Does a drop in advance polls point to low voter turnout? – Toronto

TORONTO – Are the results of the advanced polls offering up a bad sign for voter turnout this year? Probably not, according to one expert.

36,940 fewer people cast a ballot in the advanced polls leading up to the 2014 Ontario general election.

A total of 566,845 people voted in advanced polls across the province.

Nelson Wiseman, a professor at the University of Toronto, said in an interview Monday that he doesn’t think voter turnout in advanced polls is necessarily indicative of turnout on election day.

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“I don’t think there’s much connection, although I am surprised because my sense is that most people will take advantage of advanced polls,” he said.

Fewer Ontarians than ever cast a ballot during the 2011 election: Only 48.2 per cent made it out to the polls, culminating a 13-year decrease in turnout. It was also the lowest voter turnout since 1867.

Wiseman doesn’t expect a high voter turnout this year either: it’s the summer and people are elsewhere.

“A lot of people are vacationing and a lot of people are just occupied by different things and that’s one of the reasons I think this election has got less traction maybe than the ones held in autumn or the very early spring,” he said.

Voters go to the polls June 12. Find details on how to vote, your riding profile and how to find your polling station.

Moncton shooting: Family of Const. Dave Ross shares goodbye message

Moncton residents will lay to rest three fallen RCMP officers in a public ceremony on Tuesday, six days after a gunman shot them in a rampage that shocked and terrified the New Brunswick city.

There have been vigils, tributes and an outpouring of grief for Constables Fabrice Gevaudan, Douglas Larche and Dave Ross, who lost their lives Wednesday night.

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Ahead of a regimental funeral for the three officers, which will be attended by thousands of police officers from across the country, the family of Const. Dave Ross, of Victoriaville, Que., has released a goodbye message via the RCMP.

READ MORE: Moncton shooting: Family of fallen officer says he ‘died a hero’

Ross’ wife Rachael and father Yvon remembered the 32-year-old as “a well-respected young man” and a “devoted and attentive father” to his son Austin.

They said it was Ross’ love of the outdoors, tracking and hunting that led him into police work.

It was also his fondness for dogs.

Ross became a police Dog Services handler and “took a lot of pride” in working with his canine partner Danny, a German Shepherd.

The family of fallen RCMP officer Const. Dave Ross said his “great love for dogs,” contributed to Ross’ decision to become a police officer.

Handout/RCMP

The family statement said German Shepherds had a special role in Ross’ personal life, saying “Rachael and Dave’s relationships blossomed going for walks with Art [Ross’ first dog].”

“Art would often try to nose their hands apart because he wanted all of Dave’s attention,” the message read. “These were very special memories the couple shared. Dave loved Rachael unconditionally and he showed it every day by making sure she knew that she was the only one for him.”

Yvon Ross included a poem for his son, titled After everything he has done, he is who he is and finished the message saying “he will be forever in our hearts.”

After everything he has done, he is who he is.
Yes, a respectful son,
Yes, a responsible son,
Yes, a caring son, to Racheal and Austin.

But above all, my son, my son
Fate decided that Dave would die aged 32
What else can I add?

The Lord gave,
The Lord has taken away,
Blessed be the name of the Lord!
Goodbye my son.

WATCH: Hundreds gather to thank RCMP at emotional Moncton vigil

With files from Amanda Kelly

Premier Brad Wall reassigns Cabinet Secretary in wake of expense scandal

REGINA – There appears to be more fallout from the Sask Party’s expense scandal as one of their members has been removed from the Senior Staff.

Rick Mantey has been reassigned by Premier Brad Wall – he will no longer be the Cabinet Secretary / Usher of the Black Rod, but will now be a Special Advisor to the Deputy Minister Of Parks, Culture And Sports.

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Mantey was involved in a recent expense scandal where government officials were accused by Sask. NDP of overspending, and using taxpayer money for personal costs while on business trips. Former Social Services Minister June Draude paid back $3600 spent on a car service in London, England after the expense was challenged.

Premier Brad Wall initially just put Mantey on probation for the expense scandal, but has now decided to re-assign him.

“The public deserves to know why a close advisor of Mr. Wall and one of the highest earners in government was quietly removed from his job,” said Trent Wotherspoon, Deputy Leader of the Opposition. “Were other inappropriate expenses or behavior discovered?”

