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Woman dubbed ‘Chair Girl’ is in Miami for modelling contract with hotel, lawyer says

As the case of accused chair thrower Marcella Zoia continues to work its way through the court system, her notoriety has apparently led to a modelling contract in Miami, according to her lawyer.

Defence lawyer Greg Leslie appeared at Old City Hall court Thursday on her behalf and put Zoia’s matter over to Aug. 29 for a judicial pretrial.

Zoia, 19, is facing charges of mischief endangering life, mischief involving damage to property and common nuisance for allegedly tossing a chair from an upper-floor balcony toward the busy Gardiner Expressway.

Leslie said his client is currently in Florida doing a promotional shoot for a hotel chain and will be back in Toronto this weekend.

“There is a brand new hotel in Miami and she’s been asked . . . because of who she is,” Leslie said at the courthouse.

Read more:

Opinion | ‘Chair Girl’ doesn’t seem to shy away from her bad reputation on Instagram: Teitel

Accused chair tosser was under ‘peer pressure,’ defence lawyer says

Zoia is allowed to travel so she is not breaching any bail conditions.

“I think they (the hotel chain) wanted somebody who has a bit of exposure to social media, so they asked her and they’re paying her to be there, so good for her.”

He couldn’t immediately remember the name of the hotel chain.

Leslie said he was unable to have her reinstated in a dental hygiene program that expelled her after the news stories broke about her arrest.

“Hopefully once this is all over with, assuming that she wants to pursue that career, then hopefully she’ll be able to do so.”

Leslie said he was misquoted in an earlier report that said he expected the charges would be withdrawn. Rather, Leslie said Thursday he hopes she will receive a conditional discharge so she will receive no jail time and won’t have a criminal record.

The Crown’s position is “completely different,” he said, adding “we’re miles apart at this point.” She could face “significant” jail time — but won’t, he said.

Leslie said he understands the seriousness of the charges but believes the appropriate outcome would be for her to perform community service, which would be “good for her and good for the public.”

He suggested other such cases would have already settled, but that prosecutors are reluctant to do so because of the “media frenzy” around the case.

Within two weeks of the February incident, someone at his law office found three other examples online of people throwing items from high places, including at least one chair.

“You might not be able to see who it is,” unlike the video that went viral clearly showing Zoia tossing the chair.

Leslie reiterated what he said after Zoia’s arrest — that peer pressure made her do it.

“If you could hear the (video) audio . . . ‘throw the chair, throw the chair.’ I’m not justifying it in any way. People react to peer pressure differently. She made a mistake, she’s paying for it.”

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy





Oakville teacher accused of telling student to ‘go to hell,’ life would be ‘better without him in it’

An Oakville high school teacher is accused of professional misconduct following allegations she promoted gambling in class and belittled a student with comments such as “life would be a hundred times better without him in it.”

The startling allegations are found in a notice of hearing document accusing Lillian Donaldson, an English teacher at Abbey Park High School, of professional misconduct.

None of the allegations against Donaldson have been proven and she is scheduled to appear at an Ontario College of Teachers disciplinary hearing Nov. 12.

Donaldson deferred comment on the case to her lawyer, Jack Brown, who also didn’t comment when reached by Inside Halton.

Donaldson faces a number of allegations under the Ontario College of Teachers Act, including that she abused a student verbally, psychologically or emotionally, that she “failed to maintain the standards of the profession” and that she “committed acts that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.”

The notice of hearing was brought about after accusations stemming from the 2016-17 school year. Donaldson is accused of making a number of inappropriate comments to a student in her class, including that he’s a “nerd.” She also told him to “be intelligent for once,” to “go to hell,” to “get a life” and suggested he had no friends, according to the document.

She is also accused of telling the student “that life would be a hundred times better without him in it.”

The notice didn’t reveal the student’s age or name.

Donaldson is further accused of engaging in “inappropriate conduct” by yelling at students and promoting gambling in class, according to the allegations.

Halton District School Board spokesperson Marnie Denton confirmed Donaldson is an employee of the board but couldn’t comment on her personnel record as “personnel matters are an employee matter between the employer and employee.”

Donaldson received her teaching certificate in 2001, according to the Ontario College of Teachers website.

Louie Rosella is a reporter and editor for InsideHalton.com and its sister papers. Reach him via email: lrosella@metroland.com





Ford rails about ‘nutcase’ who fled CAMH after being found non-criminally responsible for killing roommate

A furious Premier Doug Ford is railing about a “nutcase” who fled to China from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health after being found non-criminally responsible for killing his roommate.

“I’m disgusted with it. It’s unbelievable. They say this guy’s low risk and he chopped up his roommate with a meat cleaver?” Ford told Newstalk 1010’s Jerry Agar on Thursday.

“We’re going to get down to the bottom of it … there’s going to be people held accountable. You can’t let guys like this loose. You throw away the key.”

The premier is concerned about Zhebin Cong, who has been missing since July 3 and has apparently escaped to China.

Cong killed his roommate in 2014. He was found non-criminally responsible for his actions and was a patient at CAMH.

