Kabul: Afghan police say a radio journalist has been killed in the eastern Paktia province. Nader Shah, a newsreader for Radio Gardez, was killed late Saturday. Police chief Mohammad Hosman Jahnbaz says it is not immediately clear if the killing was linked to his work or a personal dispute. Paktia is a stronghold of the Haqqani network, one of the main factions of the Taliban. The Taliban and the rival Islamic State group have both attacked reporters in the past over what the insurgents view as biased or negative coverage.
Jaipur: Forty-two people, including children, were admitted to a government hospital here after they complained of vomiting, diarrhoea and other food poisoning symptoms, a health official said Thursday. The people fell ill after consuming food at stalls put up in a fair in Basyalalu village of Dholpur district on Wednesday, Deputy Chief Medical and Health Officer Dr C R Meena said. He said most of the patients were discharged on Thursday after their health improved.
Delhi: Delhi Police on Friday said that they have arrested a restaurant delivery boy who turned out to be arms supplier from South West Delhi. The investigating agency arrested two more persons involved in the gun-running racket. Police identified the accused as Pardeep, he is the kingpin and was working as a delivery boy at a restaurant, R.K. Puram. Since he did not get enough money for a lavished life, he started supplying illegal arms from Uttar Pradesh. The other accused were Kishan and Ranjan. “They assembled for committing robbery in the area of Vasant Kunj when the trio were caught. Apart from an armed robbery the accused had planned to eliminate their rivals,” police said. Also Read – Gurdwara Bangla Sahib bans single use plastic Deputy Commissioner of Police (South West) Devender Arya said that Pardeep came in contact with Kishan who lured him to get into the business of supplying firearms from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi. “For this, he was introduced to one resident of Uttar Pradesh who would supply him weapons. He was caught by police with two illegal pistols that he brought from Aligarh (UP) for supplying to associates of Kishan,” said DCP Arya. The accused disclosed that about 20-25 days back, he supplied three weapons to other associates of Kishan near Rajokri Border after collecting the same from Uttar Pradesh. A team of AATS (South West)led by Inspector(AATS) Rajesh Malik comprising of SI Mahesh made the arrest.
Kolkata: The homicide section of Kolkata Police’s Detective Department took over investigation of the Netajinagar elderly couple murder case on Thursday. Several angles have cropped up in the case, but police are still not sure about the motive behind the murders.According to sources, during probe mystery arose over the key of a cupboard which was found intact after the murder. After breaking it open, police found several documents related to bank accounts and fixed deposits. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaInvestigators suspect that as the elderly couple was issueless, they might have had prepared a will which is yet to be traced. It was also found that the murderers had taken away the mobile phone of Dilip Mukherjee, but did not take the mobile phone of his wife Swapna. The murderers had, however, removed the SIM card from her mobile phone. Police are checking the call list of the deceased couple in order to identify those who were in touch with them. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayThough police have already interrogated several persons including a mason who used to reside at the said house on rent, nothing suspicious could be found till Thursday night. However, the investigators are sure that the murderers were known to the Mukherjee family and were close to the elderly couple. On the other hand, police are still in the dark about the motive of the Narendrapur double murder. On Thursday, police questioned the family members of one of the owners of the land and house where the couple, identified as Pradip Biswas and Alpana Biswas, was found murdered. Investigators came to know about a deal which was expected to happen soon over selling the land. It was also found that there might have been some resistance as large traces of blood was found inside the house. After examining the injuries, it was found that it could not have been possible to spread that much blood from the wounds of the deceased persons.
Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir police is maintaining pressure on terrorists to isolate them so that they cannot mislead the general public, Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh has said.In an interview with PTI, Singh, who has been leading the force since last year, thanked the people of the state for their cooperation in maintaining law and order. “While the security teams comprising police, para-military forces and army have done a splendid job, one should not neglect the cooperation extended by people of the state,” he said. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Security presence in the state has been stepped up and stringent restrictions put in place since August 5 when the Centre scrapped provisions of Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and also divided the state into two Union Territories. Singh, a 1987-batch IPS officer, refused to comment on the Constitutional changes made in the state, but said, “I believe an era of positive development has been ushered in the state. And people should understand good things about it.” Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KHe said as a police force head it was his duty to ensure that a handful of terrorists, who are mainly from Pakistan, are not allowed to misguide the general public in Jammu and Kashmir. “Our counterinsurgency unit is maintaining pressure to keep these terrorists at bay and definitely we have been able to do it,” he said. Singh, who is busy talking to district superintendents of police and giving them a pep-talks on phone, says the force is following a two-pronged strategy to maintain peace and tranquillity in the state. “While the counterinsurgency grid is maintaining pressure on terrorists, the remaining security forces are ensuring that law and order is under control.” Security forces would not allow either of the situation to get out hand, he said. He acknowledged that there have been minor incidents in past 13 days “but they were controlled locally by police officials. There were injuries to some civilians and policemen but they were discharged after first aid.” pti
TORONTO – Rates of sexually transmitted infections are continuing to rise across Canada, say public health experts, who point to a number of possible reasons for the uptick in cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.“In general, all the sexually transmitted infections have been increasing in the last 20 years,” said Dr. Jason Wong, a physician epidemiologist at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), who tracks cases of sexually transmitted infections, or STIs.The growth of dating apps is one suspected culprit, though no studies have been conducted to prove a link between online hookups and the spread of STIs, said Wong.“But logically, it’s easier to find sex and easier to find anonymous sex than it was before, which makes it harder for public health to track outbreaks when you don’t know who’s the contact for people that may have been exposed,” he said.“The technology certainly serves to be a quicker interface to connecting with sexual partners.”Wong also said more people appear to be having condomless sex, including those in the gay community, who once were at the vanguard of safe-sex campaigns in response to the HIV-AIDS epidemic.“But with HIV treatment being really so effective now that it’s essentially a chronic disease, the concern around contracting HIV has really decreased a lot and that potentially is diving the reduction in condom use,” he said.Last year, the province recorded 3,295 cases of gonorrhea, a dip from the roughly 3,700 a year earlier, but a major jump from 2012, when only 1,400 cases were reported.On the other side of the country, Nova Scotia has also noticed a steady rise in gonorrhea and chlamydia cases since 2016, primarily in the Halifax area, said Dr. Trevor Arnason, regional medical officer of health for the central zone, which includes the provincial capital.“In 2018, we are seeing slightly more than double the number of case reports than we’d expect based on the three previous years of data for the province,” he said. “Normally we would expect around 50 cases reported by the end of April, and there were over 100 reported cases across the province.”About 85 per cent of those were recorded in and around Halifax.There’s been a slow increase in cases of chlamydia in Nova Scotia since 2007, though no rapid jump in the number of infections as seen with gonorrhea, said Arnason, noting that syphilis cases have been declining since 2013, following an outbreak among men who have sex with men in 2009.Along with reduced condom use, Arnason said there’s a concern about the growing number of people engaging in sex with multiple partners, possibly facilitated by social networking sites and dating apps.