Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Feb. 28th:
NOISY PROTEST GREETS OPENING OF TRUMP TOWER IN VANCOUVER: People carrying anti-Trump signs took part in a raucous demonstration to the sound of reggae music outside the grand opening of the Trump Tower in Vancouver on Tuesday. Some protesters carried signs reading “Love Trumps Hate” and “Deport Racism” behind metal barriers protecting the 69-storey building, which has become a focal point for demonstrations against U.S. President Donald Trump. The $360-million hotel and condominium development, with a unique twisting design by late architect Arthur Erickson, had a soft launch last month. Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and his daughter Tiffany attended the grand opening. Vancouver’s Trump International Hotel and Tower was built by developer Joo Kim Tiah, the president and CEO of Holborn Group, who is the son of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest businessmen. The Trump Organization does not own the tower, but licensed its name for branding and marketing, while the Trump Hotel Collection operates the 147-room hotel.
STUDY FINDS SITE NEAR GRASSY NARROWS STILL LEAKING MERCURY: A northwestern Ontario First Nation plagued with mercury poisoning for more than 50 years said Tuesday it has evidence that toxic material is still leaking from an upstream paper mill. A new report commissioned by the Grassy Narrows community and funded by the government of Ontario suggests there is ongoing mercury contamination from the Dryden, Ont., mill, which was decommissioned decades ago. The report, authored by five mercury experts and released Tuesday, lays out the results of tests conducted last summer on mud samples from the bottom of the Wabigoon River as it passes by the mill, as well as from two lakes upstream of the site. The researchers recommend a thorough ground water study at the site to determine how and where mercury is leaching into the river, which they say could begin as early as this summer. Chief Simon Fobister of Grassy Narrows called the results “deeply concerning,” adding he hopes this latest study will help bring an end to the community’s plight, which he said had long been ignored by previous governments.
NOTLEY EXPECTING TO MEET WITH TRUMP OFFICIALS: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she expects to meet face to face Wednesday with members of U.S. President Donald Trump’s government as she continues a visit to Washington, D.C. “I’m not going to get into specific names until those meetings are finally confirmed, but, yes, we do anticipate meeting with people in the Trump administration,” Notley said Tuesday in a conference call from the U.S. capital. Notley held numerous meetings Monday with U.S. officials, policy-makers and advisers. They included Montana senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines and the state’s governor, Steve Bullock. Notley said she is seeing strong support for free trade, but added: “It’s very clear that there are also concerns, and some folks who are worried about ensuring that the U.S. does better than they perceive that they have been up to this point.” Notley has also met with officials at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think-tank seen as a key adviser to Trump as he begins to implement his agenda. Notley admitted her government and the Heritage Foundation don’t see eye to eye ideologically on a number of issues, but noted there is common ground.
ONTARIO WANTS FEEDBACK ON TICKET SALES: Ontario is looking for public feedback as it crafts legislation to shut “scalper bots” out of online ticket sales, something the attorney general admits won’t be easy. It’s a laudable goal, the opposition parties say, but one that addresses a problem of the Liberal government’s own making. Scalper bots, which scoop up huge blocks of tickets that quickly appear on resale sites at higher prices, are not unique to Ontario, but the opposition said that when the government changed the Ticket Speculation Act in 2015 to make it legal to resell tickets above their original face value, it helped that online resale market. The Liberal government said last year that it would look at tackling the bots after an outcry from fans who were shut out of buying tickets to the Tragically Hip’s farewell tour. The government’s legislation on online ticket sales will build on a private member’s bill by Liberal Sophie Kiwala, who represents the Hip’s hometown of Kingston, Ont., that also tried to ban the scalper bots.
TRANSCANADA SUSPENDS KEYSTONE XL LAWSUIT: TransCanada Corp. has suspended a $15-billion lawsuit against the United States regarding its Keystone XL project following signals by U.S. President Donald Trump that he will likely approve the pipeline. The company filed the North American Free Trade Agreement challenge last year alleging the U.S. government failed in its commitment to protect Canadian investors and ensure the company was treated in accordance with international law. The process before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes has been suspended until March 27. The company maintains that former U.S. president Barack Obama rejected the pipeline to appear strong on climate change, even though the government concluded numerous times that the pipeline would not have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. TransCanada renewed its regulatory push for the US$8-billion project after Trump asked the company to resubmit its application for a permit to build the project, shortly after his inauguration. The company also filed an application with the Nebraska Public Service Commission for state-level approval earlier this month.