Wall did not speak to Global News directly but did provide the statement below:

“Mr. Mantey will be moving to become the Special Advisor to the Deputy Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, where he will have specific responsibilities for cultural and heritage projects.  While Mr. Mantey has served the government well as Cabinet Secretary over the past six and a half years, I was disappointed in some of the expenditure decisions he made related to the recent trips to London and Ghana.  That said, Mr. Mantey has a wealth of experience and skills that are of value to the government, so he will be moving to a position in Parks, Culture and Sport that is well suited to that skill set.”

The Fonz gives Captain Kirk a thumbs-up – Calgary

BANFF, Alta. – Actor Henry Winkler says William Shatner is the perfect choice as grand marshal of this year’s Calgary Stampede parade because he attracts followers wherever he goes.

Winkler is attending the Banff World Media Festival to receive the Award of Excellence — an honour previously bestowed on his close friend Shatner.

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“Bill Shatner is an idiosyncratic human being who creates a Bill Shatner Avenue through the world. And he loves horses, he raises horses, he rides horses,” Winkler said in an interview.

“He is one of our most wonderful actors.”

Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original “Star Trek” series as well as in the movies, has won several Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.

It’s not clear if Shatner will lead the parade July 4 on horseback or ride in a wagon or antique car — a starship, however, is most unlikely.

Shatner, 83, has said he has been to Calgary before, but never to the Stampede.

Winkler, who played The Fonz in the TV series “Happy Days” in the 1970s and ’80s, said Shatner has a way of making people feel positive about themselves.

“I was auditioning for a movie. It went horribly wrong a year or two ago. I was walking down the concrete path from where I did the audition and he had an office next door,” he recalled.

“I told Bill what had just happened and he talked me through it. By the time I had left his office, I had forgotten I didn’t get the job.

“He will always be in my heart.”

The Calgary Stampede runs from July 4 to 13.

Ontario election: NDP bus offers a strange ride for reporters – Toronto

It’s a cross between a 1950’s diner, and a basement rec room – except it’s on wheels.

Welcome aboard ‘Easy Rider,’ the NDP campaign bus.

The first thing you notice are the seats. They are red and black leather (or is that pleather?) and placed in an odd configuration of communal tables and couches.

Unlike traditional campaign buses with simple chairs and desks, the NDP have opted for a vehicle that is used for crews travelling on the NASCAR circuit.

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There are bunk beds, TV’s, a sound system, a small fridge, water cooler and ample Wi-Fi.

In Depth: Ontario Election 2014

This election is not the first talent search where the bus has been used. Look closely and you’ll notice promotional signs for a shampoo company inside. No, the NDP haven’t found sponsors, the bus was actually used for the Much Music VJ search (those decals are still inside too).

The only problem is that there aren’t enough desks for every journalist to work while on the bus.

But fear not, the New Democrats have developed a solution: you can work from the comfort of a plastic lap desk, while sitting sideways on a (p)leather couch, travelling down the highway at 110km/hr.

It gets a little messy come meal time.

As for those bunk beds strapped to the ceiling – no one has quite figured out how to get into them (not that any reporter would have time for a nap).

FIFA head Blatter lashes out at corruption claims – National

SAO PAULO, Brazil – FIFA President Sepp Blatter has hit out at critics who he says want to destroy football’s governing body.

Blatter’s comments to unspecified critics were made to Asian football officials on Monday following widespread allegations by The Sunday Times of corrupt payments by their former leader Mohamed bin Hammam.

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“I don’t know what the reasoning is behind this but we must maintain unity,” Blatter told the gathering of Asian Football Confederation members. “It is the best way to say to all the destructors in the world, they want to destroy not the game, but they want to destroy the institution.”

The British newspaper has reported that Bin Hammam paid millions of dollars to Asian and African officials, buying influence for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup campaign and his own FIFA presidential challenge to Blatter in 2011.

READ MORE: FIFA exec hits back at newspaper corruption claims

Blatter also reminded Asian officials of “Qatargate,” a series of reports by France Football magazine which aggressively questioned the integrity of FIFA’s World Cup hosting vote.

The FIFA chief, who is widely expected to stand for re-election next year, turned the criticism into an appeal for him to remain in office.

“We are in the situation where we need leadership. I still have fire inside me,” said the 78-year-old Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998.

Asian officials stood to acclaim Blatter’s request for support, following an earlier ovation from African delegates.

WATCH: FIFA head Sepp Blatter responds to media questions following allegations that the 2022 World Cup vote was rigged. 

Minutes earlier, he promised FIFA member countries bonus payments from 2014 World Cup profits. The tournament revenue will approach $4.5 billion for FIFA.

“I am sure you will be very happy,” Blatter said.