“Between the TPS (Toronto police service), the Ontario Review Board, and CAMH, someone’s going to be answering,” said Ford.

“What is the family thinking of the poor victim that got chopped up with a meat cleaver by this nutcase and then they let him loose on the streets? How did he get a passport to go to China?” he said.

“This is absolutely ridiculous and this is what we have to change, Jerry, right across the board making sure that these crazy, crazy people that want to go around chopping people up — they’re not on the streets,” the premier told Agar.

“I wouldn’t want to have lunch beside this guy, I’ll tell you that.”

Ford’s government has reduced planned annual funding to mental health programs by $335 million since taking office last summer.

With the defeat of the previous Liberal government in 2018, Ford’s Progressive Conservatives cancelled former premier Kathleen Wynne’s promised $2.1 billion in additional mental health services over four years.

Instead, the Tories are adding $1.9 billion over the next 10 years, which matches federal funding for mental health.

That meant a planned $525-million annual injection in new funding has been reduced to $190 million.

Read more:

Rosie DiManno: A dangerous killer escaped CAMH and boarded a plane. Police told the public two weeks later

Asked if government cuts are to blame for Cong slipping through the cracks, Ford said “that’s an absolute bunch of nonsense.”

The premier blasted “the far left” for trying to pin the fiasco on him.

NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex), stressing the need for protecting public safety, criticized Ford for using incendiary language, noting “we’ve been trying for years to destigmatize mental health issues.”

“To use those type of words, I don’t think help the issue at all. Doug should be deploying as many resources as possible ... ensuring that we find this individual,” said Natyshak.

“To be inarticulate — as Doug is wont to be — doesn’t help this issue. His default is to blame it on the leftists when, hey, you’re in charge, Doug. This is your problem, this is your government,” he said.

After Ford’s explosive interview with Agar, his office issued a lengthy clarification that did not include the terms “nutcase” or “crazy crazy.”

“My heart breaks for the family of the victim who has to live knowing that the person who murdered their son is now off the hook,” the statement said.

“The Toronto Police Services Board needs to get to the bottom of why the public was not informed sooner. I am glad to hear that the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) has acknowledged that they need to review and improve their own procedures.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie





Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto restaurant to shut down, Second City to move for new condo development

A pair of landmark tourist destinations in downtown Toronto is closing its doors this year while another will be looking for a new home — victims of a new condo development in the area.

Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto and Oasis Rooftop Patio are shutting down next year after 26 years in business, while The Second City Toronto is planning to relocate.

In a news release Thursday, Gretzky’s announced that it will be closing in 2020 and is commemorating its final summer by inviting supporters to its Mercer St. and Blue Jays Way location and sharing their favourite memories of the sports bar and restaurant.

Over the years, Gretzky’s has hosted memorable sports moments including when Isiah Thomas was introduced as Raptors executive vice-president and part owner in 1994. Gretzky the hockey legend hosted his retirement party at the restaurant in 1999.

In 1994, the NBA expansion team announced its Raptors nickname in the studio space now occupied by Second City.

Meanwhile, the comedy sketch theatre posted on its Facebook page announcing that it will be moving soon with more details to come.

Raneem Alozzi is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star's radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @r_alozzi





How much do you need to earn to afford rent in your neighbourhood? Study breaks it down by hourly wage

Erik Eastmure, 24, loves his job as a cook in an up-and-coming Riverdale eatery. He is less enamoured with spending half his monthly take-home pay, about $1,000, on rent and utilities for a house he shares with two roommates.

Eastmure earns $16 an hour plus tips — a decent wage in the food service industry, he says. But it isn’t enough in Toronto to buy him the privacy he craves and, after rent, groceries and other essentials, there isn’t a lot left to enjoy the city, buy clothes or even visit to the dentist.

“There are things I want to buy,” he says. “My laptop just broke; I don’t know how I’m going to afford a new laptop.”

He’s among the quarter of Canadians who earn within $3 of their provincial minimum wage. In Ontario, that’s $14 an hour.

A new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) shows the breadth of the country’s rental crisis for full-time (40 hours a week) minimum-wage earners. This crisis, the study’s author says, stems largely from a dearth of new purpose-built rentals since the early 1990s, when the federal government stopped providing tax credits to build them.

The study found that a one-bedroom apartment would be affordable to full-time minimum-wage workers in only 70 of 795 Canadian neighbourhoods. A two-bedroom rental would be unaffordable in all but 24 of those neighbourhoods; that’s 3 per cent. With the exception of St. Catharines and Sudbury, all the affordable neighbourhoods were located in smaller Quebec cities.

Read more:

Minimum wage earners can’t afford to rent anywhere in Edmonton says new report

Want to rent a one- or two-bedroom apartment in Calgary? Minimum-wage earners can’t afford rent in any of the city’s 44 neighbourhoods

What does it take to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Halifax? Earn $22.57 an hour or work 78 hours a week at minimum wage

Minimum-wage earners in Metro Vancouver cannot afford rent in any of the city’s 70 neighbourhoods, report finds

In Toronto, it’s worse. Workers need to earn about $34 an hour on average to afford a two-bedroom apartment — the kind of space the CCPA says provides modest accommodation for different types of households.