“We know the vast majority of our cases are diagnosed in the under-30 age group and many of them are diagnosed at university or college sexual health clinics,” he said Monday from Halifax, which is home to several post-secondary institutions.With young girls and many boys in Canada being vaccinated against human papillomavirus — a major cause of cervical cancer — and changes to guidelines advising that lower-risk women be tested less often for that malignancy than previously recommended, there is likely less screening for gonorrhea and chlamydia, Arnason said. Such STI testing was often performed at the same time as a Pap smear.“Again, we don’t have any certainty, but there is concern that people are not getting tested as frequently and that is driving a long-term trend of increased transmission.”Nationally, statistics confirm bacterial STIs are on an upward trajectory in jurisdictions across the country. Alberta, for example, recorded 4,763 cases of gonorrhea in 2017, up from about 3,700 the previous year.In 2015, the latest year for which national figures are available, there were almost 116,500 cases of chlamydia, the most commonly reported STI in Canada, with females accounting for two-thirds of infections, says the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Between 2010 and 2015, chlamydia rates increased by almost 17 per cent.Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STI in the country. About 19,845 cases were recorded in 2015, a jump of more than 65 per cent from 2010. Males had higher rates than females, with the highest number of cases among those aged 15 to 29, PHAC says.From 2010 to 2015, the rate of infectious syphilis in Canada increased by almost 86 per cent. In 2015, a total of 3,321 cases were reported, with nearly 94 per cent occurring among males; those aged 20 to 39 had the highest rates and men who have sex with men were among those at most risk.While the three STIs can be successfully cured with antibiotics, untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in females, affecting fertility. Untreated, syphilis can cause damage to the brain, nerves, eyes, cardiovascular system, bones and joints. In extreme cases, it can be fatal.And when it comes to gonorrhea, Wong of the BCCDC said doctors are keeping an eye out for a rare strain of the bacterium that’s become resistant to one of the standard antibiotics long used to treat the disease, which turned up in a Quebec woman last year — the first such case in North America. About a half-dozen cases have been reported worldwide, notably in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.The Quebec woman had not travelled to Asia, but her boyfriend had been in Thailand and China and had unprotected sex in both countries, researchers reported.As a result, Wong said public health officials are closely monitoring gonorrhea cases “because we do have some concerns that our treatments are not going to be effective anymore.”Prevention is key, he said, stressing that condom use is among the best ways to protect against infection.“It’s not just the bugs we have to think about, it’s networks of people and how they connect with one another and thinking about what we can do to prevent people from getting these infections or getting complications,” he said.“But we’re also looking at what we can do on a population level that might suppress the potential that you would be exposed to these infections in the first place.”— Follow @SherylUbelacker on Twitter.
FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s auditor general is calling on the province to legislate targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.“Legislated targets give a government more authority to enforce actions and shows a serious commitment to greenhouse gas emissions,” Kim MacPherson said Tuesday.It is one of the recommendations in the first volume of MacPherson’s annual report presented to the legislature.She said emissions have declined from their 2005 peak, but meeting targets set for 2030 and 2050 will require significant action both provincially and federally.MacPherson said Nova Scotia and three other provinces have legislated their greenhouse gas reduction targets, and New Brunswick needs to do the same.MacPherson is also calling for a comprehensive risk assessment to identify priorities and determine when measures outlined in the province’s Climate Change Action Plan will be implemented.“(Without this), it will make it difficult to consistently identify key climate risks and prioritize the risks,” she said.Her report says that while NB Power has renewable energy targets, it doesn’t have future greenhouse gas reduction targets.She said the federal initiative to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2020 poses a potential operating risk to NB Power because its coal-fired Belledune Generating Station produces 13 per cent of the utility’s total power capacity.Environment Minister Serge Rousselle said the government would seriously consider the auditor general’s recommendations, but it is currently working on the issue of carbon pricing.Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said MacPherson’s report “should put wind in the sails of the government’s plans to reduce carbon pollution and make our communities healthy and strong in the face of climate change.”
