Russia denies U.K. claim of seeking to install pro-Moscow government in Ukraine

WATCH: U.S. and Russia talks end with no breakthroughs as tensions over Ukraine heat up

Russia‘s Foreign Ministry on Sunday rejected a British claim that Russia was seeking to replace Ukraine‘s government with a pro-Moscow administration, and that former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev was being considered as a potential candidate.

Britain’s Foreign Office on Saturday also named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services, along with Murayev who is the leader of a small pro-Russia party that has no seats in the parliament.

Read more:

Britain says Kremlin working to install pro-Russia leader in Ukraine

The U.K. government made the claim based on an intelligence assessment, without providing evidence to back it up. It comes amid high tensions between Moscow and the West over Russia’s designs on Ukraine.

“The disinformation spread by the British Foreign Office is more evidence that it is the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, who are escalating tensions around Ukraine,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on the Telegram messaging app Sunday. “We call on the British Foreign Office to stop provocative activities, stop spreading nonsense.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the information “shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking.”

Truss urged Russia to “deescalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy,” and reiterated Britain’s view that “any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs.”

Britain has sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine as part of efforts to bolster its defenses against a potential Russian attack.

Amid diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is expected to meet Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for talks in Moscow. No timing has been given for the meeting, which would be the first U.K.-Russia bilateral defense talks since 2013.

Read more:

Canada deploys special forces to Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia

The U.S. has mounted an aggressive campaign in recent months to unify its European allies against a new Russian invasion of Ukraine. The White House called the U.K. government assessment “deeply concerning” and said it stands with the duly elected Ukrainian government.

“This kind of plotting is deeply concerning,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said. “The Ukrainian people have the sovereign right to determine their own future, and we stand with our democratically-elected partners in Ukraine.”

The assessment came as President Joe Biden spent Saturday at the presidential retreat Camp David outside of Washington huddling with his senior national security team about the Ukraine situation. A White House official said the discussions included efforts to de-escalate the situation with diplomacy and deterrence measures being coordinated closely with allies and partners, including security assistance to Ukraine.

Jill Lawless in London, Jari Tanner in Helsinki, and Matthew Lee and Zeke Miller in Washington, contributed to this report.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

In praise of — and a plea for — better sounding music

A few years ago, I was talking to a high school student about music. “What do you listen to your music on?” I asked.

She pointed at her laptop. “That,” she replied. “Through the speakers.”

I was aghast. “You that’s how you hear all your favourite songs? Through laptop speakers?”

She shrugged. “It’s good enough,” she said.

Good enough? What?

Read more:

Alan Cross explains how our music is shaped by technology, part 1

If you’re of a certain vintage (i.e. you grew up before the internet and MP3s,) you may remember spending an insane amount of after-tax dollars on a stereo system, hoping to build the biggest, baddest, loudest, clearest, most accurate audio experience within your budget. At one point, I had something in my bedroom capable of acting as a PA for a Black Sabbath set at Glastonbury. The stereo in my car was only slightly less powerful, but still capable of filling a decent-sized arena.

This kind of audio culture (and, okay, fetishization) was everywhere. All my friends — this was almost exclusively a dude thing — all dove into the deep end. We bought what we could afford and then spent many an afternoon in stores auditioning super-high-end speakers and other gear. It cost nothing and we spent the entire time listening to our favourite recordings played back in their best possible glory.

That all came crashing down with the rise of the MP3. Encoders crushed files to one-tenth of their normal size, making it possible to transmit them down old copper telephone wires. MP3s were also seen as the solution to a storage problem on PCs. Computer hard drives were pitifully small by today’s standards, so ripping an entire CD in its original .wav format was a non-starter. One of my old 1 GB HDDs would have barely held one CD. Instead of just storing a couple of dozen songs in .wav, on such a drive, you could store thousands of MP3s.

We marvelled at the magic of this technology. The selection! The portability! The libraries and playlists we built! The file-sharing! Yes, the sound wasn’t quite as good as our old records and CDs, but the tradeoff between convenience and audio quality was worth it. We were okay with substandard audio. And outside of a niche community of audiophiles, that’s where we’ve been stuck for a couple of decades.

