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Month: April 2019 Page 8 of 12

Wilson-Raybould called it a referendum. Liberals saw it as civil war

Wilson-Raybould called it a referendum. Liberals saw it as civil war


In Jody Wilson-Raybould’s view, the question of her status within the Liberal caucus amounted to nothing less than a referendum on the soul of the Liberal Party itself.

“Ultimately, the choice that is before you is about what kind of party you want to be a part of, what values it will uphold, the vision that animates it, and indeed the type of people it will attract and make it up,” she told the Liberal parliamentary caucus in a letter Tuesday.

“If indeed our caucus is to be a microcosm of the country, it is about whether we are a caucus of inclusion or exclusion; of dialogue and searching for understanding or shutting out challenging views and perspectives; and ultimately of the old ways of doing business, or new ones that look to the future.”

Liberal MPs apparently weren’t convinced that her continued presence in caucus meant all that much. Hours later, confirming the expulsion of both Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opted for another choice of words.

“Civil wars within parties are incredibly damaging because they signal to Canadians that we care more about ourselves than we do about them,” Trudeau said Tuesday evening, casting back to the infighting that dominated earlier eras of the Liberal party.

As has been the case since the beginning of this saga, much depends on whether you accept Wilson-Raybould’s interpretation of events.

Trudeau, his government and the Liberal Party no doubt looked better to many Canadians because they had people like Wilson-Raybould and Philpott on board. Their presence in cabinet seemed to say that Trudeau would surround himself with accomplished and talented people, and that those people would be empowered to do things. They were prominent women in important positions, working for a feminist prime minister. And they were at the centre of an agenda for reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott they can no longer sit as Liberal MPs 0:33

But then, even people as accomplished and talented as Wilson-Raybould and Philpott might not have been elected in 2015 if they hadn’t run as Liberal candidates, or if the Liberal party hadn’t been led into that election by Trudeau.

That’s the party system of government for you — a system that still works, however obnoxiously partisans often behave.

No confidence

For all that Wilson-Raybould had to say in her two-page letter to caucus, it was perhaps most notable for what she didn’t say. At no point did she state that she has confidence in Justin Trudeau or that she supports him as the leader of the Liberal Party and prime minister of Canada.

It’s possible that she does … or did, at any rate. But she has conspicuously avoided saying so. A month ago, while testifying before the justice committee, Wilson-Raybould was asked the question quite directly. She replied that she did not think the question was “relevant.”

In fairness, maybe it wasn’t relevant. Maybe it shouldn’t be. But her reluctance to say publicly that the prime minister should continue to be the prime minister did make things awkward, and could’ve been particularly tricky on the doorsteps in Vancouver-Granville this fall.

“To have confidence in the government doesn’t mean you agree with everything that the government does or the prime minister does. I have disagreed,” Liberal MP Rob Oliphant said on Monday. “But I have confidence in him and I have confidence in the government to be making the right moves on moving Canada ahead.

“My hope is that caucus will meet quickly and that caucus will, I suspect, be of one mind that we don’t want people in the caucus who don’t have confidence in our government.”

Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould leaves West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, April 2, 2019. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Mind you, Philpott did manage to tell a reporter on Tuesday that she still supported the prime minister. Apparently that wasn’t enough. Or maybe it was too late.

“I’m looking for a sign from that (Wilson-Raybould is) prepared to work with us to resolve these issues. I haven’t seen that sign yet. I’ll say very candidly, everything that she’s done so far seems to have been designed to cause damage,” Liberal MP Ken Hardie said on Tuesday afternoon.

“And that has not stood very well with her colleagues.”

Taking two out for the team

People will argue about who is most to blame for the harm done to the Liberal government over the last two months. But Liberals seem to believe Wilson-Raybould and Philpott didn’t do very much to limit the damage. And one can understand why the members of a team might not take kindly to a teammate they saw as unnecessarily hurting the team’s chances of victory.

