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Evening Update: What’s happening with Toronto’s city council; key figure in sponsorship scandal dies

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Ford’s move to slash Toronto city council’s size: Here’s what’s happening

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced today a plan to cut the number of positions on city council to 25 from 47, just months before the municipal election. He also announced the cancellation of four races for regional board chair. Candidates have already spent months door-knocking and fundraising. Here’s what the plans have triggered:

  • Toronto’s former chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, is entering the race for mayor, offering the first major challenge to John Tory’s re-election effort
  • Former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown, who was running for a regional chair position, is expected to enter the Brampton mayoral race
  • Tory is calling on the provincial government to delay downsizing council and let the public decide through a referendum
  • Some incumbent city councillors lashed out at Ford, with Kristyn Wong-Tam calling his move “an affront to our democracy”
  • Twelve of the city’s councillors offered their support for Ford’s plan

Here’s Marcus Gee’s take: “Of course, the Tories will swear this is not just about getting even. It is merely a coincidence that, along with putting many of his old council rivals out of a job, Mr. Ford is cancelling elections in two Ontario regions where political foes – Steven Del Duca and Patrick Brown – are running. Believe that if you will. But even if the motive was pristine and the change justifiable, the way he is going about it would be wrong. Mr. Ford claims to run a government “for the people.” If you’re really for the people, you don’t push through such a big change to the structure of their local democracy without even bothering to ask what they think.”

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Jacques Corriveau, a former Liberal organizer and key figure in the Quebec sponsorship scandal, dies at 85

Corriveau was in the process of appealing a four-year sentence for influence peddling, forgery and laundering proceeds of crime – all of which occurred during the sponsorship program. Corriveau had cited poor health when he asked for a more lenient sentence, but a judge said “the length, the nature, the amounts and the sophistication of the scheme and the important efforts to ensure its clandestine nature merit an exemplary sentence.” Corriveau was free pending the appeal.

The sponsorship program was designed to increase the federal government’s visibility in Quebec after the 1995 sovereignty referendum. But advertising firms received federal money for little work, and then returned some of the funds to the Liberals.

Air Canada is vowing to start its own loyalty program despite its Aimia bid

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Even if it acquires Aeroplan, Air Canada plans to launch its own loyalty program in 2020. The Montreal-based airline has put forward a hostile bid to acquire Aeroplan from parent company Aimia for $250-million and $2-billion in liability for points that have yet to be exchanged.

Aimia rejected a separate hostile bid this week from Aeromexico, which was looking to acquire the firm’s stake in Mexico’s frequent-flyer program. But while Aimia could reject the Aeroplan offer, Air Canada’s CEO said he believes no other party is willing to take on the $2-billion liability.

Twitter shares plunged as social media’s bad week got worse

The company’s share value dropped more than 20.5 per cent, a brutal decline that mirrored Facebook’s loss of 19 per cent in value just a day ago. The key metric for the decline is the drop in monthly users, which came in at 335 million in the quarter, below market expectations of 339 million. Part of that decline can be attributed to Twitter’s recent efforts to start cracking down on bot accounts and those who violate its terms of service. The company has long been criticized for allowing hate, abuse and trolls to tweet without consequences.

MARKET WATCH

The S&P/TSX Composite closed at 16,393.95, down 61.78 points, or 0.4 per cent, bringing the weekly decline to 0.3 per cent. Canada’s tech sector lost 4.2 per cent. High-flying Canadian tech company Constellation Software fell 9 per cent after reporting disappointing results. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 76.01 points, or 0.3 percent, to 25,451.06, the S&P 500 lost 18.62 points, or 0.66 percent, to 2,818.82 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 114.77 points, or 1.46 percent, to 7,737.42.

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Wall Street’s major indexes fell on Friday as weak earnings reports from major technology companies led to a big drop for the sector. Twitter Inc. shares plunged 20.5 per cent after the social media network reported a decline in monthly active users.

