13 of the week’s best long reads from the Star, April 3 to 9, 2021

From the push to build Highway 413 to the realities of COVID-19’s third wave, we’ve selected some of the best long reads of the week on thestar.com.Want to dive into more long features? Sign up for the Weekend Long Reads newsletter to get them delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning.1. Friends with benefits? An inside look at the money, power and influence behind the Ford government’s push to build Highway 413Eight of Ontario’s most powerful land developers own thousands of acres of prime real estate near the proposed route of the controversial Highway 413, a Torstar/National Observer investigation has found.Four of the developers are connected to Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government through party officials and former Tory politicians now acting as registered lobbyists.If built, the road will raze 2,000 acres of farmland, cut across 85 waterways and pave nearly 400 acres of protected Greenbelt land in Vaughan. It would also disrupt 220 wetlands and the habitats of 10 species-at-risk, according to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.2. She accused a university prof of sexual assault. Now he’s suing for defamation. Some fear the ‘landmark’ case could have a chilling effectA defamation lawsuit by a novelist and former university professor against a woman who accused him of rape could have a chilling effect on future victims of sexualized violence, and the #MeToo movement more broadly, a B.C. court heard this week.Lawyers for Steven Galloway, however, say he should be allowed to proceed with his lawsuit as the allegations against him — which drew national headlines and attention from authors, including Margaret Atwood — forever stained his reputation.The “landmark” hearing is considered a major test of a relatively new provincial law designed to protect free expression and prevent the use of lawsuits to silence people from speaking out on matters of public interest.3. ‘There’s just no justification’: More than 120 police officers in Ontario are currently suspended with payAfter five years, four Toronto cops accused by a judge of planting drugs to justify a search, then fabricating a story to “cover their tracks,” are finally set to face a disciplinary tribunal to determine their fate as police officers.In the meantime, they’ve all been suspended with pay since January 2016 — at a rank that currently pays more than $100,000 a year.Their example is far from rare. Despite repeated calls for change from chiefs and politicians and recent pressure to defund police, police forces are still bound by decades-old provincial legislation that only allows officers to be suspended without pay if they are convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail.As a result, chiefs remain forced to pay cops facing criminal or misconduct charges, regardless of the seriousness of the allegations — even in extreme cases including murder.4. The province offered 5,000 vaccines to reopen shuttered Amazon warehouse. Here’s why Peel’s medical officer declinedPeel Public Health declined to take 5,000 COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial supply for a shuttered Amazon warehouse in outbreak due to concerns vaccinating workers would not halt transmission within the facility and because vulnerable seniors in the community were to be prioritized.Peel’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh explained his reasons to decline the vaccine offer at a regional council meeting Thursday in response to questions from Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.“When we closed Amazon on March 12, we received a reachout from the province to offer us 5,000 doses in a bid to get the plant up and running again,” Loh said.5. ‘Maybe this queue needs to be jumped’: They live in Canada, but they’re going to the U.S. to get their COVID vaccineJeff Bale has driven across the Bluewater bridge from Sarnia to Michigan dozens of times in his life, but after a year in near-complete isolation, this time it felt strange.He knew he was breaking the non-essential travel recommendation. He was pretty sure, though not 100 per cent certain, that his dual citizenship would allow him to cross over. The border itself was practically empty, like a “zombie movie,” the 49-year-old recalls.In the end, he says, the anxiety was worth it. He crossed the border to get his first dose of coronavirus vaccine in his former town of Lansing, Mich.“I’ll be fully vaccinated in two and a half weeks, whereas in Ontario it’s still a four-month spread between the first and second shot,” said Bale, who lives in Toronto and is currently in quarantine. “What I’m doing is freeing up a spot someone else can take.”6. Senior Green officials are sabotaging the first Black woman to lead a Canadian political party, ‘disgusted’ insiders sayGreen Leader Annamie Paul is facing obstacles inside her party that threaten her success as Canada’s first Black political leader, according to several Green insiders and a top member of her political circle.Over her first six months as leader, Paul has endured “

13 of the week’s best long reads from the Star, April 3 to 9, 2021

From the push to build Highway 413 to the realities of COVID-19’s third wave, we’ve selected some of the best long reads of the week on thestar.com.

Want to dive into more long features? Sign up for the Weekend Long Reads newsletter to get them delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning.