To extend the sport analogy: no one player is ever supposed to be bigger than the team, except maybe the star. In the case of the red team, the star is still Trudeau, however much his stature has been diminished over the last two months.

On Tuesday evening, Trudeau showed a flash of something that hasn’t been on display in recent weeks: anger. Wilson-Raybould’s decision to record a phone call with Michael Wernick gave Trudeau that opportunity. For a politician to secretly record a conversation, Trudeau said, was “wrong.” For the attorney general of Canada to do so while speaking with the clerk of the Privy Council, he said, was “unconscionable.”

Others might find the content of the phone call to be more important than the fact it was recorded. But those who have decided that Trudeau was part of something unforgivable here probably weren’t going to be convinced by anything the prime minister had to say on Tuesday.

The move to expel Wilson-Raybould and Philpott seems to have been driven by the caucus, instead of a diktat from the leader. But Trudeau is the one who will wear it.

Nearly everything about Trudeau has been under attack over the last two months. And now Wilson-Raybould has framed her expulsion as confirmation of the worst things Trudeau’s detractors have alleged.

The civil war might be over (or pre-empted). But an election looms. Trudeau and the Liberals have six months to push past Jody Wilson-Raybould’s referendum and find a way to say more about themselves than Wilson-Raybould would have her expulsion say about them.

Tim Murphy, Janyce McGregor, Tim Powers and Francoise Boivin react to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement that he removed Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus. 8:13



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Who cleans up? No requirements to fix environmental impacts from mining, auditor says

Who cleans up? No requirements to fix environmental impacts from mining, auditor says


Ottawa is keeping appropriate track of how Canada’s mining industry releases effluent into the country’s waterways, but nobody’s responsible for fixing problems when they are discovered, says the federal environment commissioner.

“When environmental effects were found, there was no requirement on anybody’s part to actually have to do anything,” Julie Gelfand said in an audit released Tuesday. “Nobody actually seems to have to deal with the issue.”

The audit found other gaps.

Environment Canada didn’t have adequate information for about one-third of Canada’s metal mines. The department completed only two-thirds of its planned inspections for non-metals operations, such as coal or oilsands mines.

As well, it only monitored about 60 per cent of company-filed plans to compensate for fish habitat lost to tailings ponds.

“As a result, the department did not always know whether the mining companies performed their planned actions to offset the loss of fish and their habitat,” the audit said.

Gelfand’s report said potash, coal and oilsands mines should be inspected more often. She also raised concerns about lower overall mine inspections in Ontario.

Charles Dumaresq of the Mining Association of Canada said the industry supports greater transparency.

“From a public credibility perspective, there’s seen to be value in doing inspections,” he said.

I don’t know why this is so difficult.– Ugo Lapointe

Industry has pushed Environment Canada to release more inspection data, including the names of individual mines, Dumaresq added.

But he was cautious about cleanup laws.

“If you’re going to have a requirement, you’re going to have to have some enforcement mechanism to go with it,” he said.

“Every solution is going to be different. How do you enforce a law like that, when the solutions are unique to each site and the times it takes to implement the solutions are unique to each site?”

No problem, said Ugo Lapointe of MiningWatch Canada.

“At the very least, there should be a mandatory investigation of cause and a mandatory investigation of solution. I don’t know why this is so difficult.”

When fines are handed out, said Lapointe, they’re too small to be a deterrent.

“We’re urging the minister to put immediate resources into the hands of Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans to increase the inspection rates and … to be able to enforce the law. Corporate directors are not afraid of Canadian law.”

Effects of the audit’s recommendations could be far-reaching.

A 2017 report from Environment Canada found three-quarters of mines that studied the environmental consequences of their operations found at least one impact. Half those mines found effects on both fish and their habitat.

All the effects were considered strong enough to be environmentally risky.

The same report stated about 75 per cent of mines that checked found reduced biodiversity among bugs that fish eat. About half the mines in the report found impacts near the site and far afield.

Tailings ponds are also a growing concern.

