Don’t look now but loonie’s plunge is deepening

WATCH (above): The value of the Canadian dollar has tumbled over the past few months – now hovering below 89 cents US. As Jill Bennett reports, that means you’ll soon be paying more for all kinds of goods.

Wondering where the loonie is headed, and more importantly, whether you should buy up some greenbacks now for that trip later this year, or hold off in the hopes that it will win back some ground?

With the Canadian dollar alternating between deep dives and shallow recoveries of late, you’re not alone.

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On net, the consensus appears to point toward a further weakening of our currency this year as an improving U.S. economy sends global investment flows into that currency and away from our own – a process that will drive down the value of the loonie.

How low can it go?

The loonie has shed more than 5.5 per cent against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of the year and as of Thursday was below 88 cents US – a level not seen since the recessionary days of mid-2009, or nearly half a decade ago.

What’s behind the decline is primarily a pick up in the U.S. recovery combined with somewhat dimmer economic prospects for Canada, a role reversal of the past few years when Canada’s economy was doing well while the U.S. economy languished while digging out from recession.

A sudden and fairly sharp depreciation in the loonie since the fall through February is expected to level off, according to experts like RBC, with the Canadian dollar holding at around 87 cents US for the balance of 2014. But it’s likely to depreciate to 85 cents through 2015, the bank warns, and that’s where it should hit bottom.

READ MORE: Gap between U.S., Canada retail prices may ‘widen once again’

But some economists say the possibility of an interest rate cut in Canada this year could weaken the loonie even further. A cut below an already ultra low rate of 1 per cent would send investment flows fleeing from the loonie, likely into an already strengthening U.S. currency.

Even without a cut at home, interest rates are now shifting into higher gear in the U.S. on improving growth prospects.

“The loonie is flying straight into some pretty stiff headwinds,” BMO  said.

In short, if you need U.S. dollars for a trip abroad or to make a purchase in the United States, it’s likely wise to buy now.

Going up, up: The cost of one US dollar if you’re paying with loonies is about $1.12 at the moment, a figure that’s likely to get more expensive, experts say. 

Ethnic groups mobilize to vote April 7 – Montreal

MONTREAL – For Arabic radio host Zaina Karam , the political discourse starts first thing in the morning.

Since the beginning of the election campaign, 24-hour Middle Eastern radio station, 1450AM, has had a mandate to encourage the Arabic community in Quebec to exercise their political right.

“They have lots of different points of views, we don’t push them to vote for this party or for another one,” said station manager Tony Karam. “But we push them really to go vote.”

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The passionate calls flood in every second of the day and listeners on both sides of the political spectrum call in to express reasons why it’s important to vote in this election.

“The interesting thing about this election is you have an issue that directly speaks to the immigrant community,” explained political analyst, Bruce Hicks. “And that will have a mobilizing affect, I think, and may help bring out that community.”

Italian immigrant Alessandra Guerra has lived through seven provincial elections in Quebec but she has never voted, until now.

“There’s a lot of fears, doubts about what’s going on, we’ve been seeing a lot of change since the news came,” she said. “We’ve been seeing violence, people feeling alienated.”

Guerra wants her voice to be heard so the country and province she loves so much doesn’t change, so for the first time, she’s registered to vote.

That’s exactly the kind of attitude the #jevote campaign is hoping to generate.

The founder of Support Another, a movement against the charter of values, is pushing those who don’t usually vote to think about why this election may be important for their future.

“We’ve come to Canada and Quebec to have this right and freedom to choose,” explained Sama Al-Obaidy. “So let’s take a chance, make a change and make sure we select a government that represents us as a society.”

And it may actually make a difference in some ridings, like Cremazie, where more than 6,000 Muslims live.

In 2012, the PQ candidate won Cremazie by just over 3,000 votes. If the ethnic vote comes out, Language Minister Diane De Courcy’s riding could slip away.

Star candidate Leo Bureau-Blouin won his Laval riding by less than 3,000 votes in 2012 — more than 5,000 Muslims live in his riding.

As the political debates rage on on ethnic stations across Montreal, one thing is clear, in this election more than any other the ethnic vote could make a difference.

©2014Shaw Media

WATCH: Kelowna council growing fond of grow ops

It was only a few weeks ago when Kelowna council voted to ban medical marijuana grows from agriculture land and restrict them to industrial zones, but a lot has changed since that unanimous vote.

A majority of council has since changed its mind — allowing individual medical marijuana applicants who want to grow on agriculture land — to be heard on a case by case basis.

Councillor Mohini Singh says her biggest concern was seeing bunker-like medical marijuana grows on agriculture land popping up on Kelowna’s precious farmland.

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“What I don’t want to see is to have these facilities close to residential areas because I don’t think the public would be comfortable living next to a facility like that, even if it’s on ALR land. So, I would like to see each case determined on its own merit.”

Former Kelowna fire chief Gerry Zimmerman admits his opinion on marijuana has changed dramatically after he and some fellow councillors recently toured a farm based medical grow op.

“We were invited to go look at a medical facility, a currently licensed medical facility that was on farmland and I’m really glad we did because that changed my mind and I think some of my colleagues’ minds to.”

A total of five councillors took the tour of the facility. All of them voted in favour of allowing medical grows on ALR land.