Read more:

Alan Cross explains how our music is shaped by technology, part 2

In fact, today’s music sounds worse than it did in the 1970s or even the 1960s. Too many new CDs feature music that’s compressed in a misguided attempt to make it appear louder, squishing out all the dynamic range. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica (especially the St. Anger album) are among the worst offenders. When those songs are played over the radio, even more compression is added. If you rip those songs to MP3 — well, it’s like sticking a grape can in a hydraulic press. And yes, the majority of radio stations do play digital files, even MP3s with criminally low (below 320 kpbs) bitrates.

Meanwhile, the audio industry is desperate for a long upgrade cycle when consumers will move from compressed music and the devices that play them to something much better such as Hi-Res Audio and other “lossless” (i.e. no compression) digital formats. Such a movement would send a multi-billion-dollar ripple through almost all areas of consumer electronics.

Oh, they’ve tried. Anyone remember SACDs or HDCD? Both were optical discs with twice the resolution of audio CDs and were capable of delivering music with astounding clarity. They still exist, but you’d never know it.

Sony let me try out a Hi-Res digital player 15 years ago with Bob Marley’s Legend pre-loaded. The difference was so striking, so immediate, that it was like listening to those songs for the first time. But more than a decade-and-a-half later, Hi-Res Audio (and a few similar brand names) is unknown to most music fans outside the audiophile. (If you want to see what you can buy, check out HDTracks, a Canadian store that sells lossless files. Pink Floyd’s The Wall in 96kHz/24-bit can be a life-changing experience.)

And up until recently, streaming music services weren’t helping, delivering audio in the old “lossy” formats. Spotify, for example, has an automatic setting that defaults to four different bitrates depending on the receiving device and the available data pipe: 24 (low), 96 (normal), 160 (high), and 320 kpbs (very high). Even at “very high,” that’s still less than a quarter of the data gush you get from a .wav file (2.4 MB/minute vs about 10 MB/minute).

There has been movement, however. Apple Music says it has upgraded just about everything in its library to lossless audio so subscribers can listen to songs “the way the artists created them in the studio.” (Gee, that’s exactly what my friends and I were looking for back in the day. Huh.)

Tidal has always been preferred by audiophiles who want to stream. Amazon Music HD, Deezer, and a few others are also streaming lossless files. Some charge more for the higher quality while others have just folded it into their regular streams.

Spotify’s version, Spotify HiFi, was supposed to have been released last year, but it’s been delayed indefinitely without explanation. You’d think that they’d be in a rush to offer a tier for which they could charge more or boost subscriber numbers. Nope. At least, not yet.

Yet here’s the thing: Does the average music fan care about higher-quality audio? Not when they spend most of their time listening on portable devices using earbuds or headphones tuned to over-emphasize bass frequencies (I’m looking at you, Beats). As far as the last couple of generations of music fans are concerned, compressed and awful music (my take) is what music is supposed to sound like. What’s more, is that it’s this level of audio quality that they find pleasing and beautiful. They don’t see the need for anything more.

Read more:

What technology comes after music streaming?

Yes, data costs are a factor, but that’s only for over-the-air streaming. There’s always Wi-Fi. If you subscribe to a streamer, then you can save tracks onto your device so you can listen even if you’re not connected. And if you’re the kind of person who still rips CDs, there’s no need to compress anything. An 8 TB hard drive can be had for less than $200, and capacities keep going up as prices keep falling.

So far, offerings of better audio have been met with near-total indifference. I’m beginning to fear that the whole concept of CD-quality (or better) lossless audio for streaming will never catch on with the masses. And that would be a crime.

If you’re not convinced, head over to your nearest high-audio dealer and ask them to play a Hi-Res MQA-encoded version of The Doors’ Riders on the Storm on a pair of good speakers. The clarity of Ray Manzarek’s electric piano is frighteningly clear and nuanced, eclipsed perhaps only by Rob Krieger’s drums. I swear I’ve never heard a more accurate representation of a stick hitting a drumhead.

Just heavenly. Why would anyone want to deprive themselves of a glorious listening experience?

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Could talks between the military and sexual misconduct survivors bring change?

WATCH: Senior military leaders went golfing with Gen. Jonathan Vance while under investigation

Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice-Admiral Craig Baines admits he made a mistake by golfing with retired general Jonathan Vance last summer while the former chief of the defence staff was being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct.