In 2010, Blatter pledged FIFA members would each get $250,000 bonuses from the World Cup in South Africa, and continental confederations would get $2.5 million.

FIFA pledged a further $300,000 for each country in January 2011, four months before Blatter was elected unopposed. Bin Hammam withdrew when implicated by a FIFA investigation into allegations he bribed Caribbean voters.

After its meeting Monday, CAF published a statement threatening legal action against The Sunday Times, which claimed that officials from 30 African football federations sought and received cash, gifts and favours from Bin Hammam up to 2011.

The assembly urged the CAF board to “file a lawsuit, if necessary, so that the authors of this smearing and defamatory campaign against African football leaders are brought to the book.”

The statement praised Blatter for fighting against racism, and Hayatou for “transparent and distinguished leadership.”

In December 2011, IOC member Hayatou was reprimanded by the Olympic body for receiving 100,000 French francs (then $20,000) cash in 1995 from FIFA’s then marketing partner ISL. The agency later collapsed into bankruptcy and sparked a World Cup kickbacks scandal.

The IOC cited a conflict of interest for Hayatou who had denied wrongdoing.

Interim University of Saskatchewan president to slow TransformUS down – Saskatoon

SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan’s acting president has formally replied to an open letter protesting the TransformUS cost-cutting process.

The DefendUS group began circulating an open letter several weeks ago asking for signatures to help restore collegiality, transparency and meaningful consultation at the university.

The letter calls for the TransformUS process to halt and for a review of the school’s self-projected $44.5 million operating budget deficit by 2016.

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Former U of S president Ilene Busch-Vishniac was fired in May following outrage over the dismissal of Dr. Robert Buckingham, a tenured professor and dean who spoke out against the TransformUS process.

DefendUS stated they were “particularly alarmed” by the firing of Buckingham and the overall silencing of dissent among faculty and administrators.

In response to the letter, sent with over 1,000 signatures, the group received a response from the new interim U of S president Gordon Barnhart on June 6.

Barnhart stated in his letter the TransformUS process will now move slower and the school’s finances will be reviewed.

“We are committed to slowing down this process and taking time to deliberate carefully on what happens next,” said Barnhart.

“I, too, want to have as much information about our finances before we move forward.”

Barnhart also said he would like to take DefendUS up on their request for some type of public meeting in the near future.

“I myself want to talk to students, deans, staff and faculty members over the coming weeks. I think we need to speak to alumni, our board, council, senate and other stakeholders as well,” said Barnhart.

According to their website, DefendUS feels Barnhart’s reply is a good step towards meaningful consultation and ensures everyone feels heard.

“I think with the last administration, we would’ve been foolish maybe to expect a response. I think it’s a good signaling from interim president Barnhart that he’s open to dialogue,” said Dan LeBlanc, a DefendUS orgranizer.

“It’s very positive for us. We remain vigilant about it but we’re open to discuss and we think it’s a really positive step.”

DefendUS remains concerned the interim president did not reject TransformUS altogether, but knows change takes time.

Wynne softens tone, but keeps up attacks on ‘wrong-headed’ rivals – Toronto

Watch above: Why Kathleen Wynne is urging voters to question the motivations of her opponents. Alan Carter reports. 

CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – Premier Kathleen Wynne adopted a somewhat softer campaign tone Monday even as she kept up her attacks on her rivals, calling them poor choices for Ontario voters come election day.

Speaking at an elementary school, Wynne spoke at length about her political motivations as she touted the Liberal track record on education.

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It was as a young mother who saw the disruptions in the education system under former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris that she was driven to try to improve the system, she said.

The system, she said, is now under threat from her Tory opponent, Tim Hudak, with his pledge to cut 100,000 public-sector jobs.

“The reason that I’m in politics is that when it was tried before under Mike Harris, it didn’t work. It created chaos in the system,” Wynne said.

“That’s what motivated me then … and that’s what motivates me now. That’s why I’m in this.”

In pointed speeches over the weekend, Wynne characterized both Hudak and New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath as being reckless and misleading voters.

Read More: Here’s the issues that might make the party leaders regret being premier

She blasted their approach and platforms, and pleaded with NDP voters to side with her as the only way to stop Hudak.

She insisted they were scandalmongers and mudslingers for calling the Liberal government corrupt and dishonest over the gas plants scandal, which will cost taxpayers an estimated $1.1 billion.

On Monday, however, Wynne sounded a softer note as she reflected on a “very lively campaign” she said should be about more than tactics, strategy and politics.

She pointed to higher graduation rates and other education improvements that have occurred over the past decade under a Liberal government she only took over 16 months ago.

