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Month: April 2019 Page 4 of 12

The Pollcast: What went down at the Alberta leaders debate

The Pollcast: What went down at the Alberta leaders debate


In 2015, a comment about the challenges of arithmetic during that year’s leaders debate helped propel Rachel Notley into the Alberta premier’s office. The trends were already starting to head in the NDP’s direction when the late Jim Prentice made the remark, but it was still a turning point in what turned out to be a historic election.

Trailing the United Conservatives’ Jason Kenney in the polls, Notley needed Thursday’s debate to be another turning point.

This debate lacked the kind of memorable moment we saw in 2015, but sometimes the impact of a debate can only be seen with the benefit of hindsight. There isn’t much time left for the polling trend line to move — Albertans go to the polls on Apr. 16.

To break down the debate and discuss how this campaign has played out so far, Pollcast host Éric Grenier is joined by Kim Trynacity, the CBC’s provincial affairs reporter in Alberta.

As voting day nears in Alberta, the CBC’s Kim Trynacity joins Éric Grenier to break down Thursday’s leaders debate, talk about how the players performed and who stood out. 18:58

Listen to the full discussion above — or subscribe to the CBC Pollcast and listen to past episodes of the show.



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Wilson-Raybould denies trying to hamstring Lametti on SNC-Lavalin file

Wilson-Raybould denies trying to hamstring Lametti on SNC-Lavalin file


Jody Wilson-Raybould says she never tried to meddle in the SNC-Lavalin file after she was shuffled out of the attorney general’s job.

In an interview with CBC Radio Vancouver’s The Early Edition, Wilson-Raybould denied reports that she demanded that her successor, David Lametti, be directed not to override an independent prosecutor’s decision to make SNC-Lavalin face a criminal trial.

The Vancouver Granville MP insisted she has always been clear on the independent role and authority of the attorney general, and flatly denied trying to bind Lametti on her decision not to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

 “I would absolutely never do that,” she told host Stephen Quinn.

Sources have told CBC News that Wilson-Raybould made at least five demands in order to resolve the bitter SNC-Lavalin dispute, including that three top government officials be fired. Sources also said she wanted a formal apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his assurance that his new attorney general would not overturn her decision not to offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA).

“There were a number of discussions. What I will say about those conditions that were reported, one of them was around whether or not the current attorney general would issue a DPA and I have to say unequivocally that I would never interfere with the independence of the attorney general,” Wilson-Raybould said.

Wilson-Raybould has testified that she faced inappropriate, intense political pressure and veiled threats to persuade her to overrule the decision by Kathleen Roussel, director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, and offer the Montreal-based engineering and construction firm a DPA.

CBC News reached out to Wilson-Raybould Wednesday night about the list of demands, but she declined to comment.

Contradictory version of events

In an email to CBC News Thursday night, she said, “I have never and would never seek to interfere with the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the attorney general of Canada.”

After Wilson-Raybould issued that statement, CBC news re-contacted the sources for this story. One said Wilson-Raybould raised the demand that the DPP’s decision on SNC-Lavalin be respected directly with Trudeau during their conversations in Vancouver before she resigned from cabinet.

But, the source said, that condition was not part of the conversations in the recent days leading up to Tuesday’s expulsion from caucus, as the demands Wilson-Raybould wanted met evolved and changed throughout the weeks of discussions.

Liberal MP Adam Vaughan said he was “confused” by that condition because it flies in the face of her claim that the attorney general should always be independent of political direction.

“I dont understand how you can say you should never interfere with an attorney general’s decision, and yet she wanted to effectively handcuff the new attorney general,” he said Thursday. “Either you believe in that principle, and I respect her for believing in it, or you don’t.”

Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus this week, explaining that trust had been irreparably broken with the former cabinet ministers.

Philpott told CBC Radio’s The Current on Thursday the controversy that has dogged the government for months could have been contained much earlier with an apology from the prime minister for alleged political interference in a criminal trial — and a promise that it wouldn’t happen again.

Apology would have ‘gone a long way’

Wilson-Raybould echoed that today, saying an apology to Canadians would have gone a long way.

“I had hoped all along that the prime minister would have accepted some responsibility for wrongdoing in the case and essentially apologize to Canadians,” she told The Early Edition.

In the interview, Wilson-Raybould said she had no regrets about anything she had done, including the secret taping of a Dec. 19 conversation she had with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.

She also acknowledged that her actions have caused damage to the Liberal Party and how that could have helped lead to a Conservative government being elected in the fall, which may not be good for advancing Indigenous rights.

