The National Today

Toronto struggles with tragedy in wake of attack

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

People lay candles and leave messages Monday night at a memorial for victims of the attack on pedestrians at Yonge St. near Finch Ave. in Toronto. (Cole Burston/Getty Images)

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TODAY:

  • In wake of tragic van attack on pedestrians, Toronto is learning something New York, London, Paris and even tiny Humboldt, Sask., already know
  • The National Rifle Association has seen a dramatic spike in its fundraising take since the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre, even as calls for gun control intensify across the U.S.
  • Netflix is now worth more than CBS, McDonald's and General Electric, and it's not that far behind Disney
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here


Toronto's tragic moment

As in much of the country, spring was slow to come in Toronto.

It was only this past weekend that temperatures finally climbed into double digits, ending the tyranny of hats, gloves and heavy winter coats. People spilled into the streets, liberated by the warm sunshine.

Monday was the nicest day yet. Sweet and bright; the kind of afternoon that invites lazy lunches, a cup of coffee at the neighbourhood cafe, or simply a stroll down the sidewalk.

People gather at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. in Toronto Monday after the attack on pedestrians. (Jon Tam)
The portion of Yonge Street up above Highway 401 isn't the most pedestrian-friendly part of the city. It boasts the six lanes of traffic and extra-long blocks of a former suburb.

But 20 years of growth and densification has seen a canyon of condos and office towers sprout up where there used to be bungalows, low-rise plazas and fields. Tens of thousands have moved into the busy neighbourhood, including so many young families that the overburdened local schools have closed their doors to new students.

We may never know why a man selected that stretch of road for murder and mayhem. But his white rental van found plenty of targets in the almost three kilometres between Finch and Sheppard Avenues.

The attack left 10 people dead, and injured 15 — many of them severely.  

A court sketch of Alek Minassian's appearance Tuesday morning in Toronto. (Pam Davies/CBC)
Toronto hasn't yet fully absorbed the tragedy.

Some of that might be the geography of a big metropolis. Or the fact that someone is in custody. And the peculiar sense of relief that comes from suggestions that such an unspeakable act was driven by one type of hatred versus another.

Either way, city life barely skipped a beat in the immediate aftermath. The streets were clogged and subways packed per usual, and the hockey game went on.

Maple Leafs players and fans at the Air Canada Centre Monday night observe a moment of silence for the victims of the deadly attack in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
But now an all-too-familiar and painful rhythm will take over. First with the names and faces of the dead, and the terrible knowledge of the families and friends they leave behind. Then the funerals and mourning.

The sidewalk memorials are already growing. Hashtags and slogans will speak of resilience and recovery. There will be t-shirts, bake sales and acts of remembrance both large and small.

Farzad Salehi consoles his wife Mehrsa Marjani, who witnessed the aftermath when a van hit pedestrians on Yonge Street in Toronto on Monday. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)
Toronto is learning a lesson that New York, London and Paris — and even tiny Humboldt, Sask. — already know: A community isn't defined by its tragedies, but rather by how it reacts to them.

People leave flowers and write condolences on a memorial to the victims near the site of the attack on pedestrians in Toronto. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

Quote of the moment

"This unfathomable loss of life has left our city in mourning. While we do not yet know the identities of all those who lost their lives, we can be sure that they were people who were loved, who had dreams and families, who had accomplished many things and would have done so much more."

- Toronto Mayor John Tory, addressing city council this morning.

Toronto mayor John Tory speaks Tuesday during a special sitting to reflect on the victims on Monday's van attack in Toronto. (CBC News)

Is NRA winning gun-control battle?

The National Rifle Association has seen a dramatic spike in its fundraising take since the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre, even as calls for gun control intensify across the United States.

The firearms lobby group's Political Victory Fund logged $2.4 million US in donations in the month of March, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Armed gun rights activists counter-protest during a gun-control rally outside the headquarters of National Rifle Association on July 14, 2017, in Fairfax, Va. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
That's the most that the NRA has taken in during a single month since at least June 2003, the start of the electronic filings. And $1.5 million more than the fund raised over the same period in 2017.

Almost 80 per cent of the money — $1.9 million — came in the form of small donations of $200 or less.

The Victory Fund is the NRA's official political action committee. It's the arm that ranks legislators and candidates by their pro-gun credentials, and allocates money to their campaigns. Most of the gun lobby's expenditures — like the $54 million it spent boosting Republicans during the 2016 campaign — fall outside of election spending scrutiny.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on April 28, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters )
There can be little question that the increase in donations is directly related to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff. As survivors have waged their highly visible anti-gun campaign, including the massive March for Our Lives protests on March 24, the NRA has not been shy about counter-fundraising on the rage and sorrow.

"Punishing law-abiding gun owners is NOT the answer," the fund's splash page proclaims. Gun control advocates "are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment," reads a linked social media post.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Delaney Tarr speaks at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., on March 24. Galvanized by the Florida high school shooting, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in cities across the United States in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. (AFP/Getty Images)
The Parkland students have more than kept pace, with a GoFundME page for the protest marches having raised $3.5 million, in addition to several million more pledged by celebrities.

