US$2 billion light rail PPP in Toronto reaches commercial and financial close

International Finance, News

lightrail250.jpgInfrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx have announced that their preferred proponent for the Finch West Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, Mosaic Transit Group, has signed a contract valued atCAD2.5 billion (US$1.94 billion) for the design, construction, financing and maintenance of the 11km light rail line in Toronto.

Aecon, one of the leading members of Mosaic Transit Group, has confirmed that the project has also reached financial close. The other equity partners in the group are ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc. andCRH Canada Group Inc.

Aecon, ACS‘ subsidiary Dragados Canada Inc. and Dufferin Construction Company, a division of CRH Canada Group Inc., will construct LRT line that will run in a semi-exclusive lane along Finch Avenue in Toronto. It will have 16 surface stops and two underground terminuses – a below-grade terminal stop at Humber College and an underground interchange station at Keele Street that connects with the new Finch West Subway Station on the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. The estimated cost of this construction is CAD1.2 billion (US$932.6 million).

The Finch West corridor is one of the busiest bus routes in the City of Toronto, linking the communities of Jamestown, Rexdale and Black Creek with downtown Toronto.

Construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2018. At the peak of construction, Mosaic estimates that approximately 600 workers will work on the project and that 85% of the labour will come from the Greater Toronto Area.

The project also includes the delivery of a maintenance and storage facility for the light rail vehicles and other required components, such as trackworks, signaling, communications and public realm infrastructure, as well as a 30-year maintenance agreement for the LRT.

Mosaic has not disclosed how it has achieved financial close. However, Moody’s Investors Serviceannounced last month that it assigned a first-time Baa2 rating to two amortizing senior secured bondstotaling approximately CAD183 million (US$142.2 million) to be issued by the group to partially finance the project.

As Moody’s expects that the project will be completed largely on time or with minimal delays and when completed, will operate with minimal deductions to its availability payments, the rating outlook is stable.

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What is ‘incel’? Explaining the cryptic Facebook message allegedly left by Toronto attacker

Crime, News

If, as police believe, Alek Minassian posted the message himself, it means a deeply misogynistic internet community may have motivated his deadly drive

Mass killer Elliot Rodger, a martyr to the incel movement.YouTube via AP, file

 

A cryptic Facebook message posted moments before the suspect in Toronto’s van attack took to the streets has brought fresh attention to a strange underground subculture — the “incels.”

If, as police believe, Alek Minassian posted the message himself, it means a deeply misogynistic internet community may have motivated his deadly drive down Yonge Street, which left ten people dead and injured 14.

Police have said the victims are predominantly female, but don’t yet have enough evidence to say whether women were being targeted.

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What did Minassian write?

The post reads in full: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt. 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

Mass killer Elliot Rodger, a martyr to the incel movement. YouTube via AP, file

Facebook quickly removed Minassian’s account after the attack, and when an image of the post first showed up online there was widespread suspicion it was a hoax. But Facebook has confirmed the account was real, and Toronto police said on Tuesday they believe Minassian posted the message shortly before starting his attack.

The reference to “Private” Minassian apparently relates to two months the 25-year-old spent with the Canadian Forces last fall. He completed 16 days of “recruit” training — 00010 is a Canadian Forces code for the infantry, C23249161 could be a service number — before he decided to quit the army.

The rest of the message is made up of language used by the incel movement.

What is incel?

The phrase stands for “involuntarily celibate,” and is used by men who feel sexually rejected. The tone of their online discussions varies, sometimes there is mockery and sarcasm, but men who identify as “incels” generally express hatred towards women, accusing them of sexually manipulating or humiliating men. Some posts explicitly encourage attacks on women.

The incel subculture grew through message boards on dedicated websites as well as forums like 4chan, infamous for no-holds-barred discussions and the incubation of conspiracy-laden ideologies. The website Reddit also had a well-used incel forum, but it was shut down last fall after complaints regarding violent content.

Toronto police say they believe Alek Minassian posted this message shortly before starting his attack. Facebook has confirmed that it came from his account. Facebook

Who are Chad, Stacy, and Elliot Rodger?

Chad and Stacy are stand-ins for everyone incels hate or envy: Chads are physically attractive (but often intellectually dim) men who have success with women; Stacys are the women who reject incels in favour of Chads.

Elliot Rodger is the movement’s martyr. In 2014, the 22-year-old went on a shooting rampage outside a sorority house in Isla Vista, Calif., killing six people — two women and his three male roommates — and injuring 14.

Before the attack, Rodger had created a manifesto and a video outlining his”existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires.”

“It’s an injustice, a crime because I don’t know what you don’t see in me, I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman,” he said. “I will punish all of you for it.”

Rodgers killed himself at the end of his attack.

How have incels responded to Minassian’s Facebook message?

