Six top stories for today from The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press
Published on January 11, 2017

Lionel Desmond (front row, far right) was part of the 2nd battalion, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Gagetown and shown in this 2007 handout photo taken in Panjwai district in between patrol base Wilson and Masum Ghar in Afghanistan. A senior medical official in Nova Scotia is challenging allegations that a former soldier who killed his family before committing suicide was turned away from an Antigonish hospital in the days before the killings.

©THE CANADIAN PRESS/Facebook-Trev Bungay

Six stories in the news for Wednesday, Jan. 11, including first funerals today for N.S. murder-suicide, feds need help fighting cyberthreats, and more charges for man who killed swimmer Victor Davis.

1.) FIRST FUNERALS TODAY FOR VICTIMS OF N.S. MURDER-SUICIDE

The first of two family funerals will be held today at a church in Nova Scotia, just over a week after a former Canadian soldier killed his wife, daughter and mother before killing himself. A funeral for Lionel Desmond and his 52-year-old mother is scheduled for 11 a.m. at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Tracadie. The funeral for Desmond's 31-year-old wife and 10-year-old daughter is scheduled for tomorrow.  To read more on this story, please scroll down below.

2.) REPORT: FEDS NEED HELP TACKLING CYBERTHREATS

The Canadian government is “simply not up to the overall challenge” of fending off cyberthreats on its own and must partner with the private sector and the United States to tackle the problem, warns a federally commissioned report. It comes amid growing concern about intrusions into computer systems that expose personal data, commercial secrets and government data - endangering everything from credit ratings to national security.  To read more on this story, please scroll down below.

3.) MAN JAILED IN VICTOR DAVIS DEATH FACING NEW CHARGE

A man convicted of leaving the scene in the 1989 hit-and-run death of Canadian swimming icon Victor Davis has been arraigned on a manslaughter charge in a separate case. Glen Crossley, 46, did not enter a plea deal Tuesday and is due back in court today for a bail hearing. Crossley was charged in the death of Albert Arsenault, a 70-year-old father and grandfather who died after an incident at a Montreal bar last September.  To read more on this story, please scroll down below.

4.) TANKER REMAINS GROUNDED OFF CAPE BRETON

A salvage team was unable to pull a grounded tanker from a sandy bottom off Cape Breton on Tuesday evening. Officials say crews were unable to remove enough ballast water from the Arca 1 ship to increase the vessel's buoyancy before the tide started to go down. The coast guard says the towing has been suspended until the tide and weather co-operate, but it will continue to monitor the vessel.  To read more on this story, please scroll down below.

5.) REPORT: TORONTO LUXURY HOMES SALES TO DOMINATE IN 2017

Sotheby's International Realty Canada says Toronto is poised to lead the country in high-end home sales for the third consecutive year. The latest report from the realtor showed sales of homes worth $1 million or more in the Greater Toronto Area rose 77 per cent last year compared to 2015, with a total of 19,692 properties sold. Sales of the homes worth over $4 million in the GTA rose 95 per cent year-over-year.  To read more on this story, please scroll down below.

6.) REPORT: TORONTO DOMINATES TRAFFIC CONGESTION

A new report suggests some of Canada's worst traffic bottlenecks are serious enough to compare with those in major American cities like New York and Los Angeles. The report commissioned by the Canadian Automobile Association found the most consistently congested stretch of highway in the country, a portion of Highway 401 running through central Toronto, is the ninth most clogged artery in Canada and the United States.  To read more on this story, please scroll down below.

ALSO IN THE NEWS TODAY:

- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with the Native Women's Association of Canada.

- Cogeco Inc., Cogeco Communications Inc. and SiriusXM Canada Holdings Inc. will release first-quarter results.

- Renata Ford, widow of former mayor Rob Ford, appears in court on drunk driving charges.

- Actor Jane Fonda and First Nations leaders will hold a news conference on the oilsands, pipeline approvals and indigenous rights.

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EXPANDED COPY OF STORIES ABOVE:

1.) First of two funerals to be held today after Nova Scotia murder-suicide

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TRACADIE, N.S. - The first of two family funerals will be held today at a church in northeastern Nova Scotia, just over a week after a former Canadian soldier killed his wife, daughter and mother before killing himself.