But in his first interview since current defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre’s controversial decision not to fire him, Baines says he has tried to make the most of his second chance by connecting with victims and survivors of military sexual misconduct.

Read more:

Canadian Forces targeting ‘heart of the problem’ behind sexual misconduct: culture chief

Those connections have been personal, as Baines has sat down with former service members who experienced inappropriate and illegal sexual behaviour while in uniform to listen and learn why his decision was wrong.

He has also worked to connect senior officers across the navy with It’s Not Just 700, a support and advocacy group specially created six years ago for victims of military sexual misconduct, and pledged to be an agent for change.

Global News first reported on the Canadian Forces’ mishandling of sexual misconduct in February 2021, leading to the forcing out or resignation of several members of the military’s top brass due to allegations of improper conduct.

On Feb. 2, the issue burst into the spotlight after Global News reported that now-retired Gen. Jonathan Vance, the former chief of the defence staff, was facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour from two female subordinates. He has denied the allegations.

Since Global News’ exclusive reporting, the military has been embroiled in what leaders say is an existential “crisis” for the Canadian Armed Forces.

“The biggest thing for me, and what I’ve committed to when dealing with the different groups that I have talked to, is that we’re going to keep this on the agenda,” Baines told The Canadian Press.

“We’re not going to allow this just to be a spike of activity, and then once everyone stops looking, we’re just going to go back to the way it was. That’s not what we’re going to do. We are going to change the navy for the better.”

It’s Not Just 700 co-chair Lori Buchart says while Baines made a bad decision in golfing with Vance, that mistake has since opened the door to a real dialogue between victims and survivors and the military’s top brass.

Read more:

IN HER WORDS: One of the women behind Vance allegations tells her story

And while she acknowledges not everyone will be happy the group is working with Baines and other military commanders, Buchart says the discussions have been healing for some participants. She’s also hoping they lead to real change in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“We really need to find a pathway forward for conversation and for good leaders to reconcile and start a restoration process with those people that are harmed,” Buchart said. “When we start doing that, we’re starting to rebuild trust with the community.”

The birth of the current partnership started with Eyre’s announcement in late June that he had decided to keep Baines on as commander of the Royal Canadian Navy despite his having golfed with Vance and another senior officer, Mike Rouleau.

Baines blames a “blind spot” for his decision to hit the links at Ottawa’s Hylands Golf and Country Club on June 2, saying he was there out of friendship with Rouleau and not to support Vance, who was charged in July with one count of obstruction of justice. Vance has denied any wrongdoing.

Rouleau at the time was vice-chief of the defence staff, the military’s second in command, to whom military police are administratively responsible. He resigned two weeks after the golf game, and took the blame for Baines having been there in the first place.

“There were many different ways I could have supported my colleague, general Rouleau, and that just wasn’t the right way to do it,” Baines said when asked about the golf game. “And I felt terrible that in trying to do that, I caused harm to survivors.”

Read more:

Gen. Wayne Eyre officially taking over as new chief of the defence staff

In announcing his decision to keep Baines, Eyre said he had consulted a number of people, including victims and survivors, and was giving the navy commander a chance “to redeem himself and show us how to learn, grow, and help the healing process.”

The decision was controversial, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland saying it sent the wrong message to women in the military.

Buchart had similar questions about Eyre’s decision, recalling: “I’m like: `Well, who did you consult in the community? And you’re saying why it’s good for Craig, but you’re not saying why it’s good for the Canadian Armed Forces and the people who served.”’

A former university professor and retired lieutenant-commander who was sexually assaulted on multiple occasions during her 14 years in the naval reserve, Buchart at the time had only recently taken over as co-chair of It’s Not Just 700, known previously as It’s Just 700.

The all-volunteer group was founded in 2015 after the release of an explosive report by retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps that for the first time detailed the extent of the military’s problem with sexual misconduct.

While INJ700 has been at the forefront of calls for accountability and action, Buchart says she arrived with a slightly different mindset: “If we were going to help bring about change, we had to have different types of conversations.”

So Buchart wrote an email to Eyre expressing her questions and concerns. Less than an hour later, Baines messaged back asking if they could talk. Buchart says she agreed only after checking with some other officers she knew who vouched for him.

