, used the flexibility to deploy on NATO roles.

The new requirement meant a 23-per-cent increase in the number of fighter jets that had to be ready for operations.

“It was a significant change, as it came at a time when the Royal Canadian Air Force was already facing low personnel levels, was managing an aging fleet, and had not yet identified a replacement fleet,” the report found.

In December 2017, the government announced that it intended to use a competitive process to buy 88 new fighter aircraft.

That means the fighters in service now will have to keep flying until 2032.

To help bridge the shortfall, the federal government initially sought to buy 18 new Super Hornet jets, an upgraded version of the fighter now flying, even though the defence department’s own analysis indicated it would not help the operational gap and would only make the personnel shortage worse, the audit found.

“The department stated that it needed more qualified technicians and pilots, not more fighter aircraft,” the audit said.

That plan was abandoned and the government has now decided to buy second-hand F-18s from Australia that are the “same age and have the same operational limitations” as the jets now flown by the air force.

But that costly expenditure won’t fix the problems.

“National Defence still does not have enough technicians to maintain and pilots to fly the aircraft,” the report concluded.

In April, 2018, 22 per cent of technician positions in CF-18 squadrons were vacant while the 76 fighters left in the fleet are prone to breakdowns and are getting harder to maintain. And the department has just two-thirds of the pilots it needs and they are leaving the air force more quickly than new ones can be trained.

Between April 2016 and March 2018, 40 fighter pilots quit and only 30 were trained as replacements. Since then, 17 more have left or said they are leaving.

“If CF-18 pilots continue to leave at the current rate, there will not be enough experienced pilots to train the next generation of fighter pilots,” the report found.

For each hour they fly, the CF-18s require, on average, 24 hours of maintenance, an increase of three hours since 2014.

“As the fleet ages, it will become more difficult and take longer for technicians to maintain the CF-18s,” the report found.

The maintenance woes are affecting operations. CF-18 pilots are expected to fly 140 hours per year, but, in the last fiscal year, 28 per cent flew fewer hours, in part, because of maintenance woes.

The audit also raises serious questions about the combat capabilities of the CF-18s in service, which are now more than 30 years old, noting they haven’t had a significant upgrade since 2008.

That’s because air force planners expected they would be replaced by 2020.

“National Defence has not kept the CF-18’s capability up to date with most modern combat aircraft and air defence systems,” the report said.

With plans to keep the jets flying until 2032, that problem will only get worse.

“Flying the CF-18 until 2032 without a plan to upgrade combat capability will result in less important roles for the fighter force and will pose a risk to Canada’s ability to contribute to NORAD and NATO operations,” the auditor found.

The audit urged the air force to develop a strategy to recruit and retain technicians and pilots.

The military said a plan is already underway to add 200 additional technicians to squadrons.

The audit also recommended an analysis of what upgrades are required to ensure the CF-18 remains “operationally relevant” over the next 14 years until its replacement arrives.

The air force said it is assessing combat upgrades to “address the growing challenges presented by evolving threats.”

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


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Bad timing threatens to derail Jagmeet Singh’s efforts to get a seat in the Commons


VANCOUVER—Jagmeet Singh just can’t catch a break.

With the call of a byelection in the Vancouver-area riding the rookie NDP leader is hoping to soon represent in Parliament only days away, he is losing yet another MP — in this instance to British Columbia’s provincial arena.

At the same time, he may have more of a fight on his hands to secure a ticket to the House of Commons than he would have liked.

On Wednesday, B.C. premier John Horgan announced that Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson will be running under the provincial NDP banner in a byelection soon to be held on Vancouver Island.

Freshly elected as mayor of Nanaimo last weekend, New Democrat MLA Leonard Krog is leaving the provincial legislature.

Jagmeet Singh puts on brave face ahead of 2019 election

Horgan’s gain is Singh’s loss. Malcolmson — who has only been in the Commons since 2015 — is the second B.C. New Democrat to leave the federal caucus to pursue more promising political opportunities. Former MP Kennedy Stewart whose Burnaby South seat Singh is vying for was elected mayor of Vancouver last weekend.