In addition to the vast ponds at Alberta’s oilsands, the number of water bodies where effluent may be stored has grown almost tenfold since 2006 — to 46 from five.

Environment Canada has promised to develop options by next spring for how to clean up problems, including updating discharge limits.

A spokeswoman said in an email that the government is also looking at investigation and implementation requirements when impacts are found, as well as further enforcement measures. Caroline Theriault added that further enforcement measures are being considered.

Fisheries and Oceans acknowledged its efforts to keep track of tailings ponds have fallen short and said it would beef up monitoring by next April.



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Trudeau's Senate point man withdraws motion condemned by Tories as 'time allocation on steroids'

Trudeau’s Senate point man withdraws motion condemned by Tories as ‘time allocation on steroids’


Peter Harder, the federal Liberal government’s representative in the Senate, has withdrawn a controversial ‘programming motion’ that had the Conservative opposition up in arms.

There are roughly eight weeks left in the current session before Parliament is scheduled to rise for its summer recess. This is also the last sitting before an expected fall federal election — meaning there is extra pressure on the Liberal government to clear the decks of legislation before it asks voters for another mandate.

Claiming that Tory intransigence had forced his hand, Harder tabled a motion Tuesday that would have curtailed the amount of time the upper house would have to study and debate 11 pieces of government legislation.

The Conservatives slammed the motion as “time allocation on steroids,” calling it a betrayal of the government’s promise to “do politics differently.”

Harder defended the motion, saying it was made necessary by an impasse in his negotiations with Conservative leadership on a timeline for seeing a number of Liberal bills through the Senate before summer.

Today, Harder said he’d reached an arrangement with the Conservatives to make the timeline work. Harder withdrew his motion shortly after question period today, saying only that a deal had been reached on timelines without specifying what those timelines would be.

Some of the bills in question have been in the Senate for more than a year, while others were only recently introduced and are still at early stages of passage through the upper house.

Harder had proposed strict timelines for wrapping up both committee study and third reading debate on the bills, to ensure any amended legislation could be sent to the Commons in early June for review by government and MPs in the lower house.

The bills awaiting passage include some key items of Liberal legislation, such as: Bill C-48, the northern B.C. oil tanker ban; Bill C-69, the overhaul of existing environmental assessment regime for natural resources projects; Bill C-71, changes to the country’s firearms law; Bill C-81, which makes sweeping changes to federal law for people with disabilities; and Bill C-85, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

It is not the first time Conservative senators have been accused during this parliamentary session of holding up bills, including legislation on trans rights, a gender-neutral O Canada and a ban on holding whales in captivity. The Conservatives maintain that, as the opposition, it’s their job to oppose government business at every turn.

“With the media focused on the prime minister booting two members of caucus, the government quietly put forward a motion that shuts down the abilities of senators to review and question government legislation,” Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the Senate, said of Harder’s motion.

Harder has said senators on all sides of the chamber will have ample time to debate, study and move amendments to the legislation.

‘This is not some schoolyard squabble’

To date, Harder largely has avoided introducing time allocation motions in the Senate. Time allocation is a tool used by all previous government leaders in the Senate to curtail how long members of the upper house can study, debate or amend government legislation. It’s also used frequently in the Commons.

Harder threatened to use the tool on Bill C-45, the government’s cannabis legislation, but backed off after securing a timeline with the Tories.

Speaking in the Senate Wednesday before Harder withdrew his motion, Conservative Manitoba Sen. Don Plett, the party’s whip, said he and Smith have always negotiated in good faith with Harder and his manoeuvre came as a surprise.

“I met with you in your office. We had what I thought was a very collegial conversation about moving legislation forward,” Plett said in question period, addressing Harder. “I kept my part of the bargain. You did not. In complete contradiction of your word to me, you tabled a programming motion that is seven pages long and impacts 11 bills.

“This is not some schoolyard squabble. What you have done impacts the ability to move legislation forward in a manner which respects the traditions, conventions and values of this chamber. Having broken your word to us on this matter, how am I or any other senator in this chamber supposed to trust your word going forward?”