At least some incel forums have openly welcomed the news that Minassian seemed to be one of them, referring to him as a saint and writing posts like “one of us one of us one of us.”

“Those with an inclination to violence should keep these attacks coming, while those who prefer a more passive approach should continue to minimize their participation in society as much as possible,” read one post on a popular forum.

“They should be scared, this is what happens when you deny so many men love and affection for their entire lives,” read another post.

“This year is looking promising, fellas,” read one more.

• Email: bplatt@postmedia.com | Twitter: btaplatt

Toronto van attack suspect Alek Minassian’s interest in ‘incel’ movement the latest sign of troubled life

Crime, News, Terrorism

The story of Minassian’s ‘sad and confusing’ life comes fragmented from a cluster of people who knew him, but none who appear to have known him well

TORONTO — The distressing scope of criminal allegations against Alek Minassian were revealed in a packed Toronto courtroom — 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder — as glimpses of the man and a possible motive emerged after a rental van mowed through pedestrians along Toronto’s Yonge Street.

Just “minutes before” the van started its awful rampage along the sidewalks of one of Canada’s best known streets, deliberately striking pedestrians, Minassian posted a “cryptic message” on Facebook, said Toronto police Det.-Sgt. Graham Gibson.

The message says: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

Decoding the post suggests a spark for the deadly trek may have been frustration over an inability to attract female companionship. The majority of the victims struck by the van were women, adding to the potential importance of the post.

Toronto police are investigating whether Minassian’s mental health or an interest in the incel movement are related to the van attack.

At 25, Minassian, who lived with his parents and his brother in a detached two-storey home in suburban Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto, is variously described as a failed solider who dropped out of basic training, a socially awkward student in a special needs class in high school where he was known for acting like a cat, a long-standing college student, a computer whiz and app developer, video game enthusiast and a self-declared “incel.”

It is his apparent embrace of the incel movement that helps decipher his odd Facebook post, which Facebook has confirmed as a legitimate post from Minassian’s account that has since been taken down by the company.

An “incel” is a portmanteau of “involuntary celibate” and came into wide recognition in 2014 after Elliot Rodger, 22, killed six and injured 14 in Isla Vista, California, before killing himself. In a manifesto, he said he needed to punish women for rejecting him and sexually active men for their success where he failed.

Within the incel subculture, which typically veers towards deep misogyny, “Chads” refer to the sexually successful men and “Stacys” to unattainable women.

Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., man is shown in this image from his LinkedIn page. A man accused of driving a van into pedestrians along a stretch of a busy Toronto street has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder. Alek Minassian, of Richmond Hill, Ont., is also facing 13 counts of attempted murder. Handout via CP

As news of Minassian’s connection spread, some self-professed incels embraced it as a call to arms.

Some members of an incel-dedicated forum branded him “Saint Alek” and “St. Minassian.” Some suggested other ways to continue the attacks so the world of the sexually active would fear them.

“It is a good time to be an incel. Our brothers are launching their counter-attack, getting their revenge. Thank you,” one post reads. “They should be scared, this is what happens when you deny so many men love and affection for their entire lives,” said another.

“Well, he certainly got us noticed,” one member wrote. “It will be interesting to read about Alek’s story as more details about his life unfold. I’d love to know what exactly made him think he was an incel.”

A police officer walks past a van used in a deadly attack on pedestrians in Toronto on April 23, 2018. Craig Robertson/Postmedia Network

That story may one day become known, but for now, Minassian’s story comes fragmented from a cluster of people who knew him, but none who appear to have known him well.

Despite the violent language of some incels online, those who knew Minassian personally did not pin him as a violent character. Oddball, challenged, awkward, weird, infantilized, but not violent.

When Minassian was a student at Thornlea Secondary School​ in nearby Thornhill, Ont., he stood out for his unorthodox behaviour.

“I had classes with him. He was mentally unstable back then. He was known to meow like a cat and try to bite people; this is one sad and confusing story,” Alexander Alexandrovitch said of his former classmate in a Facebook post.

A photo of Alek Minassian from his Grade 9 yearbook.

Minassian was “never intentionally violent” in school, he added.

Reza Fakhteh said he overlapped with Minassian for two years at Thornlea. He described Minassian as a special education student who rarely socialized and had no obvious friends.

“I never heard him speak beyond meowing at people,” Fakhteh wrote in a Facebook message. “His movements were erratic and just strange overall. He acted like a cat in every way.”

Fakhteh said he was shocked to hear that Minassian was named as a suspect in this kind of attack.

“The guy I remember from high school definitely wouldn’t be driving,” he said.

A man believed to be the father of Alek Minassian is escorted by Toronto Police from the 1000 Finch Avenue West Court Tuesday April 23, after the first court appearance of Minassian, who has been charged with murder and attempted murder in the Yonge and Finch van attack yesterday. Peter J Thompson/National Post

Ari Blaff, another former classmate said he was “an odd guy.”