“I think that is a worry. I think that we need to have an approach to resolving and recognizing Indigenous rights that can’t be confined to one political party, can’t be confined to the government party, the Conservative Party, the NDP and other parties,” she said. 

Wilson-Raybould said she still shares the Liberal values of equality and inclusion in policy-making. She’s now reflecting on her political future and will speak with family, volunteers and constituents and said she remains “incredibly open” to a continued role in federal politics.

“I think I still have an important voice,” she said.

Read more and listen to the full interview with the CBC’s Stephen Quinn.



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Beyonce signs deal with Adidas for 'partnership of a lifetime'

Beyonce signs deal with Adidas for ‘partnership of a lifetime’


Beyonce has announced a new collaboration: a creative partnership with Adidas.

The pop star on Thursday says she will develop new footwear and apparel for the brand. Beyonce is also planning to re-launch her activewear clothing line, Ivy Park, with Adidas.

The Grammy-winning superstar says in a statement that she and the company “share a philosophy that puts creativity, growth and social responsibility at the forefront of business.”

She also calls the collaboration “the partnership of a lifetime for me.”



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Trudeau-appointed Independent senator wants to probe issues in SNC-Lavalin affair

Trudeau-appointed Independent senator wants to probe issues in SNC-Lavalin affair


As the Commons committee studying the SNC-Lavalin affair seems to have been put on ice, the Senate is wrestling with whether it should launch its own inquiry on the matter.

But there is a battle brewing between Independent and Conservative senators on what exactly the scope should be for such a study, nearly two months after allegations of inappropriate pressure first surfaced.

While a Conservative motion proposes calling former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee, a new Independent plan for a special committee proposes the focus should now shift to the wider issue of prosecutorial independence and bifurcation of the attorney general and justice minister roles.

Independent Quebec Sen. André Pratte, appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said there may not be much more to learn from Wilson-Raybould after her extended committee appearance and the release of documents and a recording. But, the Senate “should not sit on the sidelines while fundamental questions on the administration of justice in this country are being asked,” he said.

The focus, rather, should be how to protect the government’s top lawyer from political pressures in the future, Pratte said.

He is proposing a committee be quickly constituted so that it can meet and study the issue and then report back to the Senate by no later than June 1 — a very tight timeline.

‘A different, more neutral, senatorial approach’

“The [Conservative] hope is obviously to continue to embarrass the government,” Pratte said.

“On the other hand, the government’s aim is to put an end to the controversy. Our objective, as an independent Senate, should be neither to prolong nor to stifle the scandal but to provide a thorough review of the facts … we should suggest a way forward — a different, more neutral, senatorial approach.”

The former La Presse journalist-turned-senator said “the facts are now out in the open,” and thus the special committee he is prepared to launch should not be tasked with investigating what happened in this SNC-Lavalin matter alone.

“Rather, it should reflect on what it all means and what lessons we should learn from what happened. Was the pressure put on the attorney general inappropriate or not? What principles can we use to reach a conclusion? In future, is it possible to pinpoint the rare circumstances in which the attorney general can intervene with the Public Prosecution Service?”

Pratte said deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs), also known as remediation agreements, the legal tool at the heart of this matter, should also be studied by the proposed Senate committee.

Pratte’s proposal faced criticism from the Conservative opposition.

“Middle ground? More like a farce. The Trudeau Senators have dined out for 3 years on putting on a big show. This is no different. This is a smoke screen by the [Independent Senators Group] just like the one by [the Prime Minister’s Office],” Conservative Quebec Sen. Leo Housakos tweeted.

“This is again another example of the games that are being played in this chamber in order to circle the wagons, to defend the prime minister who has done something the Canadian public and the press for weeks have been calling upon him to respond to clearly and unequivocally,” Housakos said in the chamber on Thursday.

The Conservative opposition in the upper house, led by leader Larry Smith, has sought to supplement the Commons justice inquiry with a wide-reaching investigation of their own at the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee.

Smith’s motion featured a long list of potential witnesses, including the prime minister himself, but also Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, and eight others.

That plan has faced head-winds from some Trudeau-appointed Independent senators and the government’s representative in the upper house, Peter Harder, who say such an inquiry would be consumed by partisanship and that such a study is best placed for a Commons committee composed of elected parliamentarians. Tories say such opposition is equally partisan in that it shields the government from further scrutiny.

But Smith withdrew his motion Thursday in favour of another Tory proposal, from Conservative Sen. Don Plett, the party’s whip. That motion suggests calling Wilson-Raybould alone as a witness, a potentially more workable plan with only eight weeks left of Parliament before it rises for the summer recess.