Harder said the “programming approach” should come as no surprise to the Conservative opposition.

“It is my responsibility to prepare for all eventualities, and those preparations have been under way for some time,” Harder said. “Without going into all of the details … let me simply reiterate that I have, over the last number of weeks, spoken about the need to have a programming approach.”





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Israeli spacecraft on track for scheduled moon landing

Israeli spacecraft on track for scheduled moon landing


The first Israeli spacecraft to journey to the moon passed its most crucial test yet on Thursday when it dropped into lunar orbit one week ahead of landing.

After travelling over 5.5 million kilometres around the Earth and drawing ever closer to the moon, the spacecraft finally swung into the moon’s elliptical orbit — keeping it on track for touchdown April 11.

“This was a milestone and it actually gives us a real shot at the moon,” said Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of SpaceIL, the Israeli non-profit that built the spacecraft.

The lander, dubbed “Beresheet” — Hebrew for “Genesis” or “In the Beginning”  — is the smallest spacecraft in history to have entered the moon’s orbit.

From the control centre in Yehud, near Tel Aviv, a fleet of engineers tracked the spacecraft’s speed. In order to catapult away from the Earth and successfully “catch” the moon’s gravitational pull, Beresheet needed to slow down from 8,500 km/h to 7,500 km/h.

Spectators observed from behind glass, holding their breath as screens showed Beresheet’s engines kicking into gear.

After five minutes, Beresheet hit the perfect velocity, and the engineers burst into applause, congratulating each other with hugs and handshakes.

A failure to slow down would have brought the mission to an abrupt end.

Israel will be the fourth country to pull off a moon landing

“The price of a mistake here would have been infinite,” said Opher Doron, space division general manager at Israel Aerospace Industries, which worked with SpaceIL on the project. “We would have been spinning in space toward some sun orbit that no one wants to go into.”

Now drawn into lunar orbit, Beresheet will trace smaller and smaller loops around the moon before attempting to land.

“There is a significant chance we have a crash landing,” said Doron. “It’s very dangerous, and it’s difficult to predict we’ll succeed.”

But, he added, after completing Thursday’s challenge, the team was optimistic.

Unlike giant, powerful NASA rockets that hurtle directly toward moon, the humble four-legged landing craft, barely the size of a washing machine, has embarked on a risky and roundabout route.

The modest $100 million mission couldn’t afford its own rocket, so Beresheet hitched a ride on the SpaceX Falcon rocket, launched from Florida in February. Since then, the spacecraft has traversed 6.5 million kilometres (about 4 million miles) to get to the moon, among the longest distances ever travelled.

‘This is what’s going to propel our country forward’

If all goes according to plan, Beresheet will land on a plain of solidified lava, known as the Sea of Serenity. It will spend a couple days on the moon’s surface, measuring the magnetic field at the landing site, and send back data and pictures.

A successful mission would make Israel the fourth country to pull off a moon landing, after Russia, the U.S. and China.

SpaceIL hopes its feat will inspire the next generation of Israelis to study science and engineering.

Winetraub described how during the recent Jewish holiday of Purim, he saw many children dressed up as Beresheet and as astronauts. “It’s amazing to see the amount of excitement we’ve already generated,” he said. “That is what’s going to propel our country forward.”



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Telus scores win at Supreme Court over customer rights to join class action suits

Telus scores win at Supreme Court over customer rights to join class action suits


Telus has scored a victory at the Supreme Court of Canada, which says its business customers are contractually prevented from joining class action suits filed on behalf of individual consumers.

A majority of judges in the 4-3 decision ruled an Ontario judge erred in allowing Avraham Wellman to be included in a class action case against Telus even though he was a business customer of its mobile phone service.

Telus had argued Ontario’s consumer protection law didn’t apply to business customers like Wellman and he had to abide by his contract’s provisions for deciding disputes outside of the court system, through arbitration.

Four judges at Canada’s top court agreed with Telus, but three others dissented.