Read more:

Military to act quickly on recommendations to fight sexual misconduct: Anand

When they finally talked by phone a few days later, Baines admitted to having made a mistake.

“I said: `Look, you made a really bad decision,”’ Buchart recalls. “But I’m not the one who has to forgive what you did.”’

Baines agreed to a roundtable between himself and other members of the navy with INJ700’s leadership team, who have since met with senior leaders of the air force leaders as well, with more meetings planned in the coming weeks.

The navy commander also sat down with victims and survivors for two “restorative engagement” sessions to better understand why his decision on June 2 hurt them and others. A similar session has been held with Eyre.

Buchart says those meetings, which were set up with assistance from the military’s internal conflict unit, have proven cathartic.

“One of the individuals got up and said: `I’ve done 25 years of psychotherapy and 25 years of drugs, and that hasn’t done for me what six hours engaged in this restorative session with Admiral Baines has,”’ Buchart recalls.

Baines says his eyes have been opened to the pain he caused, and that he is committed to championing change.

Buchart knows not everyone will approve of INJ700’s work with Baines and the rest of the military, which has a long history of promising to root sexual misconduct from the ranks and then failing in that commitment.

But she says not only does the group continue to press for accountability, she has also seen the benefit to individual victims and survivors – and is cautiously optimistic dialogue will lead to real change.

“To move this train wreck forward, this whole conversation piece, there just had to be some swimming upstream,” she says. “If we can engage in conversation, engage in critical dialogue and get these folks to start chatting … then we can shift what’s happening.”

— with files from Global News 

© 2022 The Canadian Press

2 people taken to hospital after fire at Toronto auto body shop

Two people were transported to hospital after a fire in Toronto on Saturday evening.

In a tweet, Toronto police said officers received reports of a fire in the Warden Avenue and Danforth Avenue area.

Read more:

1 dead, 1 in critical condition following two early morning shootings in North York

According to Toronto fire, the incident occurred at an auto body shop.

Cars were reportedly on fire both inside and outside the shop.

The fire, which was initially deemed a two-fire alarm, was upgraded to a third alarm due to reports of explosions, Toronto fire said.

Toronto paramedics told Global News two people were transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ottawa Police Homicide Unit investigating fatal stabbing

The Ottawa Police Homicide Unit is investigating a fatal stabbing in the city this weekend.

Police say officers located a badly wounded man in the 200 block of Hannah Street just before 6:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Read more:

Human remains located at site of explosion on Merivale Road, officials say

They say the man was rushed to hospital where he died of his injuries.

He has since been identified as 40-year-old Jayco Partridge.

Investigators say an arrest warrant has been issued for 28-year-old Devon Wynne on a charge of second degree murder.

Anyone who knows Wynne’s whereabouts, or has information about the case, is asked to contact police immediately.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Canadian scientist examines melting Antarctic glacier, potential sea level rise

The Arctic sea ice has suffered devastating loss and has shrunk to its second lowest on record. Melting sea ice is just one of many signs of a warming climate in the North. Emanuela Campanella explains how climate change is rapidly transforming the Arctic Circle.

As icebergs drifted by his Antarctica-bound ship, David Holland spoke this week of how the melting glacier he’s cruising towards may contain warning signals for the coasts of far-off Canada.

The atmospheric and ocean scientist from Newfoundland is part of an expedition to one of the world’s most frigid and remote spots – the Thwaites glacier in the western portion of the continent – where he’ll measure water temperatures in an undersea channel the size of Manhattan.

“The question of whether sea level will change can only be answered by looking at the planet where it matters, and that is at Thwaites,” said Holland, director of the environmental fluid dynamics laboratory at New York University, during a satellite phone interview from aboard the South Korean icebreaker Araon.

Read more:

‘Historic’ Halifax seawall being redeveloped as municipality seeks to reduce impact of climate change

It’s over 16,000 kilometres from Holland’s hometown in Brigus, N.L., on Conception Bay, to the site about 100 kilometres inland from the “grounding zone” where the Thwaites’ glacier leaves the continent and extends over the Pacific.

The team’s 20,000 tonnes of drilling gear will be assembled to measure the temperatures, salinity and turbulence of the Pacific waters that have crept underneath and are lapping away at the guts of the glacier.