But not all of council is on board with allowing medical grows on agriculture land. Councillor Gail Given voted against the proposed changes. She says allowing grows on all ALR land is too much.

“Do I disagree with them? No I don’t. I voted against it because I think we’re a little bit early in to say all ALR”

But Kelowna lawyer, Jennifer Thorne, who specializes in medical marijuana cases, says deciding ALR applications on a case by case basis could open to the door to litigation.

“That’s my concern and I think that if there are not some criteria applied equally across the board, it could invite litigation by unsatisfied applicants.”

Teen eludes security, climbs ladder to reach World Trade Center spire – National

ABOVE: An embarrassing security breach at a building many Americans would think would be one of the most secure in the country- the new World Trade Center. The perpetrator? A 16-year old high school student from New Jersey. CBS correspondent Michelle Miller explains how he did it.

NEW YORK – A 16-year-old boy described as a thrill-seeker bypassed an inattentive security guard in the middle of the night and climbed a ladder to the spire of 1 World Trade Center, where he apparently took pictures, authorities said Thursday.

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Justin Casquejo was arrested at 6 a.m. local time Sunday at America’s tallest building and was charged with misdemeanour criminal trespass, police said. Nobody answered the door Thursday at his Weehawken, New Jersey, home.

According to a criminal complaint, Casquejo was quoted as telling police: “I walked around the construction site and figured out how to access the Freedom Tower rooftop. I found a way up through the scaffolding, climbed onto the sixth floor, and took the elevator up to the 88th floor. I then took the staircase up to 104th (floor). I went to the rooftop and climbed the ladder all the way to the antenna.”

READ MORE: One World Trade Center named as tallest U.S. building

He was arrested, and his camera and cellphone were seized after authorities obtained a search warrant, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the police department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade centre site.

Casquejo was released without bail after being arraigned Monday on one count of third-degree criminal trespass and one count of trespass. His lawyer declined to comment. Casquejo’s next court date was scheduled for April 2.

The episode raised questions about how such a breach could have happened at one of the most security-conscious sites in the world. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “shocking and troubling.”

Casquejo got onto the construction site of the nearly completed tower through a 1-foot (0.3-meter) opening in a fence and eluded an inattentive security guard on the 104th floor, Pentangelo said. The guard, who worked for a contractor, not the Port Authority, has been fired, the spokesman said.

READ MORE: Banksy calls new World Trade Center ‘vanilla,’ like ‘something they would build in Canada’

The criminal trespass charge is a misdemeanour punished by up to three months in jail. The simple trespass is a violation punishable by up to 15 days in jail.

The complaint said Casquejo was observed inside the tower beyond numerous posted signs that stated: “Do not enter. No trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted.”

Authorities were still trying to determine the teen’s motive. WABC-TV reported that he took pictures from the top of the building, where he stayed for about two hours.

Patrick Flores, 18, who grew up with Casquejo and lives in the same apartment building as him, described his friend as “a really good kid” who has always been highly interested in adventure.

“He was always the one climbing the cliffs, doing something stupid,” Flores said, referring to the cliffs on which Weehawken sits, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, with clear views of the World Trade Center and the rest of the Manhattan skyline. “But that was him, that was his life.”

“I’ve seen him fall and hit his head and get up and walk away like it was nothing,” he added.

Flores said Casquejo had recently become interested in the French extreme sport Parkour, which combines elements from martial arts, gymnastics and rock climbing and has become popular thanks to YouTube videos of acrobatic athletes vaulting over obstacles like park benches, trees, guardrails and buildings.

The investigation into the security breach was continuing.

WATCH: Time lapse of One World Trade Center construction

The tower is scheduled to open this year.

Plans ultimately call for heavy security around the rebuilt trade centre, including a network of barriers, security checkpoints and areas for screening vehicles before they can enter the 16-acre site, with through traffic barred. Some nearby residents have challenged the plans as overbearing, saying in a lawsuit last fall they would turn their neighbourhood into a fortress-like environment “as impervious to traffic as the Berlin Wall.”

City lawyers defended the security plans as necessary for what they called one of the most sensitive sites in the country, and the city said the measures were as unobtrusive as possible. A judge dismissed the case last month.

Porter reported from Weehawken, New Jersey. Associated Press writers Ula Ilnytzky, Jonathan Lemire and Jake Pearson in New York contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press

WATCH: Full speed ahead for Lake Country water meters

The days of letting the tap run free of charge are coming to an end for residents of Lake Country.

The District says it’s moving ahead with the widespread installation of water meters.

It will begin with Oyama, followed by Winfield, Carr’s Landing and Okanagan Centre.

Up until now, Lake Country has had no idea how much water its residents were using.

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“It’s also an issue of sustainability,” says Lake Country Mayor, James Baker. “If you’re not measuring it, you really don’t know your demand. So it’s a supply and demand thing and we need to know what we have and how much is being used and where.”

The District’s deputy CAO says it’s a revenue neutral program.

“What will happen is, if a residential property is using a lot more than average they would likely pay more than they are today and those using less, would pay less than they are today,” says Stephen Banmen.

Water meters are actually nothing new to some Lake Country residents.