A date to fill the Ontario seat left vacant by the sudden death of Conservative MP Gordon Brown last spring must be set by next Tuesday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to call the Burnaby South vote at the same time.

The timing of Malcolmson’s departure is less than perfect for momentum-deprived Singh.

Her decision to switch to provincial politics, coming as it does on the heels of Stewart’s successful entry in the mayoral arena, highlights the fact that while the NDP brand is in good shape at the provincial and municipal levels in B.C., Singh’s personal brand is not.

He has yet to become a household name in the Vancouver-area riding he has elected to make his permanent federal home base and he is hobbled by the lacklustre performance of the federal NDP in the polls.

Anecdotal evidence suggests there may by now be more Liberals wishing Singh well in his bid to enter the Commons than New Democrats. It is certainly not difficult on a visit to Vancouver to find party sympathizers who celebrated his first ballot victory a year ago and who now wish him gone.

Even if Singh does make it to the floor of the Commons via Burnaby South later this fall, he will have a hard time retooling for next year’s general election with recruits of the same high calibre as that of the MPs who are electing to leave.

The list of the latter already includes the NDP’s lone Alberta MP Linda Duncan as well as Quebec MPs Hélène Laverdière and Roméo Saganash and it could get longer.

The NDP won the Burnaby South seat in 2015 by less than 1,000 votes; a score that suggests Singh cannot take victory for granted.

There had been talk of the Liberals taking a pass on running a candidate — a courtesy to an incoming leader that would have had the advantage, from Trudeau’s perspective, of sparing his own party an early test in a riding that is at ground zero of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

But the idea elicited push back from local Liberals and the expectation is that Trudeau’s party is more likely to be on the byelection ballot than not.

Singh may be spared another potentially morale-depleting test this fall for Trudeau could wait until after the New Year to call a vote in Outremont, the Montreal seat left vacant by Thomas Mulcair.

The Liberals have a good shot at winning back Outremont from the NDP whether the byelection takes place this fall or next winter. But they could see some side benefits to waiting a while longer to call the vote.

Beauce MP Maxime Bernier has just applied to register his People’s Party with Elections Canada. He has to wait 60 days from that application to run a candidate in a byelection. If Trudeau were to hold off until next year to call the Outremont vote, it would pave the way for Bernier’s party to make the riding the scene of its Quebec maiden run.

One does not need to have a particularly devious mind to think the Liberals would love to start the election year by scoring a hit on the NDP in Outremont and watching Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives scramble to make it to the finish line ahead of Bernier’s candidate.

Politics is a blood sport.

Chantal Hébert is a columnist based in Ottawa covering politics. Follow her on Twitter: @ChantalHbert


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Parasite spread by cats threatens Quebec’s endangered belugas, study shows


Endangered beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River already facing plenty of adversity now have an unlikely foe to contend with — the common house cat.

A new study suggests the belugas are being increasingly infected with a parasite known as toxoplasma gondii, transmitted through the feces of cats.

Stéphane Lair, a professor of veterinary medicine at the Université de Montréal and one of the study’s authors, said of 34 beluga whale carcasses examined between 2009 and 2012, 44 per cent were found to be infected with the parasite.

« It doesn’t mean they died of this parasite. It means there was a presence either in their heart or their brain, » Lair said on Monday.

« We know that it’s a parasite that can kill belugas, so its presence can have an impact on their lives. »

Toxoplasmosis — the disease caused by the parasite — is increasingly prevalent in a wide range of marine mammals. It is spread by wild and domesticated cats, which contract it by eating rodents.

In marine mammals, it may cause neurological problems and behavioural change.

A beluga whale shows his tail near Tadoussac, Que. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

« Marine animals in North America have been in contact with this parasite for thousands of years, » Lair said. In 2014, the cat parasite was found in Arctic belugas, likely spread by wild cats such as lynx, bobcats and cougars.

« The big difference in the last few centuries is the introduction of domestic cats — a new definitive host for the parasite that probably has contributed to an increase in the amount of toxoplasma those mammals are exposed to, » the veterinarian said.