“If it (the water) is above freezing, and in salt water this means above -2 centigrade, that’s not sustainable. A glacier can’t survive that,” said Holland.

Since 2018, more than 60 scientists from the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration group have been exploring the ocean and marine sediments, measuring warming currents flowing toward the deep ice, and examining the stretching, bending, and grinding of the glacier over the landscape below.

The Florida-sized Thwaites glacier faces the Amundsen Sea, and researchers have suggested in journal articles over the past decade it may eventually lose large amounts of ice because of deep, warm water driven into the area as the planet warms. Some media have dubbed Thwaites the “doomsday glacier” due to estimates that it could add about 65 centimetres to global sea level rise.

Holland notes current research models mainly suggest this would happen over several centuries, however there are also lower probability theories of “catastrophic collapse” occurring, where the massive ice shelf melts in the space of decades. “We want to pay attention to things that are plausible, and rapid collapse of that glacier is a possibility,” he said.

While Holland looks at the undersea melting, other scientists are examining how the land-based portions of Antarctic glaciers are losing their grip on points of attachment to the seabed, potentially causing parts to detach. Still other researchers point to the risk of initial fractures causing the ice shelf to break, much like a damaged car windshield.

Read more:

Seawall damage a sign of things to come amid sea level rise and climate change, experts warn

All of the mechanisms must be carefully observed to prove or disprove models on the rates of melting, said Holland.

“If the (water-filled) cave beneath the glacier we’re studying gets bigger, then Antarctica is losing ice and retreating, and if the cave collapses on itself, then (the cave) will disappear. This is how Antarctica can retreat, these kinds of specific events,” he said.

The implications of the glacier work reach back to Atlantic Canada – which along with communities along the Beaufort Sea and in southwestern British Columbia is the region most vulnerable to sea level rise in the country, according to federal scientists.

Everything from how to calculate the future height of dikes at the low-lying Chignecto Isthmus – the narrow band of land that connects Nova Scotia to the rest of the country – to whether the Fraser River lowlands may face flooding is potentially affected by glacial melting in Antarctica, he said.

Scenarios where Antarctica ice melts more quickly than expected are briefly discussed in the 2019 federal report Canada’s Changing Climate. Based largely on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that refer to them as low-probability “tipping point” theories, the 2019 report invoked the possibility of one metre of sea level rise by 2100.

However, Blair Greenan, a federal oceanographer who oversaw the relevant chapter of the report, said in a recent interview that a rise in global sea levels approaching two metres by 2100 and five metres by 2150 “cannot be ruled out” due to uncertainty over ice sheet processes like Thwaites.

“We don’t know, nobody knows,” Holland said. “But it’s plausible these things can change, and several feet of sea level change would have a major impact on Atlantic Canada. What’s needed is glacier forecasting that resembles the kinds of accuracy that weather forecasting currently provides.”

However, collecting glacier forecast data is a daunting undertaking in the short period – from late January until mid-February – when scientists can safely take readings. Helicopters will be ferrying a hot water drill, 30 barrels of fuel and water to Holland’s site beginning near the end of January. The drill will have to penetrate over a kilometre of ice to reach the 300 metres of undersea channel to take measurements.

As the data is collected, some scientists question whether there’s really much for Canadian coastal residents to worry about at this stage.

One study by Ian Joughin, a University of Washington glaciologist, has suggested Thwaites will only lose ice at a rate that creates sea level rise of one millimetre per year – and not until next century. At that rate it would take 100 years for sea levels to rise 10 centimetres.

In a telephone interview last week, Joughin said planning coastal protection and other measures for the more extreme scenarios may not be cost effective at this point, as it may take up to a century before the major risks starts to unfold.

However, Joanna Eyquem, a Montreal-based geoscientist who is studying ways to prepare infrastructure for rising sea levels, said in a recent email that glacier research shows sea level forecasts “are constantly evolving,” and adaptation efforts need to be quicker.

“The question is: How desperate does the situation need to be before we take action?” she asked.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Police investigate after pedestrian killed in hit and run in Toronto

Police say one man is dead after a hit and run in Toronto on Saturday.

In a press release, Toronto police said officers received a report of a collision at Weston Road and Knob Hill Drive.

According to police, a 52-year-old man was crossing Weston Road when a black vehicle driving northbound struck him.