The ruling affirms that Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act overrides the arbitration provisions of Telus service contracts, but the Arbitration Act doesn’t give the same opportunity for business customers

The case went to Canada’s top court after Telus appealed an Ontario judge’s ruling that said both individual consumer and business customers could be included in the class action case because it was unreasonable to separate the two groups.



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'Why did I grab the coffee maker?': A writer's memoir of the Fort McMurray wildfire

‘Why did I grab the coffee maker?’: A writer’s memoir of the Fort McMurray wildfire


Therese Greenwood fled the Fort McMurray wildfire two years ago with a small bag of important documents, an embroidered wall hanging and a coffee machine. 

She was one of the lucky ones.

Anticipating the worst, Greenwood had already packed an emergency bag and had taken the time to think about what needed saving most. 

During the panicked evacuation of the city in May 2016, few people had that luxury. 

“Your subconscious is working overtime,” Greenwood said in an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.

“You’re grabbing all kinds of things that later, when you’re looking at them, you’re thinking why did I grab the coffee maker? Do I really need this rolling pin?”

“Everyone tells almost exactly the same story, running around, grabbing things.”

Sentimental objects

Greenwood has published a new book, chronicling her escape from the  city. 

What you take with you: Wildfire, Family and the Road Home is a deeply personal account of the disaster.

Greenwood said the book is also an examination of the personal artifacts people learn to cherish most in times of crisis. 

“When I really started thinking about it, I realized that I all the things I grabbed, it wasn’t about monetary value. It was totally the sentimental value and the memory of the person you associate with it.” 

The May 2016 wildfire devastated Fort McMurray and forced residents to flee with only a moment’s notice. (Sylvain Bascaron/Radio-Canada)

Greenwood — a crime fiction writer and former journalist —  had been living in Fort McMurray for four years when the wildfire hit the city on that hot May afternoon and forced thousands to flee for their lives.

As the flames approached, Greenwood had 15 minutes to pack before driving south to safety in Edmonton.

“I was able to run out and throw my go bag right into the car and then spend the remaining 14 minutes running around,” Greenwood said. 

Her home was later completely gutted by the fire. She, like many others, dealt with the loss with a wry sense of humour.

“We have a very zany sense of humour up there, and the day after the wildfire there was already a social media site called ‘Silly things I grabbed while escaping the wildfire.’

“People posted things like, ‘I took the bear head from my husband’s trophy wall’ or, ‘I took my grandma’s canned moose meat.’ ” 

‘Unresolved feelings’ 

While Greenwood can laugh about it now, she was surprised to see how raw the memories still are for some in her home community. 

The memory of the catastrophe has been slow to fade for those who lived through it, she said.  

At Greenwood’s book launch in Edmonton last month, fellow evacuees in the crowd were overwhelmed with emotion.

“It was very hard for them to sit through the reading,” she said. “People who started hearing it realized that they really had a lot of unresolved feelings about it. I was surprised to see people crying.” 

Greenwood said writing was cathartic. She hopes fellow evacuees can find solace in chronicling their own stories.

She is hosting a series of free memoir-writing workshops in Fort McMurray to help others begin the process. 

“I hear from a lot of people that they really want to write about this but it’s really hard to sort through all the images,” she said.

“We’re going to do some exercises this weekend and see if we can help people make their peace with their own story.”



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Atlantic Canada goes from stronghold to point of vulnerability for Liberals

Atlantic Canada goes from stronghold to point of vulnerability for Liberals


Atlantic Canada was where the first domino of the SNC-Lavalin affair toppled in public — when Nova Scotia cabinet minister Scott Brison decided to resign his post. It’s also where the Liberals have taken the biggest hit from the scandal’s fallout.

What was once the party’s most formidable electoral stronghold has now become one of its key regions of vulnerability.

According to the testimony of Gerald Butts, the prime minister’s former principal secretary, the plan to replace Brison as president of the Treasury Board was supposed to be simple and tidy. Jane Philpott would go from Indigenous Services to Treasury Board and Jody Wilson-Raybould would take Philpott’s place. David Lametti would be promoted into the justice portfolio vacated by Wilson-Raybould.