EDMONTON – Alberta’s economy shrank sharply for the second year in a row last year, but the NDP government says the outlook is improving.The province’s year-end financial statement says the provincial economy contracted by 3.5 per cent in 2016, following a 3.6 per cent reduction in 2015 brought on by the severe downturn in oil prices.The deficit for the 2016-17 fiscal year came in at $10.8 billion —in line with the government’s most recent forecasts, and $263 million higher than anticipated in the budget.Total revenues were $1 billion more than expected at $42.4 billion, thanks in part to higher resource revenues, investment income and federal transfers.But that increased cash was offset by lower personal income taxes and profits at provincial business enterprises.The government says positive economic signs began to emerge around this time last year and have continued into early 2017, including a bump in manufacturing sales and rig activity.The Fort McMurray wildfire slowed the economy by 0.6 per cent and reduced royalty and tax revenues by about $300 million. The province spent $710 million on firefighting and support during the disaster, but that was offset by $495 million it received in federal assistance.“The catastrophic tumble in oil prices took a deep toll on Alberta families last year and that was only compounded by the Wood Buffalo wildfire. But Albertans are resilient and compassionate. When times are tough, we help each other,” Finance Minister Joe Ceci said in a release.“While Alberta’s economy returns to growth and jobs continue to come back, we recognize this is not yet felt by all Albertans. That’s why we continue to work had to make life better for all Alberta families.”Expenses for 2016-17 were $53.2 billion, a $1.9 billion increase from what was expected in the budget, with part of the jump resulting from how the province accounted for future coal phaseout transition payments.Alberta’s debt incurred to fund operations and capital spending was $33.3 billion and its net assets stood at $37.7 billion.West Texas Intermediate crude prices, the key U.S. benchmark, averaged US$47.93 a barrel in 2016-17, nearly $6 higher than the budget estimate. Prices are currently around US$45 a barrel.
CHARLOTTETOWN – The Liberal premier of P.E.I. is calling on the Trudeau government to hold off implementing its proposed tax changes, saying they are causing “significant concern and uncertainty.”Wade MacLauchlan issued a statement Thursday saying many business owners on the Island have told him they are concerned the proposed changes to corporate tax laws could impede succession planning, particularly in the agriculture and fishing sectors.The premier has sent a letter to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to ask for an extension to public consultations.MacLauchlan said the Island has been experiencing strong economic growth, which he attributed to the entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking of small- and medium-sized business leaders.“For these economic leaders to remain confident and continue to invest and drive growth, they need to clearly understand the tax regime in which they will operate,” the premier said. “Any confusion or unintended consequences of the changes will have a significant dampening effect on future growth of our economy.”Morneau has said the changes are meant to end tax advantages that some wealthy business owners have unfairly exploited and to ensure all Canadians have a level playing field. However, his proposal has drawn complaints from doctors, lawyers, tax planners and other small business owners who have used incorporation to reduce their income tax burden.MacLauchlan said he has heard similar complaints.“While proposed changes to tax systems always promote debate and discussion, my government has received a substantial number of enquiries from business owners who remain unsure as to the scope and impact of the proposed changes,” MacLauchlan said.Several other premiers, Liberal and otherwise, have voiced similar concerns, including Nova Scotia’s Stephen McNeil, who said he was concerned about the impact the tax changes could have on health-care recruitment.McNeil has said the status quo allows doctors to plan for their retirement and is also an important tool for small business owners that allows them to reinvest in their businesses or to weather a change in the economy. Before he entered politics, McNeil previously ran an appliance repair shop.Morneau released the three-part tax plan in mid-July. The government launched a 75-day public consultation period, which ends Oct. 2. Morneau has said he’s open to making changes, if necessary.The tax proposals include restrictions on the ability of business owners to reduce their tax rate by sprinkling their income to family members in lower tax brackets, even if those family members do not contribute to the company.Morneau also proposed limits on the use of private corporations to make passive investments that are unrelated to the company. Another change would limit business owners’ ability to convert regular income of a corporation into capital gains, which are typically taxed at a lower rate.Morneau has said there is a lot of misinformation circulating about the impacts of the proposals, and Ottawa has been trying to bring clarity to the debate.