Officers said the vehicle failed to remain on scene, and was last seen headed northbound on Weston Road.

Police said the pedestrian was transported to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Officers are now searching for the driver of a dark BMW. Police said the vehicle has front-end damage to the bumper, headlight and side mirror.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford holds meeting on rural, remote and northern housing issues

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to meet Sunday with leaders of rural, remote and northern communities to discuss their housing challenges as issues of rapid price growth and lack of supply are felt far beyond urban borders.

The talks come after the premier and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark hosted a virtual housing summit recently with big-city mayors. Clark said Sunday’s meeting is an “opportunity to collaborate and co-ordinate” with smaller, rural, northern and remote municipalities on how the government can address the housing supply crisis.

Read more:

Premier Doug Ford kicks off housing summit with funding to help municipalities cut red tape

“This can include discussing ways to build the right mix of housing in the right places, share best practices, and discuss these municipalities’ unique experiences with the housing supply crisis,” he said in a written statement.

Those who work in housing in the areas outside Ontario’s large centres said that while there are common issues across the province, governments seeking solutions need to remember the unique needs and challenges of smaller regions.

Mitchell Twolan, the mayor of Huron-Kinloss in Bruce County, who has also been a Realtor for 27 years, said the past two years are the busiest he’s ever experienced.

“A lot of the folks that are coming in are from the cities, and they’re coming here for quality of life, and we are still considered quite affordable even though the prices of homes have shot up,” he said.

Home prices have risen by 31 per cent in Grey Bruce-Owen Sound from December 2020 to December 2021, according to Canadian Real Estate Association figures. That’s the same percentage as Toronto.

In many regions, it’s even higher. Kawartha Lakes, Cambridge and Brantford all saw about 40 per cent growth, while North Bay saw 42 and the Bancroft area topped the list with a whopping 48 per cent growth in prices year over year.

Twolan said he was involved with a property that saw 27 bids. Huron-Kinloss saw the most residential homes in its history built in the past year – even during a pandemic – and the new supply is still not meeting the demand, he said.

“It really is that what happened in the city previously is starting to happen in rural Ontario,” he said.

Rebecca Carman, the housing services manager for Northumberland County, said their average retail price rose by 30 per cent in a year to more than $825,000, which is unaffordable for most people in the region.

“The challenges have always been there, but they’ve definitely had a light shone on them during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“What has happened over time is housing affordability and availability, it’s been long viewed as that urban issue with affordability often seen to be more achievable in rural communities, and it’s just no longer the case.”

Because housing had been more affordable in rural communities, there was less demand for rental units, so very few such homes were built, Carman said. And as house prices rise, homeowners are selling their houses instead of renting them out, she said, leaving the community also dealing with a very low rental vacancy rate.

Read more:

Hamilton’s share of millions to speed housing development approvals ‘not going to hurt’

Among the provincial measures Carman suggests are giving developers a financial incentive to build a mix of housing, increasing the supply of rental housing, and improving the process for directing surplus Crown lands to municipalities for affordable housing.

Robin Jones, mayor of the village of Westport in eastern Ontario and chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, said two areas the province could address are land-use planning rules about where rural settlements can be built, and landlord and tenant rules.

“Our issue is, of course, like everybody else, affordable housing. But let’s be clear, the lack of affordable rental housing in rural Ontario is just as dire,” Jones said.

In many small towns, villages and hamlets, wealthy individuals or developers buy buildings and convert old homes with three or four apartments back into single-family residences, she said.

Henry Wall, the chief administrative officer of the Kenora District Services Board, said one way the province could help speed up housing development is to constrain the ability to appeal housing developments or at least streamline the process.

Municipal councils will often approve a zoning amendment for new housing to be built only for them to be challenged and mired in a lengthy appeals process, he said.

“We’re losing development because of appeals being filed, because of NIMBYism (not in my backyard), and it has another very serious implication in especially in northern Ontario, where very often race plays into it,” Wall said.

Wall also noted that it costs more in the north to build homes, and with a shorter building season, it takes more co-ordination to get supplies.

Read more:

Premier Doug Ford pitching Ontario as electric vehicle leader, but not reintroducing rebates

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario said in a letter to Clark that the two housing meetings are a good start, but addressing the housing crisis will take joint action.