It didn’t quite work out as planned.

The CBC’s Canada Poll Tracker has recorded a six-point drop in Liberal support nationwide in the wake of the controversy surrounding Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from cabinet — but the party has fallen even further in Atlantic Canada.

The Poll Tracker estimates the Liberals are down to 37 per cent support in the region, just 2.5 points ahead of the Conservatives.

That’s a 12-point drop from where the party stood on Feb. 5 — a few days before the Globe and Mail, citing unnamed sources, first reported that Wilson-Raybould was pushed by senior people in the Trudeau government to allow the Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution on fraud and bribery charges by meeting a number of conditions laid out in a remediation agreement.

That slide is twice as big as any drop the Liberals have suffered in other regions of the country and has been registered by every polling firm in the field over the last few weeks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also has taken a bigger personal hit in Atlantic Canada than in the rest of the country. His approval rating in Atlantic Canada has averaged 32 per cent in three recent polls by three different polling firms. Those same three firms found Trudeau’s approval rating averaging 46 per cent in Atlantic Canada in November and December.

Trudeau and the Liberals certainly had more ground to give up in Atlantic Canada than they did elsewhere. The party swept all 32 of the region’s seats and beat the Conservatives by a margin of 40 points there in the 2015 federal election.

But the party has now gone from being 19 percentage points more popular in Atlantic Canada than in the country as a whole to just five points more popular there than nationwide. About one in four Atlantic Canadians who supported the Liberals at the beginning of February have since abandoned them. Nowhere else have the Liberals lost more than a fifth of their support.

It has a real impact on the Liberals’ chances of holding their seats in the region.

The Liberal sweep could be swept aside

When Butts testified at the justice committee last month, he talked about the electoral conundrum that Brison’s departure created for the Liberals.

“Not to give away a political strategy in this forum,” he said, “but my main political concern was our position in Nova Scotia.”

Butts was worried that with Brison gone — and with a few other Nova Scotia Liberals already at risk of not running for re-election in the fall, particularly if they weren’t given a promotion to replace Brison  — the party would be without incumbents in five of their 11 seats in the province, leaving those seats vulnerable.

The resignation of Scott Brison, standing here on the left during his farewell speech in the House of Commons in February, triggered the cabinet shuffle that ended up playing into the SNC-Lavalin affair. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Indeed, Brison’s departure has put those seats up for grabs — but not in the way Butts had expected.

The Poll Tracker estimates that, if an election were held today, the Liberals likely would hold on to between 13 and 22 of their 32 seats in Atlantic Canada. Lost to the Conservatives would be some seats in southern and central New Brunswick and some in rural parts of Nova Scotia. The New Democrats also would be in a better position to regain some of the seats they lost in 2015.

The list of nominally safe Liberal seats in the region is growing shorter, and includes a handful that will not have incumbents on the ballot — including Nova Scotia seats Sydney–Victoria, Cumberland–Colchester, West Nova and Brison’s own Kings–Hants.

The loss of an incumbent makes it harder for a party to retain a seat. In no place is that truer than in Atlantic Canada.

Provincial politics weighing the Liberals down?

While the Liberal slide coincides with the unfolding SNC-Lavalin affair, it’s possible that provincial politics is making the party more susceptible to losses.

Polls suggest fatigue with the provincial Liberal government in Nova Scotia, while the incumbent Liberals are trailing in the polls in P.E.I. ahead of the Apr. 23 election.

The P.E.I. Greens are leading there — a development which could complicate things further for the federal Liberals. A Green victory in P.E.I. could boost the fortunes of federal Greens across the region and put a few more seats into play, eating into the Liberals’ support among progressive Atlantic Canadians.

On the right, newly-installed Premier Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick is enjoying a bit of a honeymoon following September’s provincial election. The Progressive Conservative leader has gone hard against the federal Liberals on their implementation of the carbon tax in his province.