About a third of the municipality, mostly new homes, have had meters for years at no charge — a mock trial and the numbers show they’re working.

“Metering has shown to save 25 to 30 per cent in terms of conservation of water use once people understand that if they leave the tap running, just to let it run, it’s going to cost them,” says Baker.

So far the District of Lake Country has set aside an estimated $1 million on the metering program.

Installation of the meters begins in Oyama next month.

The entire district will have water meters installed by this time next year at no charge to the homeowner. Charging for water use will begin in 2017.

Montreal newsmakers of 2014 – Montreal

MONTREAL — Over the past year, Montreal has seen the rise and fall of political leaders, political parties and political ideas.

We’ve heard grueling details on crimes committed in our own neighbourhoods in the past few years and in 2014 many of them came to shocking conclusions with judge and jury sentences, re-trials and guilty pleas. 

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Montreal has also seen its share of athletic role models who’ve made us proud to be from the same city, winning our hearts with their determination and unbeatable skills.

We’ve been inspired, moved and even motivated by everyday people in our community, who’ve been taking a stand for what they believe in, defending others and helping those in need.

Here’s a look at a few of Montreal’s heroes and villains of 2014.

Politics 

Denis Coderre

He began trending in Montreal from the moment he was elected the city’s new mayor. From #Coderring to challenging the mayors of opposing NHL cities and even participating in the infamous ice bucket challenge, Coderre has proved to be someone with a great sense of humour. Still, he managed to maintain his seriousness when it came to pension protests and the trashing of City Hall. Denis Coderre is definitely one of Montreal’s most recognizable newsmakers of the year.

Denis Coderre began trending the moment he became Montreal’s new mayor.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

PKP

From #LeShove to #FistPump, media magnate, Pierre Karl Péladeau made his way into the headlines during the Quebec Elections and despite the Parti Québécois’ loss, he continues to find his way into the spotlight. With controversies like the conflict of interest related to his media company, Quebecor Inc. and his announcement to seek the PQ leadership, we’ll definitely be hearing more from PKP in 2015.

Pierre Karl Péladeau gestures during a press conference in Saint Jerome, Que., Sunday, March 9, 2014. Péladeau has announced his candidacy for the riding of Saint Jerome for the Parti Quebecois on day five of the Quebec provincial election

CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Bernard Drainville

Ah yes, who could forget the Quebec Charter of Values, the Parti Québécois’ proposed bill to ban ostentatious religious symbols in the province’s public sector. It was an issue that quickly made it into the headlines when it was proposed in 2013. The face behind the bill  was of course, Bernard Drainville who had to deal with an overwhelming amount of backlash during the Bill 60 hearings from religious groups, hospitals, school boards and government officials. Drainville continues to make the news with his launch for the PQ leadership bid and a proposal for a new “softer” Charter of Values that will be released over the next few months.

Quebec Minister Bernard Drainville speaks at a legislature committee studying the proposed Quebec Charter of Values Friday February 7, 2014 in Quebec City. Drainville is confirming he will seek the leadership of the Parti Quebecois

CANADIAN PRESS/Clement Allard

Pauline Marois

This year marked the end of the Pauline Marois era. From the controversial #Charte, to the revival of sovereignty, Marois made headlines across Canada running as leader of the Parti Québécois. After the party’s loss in the provincial elections this past April, Marois announced that she would step down from her post and leave politics. Her rise and fall proved to be a major news buzz of 2014.

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Philippe Couillard

As Pauline Marois bowed out of politics, in came Liberal leader, and now Premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard. Despite putting the sovereignty movement and the identity debate on the back burner, Couillard has had his fair share of controversy in 2014. For one, the parliamentary session wrapped up with the Liberals being accused of betraying the middle class, municipal workers were slapped with a pension reform and parents, with higher daycare fees, controversial changes to the healthcare system were introduced and access was cut to in-vitro fertilization programs. Still, Philippe Couillard is confident the Liberals are on the right path, promising healthy public finances and lower income taxes as early as 2017.

Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Gaetan Barrette

We were first introduced to Gaetan Barrette in 2012 when he ran with the Coalition Avenir Quebec, and lost to a Parti Quebecois candidate. In 2014, he re-appeared into the spotlight after he switched allegiances to run for the Quebec Liberal Party. Barrette won his riding of La Pinière beating out long time MNA, Fatima Houda-Pepin. Now, as Quebec’s health minister, he’s constantly under fire, particularly with the Quebec Doctors Federation. From pushing back pay increases, cuts to English healthcare services, and now his proposed healthcare reform, we’ll definitely be seeing more of Gaetan Barrette in the coming year.

Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barette is sworn in during a ceremony, Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at the legislature in Quebec City.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Fatima Houda-Pepin

She was most recognized as the long-time MNA for the La Pinière riding on the South Shore, a position she held for nearly 20 years. But in January, Houda-Pépin left the Quebec Liberal party, after making clear her support for the Parti Québécois’ proposed secular values charter, which would impose restrictions on the wearing of religious garments in the public sector. Her position put her at odds with Liberal Party leader Philippe Couillard, who wanted all party members against it. She then ran as an independent in her riding but lost to Gaetan Barrette.