Another reason to keep cats indoors

Toxoplasmosis is associated with mortality in marine animals all over the world. Lair pointed to the example of the endangered monk seals of Hawaii, 11 of which have died from the disease since 2001.

In the past 30 years, seven St. Lawrence beluga deaths have been linked to the parasite. But there are other effects that need further study.

« In a lot of species, there’s a big question about the sub-lethal effect of that parasite — it means that it might not necessarily kill the animal … but when present, it can have a health impact that’s not always detectable, » Lair said.

At last count, about 900 belugas lived in the St. Lawrence estuary.

As for dealing with the problem, Lair said keeping domestic cats indoors prevents them from eating infected prey.

Also, ensuring cat feces are not flushed down the toilet would reduce parasite levels in the water.

« The parasite is quite resistant, it would survive all the different [sewage] treatments and end up in the estuary, » Lair said.

The research was published in the journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms last month.


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Greg Sorbara in the middle of ugly feud that threatens family’s billion-dollar company


Sam Sorbara was 14 when his family fled the poverty of an Italian village in 1925 and settled in southern Ontario. His alcoholic father all but abandoned the family and his mother died within a few years of arrival.

After the Great Depression hit, Sam’s family worked the streets to survive. They bootlegged booze and stole coal to stay warm. Sam was caught using counterfeit bills in Toronto and sentenced to three years in jail.

Brothers Edward Sorbara, left, former Ontario finance minister Greg Sorbara, centre, and Joseph Sorbara are entangled in a bitter family feud over Sorbara Group.
Brothers Edward Sorbara, left, former Ontario finance minister Greg Sorbara, centre, and Joseph Sorbara are entangled in a bitter family feud over Sorbara Group.  (Nick Kozak and Aaron Harris photos)

Later, he sold mineral feed to farmers in the Toronto region and started buying land from those anxious to sell. His efforts eventually made him a leader in Toronto’s Italian-Canadian community and a wealthy man. When he died in 2002, at the age of 91, he left behind the family-run Sorbara Group, a multi-faceted real estate company with current assets estimated by one of its owners at $1.4 billion.

His legacy is now under threat. The company he founded has torn his family apart. His four children — including former Ontario finance minister Greg Sorbara — are locked in a bitter succession battle that has placed the company’s future in doubt.

“It’s cause for real sadness,” says Greg Sorbara, “another situation where money poisons enduring family relationships. »

Each sibling owns 25 per cent of the Vaughan-based private company. It develops and builds commercial buildings and low- and highrise housing, along with providing financial services. It owns, operates and manages more than eight million square feet of industrial, commercial, office and residential properties.

The legal part of the family feud began in October 2016, when Joseph Sorbara, the oldest of Sam’s children, filed an application in Superior Court against his siblings — his brothers Greg and Edward, and his sister, Marcella Tanzola.

Joseph, who is 76 and co-ran the company for three decades, has asked the court to declare that his siblings “have engaged in conduct that is oppressive and unfairly prejudicial” to his interests in the company. He also requests that it order his brothers and sister to do one of two things: buy Joseph out or liquidate the company and divvy up the proceeds.

“Joseph has lost all confidence in his siblings, and in particular Edward and Gregory and their ability to look after the best interests of the Sorbara Group,” says Joseph’s application to the court.

“Joseph and Edward have irreconcilable differences with respect to the day to day running of the Sorbara Group and its future plans and on this basis it is no longer possible for them to carry on in business together,” his application adds.

The application makes clear that at the heart of the dispute is Joseph’s attempt to have his eldest son, Paul, “ultimately take over his role as the co-chief executive officer of the Sorbara Group.”

But in August 2014, “Gregory, with Edward’s support, deliberately fired Paul without cause.” Joseph’s application claims the firing occurred after Paul “discovered that the presentation of the Sorbara Group’s financial materials appeared to conceal poor performance and a substantial underperformance of the Sorbara Group’s sales targets.”

The application’s claims haven’t been tested in court.