“He had several tics and would sometimes grab the top of his shirt and spit on it, meow in the hallways and say, ‘I am afraid of girls.’ It was like a mantra.” While Minassian did not express strong ideological views or harass women, he was isolated and others privately made fun of him, Blaff said.

While in high school, he was an avid videogamer. A defunct Steam account, a video game software platform, that appears to be Minassian’s says he is better at shooting games than strategy games. It says he loves the Halo series — a franchise of science fiction-based first-person shooter games — and adds the gamer names of three players who he says are his “real life friends.”

Provincial records show the house, now guarded by police, belongs to Vahe and Sona Minassian. They bought the property in 1998 for $330,000.

The home (centre) of alleged van attack suspect Alek Minassian in Richmond Hill on Tuesday April 24. Peter J Thompson/National Post

In a story published in the Richmond Hill Liberal in 2009, a woman named Sona Minassian praised a local program for special needs children. The story said her son, who isn’t named, lived “with a form of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome.” He used the program, called Helpmate, to earn experience in an office setting.

In 2011, after high school graduation, Minassian enrolled at Seneca College in Toronto. His computer skills were put to use.

He worked as a paid research assistant, roughly four years ago, on a joint project with the college and an external business partner to develop an application to deal with data produced by health and wellness devices similar to Fitbits.

A man believed to be the father of Alek Minassian is escorted by Toronto Police from the 1000 Finch Avenue West Court Tuesday April 23, after the first court appearance of Minassian, who has been charged with murder and attempted murder in the Yonge and Finch van attack yesterday. Peter J Thompson for the National Post

A staff member at Seneca who had a few encounters with Minassian several years ago said he seemed to struggle with social interaction.

“He could have sort of normal conversation, but you could tell it wasn’t his strength,” said the staff member, who did not wish to be named. “It’s completely surreal to realize you know someone who (allegedly) killed 10 people.”

Seneca President David Agnew acknowledged his school’s connection Minassian in an email to students and staff Tuesday afternoon, obtained by the National Post.

“The reports associating the driver with Seneca are extremely troubling,” Agnew wrote. “Yet it is vital that we do not let this terrible act undermine our determination to be the peaceful, tolerant and inclusive society that is admired around the globe. We must grieve, and we must heal, but we must also resolve to carry on.”

Police arrest Alek Minassian after a van fatally struck pedestrians in Toronto on Monday.FTV_Huazhang/Twitter

One of the victims was a student at Seneca. “Our thoughts are with all those affected, including the family and friends of one of our students who died as a result of the tragic incident. Along with the rest of the city, and world, we are extremely troubled by yesterday’s events,” a statement for the college says.

Minassian’s LinkedIn page lists him as enrolled at Seneca from 2011 to 2018. Asked whether seven years was a peculiar length of study, Seneca spokeswoman Kayla Lewis said she couldn’t confirm any student’s enrolment due to privacy concerns, but did offer that “there’s no one-size-fits-all with students and their educational journeys.”

Minassian also appears to have been an aspiring software developer. Someone with that name registered an online Toronto parking app on Google Play.

A police officer adjusts a tarp covering a body on the sidewalk along Yonge Street near Finch Avenue after a man drove a rental truck down the sidewalk and hit and killed multiple pedestrians in Toronto, Ontario, April 23, 2018. Tyler Anderson/NATIONAL POST

Recently, Minassian joined the Canadian Armed Forces. A Department of National Defence spokesperson said he joined the army on Aug. 23, 2017, started his basic training at the military facility at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., that September and left the military on Oct. 25.

He had not progressed to weapons training by the time he was released.

“He did not complete his recruit training and requested to be voluntarily released from the CAF after 16 days of recruit training,” a DND spokesperson said.

His brief stint in the military also may shed light on his cryptic Facebook post. He identified himself as “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010” — that would have been his rank as a newly recruited soldier and 00010 is the military’s designation for an infantryman.

Frederick Fosu@FredFosuTO

We are quick to condemn but slow to recognize them as when they risk their lives to save others.

The military’s job description for a 00010 Infantryman states: “Must close with and destroy the enemy. They come into direct contact with the enemy and hand-to-hand combat is likely.”

Neighbours said they did not know the family well but often saw them while out and about.

Elaha Jamal, who lives nearby, said it was as if the parents had to supervise Minassian and his brother constantly, and would not let them roam free, sometimes even holding his brother by the shirt at the scruff of the neck.

“They were not OK,” she said. “They were an older couple but they took care of these boys like they were babies.”

— With files from Richard Warnica, Joseph Brean and David Pugliese

Police officers stand by a covered body in Toronto after a van was driven into a crowd of pedestrians, killing at least 10, on April 23, 2018. Aaron Vincent Elkaim / AP