Independant MLA Fatima Houda-Pepin announces her decision to run as an independant candidate for the coming election, at a news conference, Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at the legislature in Quebec City.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Jean François Lisée

Goatee or no goatee, JF Lisée is probably one of the most recognized members of the National Assembly. When he first took office in 2012, he was appointed as minister in charge of improving government relations with the province’s anglophones. Who could forget all those complaints filed by the language police in 2013, #Pastagate anyone? But after the Liberals took office at the beginning of 2014, Lisée stepped out of the spotlight for some time. His name made it back into the headlines after he threw his name in the Parti Québécois leadership race, as rival to media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau.

The Parti Quebecois (PQ) MNA Jean-Francois Lisee

Denis Beaumont / THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES

Justin Trudeau

Aside from welcoming his third child, Hadrian in February, 2014 was a busy year for Justin Trudeau.  For one, he got a new haircut and now that he that he’s playing with the big boys in Ottawa as Liberal Party leader and trying to prove he can be the next Prime Minister of Canada, Trudeau is dealing with much bigger issues than when he was MP for the riding of Papineau. This year he’s had to take positions on controversial topics like abortion, marijuana, and most recently, sexual harassment accusations against MPs in his own party.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is shown during a news conference Wednesday June 11, 2014 in Ottawa. .

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Anne Lagacé-Dowson

Anne Lagacé-Dowson may have been a familiar voice for Montrealers as a longtime broadcaster but she quickly became a familiar face this year when she announced she was entering the race for Chair of the English Montreal School Board. Although Lagacé-Dowson’s priorities included more French in English schools, protecting special-needs funding and a need for more transparency at the school board, the EMSB campaign was quickly dominated by mud-slinging between her and opponent Angela Mancini. A war of words was sparked between the two candidates on past allegations involving Lagacé-Dowson’s team member, Julien Feldman. In the end, Lagacé-Dowson was defeated, and Angela Mancini was re-elected as Chair of the English Montreal School Board.

Anne Lagacé Dowson was a candidate for chair of the English Montreal School Board

File photo

Angela Mancini

She is most recognized by parents of children who attend the English Montreal School Board, as Angela Mancini has been chair of the board since 2007. For the first time, parents got to decide who they wanted the leader of their school board to be. During the elections, it became a two-way race when Mancini was challenged by Anne Lagacé-Dowson. Despite constant mud-slinging between the two candidates and personal-attacks made against Maninci’s team, she was re-elected as chairperson of the English Montreal School Board.

Chairperson for the English Montreal School Board.

Campaign poster

Michaëlle Jean

Known best as the former Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean was recently named the first woman leader of la Francophonie. She will oversee the organization of 57 member states for the next four years.

Former Governor General Michaelle Jean smiles after being chosen as the new Secretary-General of La Francophonie during the Francophonie Summit in Dakar, Senegal on Sunday, November 30, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Crime

Luka Magnotta

It was one of the most notorious murder cases our country has seen. We first heard of 32-year-old Luka Magnotta in May 2012, when he was accused in the gruesome slaying and dismemberment of Chinese engineering student Jun Lin. The case involved the grisly discovery of a human torso in a suitcase, a video depicting the murder posted online and an international manhunt. After a lengthy trial this year and a week-long deliberation, a jury found Magnotta guilty of first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a human body, publishing obscene material, criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament, and mailing obscene and indecent material. The court sentenced him to life in prison for murder and handed Magnotta the maximum sentences for all other charges.

Guy Turcotte

Known as the former Quebec doctor who stabbed his two children to death in 2009, Guy Turcotte made it back into the headlines this year when he was granted bail in the lead up to his second trial. He said that he wanted to be released so that he could care for his family and take on volunteer work at a food bank on Montreal’s South Shore. In a controversial verdict in 2011, he was found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder for the murder of 3-year-old Anne-Sophie and 5-year-old Olivier. Turcotte is now a free man, awaiting the new first-degree murder trial which is scheduled for September 2015.

Former cardiologist Guy Turcotte, accused of killing his two children, was granted bail on September 12, 2014 in Ste-Jerome, Que.

Earl Jones

You may remember him as the investment advisor who defrauded more than a hundred clients, mostly seniors, of about $50 million in 2009. The Ponzi Scheme got him an 11-year sentence in jail but he was released from jail in March 2014, after serving only four years. Jones is out on parole under several conditions, including avoiding contact with his victims or their families. He is now reportedly living with his wife in Westmount.

Earl Jones is shown in Montreal, on July 27, 2009.

Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press

Lise Thibault

She was the Queen’s representative to Quebec from 1997 to 2007 but now ex-lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault is in the province’s bad books after she pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and breach of trust in December. The Crown alleges that Thibault spent $700,000 of taxpayer money on trips and meals unrelated to her official duties. The Quebec government is also suing Thibault in a separate civil case for $92,000 for what it calls unjustified expenses.

Former Quebec lieutenant governor Lise Thibault leaves a courtroom, Monday July 28, 2014 in Quebec City. The fraud trial of Thibault will resume Oct. 2.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Clement Allard

Nikolas Stefanatos

In 2012, Brossard-native Nikolas Stefanatos threw corrosive acid at his 29-year-old girlfriend Tanya St-Arnaud. She suffered serious burns to her head, arms and upper body, and was put in a medically-induced coma. In November of this year, Stefanatos pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He was handed a 57-month sentence but has already gotten credit for serving 41-months, meaning Stefanatos will be out of jail in 16 months.