The rich social interaction and highly evolved brains of some whales are linked in a kind of evolutionary feedback loop, a newly published paper suggests.The research, largely done at the University of British Columbia, sheds new light on similarities between whale and human evolution.“Similar pressures and possibilities in the environment can select for a similar outcome,” said Kieran Fox, now a postdoctoral student at California’s Stanford University and co-author of the new paper in Nature Ecology and Evolution.Fox and his colleagues studied brain sizes and social behaviours of a wide variety of whale species.They found that whales with the most complex forms of social interaction — which includes learning from elders, social hierarchies, co-operation and play — tend to live in mid-sized groups of between five and 20. In species such as orcas, individuals have extended one-on-one contact required to develop social behaviour.“Orcas are in matrilineal family clans,” Fox said. “These groups stay together, very tight-knit, through their whole lives.”In addition, Fox found that whales with the largest “social repertoire” also have the largest and most developed brains relative to their bodies.But which came first, the bigger brain or the richer relationships? Fox said his research suggests the two go hand in hand.Learning beneficial new skills or social behaviours eventually requires a larger, more powerful brain. And a species that evolves a more powerful brain is better able to learn or develop relationships.“That’s the theory to this extremely powerful driver of brain evolution — once it gets going, you get some brain tissue that supports (social skills), then these individuals are going to do really, really well, because social co-operation and learning are very powerful survival strategies.”Fox calls the effect a positive feedback loop.“Let’s say a random increase in brain size or complexity gives you a greater capacity for social co-operation. If these new social skills pay off, then natural selection will keep favouring expansion of this same brain area. The capacity for social skills and co-operation will expand in turn, and the cycle will repeat.“What you’ll eventually expect to see is that species that have large, complex brains will also tend to possess a wider repertoire of social behaviours — and this is exactly what we found among the whales and dolphins.”Humans are the classic example of how the link between powerful brains and rich, adaptive cultures can create a smashing evolutionary success. Fox said his research shows how the same process may be at work in a completely different environment and species.Whales aren’t the only example of this kind of evolutionary strategy. Some primates and elephants also possess it, said Fox.“A very different species in a totally different environment, diverging millions and millions of years ago, can nonetheless be selected for this very similar life strategy.”What’s more, that strategy can be accomplished with very different types of brains. While whales lack the frontal lobes that humans rely on for most of their complex thinking, they have large and well-developed brain regions that don’t really have a human counterpart.Some scientists still maintain that because whale brains are so different, they can’t be “intelligent.”“To me, that’s foolish,” Fox said.“It denies the very possibility that a different brain structure could give rise to similar complexity or social skills. I think the evidence clearly shows that’s possible.”— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960
MONTREAL – A pro-gun lobby held a rally at a sugar shack west of Quebec City on Saturday after it was forced to backtrack on a plan to have the event at a memorial site for the 14 women who were killed at Ecole polytechnique in 1989.The group posted on its Facebook page Saturday afternoon to say the event was was running smoothly.Originally, the group had wanted to stage the event at Montreal’s Place du 6 decembre.That idea was quickly and roundly blasted by politicians of all stripes, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante.Guy Morin, president of the pro-gun lobby, has said that the group did not realize the plan would generate such widespread denunciation.Wednesday will be the 28th anniversary of the Polytechnique massacre.
OTTAWA – The parliamentary budget office says efforts to eliminate sexism from the Indian Act — which in some cases continues to allow fathers, but not mothers, to pass along their First Nations status — could cost more than $400 million a year.The budget watchdog says legislation to remove the inequality, as amended by the Senate, would effectively extend eligibility for registration under the act to all persons with First Nations ancestry.The report says the original bill would have made 28,000 to 35,000 additional First Nations persons eligible to register, but the Senate changes would extend that eligibility to 670,000 people, although the budget office estimated only 270,000 would actually claim status.The budget office says the total cost for the original proposal is estimated to be $19 million for up-front administrative costs and $55 million a year to cover service extensions and tax exemptions.The cost for the amended proposal is estimated at $71 million in administrative costs and $407 million a year in continuing costs.The report acknowledges a high degree of uncertainty in the PBO’s numbers, since there is little evidence about how many people might register or want to live on reserves.“The full annual costs will not be realized until eligible persons are registered, which will take many years,” it said.Before 1985, the Indian Act favoured men because registered women who married unregistered men lost their status, whereas registered men who married unregistered women retained their status and conferred that status on their wives and children.There were efforts to remedy the inequity in 1985 and 2010, but a 2015 Quebec court case found that discrimination against Aboriginal women and their descendants was still a problem, prompting the latest legislation.The budget office looked at the costs by assuming that, as numbers of registered people rose, Parliament would have to proportionately increase funding for benefits to maintain current service levels for health and education benefits. It also assumed that if there is significant migration to reserves, Parliament would also raise funding for programs on reserves. There are also tax exemptions that apply to people with status.“These program and tax expenditures cost an average of $18,433 a year per resident on reserve, consisting primarily of education, health care, income assistance, and the tax exemption for income earned on reserve.”The report says, however, that only two per cent of people who gain Indian status from the legislation are expected to move to a reserve. It also says that three per cent of non-status First Nations persons — who are assumed to be among those gaining formal status — already live on reserve.