At the start of this federal election year, the Liberals were in a good position. Some of their support in Ontario and Western Canada had eroded, but Quebec and Atlantic Canada gave the party enough of a base to look for re-election in October.

The Liberals still lead in both Quebec and Atlantic Canada, but that lead has grown smaller. It’s almost entirely gone in Atlantic Canada. With it goes the seat cushion the Liberals were hoping for east of the Ottawa River.



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Ancient four-legged whale from Peru walked on land, swam in sea

Ancient four-legged whale from Peru walked on land, swam in sea


Scientists have unearthed fossils in a coastal desert of southern Peru of a four-legged whale that thrived both in the sea and on land about 43 million years ago in a discovery that illuminates a pivotal stage in early cetacean evolution.

The four-meter-long mammal, named Peregocetus pacificus, represents a crucial intermediate step before whales became fully adapted to a marine existence, the scientists said on Thursday.

Its four limbs were capable of bearing its weight on land, meaning Peregocetus could return to the rocky coast to rest and perhaps give birth while spending much of its time at sea. Its feet and hands had small hooves and probably were webbed to aid in swimming. With long fingers and toes, and relatively slender limbs, moving around on land may not have been easy.

Its elongated snout and robust teeth — large grasping incisors and canines along with flesh-shearing molars — made Peregocetus adept at catching medium-size prey like fish.

“We think that it was feeding in the water, and that its underwater locomotion was easier than that on land,” said Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences paleontologist Olivier Lambert, who led the research published in the journal Current Biology.

“Some vertebrae of the tail region share strong similarities with semi-aquatic mammals like otters, indicating the tail was predominantly used for underwater locomotion,” Lambert added.

Evolutionary origins

Whale evolutionary origins were poorly understood until the 1990s when fossils of the earliest whales were found. Various fossils have shown that whales evolved a bit more than 50 million years ago in Pakistan and India from hoofed, land-dwelling mammals distantly related to hippos and about the size of a medium-sized dog. It took millions of years for them to spread around the world.

Peregocetus represents the most complete quadrupedal whale skeleton outside India and Pakistan, and the first known from the Pacific region and the Southern Hemisphere.

Its presence in Peru, Lambert said, suggests quadrupedal whales spread from South Asia to North Africa, then crossed the South Atlantic to reach the New World. Peregocetus shows that the first whales to reach the Americas still retained the ability to move on land.

Over time, cetacean front limbs evolved into flippers. The hind limbs eventually become mere vestiges. It was not until about 40 million years ago that the whale lineage evolved into completely marine animals, then split into the two cetacean groups alive today: filter-feeding baleen whales and toothed whales like dolphins and orcas.



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Trudeau takes tough questions from young women in House after expelling Wilson-Raybould, Philpott

Trudeau takes tough questions from young women in House after expelling Wilson-Raybould, Philpott


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced some tough questions in the House of Commons today — not from opposition MPs but from young women participating in a special event promoting political leadership.

Dozens of the 338 delegates, representing every riding in Canada, turned their backs on Trudeau as he delivered his opening remarks — just hours after he expelled two women from his Liberal caucus.

Trudeau raised the matter right off the top, insisting there will always be disagreements in politics.

“There was never going to be an absolute one side or another. There are always going to be multiple voices we have to listen to,” he said.

Representatives of the Daughters of the Vote deliver messages of hope in the House of Commons. 6:09

Trudeau was grilled on a range of topics, from halting the spread of white nationalism to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

The young women are in town for the annual Daughters of the Vote summit, an event organized by Equal Voice Canada which works to get more women elected to all levels of political office across Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the Daughters of the Vote in the House of Commons, and answers questions from a number of participants. 18:38

A number of participants also walked out during a speech by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

This year’s Daughters of the Vote day lands less than 24 hours after Trudeau expelled Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus, saying that trust with the two former cabinet ministers has been irreparably broken.