Hudak would undermine those improvements with a plan that “starts with cuts and continues with cuts,” Wynne said.

“It’s wrong-headed. I don’t believe it. We’ve seen it before.”

At the same time, she said, Horwath is simply “stringing together a bunch of disparate ideas” leading to a “real incoherence” in what the opposition is saying.

In Depth: Ontario Election 2014

Wynne said she wanted voters to understand the “stark” choice they have June 12. She said she saw no contradiction in saying she wanted to stay away from tactics and strategy while continuing to criticize her opponents and their platforms.

“This is an election campaign – it is a pitched competition between political parties,” Wynne said.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that there are two options facing people: One is Tim Hudak’s cut-and-slash agenda, and one is our plan, which would build the province up.”

At a later stop in Stratford, Wynne played up the importance of agriculture to the province and of bridging the urban-rural divide.

“There is only one Ontario,” she said.

©2014The Canadian Press

Human error behind duck-related road deaths: Quebec police – Montreal

MONTREAL – A police investigator said that human error was behind the deaths of two people whose motorcycle slammed into the back of a car as the motorist was allegedly helping some ducks.

Emma Czornobaj has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing the deaths of Andre Roy and his 16-year-old daughter, Jessie.

Watch: Duck trial continues

Witnesses have said the accused was tending to a family of ducks when the accident occurred.

A Quebec provincial police officer tasked with reconstructing the scene of the accident in June 2010 told the accused’s jury trial on Monday that Czornobaj’s vehicle was parked in the left lane of a busy highway south of Montreal but that she wasn’t in it.

Samuel Beaudet said Roy’s motorcycle was going as fast as 121 km/h at the time of impact and that both victims were wearing helmets that did not meet safety standards.

But the investigator said neither of those factors contributed to their deaths.

A jury composed of 10 men and two women is hearing the evidence.

Watch: Trial begins for reckless motorist who stopped for ducks

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©2014The Canadian Press

Nigerian students overwhelmed to return to Canada to continue studies – Regina

REGINA – Two Nigerian students say they are overwhelmed to be back studying in Canada after being deported for violating visa rules by taking jobs at Walmart.

Victoria Ordu and Favour Amadi have been readmitted to the University of Regina and both of their scholarships at the school have been reinstated.

“I’m still in shock that I’m here today,” Ordu said Monday on the university campus.

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“I’m still in shock that I can see the faces I saw a few years ago. I’m still in shock that I will be going back to classes, because I was on the verge of losing three years of education and I felt all hope was lost.”

Amadi, who is taking international studies, said getting an education is empowering, especially for women.

“It’s really important to me because when I go back to Nigeria, I would love to (impart) what I’ve learned here down to my country,” said Amadi. “I would love to serve as a role model to other people, other women and other people in general, who are going through similar situations and be of help to them whichever way I can.”

Ordu and Amadi were told in June 2012 that they had to leave Canada because they took summer jobs off campus at Walmart without proper student work permits. They only had social insurance cards that allowed them to work on campus and said they didn’t realize the mistake.

The Canada Border Services Agency said at the time that the responsibility to understand the limitations of working in Canada lies with international students.

The women took refuge in a Regina church for nearly 500 days before they agreed to leave Canada last fall.

University of Regina president Vianne Timmons said there was “relentless pushing behind the scenes” to get the students back.

“You know the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child?’ It took a village to get these young women back in Canada,” said Timmons.

“There were advocates in the federal government. The provincial government was a huge advocate. The NDP were advocates. All behind the scenes there was a lot of pressure that continued on, and I think that pressure helped make sure that this came quickly.

“And eight months may not be seen as quickly, but these young women may not have got a study permit to get back to Canada if we hadn’t kept the pressure on.”

Timmons said kicking the girls out of Canada was too severe a consequence.

The rules changed in January and what the girls did is no longer illegal.

“The fact that they persevered and advocated so hard, I think that was instrumental in changing federal laws. For these young women, I hope that they recognize that fight and that battle and that time they put in has changed it for other young people from other countries.”

The young women also said that getting an education is important, especially in light of the kidnapping of hundreds of girls in Nigeria.

Boko Haram militants shocked the world and caused outrage in April when they abducted more than 300 school girls in the town of Chibok. Some girls escaped by themselves, but an estimated 272 remain captive.

“It could have been me. I could have been studying in classes and that situation could have happened to me,” said Amadi.

“I feel really, really, really bad for what has happened to them and I’m really hoping that something good comes out of it at the end of the day.”

©2014The Canadian Press