Following an argument, Stefanatos allegedly threw an industrial drain cleaner Tanya St.Arnaud’s face

Global News

Anthony Alfieri

In February 2010, Anthony Alfieri got behind the wheel drunk and high on marijuana. While driving at nearly twice the speed limit, he crashed into a lamp post on De La Concorde Boulevard in Laval. The impact was so violent, the vehicle split in two. Alfieri survived the crash but according to police, he fled the scene and left his two passengers to die. In May 2014, his trial came to a surprise end when the 30-year-old pleaded guilty to four criminal charges: two counts of criminal negligence causing death, and two counts of leaving the scene of a crash. The parents of both victims as well as MADD Canada were up in arms when a Laval judge handed him a four-year prison sentence, calling the sentence a joke, arguing that it simply wasn’t enough based on the crimes he committed. By law, Alfieri could have faced a maximum life sentence.

Anthony Alfieri (right) pled guilty to four criminal charges including criminal negligence causing death.

Facebook

Emma Czornobaj

Few criminal cases have generated as much debate as the one known as the “stopping-for-ducks” case. In 2010, 25-year-old Emma Czornobaj stopped her car in the left lane of the highway to help some ducks cross safely. A motorcyclist and his passenger daughter slammed into her parked car and died. In June 2014, she was found guilty by a jury on two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing death. By law, Czornobaj could have faced up to life behind bars but in December, a superior court judged sentenced her to 90 days in prison for causing the deaths of André and Jessie Roy. Czornobaj will also be required to perform 240 hours of community service and will not be allowed to drive for 10  years.

Emma Czornobaj, who caused a fatal traffic accident after stopping her car to help ducks on a busy highway, arrives at court in Montreal Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Howard Krupp

A 68-year-old West Island resident, Howard Krupp was first arrested in November 2013, after waiting for students at bus stops and then following them home. His wife, a teacher at Hillcrest Academy in Laval even had to take a leave of absence after the child predator was stopped by police outside her elementary school. In March 2014, he was re-arrested and is now facing two charges of indecent assault that relate to incidents in place between 1970 and 1976. This was not the first run-in with the law for Howard Krupp. About 13 years ago, he was arrested in a massive child pornography case.

Howard Krupp was arrested by Montreal police for criminally harassing schoolchildren in November 2013.

Police handout

Benoit Roberge

He was a Montreal sergeant-detective who had been assigned to investigate organized crime — but this year we learned that Benoit Roberge was, in fact, selling information to the Hell’s Angels over a period of several months, ultimately pocketing about $125,000. In March, he tearfully pleaded guilty to a charge of gangsterism and explained that he’d been threatened into cooperating with the gang and had made a mistake by not reporting it to his superiors. He was handed an eight-year prison sentence.

Benoit Roberge was arraigned on Monday at the Montreal courthouse after being accused of being an infomant for the Hells Angels for years.

William Marsden

Pamela Porter

While Arthur Porter is still sitting in a Panama jail after being accused of accepting millions of dollars for fraudulently awarding a contract to build the new McGill University Health Centre superhospital, his wife Pamela is next in line. In December 2014, she pleaded guilty to two counts of laundering the proceeds of crime and has been sentenced to 33 months for her role in an alleged bribery scandal. The 54-year-old is one of several people charged in the fraud and bribery case related to the MUHC superhospital contract.

Pamela Porter pleads guilty and has been sentenced to 33-months in jail

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Sports

Anthony Calvillo

After an illustrious 20-year career, the CFL’s best quarterback announced his retirement in January. Calvillo became the Alouettes’ starter in 2000 and led the franchise to Grey Cup wins in 2002, 2009 and 2010. The Los Angeles native set records for passing yards with 79,816, completions with 5,892, pass attempts with 9,437 and touchdown passes with 455. In October, he had his No. 13 jersey retired in a ceremony at half time of the Montreal Alouettes’ game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But it doesn’t mean it’s the last we’ve seen of Calvillo. In December, he was appointed the position of offensive coach for the Montreal Alouettes.

Former Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo waves to fans in Montreal, Monday, October 13, 2014, prior to a ceremony to retire his jersey

CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Alexandre Bilodeau

He may only be in his late twenties, but Alexandre Bilodeau already has quite the impressive resume, mostly consisting of Olympic gold medals. Not only was he was the first athlete to win a gold medal on Canadian soil during the Olympic games in Vancouver, he won his second gold medal this year in Sochi, making him the first mogul freestyle skier to do so twice in a row. In October, Bilodeau announced he would hang up his skis for good to focus on his career. If you’re lucky you may even bump into him studying at John Molson School of Business at Concordia University.

Canada’s gold medalist Alex Bilodeau celebrates on the podium during the Men’s Freestyle Skiing Moguls Medal Ceremony at the Sochi medals plaza during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 11, 2014.

Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

Dufour-Lapointe sisters

You could say mogul skiing runs in this family. These golden sisters won our hearts during the Sochi Olympics when they became the first Canadian set of three siblings to compete in the same event at the same games. Justine won gold and Chloé took silver. Their post-Olympic life hasn’t been all too bad either. When they’re not training, the sisters are showing off their passion for fashion with a new après-ski accessory line, collaborating with Montreal-retailer, “Call It Spring.”