In a written statement to the Star, Greg Sorbara says Joseph’s allegations of “oppression” began about two months after Paul was “terminated.” He denies the financial allegations and adds that the company has performed “stronger than ever” in the past five years, and earned “unqualified audit opinions” from auditors, which means financial statements fairly represented the company’s financial position and results.

“Disputes often occur in family-run enterprises, especially when it comes to issues of intergenerational involvement and succession,” adds Sorbara, who at 72 is the youngest of the siblings.

“Obviously we are disappointed and saddened that this dispute has not been resolved amicably, and while we hold out hope that an amicable resolution will eventually be reached, for now we are addressing Joseph’s concerns in the court proceedings.”

Former Ontario Liberal heavyweight Greg Sorbara, at 72 the youngest of the siblings, told the Star that from 1989 until 2015, Joseph and Edward served as co-CEOs of the company, and had to agree on all major decisions. The company didn't have a formal governance structure.
Former Ontario Liberal heavyweight Greg Sorbara, at 72 the youngest of the siblings, told the Star that from 1989 until 2015, Joseph and Edward served as co-CEOs of the company, and had to agree on all major decisions. The company didn’t have a formal governance structure.  (Aaron Harris)

Greg Sorbara adds that the company employs more than 200 people and has “60+ stakeholders consisting of our extended family.”

“This creates an enormous responsibility for our management team, which is why we have always insisted that senior executive positions be assigned based strictly on merit,” writes Sorbara, who has six children and 15 grandchildren. “We believe that is in the best interests of the business and our many stakeholders, including Joseph and his family.”

He said affidavits that respond to Joseph’s claims have not been filed with the court and can’t for now be shared with the Star. He adds that his side can’t comment on the merits of the case because it is before the courts.

Requests to interview Joseph and Edward, made through their lawyers, went unanswered. Paul Sorbara also did not respond to interview requests.

“You should wait for the (court) hearing if you want the whole story,” said Joseph’s lawyer, Alan D’Silva, of Stikeman Elliott LLP, adding it would likely happen next April or May.

By 2016, the dispute allegedly resulted in personal insults.

Joseph’s application states that while he was hospitalized for an intracerebral hemorrhage in June that year, Edward emailed “many” Sorbara family members claiming Joseph “had not done any meaningful work throughout his 30 plus years at the Sorbara Group.”

The email, the application adds, also accused Joseph of “taking advantage of their sick father to impose himself in the business” and “personally insulted (Joseph) and members of his family in the most destructive of ways.”

The dispute is shaking the foundation of the house that Sam built. It dates back to 1942, when the patriarch started Adriatic Insurance Brokerage, a company that expanded into the real estate business and spawned the Sorbara Group.

Edward joined his father’s company in 1968, after earning an MBA. Joseph went into law. With his sister’s husband, he established the Tanzola & Sorbara law firm in 1971, which handled the legal needs of the Sorbara Group.

Greg Sorbara served as an Ontario Liberal MPP from 1985-95 and 2001-12. He held several cabinet posts, was president of the Liberal party, and wasn’t involved in the family business during his time in politics, according to Joseph’s court application. Sam’s daughter, Marcella, never worked in the company.

Joseph joined the company in 1985, when his father’s health was deteriorating. He and Edward were “partners of equal weight” and co-CEOs.

“Not only did they have the final say on every significant decision that affected the Sorbara Group, but their historical practice has been to make all such decisions together,” Joseph’s court application says. The two brothers, it adds, “signed all cheques together.”

In his statement to the Star, Greg Sorbara agrees: “From 1989 until 2015 Joseph and Edward served as co-CEOs. No substantive decisions were made nor initiatives undertaken in the absence of agreement between the two of them.”

The company had no formal corporate governing structure. There was no protocol for calling or conducting meetings and no shareholder agreement that defined the business relationship between the siblings, Joseph maintains.

“Instead, governance depended on the ability of Joseph and Edward to do business together,” his application states. “Disagreements had to be resolved and compromises reached, otherwise, as equal partners, the Sorbara Group could not function.”