Pratte sought to head off government opposition to his committee proposal — or the suggestion that this Senate body would simply duplicate the study by former Liberal justice minister Anne McClellan — by saying the other work underway on this issue is to be conducted largely in secret.

“Ms. McLellan is not Parliament. Her advice to the prime minister will undoubtedly be very valuable, but many heads are better than one. Moreover, she will not do her work in public as a Senate committee would do, thereby educating both the public and parliamentarians on these complex issues,” Pratte said.



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Australia could jail social media execs for streaming acts like New Zealand massacre

Australia could jail social media execs for streaming acts like New Zealand massacre


Australia’s Parliament passed legislation on Thursday that could imprison social media executives if their platforms stream real violence such as the New Zealand mosque shootings.

Critics warn that some of the most restrictive laws about online communication in the democratic world could have unforeseen consequences, including media censorship and reduced investment in Australia.

The Liberal government introduced the bills in response to the March 15 attacks in Christchurch in which an Australian white supremacist apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live on Facebook as he shot worshippers in the two mosques.

Australia’s government rushed the legislation through the last two days that Parliament sits before elections are expected in May, dispensing with the usual procedure of a committee scrutinizing its content first.

“Together we must act to ensure that perpetrators and their accomplices cannot leverage online platforms for the purpose of spreading their violent and extreme propaganda — these platforms should not be weaponized for evil,” Attorney General Christian Porter told Parliament while introducing the bill.

The opposition’s spokesperson on the attorney general portfolio, Mark Dreyfus, committed his centre-left Labor Party to support the bill despite misgivings. If Labor wins the election, the law would be reviewed by a parliamentary committee.

The law has made it a crime for social media platforms not to remove “abhorrent violent material” quickly. The crime would be punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of $10.5 million Australian (around $10 million Cdn), or 10 per cent of the platform’s annual turnover — whichever is larger.

Abhorrent violent material is defined as acts of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, torture, rape and kidnapping. The material must be recorded by the perpetrator or an accomplice for the law to apply. Platforms anywhere in the world would face fines of up to $840,000 Australian (around $799,000 Cdn) if they fail to notify Australian Federal Police if they are aware their service was streaming “abhorrent violent conduct” occurring in Australia.

‘Clumsy and flawed’

Dreyfus described the bill as “clumsy and flawed,” and the timetable to pass it as “ridiculous.” Labor first saw the legislation late Monday.

Australia’s Attorney General Christian Porter, left, and Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield, speaking in Canberra Wednesday about the new legislation. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via Associated Press)

The bill could potentially undermine Australia’s security co-operation with the United States by requiring U.S. internet providers to share content data with Australian Federal Police, in breach of U.S. law, Dreyfus said.

The Digital Industry Group Inc. — an association representing the digital industry in Australia, including Facebook, Google and Twitter — said taking down abhorrent content was a “highly complex problem” that required consultation with a range of experts, which the government had not done.

“This law, which was conceived and passed in five days without any meaningful consultation, does nothing to address hate speech, which was the fundamental motivation for the tragic Christchurch terrorist attacks,” the group’s managing director Sunita Bose said in a statement.

“This creates a strict internet intermediary liability regime that is out of step with the notice-and-takedown regimes in Europe and the United States, and is therefore bad for internet users as it encourages companies to proactively surveil the vast volumes of user-generated content being uploaded at any given minute,” Bose added.

Censorship risk

Arthur Moses, president of the Australian Law Council, the nation’s top lawyers group, said the law could lead to media censorship and prevent whistleblowers from using social media to shine a light on atrocities because of social media companies’ fear of prosecution.

“Media freedom and whistleblowing of atrocities here and overseas have been put at risk by the ill-informed live stream laws passed by the federal Parliament,” Moses said.

The penalties would be “bad for certainty and bad for business,” which could scare off online business investment in Australia, Moses said.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox, a leading business advocate, said more time was required to ensure the law did not unnecessarily impinge on existing fundamental media rights and freedoms.

Scott Farquhar, co-founder of the Sydney-based software company Atlassian, predicted job losses in the technology industry.

“As of today, any person working at any company [globally] that allows users to upload videos or images could go to jail,” Farquhar tweeted. “Guilty until proven innocent.”

Fergus Hanson, head of the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, saw problems in the legislation’s definitions, including how much time a company had to “expeditiously” remove offensive material.

Facebook live streamed the Christchurch massacre for 17 minutes without interruption before reacting. Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos of the shootings during the first 24 hours afterward.