1. Friends with benefits? An inside look at the money, power and influence behind the Ford government’s push to build Highway 413

Eight of Ontario’s most powerful land developers own thousands of acres of prime real estate near the proposed route of the controversial Highway 413, a Torstar/National Observer investigation has found.

Four of the developers are connected to Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government through party officials and former Tory politicians now acting as registered lobbyists.

If built, the road will raze 2,000 acres of farmland, cut across 85 waterways and pave nearly 400 acres of protected Greenbelt land in Vaughan. It would also disrupt 220 wetlands and the habitats of 10 species-at-risk, according to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

2. She accused a university prof of sexual assault. Now he’s suing for defamation. Some fear the ‘landmark’ case could have a chilling effect

A defamation lawsuit by a novelist and former university professor against a woman who accused him of rape could have a chilling effect on future victims of sexualized violence, and the #MeToo movement more broadly, a B.C. court heard this week.

Lawyers for Steven Galloway, however, say he should be allowed to proceed with his lawsuit as the allegations against him — which drew national headlines and attention from authors, including Margaret Atwood — forever stained his reputation.

The “landmark” hearing is considered a major test of a relatively new provincial law designed to protect free expression and prevent the use of lawsuits to silence people from speaking out on matters of public interest.

3. ‘There’s just no justification’: More than 120 police officers in Ontario are currently suspended with pay

After five years, four Toronto cops accused by a judge of planting drugs to justify a search, then fabricating a story to “cover their tracks,” are finally set to face a disciplinary tribunal to determine their fate as police officers.

In the meantime, they’ve all been suspended with pay since January 2016 — at a rank that currently pays more than $100,000 a year.

Their example is far from rare. Despite repeated calls for change from chiefs and politicians and recent pressure to defund police, police forces are still bound by decades-old provincial legislation that only allows officers to be suspended without pay if they are convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail.

As a result, chiefs remain forced to pay cops facing criminal or misconduct charges, regardless of the seriousness of the allegations — even in extreme cases including murder.

4. The province offered 5,000 vaccines to reopen shuttered Amazon warehouse. Here’s why Peel’s medical officer declined

Peel Public Health declined to take 5,000 COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial supply for a shuttered Amazon warehouse in outbreak due to concerns vaccinating workers would not halt transmission within the facility and because vulnerable seniors in the community were to be prioritized.

Peel’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh explained his reasons to decline the vaccine offer at a regional council meeting Thursday in response to questions from Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.

“When we closed Amazon on March 12, we received a reachout from the province to offer us 5,000 doses in a bid to get the plant up and running again,” Loh said.

5. ‘Maybe this queue needs to be jumped’: They live in Canada, but they’re going to the U.S. to get their COVID vaccine

Jeff Bale has driven across the Bluewater bridge from Sarnia to Michigan dozens of times in his life, but after a year in near-complete isolation, this time it felt strange.

He knew he was breaking the non-essential travel recommendation. He was pretty sure, though not 100 per cent certain, that his dual citizenship would allow him to cross over. The border itself was practically empty, like a “zombie movie,” the 49-year-old recalls.

In the end, he says, the anxiety was worth it. He crossed the border to get his first dose of coronavirus vaccine in his former town of Lansing, Mich.

“I’ll be fully vaccinated in two and a half weeks, whereas in Ontario it’s still a four-month spread between the first and second shot,” said Bale, who lives in Toronto and is currently in quarantine. “What I’m doing is freeing up a spot someone else can take.”

6. Senior Green officials are sabotaging the first Black woman to lead a Canadian political party, ‘disgusted’ insiders say

Green Leader Annamie Paul is facing obstacles inside her party that threaten her success as Canada’s first Black political leader, according to several Green insiders and a top member of her political circle.

Over her first six months as leader, Paul has endured “significant resistance” from high-ranking officials on the Green party’s most powerful governing body, said Sean Yo, a party operative who worked on Paul’s leadership bid and managed her byelection campaign in Toronto Centre last October.

Yo said this includes distracting her byelection campaign by asking it to refund $50,000 to party headquarters in the middle of the contest, and forcing her to work without getting paid for about three months before the party finally gave her an employment contract.

“It’s very hard not to see this process through the lens of race, gender and religion,” Yo told the Star.

7. The U.S. may soon have a vaccine surplus. Here’s what that means for Canada

With its America-first vaccine strategy, the U.S. is nearing a point when it will have enough supply to offer COVID-19 vaccine to all adult Americans. Current predictions suggest that will happen by the end of May.