RCMP have confirmed 33-year-old Lionel Desmond shot his wife Shanna, their daughter Aaliyah and his mother Brenda before turning the gun on himself in their family home in rural Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., last week.

A funeral for Lionel Desmond and his 52-year-old mother is scheduled for 11 a.m. at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Tracadie, N.S.

The funeral service for Desmond's 31-year-old wife and 10-year-old daughter is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at the hall across the street from St. Peter's Church.

Family members say Lionel Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour in Afghanistan in 2007, and had received treatment from the military.

But relatives have also suggested the former infantryman did not get the help he needed when he returned to Nova Scotia 18 months ago.

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2.) Federal government needs help tackling cyberthreats, internal report warns

By Jim Bronskill

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA - The Canadian government is “simply not up to the overall challenge” of fending off cyberthreats on its own and must partner with the private sector and the United States to tackle the problem, warns a federally commissioned report.

Canada is a prime target for cybercrime, state-sponsored attacks and lone hackers, and government officials have a crucial role to play in helping fend them off, the authors conclude.

“The productivity and competitiveness of Canada in the digital age will require a strong defence of its critical information and technical infrastructure,” the report says.

“Current efforts by government, industry and communities need to be better co-ordinated and more strategic.”

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain a final draft version of the April 2016 report on cyberthreat information-sharing protocols and policies in Canada and the United States.

The report comes amid growing concern about damaging intrusions into computer systems that expose personal information, commercial secrets and sensitive government data - endangering everything from credit ratings to national security.

The disclosure of pilfered Democratic Party emails proved embarrassing to presidential contender Hillary Clinton when published by WikiLeaks. The U.S. says Moscow led the attack, though Russia has denied involvement.

Three years ago, the Canadian government blamed a sophisticated, Chinese state-sponsored actor for a breach of the National Research Council's networks that resulted in a shutdown of the research agency's information-technology system. Beijing accused Canada of making irresponsible allegations.

However, Canada's spy agency has openly warned that China and Russia are out to steal national secrets.

Under Canada's cybersecurity strategy, the federal government is responsible for securing its own systems, working with the provincial governments and private sector to keep other systems safe and helping Canadians to protect themselves online.

The report, prepared for Public Safety Canada by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, found the government information-technology community is already overwhelmed with challenges such as aging systems and a move to cloud computing.

At the same time, few small businesses have full-time computer security staff.

The latest federal budget promised $77 million in new money over five years to bolster cybersecurity.

The report recommends broader engagement of the private sector, saying Canadian government budgets, resources and capabilities “are simply not up to the overall challenge.”

It calls for closer collaboration with the U.S. to take advantage of the billions of dollars Washington is spending on cybersecurity. It also urges more co-operation with small- and medium-sized businesses in developing solutions.

The report also cautions that any effort to ramp up surveillance and information-gathering to counter threats in cyberspace must be balanced with respect for privacy and personal liberties. It says that means building in strict criteria on the use of information as well as sufficient oversight.

Ottawa recently wrapped up a national cybersecurity consultation. The aim is to identify gaps and opportunities, come up with fresh ideas and capitalize on the advantages of new technology.

The recommendations of the commissioned report will be taken into account as part of the cybersecurity review, said Public Safety spokeswoman Karine Martel.

“Keeping Canadians safe while protecting their privacy rights remains a priority for the government and will be reflected in the policy and program decisions that stem from this ongoing review.”

- Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

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3.) Man convicted in connection with swimmer's 1989 death faces manslaughter charge

Sidhartha Banerjee

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL - A man convicted of leaving the scene in the 1989 hit-and-run death of Canadian swimming icon Victor Davis was arraigned Tuesday on a manslaughter charge in a separate case.

Glen Crossley, 46, was charged in the death of Albert Arsenault, a 70-year-old father and grandfather who passed away after an incident at a Montreal bar last September.

Crossley, who appeared by video conference, turned himself in on Monday after a relative of his informed him about a warrant for his arrest.

He did not enter a plea and is due back in court Wednesday for a bail hearing.

He was given a 10-month sentence in 1992 for leaving the scene in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., where Davis, a quadruple Olympic medallist, was struck by a Honda Civic driven by the then 19-year-old Crossley.

In the Arsenault case, the victim's family said police initially called the death an accident. Daughter Rachel Arsenault said her brother continued to probe after the family began hearing rumours about what had happened.