This political drama has been unfolding since Feb. 7, when the Globe and Mail reported that Wilson-Raybould had faced inappropriate political pressure on the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution decision. Wilson-Raybould and Philpott both later resigned from cabinet to protest the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin file.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer addresses the Daughters of the Vote in the House of Commons. 7:42

Trudeau said Tuesday he approached the issue with “patience and understanding” but eventually concluded the two MPs could not remain in the caucus.

A number of participants in today’s event already have tweeted their support for the two women.

“We are here in Ottawa as young women participating in a conference and we wholeheartedly condemn you ejecting Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from caucus,” tweeted DeannaAllain, representing the riding of Hamilton Mountain.

“Respect the integrity of women and indigenous leaders in politics. Do better.”

Without mentioning Philpott or Wilson-Raybould by name, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh gave a nod to the scandal in his speech to the crowd.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addresses the Daughters of the Vote in the House of Commons. 9:40

“If anyone ever suggests that you’re being difficult by speaking truth to power, you’re not being difficult, you’re being courageous,” he said to thunderous applause.

“Being a team player doesn’t mean following the team, it means being willing to lose it all, because of your principles and your values and having the courage to do that.”

Both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were spotted in the House of Commons’s gallery for the start of the Daughters of the Vote speeches, which included an address by former prime minister Kim Campbell.

“It was an extraordinary experience to be in there and to hear these women speak,” said Philpott.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May addresses the Daughters of the Vote in the House of Commons. 11:03

“I want to salute all of the leaders who are in the room today who spoke and the Daughters of the Vote organization for choosing just such an incredible array of bright women who are speaking on some of the most important topics of our country. I was deeply moved by their passion, their enthusiasm and the wisdom that was displayed.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced some tough questions in the House of Commons today — not from opposition MPs but from young women participating in a special event promoting political leadership. Host Vassy Kapelos spoke to some of them. 6:49





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A voter's guide to climate change and the federal election

A voter’s guide to climate change and the federal election


The latest federal climate change report shows that Canada is warming faster than the global average which could mean more wildfires and more extreme weather.

With a federal election mere months away, what should Canadians demand from politicians to tackle this crisis?

Isabelle Turcotte, director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute environmental think-tank, spoke with On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko to offer her thoughts on what Canadians should look for when deciding who to vote for.

What sort of checklist should voters have when they’re trying to evaluate their political representatives?

Voters should look for strong climate platforms and leaders who will be dedicated to tackling this issue with concrete action and concrete policies that will reduce our emissions and transform every sector of our economy.

How does the average voter know what is a concrete policy?

Let’s get all of our leadership hopefuls on the record saying that they are committed to meeting our Paris Agreement target and that they are also committed to increasing that target because we know that that target is not quite enough

Look for policies that reduce emissions in the transport sector. Concrete things like increasing electric vehicles on the road. Look for policies that put more renewable energy on the grid, for policies that help our industrial sector decarbonize.

Really concrete things that make our economic sectors more efficient and more economically competitive.

Well, you can have concrete evidence for a government that’s in power, but what about parties that are out of government?

A very important element is policy certainty to make sure that those industries that are making investments in the current regulatory environment where we are putting in place our climate plans and guiding investments, that they know they can be confident that this regulatory environment will be sustained and dialed up because we know we need to do more.

So seeing some policy alignment between what’s being proposed is really valuable — between what’s being proposed by leadership hopefuls and what exists is a good indicator.  

Despite climate change being an issue that’s affecting all of us there are very clear partisan divides on it among provinces. Ontario and Saskatchewan are against the carbon tax vehemently. Why is this happening?

To those who oppose this measure, which we know is the lowest-cost measure to reduce our emissions, to those who oppose that approach, put forward your alternatives and let’s debate it. I think that’s what Canadians need to demand of their leaders.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. Listen to the complete interview:

The latest federal climate change report shows that Canada is warming faster than the global average which could mean more wildfires and more extreme weather So, with a federal election mere months away, what should Canadians demand from politicians to tackle this crisis? 6:39



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