CARIGNAN STEPPING DOWN AS TORY SENATE LEADER: Conservatives in the Senate will be picking a new leader this spring after Claude Carignan told his colleagues Tuesday he plans to leave the post at the end of March. The decision means the Conservatives will have a new leader in the upper chamber less than two months before party members choose a successor for Rona Ambrose, the party’s interim chief in the House of Commons. In a statement, Carignan says now is the time for the Senate caucus to renew its leadership. Carignan has served as Tory leader since 2013, when former prime minister Stephen Harper installed Carignan in the post amid questions about the actions of Conservative Senate leaders during the Senate spending affair. Carignan wasn’t made a cabinet minister like his predecessors, but sat on key cabinet committees as the Tories tried to distance themselves from the spending questions surrounding Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau.
MUMPS OUTBREAK ON PRAIRIES PROMPTS ALERT: A mumps outbreak in Manitoba has health officials in Saskatchewan worried that the virus is on the move and will appear in Saskatchewan. “My concern is that it is just a matter of time,” Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical officer, said Tuesday. “The other thing we’re doing is alerting health-care providers around this. There are health-care providers who may never have seen mumps in their clinical practice, and so they need to be prompted to think about that when somebody presents with a swollen parotid gland.” There haven’t been any cases in Saskatchewan so far this year. The Ministry of Health says there were seven reported cases from 2010 to 2016. The alert comes after Manitoba Health said there have been 176 confirmed cases of mumps in that province since September and up to last Friday. According to Manitoba Health’s website, the majority of cases were initially university students between 18 and 29 years old, living in Winnipeg or involved in sports.
OTTAWA MODERNIZING WEATHER NETWORK: The federal government is moving to improve Canada’s ability to warn people about severe weather, including tornadoes. The government says it will buy 20 state-of-the-art weather radars that will built across the country over seven years starting this fall. Environment Canada says the combination of these radars, along with a recently acquired supercomputer, will give people more time to protect themselves and their property from severe weather. Minister Catherine McKenna says the modernized network will also provide weather information that can be used in almost every sector of the economy. The government says the new system will cover more of Canada and double the detection range for tornadoes and other severe weather. The new system will also help forecasters better distinguish between rain, snow, hail and freezing rain.
SENATORS SLAM LIBERALS ON INFRASTRUCTURE: A Senate committee warns that the Liberal government could end up wasting billions in new infrastructure money unless it develops a detailed strategy to dole out the cash in the coming years. The national finance committee said in some cases, the only metrics that Infrastructure Canada uses to measure success are the number of projects completed and the value attached to them — how much money goes out the door rather than what the money is buying. Absent a strategic plan, the government can’t develop meaningful objectives or performance measures, leaving parliamentarians and Canadians in the dark about whether the infrastructure program will meet the Liberals’ goal of growing the economy. The committee’s report released Tuesday recommended the Liberals craft a plan to make sure the government invests enough in infrastructure, and invests in the right places — particularly in trade infrastructure to move goods towards Europe and Asia — to ensure an economic return. The federal government is set to dole out $186 billion in infrastructure money over the coming decade, with almost half of that stemming from the Liberals’ new infrastructure plan.
FEDERAL LIBERALS REJECT CANDIDACY IN MONTREAL BYELECTION: The federal Liberals are putting the kibosh on a bid by a Montreal borough mayor to seek the party nomination in a byelection. Alan DeSousa is hoping to eventually represent the Liberals in the April 3 vote in the riding of Saint-Laurent, which is vacant because of Stephane Dion’s recent departure from politics. DeSousa says a party committee sent him a letter dated two days ago to tell him he was not eligible to seek the nomination. He is appealing the decision and says he will do everything he can to make sure his name ends up on the list of nomination hopefuls. “I intend to do everything in my power to make sure my name is on the nomination papers,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “The prime minister promised an open and transparent process and I want that promise to be kept.” DeSousa argues it is up to the residents of Saint-Laurent to choose who they want as their Liberal candidate. He said a letter he received from the party gave no explicit reasons for the omission.