Justine, Maxime and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe are pictured in Montreal, April 1, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

P.K. Subban

Let’s be honest, he’s probably the most famous guy in Montreal. The defensemen and alternate captain for the Montreal Canadiens is loved on-and-off the ice.  This year, fans were on-edge while the 25-year-old was going through a suspenseful hearing to determine his next contract. The team finally agreed to an eight-year $72-million contract extension with jersey number 76, which runs from 2014-15 to 2021-22. Oh, and who could forget, Subban also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics – and a place in all our hearts with this video. It’s no wonder they call him “the Subbanator.”

Montreal Canadiens’ player P.K. Subban skates during a practise session in Montreal, Tuesday, January 7, 2014. Subban has been selected to play for team Canada at the 2014 winter olympics in Sochi.

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes

Eugenie Bouchard

Even though hockey dominates most of the sports scene in Montreal, one person in particular has brought our attention to a different sport: tennis. Not only is Eugenie Bouchard Quebec’s sweetheart, she’s also one of the most famous athletes in the world; so much so that even has her own “Genie Army.” The Westmount resident was recently named ‘Top female of the year’ by the Canadian Press, for the second year in a row. Not only has she made it to the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens but at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, she became the first Canadian to play in a Grand Slam final. The 20-year-old is currently ranked number 7. rising quickly from number 32.

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada smiles after winning the women’s quarterfinal match against Alize Cornet of France at the WTA Wuhan Open tennis tournament in Wuhan, China’s Hubei Province, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /Xinhua, Xiao Yijiu

Our community heroes

Akshay Grover

As Montrealers, we know just how long the drive to Toronto can be. Now imagine running there… and that’s exactly what this Pierrefonds Comphrensive High School student did over the summer. The 16-year-old went the extra mile for his end of year school project, when he decided to run a 550 kilometre journey in just two weeks: the equivalent of a marathon a day. His goal was to raise $10,000 for Childhood Cancer Canada, but he managed to raise over $14,000. He’s now working on film documenting the run, to be released online in January.

Pierrefonds resident Akshay Grover ran from Montreal to Toronto to raise money for Cancer.

Akshay Grover

Matthew Tod

Seventeen-year-old Matthew Tod didn’t let an intimidating and embarrassing situation prevent him from doing the right thing. In September, he stopped by the Sears bathroom at Fairview Pointe-Claire Mall, when a man peeped into his stall and took a photo of him. Tod reported the incident and the solicitation writings on the bathroom walls to security. Despite being told not to go to the police, he did in fact file a report and spoke to Global News about the terrifying experience. In doing so, Tod could have actually uncovered an underground sex ring. Upon further investigation, police arrested a 53-year-old man on charges of sexual voyeurism. 

Matthew Tod was the victim of a Fairview Pointe-Claire Peeping Tom.

Matthew Tod

Charel Bergeron, Melizanne Bergeron, Marc-André Côté and Charlène Plante 

It’s a story that involved hundreds of thousands of Quebecers on social media, working together to help find an abducted baby. In May, a woman dressed as a nurse allegedly entered Mélissa McMahon’s room at a hospital in Trois-Rivieres and took her day-old baby girl, Victoria. Within hours her baby was returned to her, all thanks to four quick-thinking teenagers: Sharelle Bergeron, Marc-Andre Coté, Charlène Plante and Mélizanne Bergeron. They recognized the photo of the suspect circulating online and went looking for her. After going to her home, they immediately called police. The four teens were hailed as heroes for reuniting the baby with their parents, and were even honoured by the Sécurité publique de Trois-Rivières for their detective work.

Four quick-thinking teens saw a photo circulating on Facebook and jumped to action.

Global News

Sugar Sammy

Okay, so he hasn’t exactly saved anyone’s life or cracked an on-going police investigation, but Sugar Sammy still deserves an accolade for his ability to make Montrealers laugh out loud, on-and-off the stage. In fact, what makes him a community hero is that he’s probably the only person in Montreal who can get away with publicly poking fun at Quebec’s language laws. For example, this year the Côte-des-Neiges native placed a billboard advertisement in about a dozen metro stations that read “For Christmas I’d like a complaint from the Office de la Langue Française.” Still, he remains popular among both anglo and francophone communities. Since launching his bilingual “You’re Gonna Rire” show in 2012 and “En Français SVP!,” he’s sold 275,000 tickets in the province. He’s also been voted comedian of the year at Quebec’s Olivier awards for two years in a row. In February, Sammy launched a new hit TV series, Ces gars-là on Quebec’s French “V” network. The series did so well that it was extended to a second season, which kicks off February 24, 2015.

Sugar Sammy, winner of the category for Spectacle d’humour de l’année, “En français svp!” and Olivier de l’année at the annual Gala des Oliver in Montreal Sunday, May 12, 2013. Christmas.”