So, once America is vaccinated first, the question inevitably becomes: Who’s second in line?

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken this week hinted at talks that are happening on that front, after months of the United States keeping all of its Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen supply to itself, and only distributing four million AstraZeneca doses as “loans” to Canada and Mexico. Blinken said the Biden administration wants to “rise to the occasion worldwide” and start sharing soon.

8. ‘Please don’t let your guard down.’ Inside the third wave and why variants have changed everything, in the words of 7 front-line health workers

Younger patients, getting sicker, faster. Entire families infected by the virus. Intensive care units close to overflowing. Hospital staff pushing through exhaustion, knowing the worst is still to come.

As the pandemic steams ahead and the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU soars — surpassing the peak seen in the winter — the Star spoke to seven health-care workers on the front lines of the fight against more transmissible and deadly variants.

Dr. Kashif Pirzada is an emergency physician in Toronto. He says:

“All of a sudden in one day five people in a row were very sick with COVID, and they were all really young. They were in their 30s and 40s. A couple were service workers, one worked at a restaurant. One of the really sick ones was a teacher.

“This thing has changed; it’s very different from before and it’s shocking. There’s no way to predict who will get seriously ill. You might think you’re safe, but there’s a good chance you’re not.”

9. ‘Dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing.’ Prince Philip dead at 99

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died Friday at 99, may not have been warmly embraced by the British public — he was too prickly a personality for that — but he was widely respected for succeeding so well at the often-thankless job of being the Queen’s consort.

He was ever there for Elizabeth, standing just behind her; hands clasped in his signature style, firmly behind his back.

10. How the immigrant father of this teen with Down syndrome fought the Canadian government — and won

Senior immigration officials had invited Felipe Montoya to a meeting. He says he had no idea what to expect.

It was April 20, 2016 — shortly after Montoya had created a public uproar on national TV about his family being denied Canadian permanent residence over his son’s Down syndrome.

Montoya, a York University professor and a native of Costa Rica, says all he wanted was for the federal government to change the immigration law so it no longer discriminated against would-be immigrants based on disability.

11. ‘Canada hasn’t had a market overheating of this scope since the late 1980s’: Economists warn Canada’s housing market may be in for a nasty tumble

Toronto’s red-hot housing market is giving David Rosenberg flashbacks to the early aughts, when the U.S. housing market entered a bubble that ended in disaster.

The Bay Street veteran then worked as chief economist at Merrill Lynch, where he warned clients and hedge-fund managers in 2006 of a doomsday scenario: that a collapse in the housing market could take down the entire economy with it.

Now, by nearly every metric he looks at, Rosenberg says, the financial conditions in Canada’s housing market are similar to the U.S. market then — and politicians should be gravely concerned.

12. How Toronto’s ‘Discount Casket Guy’ crossed the ’Ndrangheta and fell out with notorious mob boss Vito Rizzuto

Not long before he turned 40, GTA mobster Gaetano (Guy) Panepinto found a job that seemed perfect: discount casket salesman.

His company, Casket Royale on St. Clair Avenue West, had the motto: “Do not make an emotional loss a financial loss,” and earned the nickname, “The Discount Casket Guy.”

Casket Royale’s caskets included the “George,” a $295 fake wood model; the denim-covered, cowboy-themed “Tucson” (a.k.a. the “Bubba Box”) for $1,550; and the Basilica, a steel model with an image of the Last Supper and a $2,325 tab. The top of the line was the “Windsor,” with plenty of bronze and a $4,900 price tag.

Casket Royale’s owners boasted all of their prices were about half of what customers could expect they pay at a funeral home — and kids got their casket for free.

Less publicly, Panepinto was a GTA lieutenant for Montreal mob boss Vito Rizzuto, feeding him money through thefts, frauds, drug trafficking and illegal gambling.

13. ‘I wasn’t the same person after this visit’: Three travel writers remember a mindset-altering trip of a lifetime

The most revelatory journeys not only transport us for a moment, but also leave us forever changed. Here, three travel writers detail their most transformative trips.  

Lisa Jackson recalls an eye-opening experience in the Great Barrier Reef:

“I never imagined chasing giant clams on my holiday. I’d been snorkelling forever in the Coral Sea, searching for the elusive Clam Garden. Just as I’m about to quit, I see it: an underworld of huge, bony mollusks with zigzagging mouths and violet mantles. As I glide over top, the shells snap shut one by one.”

Source : Toronto Star More