Some of its suggestions include applying inclusionary zoning policies to more communities in order to get more affordable housing built, rent-to-own programs, and a public education campaign to combat NIMBYism and promote a diverse mix of housing.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

'Havana Syndrome': Canada cautions diplomats about mysterious illness symptoms

WATCH: Havana Syndrome: New CIA report sheds light on mysterious illness

Canada’s foreign ministry has advised staff serving around the world to watch for mysterious illness symptoms following unexplained health incidents among diplomats in Cuba and U.S. personnel in various countries.

In September, Global Affairs Canada began briefings with senior managers at headquarters in Ottawa, all heads of mission abroad and partners from other federal departments working at embassies, says a newly disclosed briefing note.

Read more:

Canadian officials not disclosing ‘at least 3’ new Havana syndrome cases: letter

On Oct. 7, a broadcast message to all Global Affairs staff was issued, outlining the symptoms and how to report concerns, says the note, prepared in November for Melanie Joly, who had just been sworn in as Canada’s latest foreign affairs minister.

Canadian diplomats and family members posted to Havana, Cuba, have reported difficulties since 2017, including headaches, loss of memory, inability to concentrate, cognitive and vision problems, noise sensitivity, dizziness, nausea, sleep disturbances, mood changes and nosebleeds.

Fifteen Canadians have received a confirmed working diagnosis of “acquired brain injury,” Global Affairs says.

Several U.S. personnel who worked in Cuba have reported similar health issues, commonly known as Havana Syndrome. More recently, there have been reports of symptoms among U.S. personnel in Washington, Austria and China.

“There continues to be ongoing media coverage of unexplained health incidents experienced by U.S. government staff abroad, which has understandably generated concerns among Government of Canada employees around the world,” says the November note to Joly.

The Global Affairs staff briefings were done out of “an abundance of caution and to meet our duty of care obligations,” the note adds.

The RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service have sent similar messages to their staff, the department says.

CSIS has offices located within certain Canadian diplomatic missions.

“In alignment with Global Affairs Canada protocols to respond to any unusual events affecting Canadian officials abroad, CSIS advised its employees accordingly,” said intelligence service spokeswoman Keira Lawson.

Read more:

Global Affairs Canada confirms no Canadians in Vienna hit amid Havana syndrome reports

Global Affairs spokeswoman Patricia Skinner declined to say whether any new cases had been reported by staff since the department’s 2021 briefings on health symptoms.

“For privacy and security reasons, we cannot comment on the specifics of the ongoing investigations, individual cases, nor on specific security measures,” she said.

Ongoing Canadian and U.S. investigations have not determined a cause of the ailments, though theories have ranged from targeted sonic attacks by an adversary to pesticide spraying.

Given the unusual health incidents in Cuba, as of April 2018 the Canadian diplomats posted to Havana have not been accompanied by spouses or children.

In January 2019, Global Affairs reduced its diplomatic footprint in Havana by half. Since then, the department has increased the number of diplomats, not yet to full staffing, to allow the mission to respond more effectively to the consular needs of Canadians in Cuba and to advance Canadian foreign policy, trade and development priorities, Skinner said.

“Global Affairs Canada intends to increase the number of Canadian diplomatic staff in Cuba in due course,” she added.

Department records obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act indicate the move to fuller staffing in Havana was paused temporarily last March given the appearance of a possible new case of the syndrome.

“Depending on the situation, we could explore additional health and security measures that would allow us to go forward with the increased footprint, or we could look at other options,” say internal notes for a March 5 briefing of officials.

Skinner declined to say whether the possible case was indeed confirmed through testing.

Eight Canadian diplomats and their family members who became mysteriously ill while posted to Cuba are suing Ottawa in Federal Court for millions of dollars in damages.

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Paul Miller, a lawyer for the families, said in an interview that at least one more diplomat who served in Cuba – possibly the unnamed one mentioned in the March 2021 department memo – will soon be added to the lawsuit.

Miller said that some ailing diplomats “do not want to get involved with suing their government” given the possible damaging effects on their careers. “And this last person took some serious time before deciding to join.”

The diplomats say the Canadian government failed to protect them, hid crucial information and downplayed the seriousness of the risks. The government denies wrongdoing and negligence, and wants the court to dismiss the action.