Although other gun control groups haven't been as successful, with the political action committee of Everytown for Gun Safe Safety raising just $13,580 in March.

It's hard to tell if momentum is shifting by simply reading the dollars.

A national poll by Quinnipiac University in mid-February showed 50 per cent support among gun owners for tougher laws, seven percentage points more than in December. But the same poll found that 97 per cent of respondents endorsed stricter background checks for firearm purchases.

Elementary school students stand with others gathered on the steps of the Capitol building in Charleston, West Va., on March 24 as part of the March For Our Lives rally. (Craig Hudson/Associated Press)
Still, with 52 per cent of Americans now saying that gun control should be the "top-priority" of Congress, the proof might come in next fall's midterm elections.

The Republican National Committee had a record-breaking February, raising $12.8 million, versus the $7 million taken in by the Democrats.

But a race-by-race analysis paints a different picture. By CNN's count, 40 Republican incumbents are now being out-raised by their Democratic challengers — compared to just two sitting Democrats trailing Republicans.


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Netflix market valuation soars

One year ago, Netflix was a $61 billion US company. As of the close of trading yesterday, its market value stood at $138.5 billion — even after a tough day where it shed more than $9 a share.  

To put it in perspective, Netflix is now worth more than CBS, McDonald's, or even General Electric. And it's not that far behind Disney's market cap of $150.4 billion.

Netflix has more than 125 million paying customers worldwide. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Netflix's share value has increased more than 1,000 per cent in five years, cresting $300 in early March and closing at $318.68 yesterday.

Investors have long been giddy about the video-on-demand service, which added 26 million subscribers in 2017 and now boasts more than 125 million paying customers worldwide, bringing in $11.7 billion in revenue. (This despite warnings from analysts that its bubble is sure to burst.)

This year Netflix will invest a record $8 billion in content, producing 700 original titles, including 80 full-length feature films — about four times as many as most Hollywood studios.

The cast of the Netflix series 'Stranger Things' at the season two premier in October 2017, from left to right: Noah Schnapp, Gaten Matarazzo, Millie Bobby Brown, Sadie Sink, Caleb McLaughlin, and Finn Wolfhard. This year Netflix will invest a record $8 billion in content, producing 700 original titles, including 80 full-length feature films. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Yesterday, the company unveiled how it plans to help pay those bills — by selling $1.9 billion worth of junk bonds, almost half a billion more than it had previously disclosed. That's in addition to the $1.6 billion in debt that Netflix raised last fall.

The streaming service reported that it had $6.5 billion in long-term debt at the end of the last quarter, and expects to have "negative cash flow" — spending $3 billion more than it earns, according to some estimates — through the end of this year.

The company also disclosed what it's paying its CEO, Reed Hastings: $24.4 million in salary and stock options in 2017. As of April 9, the 57-year-old company co-founder owned 10.76 million Netflix shares, worth a little over $3.4 billion.

Netflix reported that it had $6.5 billion US in long-term debt at the end of the last quarter, and plans to issue another $1.9 billion worth of junk bonds. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)
That's a lot of cash for a guy who claims he has no hobbies, beyond his many pets, which include a few chickens and a couple of Nigerian dwarf goats. Although Reed does take six weeks of vacation a year, and owns two aircraft that he leases back to the company.

And to hear him tell it, he doesn't do much.

"I pride myself on making as few decisions as possible in a quarter," Reed told a B.C. audience last week. "Sometimes I can go a whole quarter without making any decisions."

CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings took home $24.4 million US in salary and stock options in 2017 for 'making as few decisions as possible in a quarter.' (Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images for Netflix)
That's part of the core philosophy that Netflix established back in 1997 when it debuted as a DVD sales and rental service; to give its employees maximum leeway to make choices on behalf of the company.

"I find out about big decisions that have been made all the time and I had never even heard about it — which is great!" Reed said in his Vancouver appearance. "And mostly they go well."

People were too polite to mention Iron Fist.


What The National is reading

  • Desperate Canadian oil producers turn to transport trucks to ship crude (Financial Post)
  • 'Where's my stuff?': Sunwing passengers waiting 10 days for their luggage (CBC)
  • China tests 'invisibility cloaks' for fighter jets (South China Morning Post)
  • Mummified body of ex-Shah of Iran found at Tehran construction site (Telegraph)
  • There's a global shortage of exorcists (Quartz)
  • Amazon will deliver packages to the trunk of your car (NY Times)
  • Australian boy runs away to Bali - on his parents' credit card (BBC)
  • French plumber seeks to prove he is Hitler's grandson via DNA (Daily Mirror)

Today in history

April 24, 1965: When will we make it to Mars?

It depends how you define "we." Mariner 4, the subject of this CBC Newsmagazine report, was the first probe to successfully fly by the Red planet. It sent home 21 pictures, the first images of another world ever snapped in deep space. In the 53 years since, nearly 40 other spacecraft have been sent towards Mars, but we're still waiting for a human to make the trip. NASA's current goal is to land an astronaut there in the 2030s. (Read The National's feature on the difficulties of getting a crew to Mars).

As the space probe Mariner 4 heads towards Mars, CBC Newsmagazine visits California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to explore the possibility of humans reaching the red planet. 20:19

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.