The study, Unaccommodating: Housing Rental Wage in Canada, is based on October 2018 rents and wages and defines affordable as no more than 30 per cent of before-tax income spent on housing. It uses an average rent of $1,440 for a one-bedroom unit in the Toronto area and $1,750 for a two-bedroom apartment, based on rates for condos and purpose-built rentals. Those averages include both occupied and unoccupied units, so a new renter would likely face substantially higher costs.

CCPA researcher David Macdonald calls the 30 per cent measure a Canadian standard that accounts for other life expenses, “including taxes and everything else you’ve got to buy — diapers, transit and so forth.”

The Ottawa research group focused on two-bedroom units, which comprise about half of all apartments in Canada. In Toronto, one- and two-bedroom apartments each comprise 42 per cent of the total units. Studios and three-bedrooms make up the rest.

“A sole income earner working full time should be able to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment for their family in a country as rich as Canada,” says the report. “But in most Canadian cities, including Canada’s largest metropolitan areas of Toronto and Vancouver, there are no neighbourhoods where it is possible to afford a one- or two-bedroom unit on a single minimum wage.”

Among the study’s most alarming findings:

  • In 31 of 36 Canadian metropolitan areas, there are no neighbourhoods where two-bedroom apartments are affordable to minimum-wage earners. Only 13 had affordable one-bedroom units.

  • A minimum-wage earner would have to work 96 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto — more than two full-time jobs. In Vancouver, they would need to work 112 hours a week.

  • Toronto had the second-highest wage requirement for a two-bedroom apartment. A tenant would need to earn $33.70 an hour in order to keep rent within 30 per cent of their earnings. Vancouver was slightly worse, requiring a $35.43 an hour wage, followed by Victoria, Calgary and Ottawa.

  • On average, a Canadian worker needs to earn $20.20 an hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment. That is well above the highest provincial minimum wage, which is $15 an hour in Alberta.

While none of Toronto’s 117 neighbourhoods is affordable for a minimum-wage earner, a fifth of Montreal’s 97 neighbourhoods have one-bedroom units within reach of those workers. There were, however, no affordable two-bedroom units there either. Workers earning $15 an hour — $3 above the 2018 minimum wage in Montreal — could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in about half the city’s neighbourhoods.

Montreal has a greater concentration of purpose-built rentals than Toronto, Macdonald explained.

“There are two (Montreal) neighbourhoods with 40,000 units each of rental housing. The best you can do in Toronto is 10,000 units per neighbourhood,” he said.

The three Toronto-area neighbourhoods with the most rentals, including condos, are Downsview, Mount Pleasant West and Mississauga Centre. But none of them is especially affordable, requiring a $28- to $43-per-hour wage — or at least 80 hours a week of work at minimum wage — for a two-bedroom unit.

The study found the most affordable Toronto-area neighbourhoods in Scarborough would require a tenant to earn between $23 and $25 an hour, and they don’t have a lot of apartments.

Renters like Eastmure can barely dream of home ownership. Even staying in the city seems unsustainable, he said.

“I’ve always just considered myself lucky enough to have an apartment. I know there are people a lot worse than me,” said Eastmure.

But, he said, “With the cost of living in the city, I just don’t think I can be here long term.”

Macdonald hopes the study raises the profile of the third of Canadians who rent ahead of the fall federal election.

“It’s not purely about trying to get millennials into houses,” he said.

Boosting the supply of rentals requires public policy, he argued. Left on its own, the market will build small condos for investors.

“That’s not good for people trying to live and work in Toronto but it is good for investors, whether they’re Canadian or whether they’re foreign,” said Macdonald.

The combined effect of provincial and federal programs is starting to renew the supply of affordable rental and purpose-built rental homes, he said.

“We’ve reached a new high-water mark since 1993 with just over 15,000 new affordable housing units (a year),” said Macdonald, adding that it is still fewer than the 20,000 units a year of affordable housing that was built in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Since the (Conservative Brian) Mulroney government in the early 1990s basically cut the entire Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. affordable-housing budget, it’s never really recovered,” he said.

The CCPA study is the latest to assess the Toronto region’s housing affordability challenges. A recently published Toronto Star analysis showed that the typical median-income family cannot afford to own a median-priced single-family home in any of 140 city neighbourhoods. It found that even the least expensive real estate in Mount Dennis requires a household income of more than $100,000 to qualify for a $616,500 home.

An analysis by the Toronto Region Board of Trade last month showed that even paramedics and construction workers earning middle-income wages in the $80,000 to $90,000 range were struggling to afford a home.

The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario reported last year that 46.9 per cent of Toronto tenants pay more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.

Read more:

How desirable is your house? In these 50 Toronto neighbourhoods, they sell significantly over asking

Here’s what you’d need to earn to buy a mid-priced home in your Toronto neighbourhood — and what a typical family there earns (Hint: Not nearly enough)

With files from Emily Mathieu

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski





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