It was allegedly filmed by Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, the suspected gunman who faces 50 charges of murder and 39 charges of attempted murder and is scheduled to appear in court Friday.

A still image taken from video circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, shows him retrieving weapons from the boot of his car in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019. (Twitter via Reuters)

Executives of Facebook, Google, Twitter, internet service providers and Australian phone companies met Prime Minister Scott Morrison and three ministers last week to discuss social media regulation. Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said Facebook “did not present any immediate solutions to the issues arising out of the horror that occurred in Christchurch.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. CEO Mark Zuckerberg used an op-ed in the Washington Post last week to invite a more active role by governments and regulators to deal with harmful online content.

“The rules governing the internet allowed a generation of entrepreneurs to build services that changed the world and created a lot of value in people’s lives,” Zuckerberg wrote. “It’s time to update these rules to define clear responsibilities for people, companies and governments going forward.”

Morrison wants to take the Australian law to a Group of 20 countries forum as a model for holding social media companies to account.

New Zealand’s Justice Minister Andrew Little said his government has also made a commitment to review the role of social media and the obligations of the companies that provide the platforms. He said he has asked officials to look at the effectiveness of current hate speech laws and whether there were gaps that need to be filled.

Little said he didn’t see any irony in that people were watching hearings into a bill that would place new restrictions on guns in real time on Facebook, the same platform the shooter used to broadcast the massacre.

“There’s a world of difference, I think, between the exercise of a democratic function and a democratic institution like a national parliament, and some of the more toxic stuff that you see put out by individuals,” he said.



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Canada lost 7,200 jobs in March, ending 6-month string of gains

Canada lost 7,200 jobs in March, ending 6-month string of gains


Canada’s job market shrank by 7,200 positions in March, but the jobless rate held steady at 5.8 per cent.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that most provinces lost jobs, especially Quebec (down by 12,900 jobs) and Ontario (down 8,800 jobs). British Columbia added 7,900 jobs, Saskatchewan added 3,900 jobs, New Brunswick added 3,100 jobs and Prince Edward Island added 2,000.

Everywhere else, the job market was flat.

The monthly decline comes on the heels of the best two-month start to the year for Canada’s job market in almost 40 years, with 66,800 new jobs in January and 55,900 in February.

Economists had been expecting a slowdown from those highs, but thought the economy would still eke out a gain of about 2,300 jobs for the month, on average, according to Bloomberg. So the March loss came as a surprise.

While the overall economy lost jobs, many sectors saw gains.

“It was a mixed bag,” TD Bank economist Brian DePratto said. Goods-producing industries added about 1,600 jobs overall, but that was more than offset by widespread declines in the service sector, including 20,000 lost in health care and 14,000 in business support.

De Pratto said while the headline number was certainly negative, overall, the report wasn’t all that bad.

“The end of a six-month streak of job gains is sure to catch headlines, but given the strength we’ve seen over the past half-year, a flat report isn’t really surprising and indeed makes some sense given the relatively modest performance of other economic indicators in recent months,” he said.



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SNC-Lavalin sells 10% stake in 407 toll highway to OMERS pension plan for $3.25B

SNC-Lavalin sells 10% stake in 407 toll highway to OMERS pension plan for $3.25B


SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has signed a deal to sell part of its stake in 407 International Inc. to the OMERS pension plan.

Under the agreement, which has certain conditions, SNC is selling a 10.01 per cent stake in the toll highway operator in a transaction worth up to $3.25 billion.

The agreement will see SNC-Lavalin retain a 6.76 per cent stake in the company, which operates a toll highway in southern Ontario.

OMERS will pay $3 billion to SNC on the closing of the deal and an additional $250 million over 10 years, conditional on certain financial targets related to the performance of the toll highway.

The OMERS agreement with SNC is subject to certain rights of 407’s other shareholders, including rights-of-first refusal.

The other owners of the toll highway include a subsidiary of Ferrovial S.A., with a 43.23 per cent stake, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board with a 40 per cent.

SNC says part of the net proceeds from the sale will be used to repay debt.



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Canada expects foreign meddling in October election, Chrystia Freeland says

Canada expects foreign meddling in October election, Chrystia Freeland says


Canadian Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Friday it was likely that foreign actors would meddle in the country’s October elections, and her British counterpart said a deterrent to stop countries like Russia from interfering was critical.

U.S. intelligence officials and the governments of some European Union countries have accused Russia of interfering in their elections in recent years, allegations strongly denied by Moscow.

When asked whether she was worried Russia would interfere in the election, Freeland said she was “very concerned.”

