TORONTO (AP) – A police marksman shot and killed a man holding a woman passer-by at gunpoint in front of busy Union Station at the height of Wednesday’s morning rush hour, leaving the hostage shaken but unharmed and the normally bustling area eerily quiet.

The dramatic hostage-taking ended with a bullet to the gunman’s head as television cameras clearly captured every moment of the violent takedown and hundreds of horrified office workers looked on in disbelief.

“I was dumbfounded. I didn’t believe it,” said Susan Cormier, who works in a stockbrokers’ office.

The random hostage-taking, which brought traffic in a wide swath of the city’s downtown to a standstill, followed an 8 a.m. incident in which a man fired shots in the concourse of the TD Center highrise.

The man was firing at his estranged wife who was on her way to work, police said.

The shots sent terrified food-court patrons scuttling for cover.

The estranged wife was not badly hurt, received only a few stitches to the head, and was being kept in hospital for observation, police said.

Minutes after the gunfire was reported to police, an officer spotted the wanted man walking from the scene.

“He confronted the individual and immediately upon doing that, the suspect ran,” said Police Chief Julian Fantino.

The 45-year-old suspect from the bedroom community of Ajax just east of the city then grabbed a woman on the sidewalk just outside the hectic train station.

Heavily armed tactical police officers surrounded the scene and spent about 40 minutes trying to negotiate with the man before a marksman fired a single shot, killing the Manitoba

Paul Martin lowers expectations for medicare deal

OTTAWA (AP) – Paul Martin is downplaying hopes of a medicare-reform deal with the provinces this summer and conceded Wednesday he may need several meetings with the premiers to get it done.

The prime minister admitted he might not have his much-vaunted $9-billion-plus health care “fix for a generation” in place by the end of a scheduled Sept. 13-14 meeting with the premiers.

“What I have said is this may be done in one meeting, it may be done in a series of meetings,” Martin said after a gathering of his Liberal caucus.

“Let’s find out how many meetings it’s going to take. I would hope that we’ll make a lot of progress at this first meeting.”

“But our goal is to fix health care for a generation and it continues to be our goal.”

The comments are a clampdown from the bold predictions Martin made before and during the June federal election campaign.

Winnipeg police launch john-cam program to curb prostitution

WINNIPEG (AP) – Winnipeg police have a new weapon in their fight against prostitution – a john-cam that captures video footage of hookers getting into cars that is later posted on a public web site.

Faces and license plates will be blurred and a disclaimer on the site states not everyone who appears is a sex-trade worker or customer.

But police said Wednesday they’re confident Operation Snapshot, a pilot project believed to be the first of its kind in Canada, will help discourage the kind of steady traffic that is frustrating residents and business operators in some west and north neighborhoods.

“Our experience was that if the johns or people who fuel the sex trade realized they weren’t anonymous, that people were watching what they were doing, that they didn’t want that,” said Patrol Sgt. Kelly Dennison of the morals unit.

“This is kind of a back-lane, behind somebody’s house or fence kind of thing.”

But the web site immediately drew criticism from Manitoba’s privacy commissioner.

Barry Tuckett questioned whether cameras are justifiable, reasonable and effective when measured against the intrusion of privacy.

Pressure mounting to end strike by Aliant Inc. employees

HALIFAX (AP) – Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm has joined a growing chorus of politicians calling for a resolution to the long-running strike at Atlantic Canada’s largest telephone company.

However, more than political rhetoric will be needed to end the four-month-old dispute involving 4,300 workers at Aliant Inc., an analyst warned Wednesday.

Hamm has written to federal Labor Minister Joseph Fontana, urging him to try to resolve the dispute, said Rob Batherson, a spokesman for the premier.

The letter encourages federal officials to “step up and use their power to bring the parties together and reach a settlement that’s fair,” Batherson said.

The letter from Hamm echoed similar remarks from Prince Edward Island Labor Minister Elmer MacFadyen.

MacFadyen said Wednesday it’s been too long since there has been any progress in talks between the unions and the federally regulated company.

MacFadyen said the strike has cost the economy of his small province an estimated $5 million since it began April 23, as operators, technicians and clerical workers struggle to get by on $250 a week in strike pay.

Both MacFadyen and Newfoundland Labor Minister Joan Burke said they have discussed the issue with Fontana.

Eamon Hoey, a senior partner with a Toronto-based consulting firm for telecommunications management, said the heads of companies across the country are becoming more and more frustrated by government interference and what they see as rules for business that favor unions.

Aliant, a subsidiary of Bell Canada, and its unions are currently trying to hammer out the company’s first collective agreement since the region’s provincial telephone utilities merged in 1999.

Air India Crown witness’s testimony takes heat

VANCOUVER (AP) – The credibility of a star Crown witness continued to weather blows as the defense team for an accused Air India bomber began winding down its case Wednesday.

Gurmit Singh, owner of a New Jersey diner, told the court his longtime friend and star Crown witness drinks too much.

And he said the FBI informant, who can only be identified as John, never mentioned Ajaib Singh Bagri’s alleged confession to the June 23, 1985 terrorist attacks that began with loading two bomb-laden suitcases onto planes in Vancouver, and ended with 331 people dead.

Singh is the latest defense witness brought in from the United States to try and discredit John, who testified a smiling Bagri confessed to the bombings in the weeks following the attacks.

Singh’s testimony Wednesday matched another of John’s former roommates who said he was never told about the confession.

John had testified he went home to a New York apartment he shared with several young Sikh men and told them about it.

Last week, the Crown accused several defense witnesses of conspiring to lie and discredit John in order to protect Bagri.

One defense witness testified John made up Bagri’s alleged confession under FBI pressure. Another said John never told him about Bagri’s alleged confession, contrary to what John told court. However, under cross-examination, both contradicted their earlier testimony, even saying they could not remember details of things they said in court days before.

AP-ES-08-25-04 1846EDT

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