Peter McCabe/Global News

Sue Montgomery

#BeenRapedNeverReported was a hashtag that began a global discussion about rape, consent, and what sexual assault really means and it’s all thanks to Montreal Gazette justice reporter, Sue Montgomery. After assault allegations began rolling in against the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi, she was one of the first public figures to break her silence and share her own personal story of sexual assault by her own grandfather and by a former co-worker. It caused a ripple affect around the world, causing millions of men and women to come forward with painful experiences they had kept under wraps for years.

Sue Montgomery Gazette staff

John Mahoney/THE GAZETTE

Ginette Reno

Habs fans may have countless superstitions, but by far one of the best ones this year was a 68-year-old award-winning singer belting out Canada’s national anthem before a game. Ginette Reno won our hearts during the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, when she sang a memorizing rendition of “O Canada.” All this after Reno suffered a heart attack in January! But Montreal’s good luck charm pulled through and was given the go-head by her cardiologist to keep singing for the Canadiens. Her presence on home ice led team to win after win during the spring playoffs. Let’s hope she agrees to sing more winning notes for us in 2015.

Chanteuse Ginette Reno is considered a lucky talisman for the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL playoff series.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Mai Duong

At first glance, you wouldn’t exactly know that Mai Duong had been fighting a deadly form of leukemia for the second time in two years. That’s because you’ll always find her with a big smile on her face. Earlier this year, Duong was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant, but of the 16 million donors around the world, only one per cent of the international donor bank is of Asian origin. She took to the media with her message, prompting Vietnamese communities around Canada to rally together to help save 34-year-old mother. In September, a miracle happened. Duong received stem cells from umbilical cord blood donated by a mother and was finally healthy enough to leave the hospital. Duong is a perfect example of someone who never gave up hope that she would one day get better and finally be able to spend time with her daughter Alice. Not only is she a survivor but she also created awareness on the importance of non-Caucasians to enlist in donor registries around the world.

Mai Duong smiles following a news conference in Montreal, Tuesday, September 16, 2014. Quebec woman\’s desperate online plea for a compatible stem-cell donor in her bid to fight cancer a second time is shedding light on the lack of minorities on official lists in Canada and abroad.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Sama Al-Obaidy

This Muslim Montrealer took a challenging experience and turned it into something positive. While the heated debate over the proposed Charter of Values was taking place in Quebec, Sama Al-Obaidy was on the metro when a woman violently attempted to rip off her hijab — and that’s when Sama found out that she wasn’t the only religious minority being targeted in the province. She decided to start a campaign called “Support Another,” which encouraged people to wear a religious symbol for a day in order to make a statement about the controversial Charter of Values. The event encouraged a discussion and motivated people to be accepting of other faiths.

Sama Al-Obaidy is one of the co-founders of the “Support Another” campaign in Quebec.

Global News

©2014Shaw Media

Opening of Edmonton’s Metro LRT Line to NAIT delayed yet again – Edmonton

EDMONTON – Transit riders in Edmonton will have to wait a bit longer to ride the LRT to NAIT after another delay pushed back its opening date to the end of 2014.

The City of Edmonton says although construction on the Metro Line was completed on schedule, it’s taking longer than anticipated for the contractor to complete the new signalling system.

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“This is the first time we’ve had more than one LRT line in Edmonton, and we need cutting-edge technology to allow two lines to safely and efficiently share the same tracks,” said Wayne Mandryk, branch manager, LRT Design and Construction.

The signalling system will be able to pinpoint the exact location of each train in order to safely reduce the spacing between trains travelling on the network.

The Metro Line was originally expected to be ready for passengers in April 2014. In December, the city announced the opening date would be pushed back to June 2014. Now, the city expects the Metro Line to open at the end of the year.

READ MORE: Opening of Edmonton’s NAIT LRT line delayed

“I have very low tolerance for any further delay on this. I’ve been quite clear about that with the transportation department,” said Mayor Don Iveson.

While frustrated by the delay, Iveson says safety comes first.

“It’s a challenge, but obviously we need to ensure that the system is going to work safely.”

The frustration is also being felt by staff and students at NAIT who were eager to ride the rail to class this September.

“It’s a disappointment. Obviously we were looking forward to having the LRT open for September,” said Jonathan Bilodeau, president of the NAIT Students’ Association. “Of course, though, it’s safety first.

“There’s a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement. We’ll just have to wait a little bit longer, but it is still coming.”

The signalling system contractor will have to pay penalties for the delay. The rest of the 3.3 kilometre Metro Line project has come in under budget.

Follow @CaleyRamsay

With files from Shane Jones, Global News.

©2014Shaw Media

Pilot project aims to reduce medical wait times

REGINA – The Saskatchewan government is injecting money into the health care system to ensure patients don’t wait as long for medical care.

It’s estimated 40 people account for 1,600 visits to the emergency department in the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (RQHR), initiating a push to keep emergency departments for emergencies only.

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“Most family doctors have the accommodations for the patient and we want to keep the pressure off the emergencies as much as possible,” said Regina family physician, Dr. Mohamed Moolla. “On average, most family physicians are keeping at least 40 to 50 patients out of the ER and only referring those that are absolutely required to go to the ER.”

Dr. Moolla says he sees about ten to fifteen patients in addition to his regular schedule looking for emergency care.

“I would suggest to patients please make contact with your regular family doctor before going on to emergency. Or before connecting with a walk-in clinic,” said Dr. Moolla.

