January 18th, 2017

The Wednesday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories


By The Canadian Press on January 11, 2017.

Jane Fonda speaks as Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam looks on during a press conference in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday, January 11, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Highlights from the news file for Wednesday, Jan. 11

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FONDA, CHIEFS SAY TRUDEAU BETRAYED HOPES FOR CLIMATE ACTION: Hollywood icon Jane Fonda is joining with Canadian aboriginal leaders to say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent approval of two oilsands pipelines is a betrayal of his promises to move on climate change. Fonda told a news conference in Edmonton that the message of Trudeau’s first year is that you shouldn’t be fooled by good-looking Liberals. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs says the approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Enbridge’s Line 3 left him bitterly disappointed. Fonda toured the oilsands in northern Alberta on Tuesday to support indigenous leaders in their opposition to pipelines.

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CANADA REBUFFS KREMLIN OVERTURES ON FREELAND BAN: Canada is rebuffing the Kremlin’s thinly veiled overtures that it might be willing to lift a travel ban on new Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland if it eases sanctions on Russia. Joseph Pickerill, Freeland’s spokesman, says Canada won’t be playing any games of “quid pro quo” on the subject. The Russian news agency Sputnik is reporting that the country wanted to improve relations with Canada and end the “sanctions war” between the two countries. Freeland is among a dozen Canadians placed on a Russian sanctions list in 2014 as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tit-for-tat response to Western sanctions following Russian-backed military incursions into Crimea. Freeland, a former journalist based in Moscow, has called Putin an authoritarian, an autocrat and “really dangerous.”

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B.C. GRANTS TRANS MOUNTAIN PIPELINE ENVIRONMENTAL APPROVAL: British Columbia has granted environmental approval to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The decision checks off another of the five conditions that Premier Christy Clark placed on the pipeline’s approval. The federal government gave its approval for Kinder Morgan Canada’s $6.8-billion expansion of the pipeline late last year after the National Energy Board recommended it go ahead if 157 conditions are met.

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CARBON PRICING GETS MIXED RESPONSE IN SURVEY: Focus groups conducted last summer and fall for the federal government suggest the Liberals’ marquee carbon pricing policy is poorly understood and generates contradictory reactions. The survey found a mistaken belief that some form of carbon taxation currently exists across all of Canada and found “low awareness” of what carbon pricing actually means. “Climate change, renewable energy, water and air pollution and recycling were top-of-mind environmental considerations, although awareness and knowledge of related terms were moderate at best,” says the report by Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates, which interviewed 20 groups of eight to 10 people in nine cities. The work was part of a wider, $112,509 survey commissioned by the Privy Council Office to assess “views on current issues,” including innovation policy, the environment and culture and heritage. It was delivered to the government Nov. 4.

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TRUMP DENOUNCES REPORTS OF RUSSIAN TIES TO HIM: A defiant President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday adamantly denied reports that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him, calling it a “tremendous blot” on the record of the intelligence community if material with any such allegations had been released. The incoming president, in his first news conference since late July, firmly chided news organizations for publishing the material late Tuesday night. After weeks of scoffing at reports that Russians had interfered in the election, he conceded publicly for the first time that Russia was likely responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said and quickly added that the United States is hacked by other countries as well, including China.

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CHIEF SAYS ACTION NEEDED ON INDIGENOUS SUICIDE: Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler is calling for a national suicide strategy following the deaths of two 12-year-old girls from a remote First Nation in northern Ontario. Wapekeka First Nation, a tiny community of about 360 people, is located 600 kilometres due north of Thunder Bay. Fiddler, whose organization represents 49 Ontario First Nation communities, wants to see the federal government and the province develop an emergency plan to address community concerns. He made the same call last January, recommending a special response team to address grave suicide concerns in other remote indigenous communities, such as Attawapiskat First Nation. Fiddler says other young people are being flown out of the community due to concerns about their mental health. Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has yet to issue any public comments about the suicides in Wapekeka.