She said the family believes Arsenault had his back to a small set of stairs and was then pushed, resulting in a head fracture and heart failure.

The deceased, according to his daughter, had fallen before but was in good shape and “built like a bull.”

“We thought he might come out of it, but the doctor came to see us and said he was brain dead,” she said in an interview, adding her father was transported to two hospitals before his death was pronounced.

“It's really an act of stupidity. I don't know why you would do something like that to an old man.”

The family didn't attend the arraignment but will monitor future legal proceedings.

Montreal police said in a statement Tuesday that an autopsy and other information led investigators to determine the death was not accidental but an alleged criminal act.

Neither the prosecution nor the defence would discuss the circumstances surrounding Arsenault's death.

Asked about Crossley's spirits, defence lawyer Gilbert Frigon said he “feels likes a person who got arrested.”

In the events preceding Davis's death, Crossley and two of his friends had struck up a conversation with his girlfriend and one of her friends, which angered the swimmer.

Outside the bar the men continued to argue. After a few minutes, Davis, who was standing in the middle of the street, was rammed by the car driven by Crossley.

Davis, a native of Guelph, Ont., who was a gold and silver medallist at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, was in hospital for two days before dying of brain damage in November 1989.

Crossley testified he did not stop because Davis had thrown a juice bottle at the windshield and that he thought the swimmer had then leapt out of the car's path.

Crossley was released from jail after serving four months.

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4.) Larger tug being prepared for next attempt to tow tanker grounded off Cape Breton

THE CANADIAN PRESS

SYDNEY, N.S. - A salvage company says it's going to use a more powerful tug to pull a grounded tanker from a sandy bottom off Cape Breton, but it's going to require two to three days of preparation.

The vice president of McKeil Marine says attempts to refloat and tow the Arca 1 north of Sydney Mines, N.S., on Tuesday night resulted in only minor movements towards deeper water.

Olous Boag says the tow was called off shortly after high tide and it was determined the larger tug Tim McKeil would be required.

He says the firm remains optimistic the tanker can be moved, but it will require bringing in additional steel wire and floating rope because the more powerful tug must stay about a kilometre away from the grounded vessel.

Boag also says there will be “challenges” involved in setting up the next towing effort, including worsening weather and the freezing of ballast water.

The Arca 1 - which is carrying 15 tonnes of propulsion fuel - ran aground just north of Sydney Mines on Sunday after losing engine power, and its six-member crew was rescued later that day.

The tanker was en route to Mexico carrying no cargo when it experienced mechanical difficulties.

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High-end home sales in Toronto set to dominate for 3rd year: Sotheby's

By Alexandra Posadzki

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO - Sotheby's International Realty Canada says Toronto is poised to lead the country in high-end home sales for the third consecutive year.

The latest report from the realtor showed sales of homes worth $1 million or more in the Greater Toronto Area rose 77 per cent last year compared to 2015, with a total of 19,692 properties sold.

Sales of the priciest homes - those worth over $4 million - in the GTA rose 95 per cent year-over-year.

Meanwhile, high-end home sales in Vancouver started off strong but slowed in the second half of the year as a number of government policy changes took effect.

Among those changes is a one-per-cent tax on vacant homes implemented by the City of Vancouver and the B.C. government's 15 per cent tax on foreigners buying homes in Metro Vancouver.

Those changes amplified a cooling in the Vancouver real estate market that started over the summer, according to Sotheby's.

Sales in Vancouver's $1 million-plus market were down 34 per cent year-over-year in the second half of the year compared to the same period in 2015.

But on an annual basis, sales of Vancouver homes worth $1 million or more were relatively flat last year, down one per cent year-over-year to 4,515 units.

Sales of homes priced at over $4 million were up 36 per cent year-over-year in Vancouver.

Sotheby's predicts that the Vancouver market for $1-million-plus homes will remain stable in the first quarter of 2017.

In Montreal, high-end home sales increased 23 per cent year-over-year to 613 properties, thanks to a stable provincial economy and political landscape, according to Sotheby's.

Calgary's $1-million-plus market also saw a boost last year. After declining 40 per cent year-over-year in 2015 due to the oil price shock, sales of homes worth $1 million or more were up 19 per cent to 612 units in 2016.

But the realtor says it's expecting a buyers' market in Calgary in the first quarter of the year as the city's economic challenges drag on.