“Our judgment is that interference is very likely and we think there have probably already been efforts by malign foreign actors to disrupt our democracy,” she said, speaking at a media freedom event on the sidelines of a G7 foreign ministers meeting in France.

Freeland said such attempts were not aimed at securing a particular outcome in a national elections, but to polarize Western societies.

The foreign ministers of the G7 nations — the U.S., France, Japan, Germany, Britain, Italy and Canada — as well as the European Union are meeting in Dinard, Brittany, where they are expected later to agree on common norms that would seek to prevent foreign powers from destabilizing democratic nations.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was imperative for liberal democracies to tackle interference by Russia and others.

“We know that states like Russia have got a very active, planned, thought-through strategy to interfere in democratic processes in Western countries and [to sow] dissension and chaos wherever they can,” Hunt said.

“We are getting much better at fending off these attacks when they happen. What we don’t do at the moment is deter them from happening in the first place.”

He said the discussions at the G7 on Friday would be aimed at finding a deterrence strategy that imposed a high price for meddling with democratic processes.



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Provincial memo lays out plan to cut 3,475 Ontario teaching positions in 4 years

Provincial memo lays out plan to cut 3,475 Ontario teaching positions in 4 years


A provincial memo obtained by CBC Toronto lays out the Ford government’s plans to cut thousands of full-time teaching positions in Ontario beginning this fall. 

In the 2019-2020 school year, the memo says, there will be 1,558 fewer full-time teachers in Ontario. By the 2022-2023 school year, that number will be 3,475 — about three per cent of Ontario’s current teacher workforce. 

The total savings for removing those full-time positions would be $851 million. 

The memo, which was sent by the Ministry of Education to school board administrators, also clarifies that the positions will be shed through attrition — meaning teachers that quit or retire and are not replaced — as well as changing student enrolment numbers and bumped-up class sizes. 

Class sizes going up 

Concerns about teacher job losses have been swirling since March, when the province revealed its education plan, which includes increases to class sizes for intermediate and high school students. 

The average class size requirement for Grades 9 to 12 will be adjusted to 28, up from the current average of 22.  

The Toronto District School Board had predicted that the larger classes would result in about 1,000 fewer teachers in its schools. 

On Friday, TDSB trustee Robin Pilkey told CBC Toronto by email that the memo doesn’t provide any new information, and that “the number of positions we anticipate being eliminated has not changed.”  

It comes just one day after students across Ontario staged a province-wide protest over the planned changes to the education system. 



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Skip the Dishes pulling out of U.S. market after making deal with rival company

Skip the Dishes pulling out of U.S. market after making deal with rival company


Winnipeg-based online delivery service Skip the Dishes is moving out of the U.S. market.

The company confirmed to CBC News it has entered into an agreement to transition operations of their six markets in the United States to its Chicago-based competitor Grubhub.

“Our focus is on building our business and brand at home in Canada,” a Skip the Dishes spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson said the company will continue to grow its international food delivery as part of the Just Eat Group. Just Eat is described as a “leading global marketplace for online food delivery headquartered in the U.K.” on the Skip website.

The company, which started in Saskatoon and is headquartered in Winnipeg, partners with 12,000 restaurants across the country, 600 of them in Manitoba.

Skip now operates in six U.S. cities: Buffalo, N.Y.; Omaha, Neb.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio.

Jazib Haider, 24, has been a contracted driver for Skip the Dishes in Buffalo for the last two months, and also drives for Uber Eats.

He received an email from Skip this week, letting him know about the change.

He says the company told him it would continue to operate under the Skip the Dishes name until at least the end of April, and Grubhub would reach out to Skip drivers about driving for their network.

Other than that, he says they haven’t been clear with details about the merger.

“I have no idea what’s coming for us now,” he said.

He says he wasn’t too surprised by the news.

“Every time I went to the restaurant they were always complaining about how the drivers weren’t on time,” he said. “And after that, they would say Skip the Dishes support wasn’t all that great.”

From a logistical point of view, he says many of the orders he took for Skip, which paid him a flat rate per delivery regardless of the distance he drove, didn’t make sense.

He says Uber Eats pays him per mile and for his time.

“I number crunched and figured out that I was getting paid about 88 cents to a mile [with Skip],” he said.

On average he says he’d make around $10 an hour for an eight- to nine-hour shift with Skip, but only if customers were tipping.

The spokesperson for Skip wouldn’t disclose details of the deal reached between Grubhub and Skip at this time, but said more details would be released closer to completing the transition.



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