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NO ANSWERS FOR DESMOND TRAGEDY, FUNERAL HEARS: Some mourners wailed in agony as the flag-draped casket of a former Canadian soldier was carried into a 200-year-old Nova in Tracadie, N.S., Wednesday for the funeral of Lionel Desmond and his mother. Desmond fatally shot his mother Brenda, his wife Shanna and their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah last week, before killing himself in the family home in rural Upper Big Tracadie. Rev. John Barry told about 300 mourners at the service for Desmond and his mother in Tracadie that it was impossible to offer an explanation for such a horrific tragedy. Family members have said Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour in Afghanistan in 2007. The funeral for his wife and daughter is set for tomorrow afternoon at a hall across the street from the church.

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MAN JAILED IN SWIMMER’S HIT AND RUN GETS BAIL IN SEPARATE CASE: A man convicted of leaving the scene in the 1989 hit-and-run death of Canadian swimming champion Victor Davis was granted bail Wednesday on a manslaughter charge in a separate case. Glen Crossley, 46, is charged in the death last September of Albert Arsenault, who, according to his family, fell down a set of stairs in a Montreal bar after being pushed. Arsenault, 70, suffered a head fracture and heart failure. Crossley had to post $10,000 bail and must abide by several conditions, including respecting a curfew, refraining from consuming drugs or alcohol and not frequenting bars or restaurants except to eat. He is also prohibited from contacting some 10 people who may be called as witnesses if the case goes to trial. Proceedings resume March 30.

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EX-MOUNTIE LOSES PERJURY APPEAL IN TASER INQUIRY: A former Mountie convicted of perjury in relation to the death of a Polish man at Vancouver’s airport in 2007 has lost his appeal. In a two-to-one decision, a panel of Appeal Court judges in British Columbia upheld a lower court’s decision that found Benjamin (Monty) Robinson lied during a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Robert Dziekanski. “The judge’s findings cannot in my view be said to have been unreasonable,” Justice Mary Newbury wrote for the majority. Robinson was the senior of four officers called to the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, after Dziekanski, who did not speak English and had arrived almost 10 hours earlier, began throwing furniture in the arrivals terminal. Officers used a stun gun repeatedly on Dziekanski and he was later pronounced dead at the scene.

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TORONTO TO DOMINATE HIGH-END HOME SALES, SOTHEBY’S SAYS: Toronto is poised to lead the country in high-end home sales for the third consecutive year in 2017, according to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. The realtor released a report Wednesday that looked at sales of homes for more than $1 million in Toronto and three other cities – Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver. It concluded that 19,692 such properties were sold last year in the Greater Toronto Area – an increase of 77 per cent compared to 2015. Sales of luxury homes – those worth more than $4 million – in the GTA rose 95 per cent year-over-year to 290 homes. There is a confluence of factors responsible for the red-hot growth in Toronto’s top-tier real estate market, said Brad Henderson, president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. Among them are low interest rates, strong employment and consumer confidence, and a limited supply of properties for sale, particularly in the single-family home segment.

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CALGARY BOARD SEES HOUSING MARKET STABILIZING: The Calgary Real Estate Board says the city’s housing market is expected to stabilize, with some prices forecast to rise this year. In its 2017 forecast, the board says benchmark detached house prices are projected to climb by 0.8 per cent in 2017 after falling 4.7 per cent since oil prices began falling in 2014. Benchmark condo prices are expected to fall another two per cent this year, though that comes after falling 11.3 per cent since the economic downturn began. For all types of homes, sales volume is expected to climb three per cent from last year to 18,335 properties sold – though that remains off long-term averages. Still, board chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie says high unemployment, rising mortgage rates, low net migration, and a slow recovery in the energy sector are expected to continue to weigh on the housing sector. She emphasized that any recovery will be slow, with some ongoing risk as uncertainty in the economy continues.

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