A new pilot project highlighted in the 2014 provincial budget aims to keep those super users out of the ER.

“It’s really about wrapping services around them where they live in the community and I think it’ll go a long way to addressing the specific needs of these individuals whether they are mental health or other medical needs,” said Health Minister Dustin Duncan.

The Regina health region will be working with Saskatoon to develop a plan by this summer.

However, the union representing psycologists and social workers says the problem relates to under-staffing.

“If they would beef up those services that those professionals do, you probably would see a reduction to access in the emergency wards,” said the President of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan, Karen Wasylenko. “So that would be a plus if they could do that.”

The budget also allocates $60.4 million to reducing surgical wait times to eventually provide all elective surgeries within three months.

“So that pays for prosthesis. It pays for operating time. It pays for everyone associated with provision of that surgical care,” said Dr. David McCutcheon with RQHR.

The surgical initiative began four years ago and was expected to be wrapped up by next month, but RQHR says it needs at least another year in order to meet the target.

Bombers introduce new faces – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG — With a big autograph signing scheduled for Saturday afternoon, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers flew in four of their players including their three biggest off-season acquisitions.

Drew Willy, Korey Banks and Nick Moore are getting a chance to check out their new surroundings. All of the newest Blue Bombers players are excited about the challenge of resurrecting the once proud franchise.

“One day at a time, I’m pretty sure we can change anything,” said Banks.

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The 34-year-old veteran defensive back knows a thing or two about winning, capturing two Grey Cup championships with the B.C. Lions and according to Banks, players will first have to put personal accolades aside.

“I can have 10 picks and we win three games?” said Banks. “Do I really want that? Or do I want three picks and we win 10 games? Which one do you want? The priorities have to be set in order.”

One of the main priorities for the football club this off-season was finding a new starting quarterback and Drew Willy is up to the task after patiently waiting for the opportunity to be the number one guy.

“I’ve been a lot of different places and had a lot of great teachers,” said Willy. “NFL, CFL. Just really feel like it’s my time to shine.”

Willy will have some help improving the league’s worst offence.

Receiver Nick Moore joined the team as a free agent after being the CFL’s third leading receiver last year with the Lions and the two have played and trained together in the off-seasons since their college days.

“People come into your life for a reason,” said Moore. “We trained together coming out of college and us being together, we never knew that it would happen.”

“We both played in the MAC conference in college,” said Willy. “And then we both have gone separate ways but kept in touch at the same time.”

But what the former Roughriders QB really looks forward to is being on the other side of the Bombers-Riders rivalry.

“I’m looking forward to that game,” said Willy. “Obviously the Rider fans and the Bomber fans are very passionate and I’m just happy to be on the Bombers side.”

While things are maybe finally starting to look up for the Bombers these days, there are certainly no guarantees in football.

“We shall see,” said Banks. “To be continued.”

©2014Shaw Media

Saskatchewan man found guilty of killing neighbour’s dog

Watch above: man guilty of shooting and killing neighbour’s dog

SASKATOON- A feud between Saskatchewan neighbours has been put to rest, for now. Thursday, Eugene Krawchuk was found guilty on two counts, following an incident on April 11, 2013 which led to the shooting death of his neighbour’s dog when into wandered into his pasture in the RM of Grant, northeast of Saskatoon.

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Facing a total of four counts, Krawchuk was found guilty of shooting the dog without lawful excuse and possessing a firearm without license. He was found not guilty of using a firearm in a careless manner and destroying a dog other than in the prescribed manner.

“I don’t think they’ve realized how much they’ve destroyed our family, they ripped a piece of our heart out,” said Michael Price, the dog’s owner.

“There’s been a lot of tears, every time a picture is shown or the girls look at a picture of Bentley, they have a big cry it’s as simple as that.”

The Price family says they’ve been harassed by the Krawchuk’s for years but the death of their dog, the “gentle giant,” at the hands of their neighbours was the last straw.

“I’m fed up with bullies, I’m fed up with bullies and that’s all they are bullies.”

During the trial, Price’s teenage daughter Lianne Price took the stand and told  the courtroom at the time of the incident she headed into the Krawchuk’s pasture to get her dog Bentley who had wandered there.

She begged Eugene Krawchuk not to shoot the eight-month-old canine and that at one point, the dog ran behind her. Lianne told the courtroom that Krawchuk had his rifle drawn and was following the dogs movements. “I was scared … I screamed.”

Krawchuk was sentenced to 12-months probation and has to pay the price family $800 for the dog and $500 to the SPCA.

“We think we got justice today, hopefully this will stop all the abuse that has been happening, not just to us but to the whole community because one way or another everybody has suffered in our community,” said Michael Price.

“I would have wanted to see jail time, can’t say it was the best result for us but I think it was the best that we could possibly get.”

Laurie Krawchuk was earlier found guilty of possessing a firearm without a licence and received a conditional discharge with 12-months probation.

The Price family says while they’re hopeful there were lessons learned from this trial, they have their doubts. The Krawchuks are to have no direct or indirect contact with the family and no comment was made on their behalf by their lawyer.

Meanwhile, Michael Price is due back in provincial court on March 31 where he is facing an assault charge stemming from the same incident.