Skinner said Global Affairs continues to maintain a security and health protocol to respond immediately to any unusual events or health symptoms affecting Canadian diplomats and their families.

The RCMP has not revealed findings of its long-running investigation of the health ailments.

Pamela Isfeld, president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, said she hopes there will be a resolution to the puzzling episode.

“I share the frustration of everybody – there just doesn’t seem to be a conclusion anywhere close in this investigation.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Canadian Shapovalov reaches Australian Open quarterfinals, sets Nadal match

WATCH: Shapovalov predicts 'long battle'against Nadal in quarter-finals of Australian Open

As the 2022 Australian Open began, Denis Shapovalov talked about wanting to bring the “Rafa mentality” to the court.

Now that he’s reached the quarterfinals Down Under for the first time in his career after a 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 dismantling of world No. 3 Alexander Zverev in the round of 16 Sunday, he will get to test out that new mantra against the man who created it.

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The 22-year-old Canadian will face 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal on Tuesday, with a spot in the semifinals on the line.

“It’s just fighting for every point, kind of just staying in it, not letting things bother you,” Shapovalov said of the mindset he hoped he and his team could bring to the court in 2022.

If the match against Zverev was any indication, it’s already mission accomplished.

Shapovalov is the third Canadian to reach the final eight in Melbourne. He joins Milos Raonic (who has gone at least that far on five occasions) and Mike Belkin, who reached the quarterfinals in 1968 _ the first year of tennis’s open era.

Felix Auger-Aliassime will attempt to join that group Monday (late Sunday night ET) when the No. 9 seed takes on No. 27 seed Marin Cilic in his own round-of-16 match.

“I’m definitely expecting a long battle out there. He makes you play a lot. His defence is very good. He’s very good at what he does, you know?” Shapovalov said of Nadal. “I’m going to have to try to play my game, take it to him and keep doing what I have been doing: playing patient, fighting for every point and picking my spots to play aggressively.”

Shapovalov had a slight dip in focus at the end of the second set against Zverev. But beyond that, he outhit the mighty Zverev from the baseline. He kept the errors down. And on a steamy, humid day, he kept his infamously inconsistent cool pretty much throughout.

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“Obviously it was really hot to begin with. Did a good job of just staying patient and, yeah, trying to play a little quickly on my serve games,” Shapovalov said. “I think I did everything really, really well today.”

Other than 11 double faults, Shapovalov dominated the rallies with power and surprising consistency. He rarely looked in trouble.

For his part, Zverev never looked as though he might mount a charge. And his career-long struggle with his second serve, resolved fairly well in 2021, reared its head. With eight double faults, he won just 29 per cent of his second-serve points.

“Maybe since Wimbledon, one of the worst matches I have played. It’s just tough,” a downcast Zverev said. “Obviously I give credit to Denis. It’s incredible he’s in the quarters. I think he deserves it. He’s done a lot of work. He’s improved his game. But I’ve got to look at myself, as well. Today was just, in my opinion, awful from my side.”

Shapovalov went 22-for-27 at the net on Sunday. That’s an area where he has made steady improvement in the last two years, and where he hopes new coach Jamie Delgado, a fine volleyer in his day, will make even more of an impact.

The arrival of Andy Murray’s former longtime coach, and Shapovalov’s first breakthrough effort Down Under, are happening concurrently.

After just a few weeks, though, it’s far too soon to assess Delgado’s impact.

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However, adding the 44-year-old Brit, after parting ways with Russian former top-10 player Mikhail Youzhny at the end of last season, was 100 per cent Shapovalov’s decision.

It may be the first major call on his career that the Richmond Hill, Ont., native has made on his own, with mother and coach Tessa such a strong presence as he rose through the ranks.

“For sure, it’s a little bit about growing up _ wanting my parents to be my parents and kind of treating this like more of like a business and like a job,” Shapovalov said. “And I really wanted to build a team that’s going to be on the same page the whole time. So it was it was my call, and my decision.”

Shapovalov spoke to a few potential candidates. He even approached his former coach and the former Canadian Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau to return.

“It just didn’t work out. He’s in a good position with Tennis Canada, and he’s pretty comfortable. We just, couldn’t come to a good agreement,” Shapovalov said.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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