Brad Henderson, president and CEO of Sotheby's International Realty Canada, said there are a confluence of factors responsible for the red-hot growth in Toronto's top-tier real estate market.

Among them are low interest rates, strong employment and consumer confidence and a limited supply of properties for sale, particularly in the single-family home segment.

“With natural boundaries like the lake and the greenbelt, the Greater Toronto region has less developable land than other markets, and as a consequence there are less opportunities to add to the supply,” Henderson said.

Sotheby's says global turmoil - including Britain's vote to exit the European Union and Donald Trump's election win in the U.S. - injected uncertainty into global real estate markets last year.

Canada, which is regarded as a safe haven, has a low dollar and a strong real estate market, making it a desirable destination for real estate investment and immigration, according to the report.

Follow @alexposadzki on Twitter.

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6.) Canada's worst traffic bottlenecks cost drivers 11.5M hours in delays each year

By Michelle McQuigge

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO - A new report suggests some of Canada's worst traffic bottlenecks are serious enough to compare with those in major American cities like New York and Los Angeles.

The report commissioned by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) found that the most consistently congested stretch of highway in the country, a portion of Highway 401 running through central Toronto, is the ninth most clogged artery in Canada and the United States.

A bottleneck in Montreal, considered the third worst in Canada according to the new research, compares with congestion levels in Boston.

The CAA identified the worst bottlenecks by analyzing provincial and municipal traffic volume numbers along with GPS data over nearly 3,000 kilometres of roads across the country.

It says the report is meant to highlight areas where policy-makers should focus their attention to relieve congestion, which it argues hurts productivity and adds to overall greenhouse gas emissions.

But observers caution against reading too much into the data, saying that not all slow traffic zones are created equal and those in the heart of urban areas need to be viewed differently from major highways.

The report said the top 20 bottlenecks in the country comprise just 65 of the 3,000 kilometres analyzed for the study.

Toronto's oft-lamented traffic woes loomed large in the data, with the city securing half the spots in both the top 10 and the top 20.

Three of Montreal's most congested areas made the top 10, with another two in the top 20.

Vancouver rounded out the top 10 with two particularly busy stretches of road. Two more Vancouver roadways, along with one in Quebec City, completed the top 20.

CAA spokesman Ian Jack said the report highlights urgent need for action on addressing gridlock, adding simply building more roads is not the answer.

“It may be a matter of pouring concrete and asphalt in some cases, but there are a lot of other solutions as well,” he said. “Whether that's metered on-ramps, high-occupancy lanes, other ways of addressing these issues, we encourage policy-makers to use the whole tool kit to focus in on these areas that are clearly of highest impact.”

Those impacts, researchers suggest, are significant and multifaceted.

Study author Vijay Gill of transportation infrastructure consulting firm CPCS said the delays take a toll on both labour productivity and the environment.

The research showed that a commute along the busiest stretch of Toronto highways can add an average of 36 minutes to a 60-minute commute, resulting in an annual total of 3.2 million driver-hours in delays on that route.

The study estimated the country's worst bottlenecks result in 11.5 million hours worth of delays and drain about 22 million litres of fuel per year.

Gill said all these factors boil down to one simple metric that's hard to measure but top-of-mind for many Canadians.

“(It's) just quality of life,” he said, “No one likes driving in congestion. No one likes the randomness or the variability. So it's clear that there's significant user benefits ... by addressing some of these issues.”

At least one traffic congestion expert took a cautious view of the findings.

Former Vancouver chief city planner Brent Toderian said there's value in assessing high-traffic areas, but said most research of this kind is based on the assumption that driving is the best way to travel.

Toderian likened congestion to cholesterol, saying there are both harmful and helpful types and asserting that at least some level of traffic is vital for a city to thrive.

A slow-moving street in the heart of an urban centre, for instance, could be prime real estate for retailers to set up shop, he said.

“We can't all worship at the alter of speed and volume, he said. ”Successful cities have congestion.... If you don't have any of it, you die.“

Toderian said highways, which are specifically designed to move high volumes of traffic as quickly as possible, should be viewed differently. Still, he cautioned against expanding highway networks too much, since increased capacity leads to a rise in the number of cars on the roads.

He said price-based tools, such as tolls, are the most effective ways to keep traffic in check.

- Follow @mich-mcq on Twitter