In the mid-1990s Joseph and Edward consulted PricewaterhouseCoopers about succession planning. The brothers “wanted to ensure that a process was in place for the business to be transferred to the next generation of the Sorbara family,” Joseph’s court document says.

Joseph, who once chaired the York University Development Corp., was close to retirement. He says he wanted someone from his immediate family to take over his role in the company, thereby ensuring that his children and grandchildren “would be looked after.”

In February 2003, Joseph’s son, Paul, a lawyer with an executive MBA from U of T’s Rotman School of Management, joined the company. Joseph wanted Paul to succeed him as co-CEO, but Edward allegedly had other designs.

“Edward has unilaterally promoted certain third generation family members without Joseph’s consent and appears intent to continue to do so in complete disregard to Joseph’s opposition to these practices,” Joseph’s court application says.

Joseph does not want his interests in the company overseen by people “that have been appointed without his consent,” it adds.

Brothers Edward Sorbara, left, and Joseph Sorbara. Joseph, the oldest of Sam Sorbara's children, has filed an application in Superior Court against his brothers Greg and Edward, and his sister, Marcella Tanzola.
Brothers Edward Sorbara, left, and Joseph Sorbara. Joseph, the oldest of Sam Sorbara’s children, has filed an application in Superior Court against his brothers Greg and Edward, and his sister, Marcella Tanzola.  (Nick Kozak)

With the extended family growing, Greg Sorbara proposed an advisory board to deal with governance and succession. It was made up of the four siblings and a member from each of their families. Greg became the board’s chair and Joseph appointed Paul as his family representative.

In the meantime, Joseph and Edward clashed over the company’s direction. Joseph opposed “Edward’s insistence on investing nearly all income and capital generated by rental properties in development projects that were not generating adequate financial returns” and were poorly managed, his application claims.

The brothers couldn’t agree on whether the company should focus on pursuing income from rental properties and diversifying investment or doubling down on investing in land for housing and condos, it adds.

Joseph claims Edward increasingly left him out of project decisions while refusing to provide adequate information on the company’s financial performance.

In his statement to the Star, Greg Sorbara said the company’s chief financial officers always reported directly to Joseph and Edward. And the company’s auditors “have never identified inaccurate or inadequate financial reporting.”

Joseph’s application to the court describes the company’s finances as “opaque and in some circumstances inaccurate.” It states that between 2010 and 2014, the company spent about $233 million on “development activities but had no clear assessment of what profits had been made or how the projects were performing from a cost, timing and value perspective.”

“Even based on the financial data available, it is apparent that the Sorbara Group is not being run in a prudent and businesslike manner,” Joseph’s court application claims.

It cites the example of the company’s planning, marketing and sales division, which Joseph claims “created a $14 million operating deficit.” Rather than address “this failed business model,” Joseph adds, the Sorbara Group has been using loans from its banking entity, Antica, to fund the deficit.

“It appears that, through Edward’s now-unilateral directions, monies are being taken out of the Sorbara Group’s profitable business ventures and used to fund an ever-increasing deficit,” Joseph’s court request alleges.

Joseph also accuses Greg Sorbara of attempting to “entrench himself as chairman” of the advisory board while blocking any succession planning and the setting up of a governance structure.

His application to the court calls the firing of his son “capricious” and says it fuelled Joseph’s “marginalization” in the company. It insists there’s no way for Joseph to ensure that his 25-per-cent interest in the company is being properly managed.

A formal mediation process, started in March 2016, failed to bring peace. Joseph then had a severe stroke, followed by what his application describes as Edward’s poisoned email to the extended family.

“Notwithstanding the litigation we wish only the very best for Joseph and his family,” Greg Sorbara says in his statement. “He and his family continue to share the full benefit of their stake in our business.”

There is no evidence that Joseph is having a change of heart. He accuses Edward of running the Sorbara Group “as if it was his own private group of companies” and of “depleting” its value. He estimates the company’s assets at $1.4 billion, wants his siblings to buy him out, and asks the court to appoint an inspector to determine the fair value of his share.

Barring that, Joseph wants the court to order that the company his father built to be dissolved.

Sandro Contenta is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @scontenta


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