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WHAT’S TRENDING ON SOCIAL

Canada’s new prostitution laws may not make sex work safer, research shows

In 2014, a new federal law was introduced that makes it illegal to buy sexual services, but not to sell them. But that “end demand” approach, which was supposed to make sex work safer, has done the opposite, researchers in Canada and France found. Prosecuting men who buy sex has forced prostitutes to operate in the shadows, in turn making it more difficult to negotiate prices and condom use, and making it less likely they would access health services.

TALKING POINTS

A gun is never just a gun

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar; a gun, on the other hand, is never just a gun. The gun is so freighted with symbolism that we rarely approach it rationally. Whether we hate them or love them, we don’t think about guns. We feel about guns. We can abandon rational ideas when proven wrong, but we do not abandon feelings. When Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam warned colleague Joe Cressy that his motion to curb handguns and ammunition in Toronto would be ineffective, he decided to go ahead with it regardless. Wong-Tam, in turn, voted for a motion she knew would not work simply because it was ‘symbolic.’ Marion Barry said exactly the same of his support for Washington’s handgun ban, way back in 1976. A ban may have no rational basis, but we want it anyway, to express our feelings about guns.” – A.J. Somerset, author of Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun

Why cute things make me sad

“Recently, I met a friend for a drink, and as we sat together in our café chairs across a tiny round table, she asked me casually how I was doing. I paused, uncomfortably, before speaking, because it takes some time to find a truthful response when the answer is that I am healthy and happy and thriving and thankful, but also being eaten away by the incredible suffering and dysfunction and waste I see all around me, that I feel powerless and loathsome for not doing more, while acknowledging that doing more means perhaps risking my safety and my family’s stability, and doesn’t that, too, seem reckless? And she, don’t you know it, looked into my eyes and said, yes. Yes. This is also how I feel. There is in my country, the United States, a national despair. … And I see people trying to help each other when they cannot buy a drink or lend a hand or give a hug by offering a happy diversion from it all – a picture of something cute. And to that I say, please stop. Stop it with the cute things. Cute things do not make any of this better. Cute things make me sad.” – Jenny Morber, science writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic and Slate

Climate change is here, and the world is burning

“Here are some places that have experienced unprecedented wildfires in the last half-decade or so: Western Canada including, currently, the Okanagan. Ontario, Quebec and, almost continuously, the Western United States. Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, China and Russia. European countries that have been hit include Portugal, France, Italy and, right now, Greece, where dozens have died and heat levels have been high enough to melt cars. Particularly worrying at the moment are wildfires in Sweden, which has been dealing with temperatures of more than 30 C above the Arctic Circle. These are the places that Lori Daniels, a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, listed off the top of her head. She’s one of three Canadian forest fire experts I got in touch with this week, to discuss whether my sense that the whole world was on fire was paranoia or reality.” – Denise Balkissoon

LIVING BETTER

Three new Italian restaurants worth checking out – plus B.C.’s increasingly diverse wines

Vancouver is going through a casual Italian phase, Alexandra Gill writes. That trend has brought with it restaurants going the extra mile by making their own fresh pasta. Read more about the unique offerings of Orto Artisan Pasta in North Vancouver, The Italians in the West End, and Fiore Pizza and Pasta in South Granville.

And if you’re not in the area, maybe try out a bottle of B.C. wine that’s not merlot or pinot gris. From pinot noir to syrah to cabernet franc, diversity has been unleashed in the Okanagan wine scene, Beppi Crosariol says. (for subscribers)

LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall’s son is getting big-name notice in the country music scene

With two albums under his belt and a third coming this fall, 23-year-old singer-songwriter Colter Wall is already getting big-name notice. No less than Steve Earle has raved about his music and his voice, saying Wall is the best singer-songwriter he’s seen in years, and describing his songs as “stunning.” The New Yorker and Rolling Stone have written about Wall, and Pitchfork has called him “one of country’s most exciting young voices.” His work has been compared not only to that of the original icons of outlaw country, but of songwriting legends such as Bruce Springsteen. (for subscribers)

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