OTTAWA – The Supreme Court will not hear the long-running case of a hockey referee who was seriously injured during a minor-league game in Manitoba.Derrick Henderson was officiating a 2002 peewee game in Brandon when he collided with a player during a line change and was left with permanent neck and back injuries.While all sides acknowledged the collision was unintentional, Henderson sued the team’s coach for negligence.The trial judge sympathized with Henderson’s injuries, but ruled the collision was an unfortunate accident for which no fault could be found.The Manitoba Court of Appeal upheld that ruling, so Henderson asked the Supreme Court for a review.The high court on Thursday denied the referee’s application for leave to appeal.
TORONTO – A former political staffer is alleging she was sexually assaulted by a Liberal member of Ontario’s legislature when she was working for him more than a decade ago, the woman’s lawyer said Friday.John Nunziata, who represents the woman, said he is not willing to release the name of the accused, but identified him as a Liberal politician who once held a cabinet portfolio.Premier Kathleen Wynne said no sexual misconduct allegations have ever been raised against cabinet members who served under her or her predecessor Dalton McGuinty.Nunziata said his client, who once worked for the Liberal politician as an executive assistant, alleges the sexual misconduct took place around 2006 and 2007.“She’s not doing this for the money or for fame,” Nunziata said of his unnamed client in a telephone interview.“She has been hurt by this whole process. Not just the premier’s office at the time, but how it was handled at Queen’s Park.”Nunziata, a former Member of Parliament, said the woman shared some details of the allegations in a letter sent to Wynne’s constituency office three weeks ago.The letter, dated Jan. 26, references the man’s alleged “repulsive and adulterous groping, propositioning, and innuendo and chronic inebriation,” according to Nunziata.The complainant wrote that she reported her concerns about the man’s conduct to human resources, who ultimately directed her to the Liberal Caucus Service Bureau for reassignment.She ultimately went to work for a different legislative member, but said she was told that no further action would be taken.“I realize that these egregious breaches of trust and abuses of power were not on your watch,” Nunziata said the woman wrote in her letter to Wynne. “What I would like to underscore is that the degradation and humiliation caused by the member and the others in the premiers’ office were long lasting. The collateral damage is permanent.”Wynne expressed similar sentiments on Friday speaking at the International Auto Show in Toronto, praising the courage of women who come forward after years of bearing the pain of such experiences.She said she herself was not made aware of the allegations when they were mailed to her constituency office, but said the government’s process for addressing such allegations immediately took effect.Wynne said staff reviews the information, engages outside council, and if necessary then hires a third-party investigator to look at the claims, adding that the privacy and wishes of the complainant are always top of mind.“It’s very important to me that whenever there is an allegation, whenever there is a complaint, that that process be engaged and that action is taken,” Wynne said. “My understanding is in this case that that’s exactly what happened.”Wynne said the latest allegation had not reached the stage in the process at which she would have needed to personally be notified.Nunziata said his client is not satisfied with the mechanisms that are currently in place, saying she felt “uncomfortable” after hearing from Wynne’s lawyer and arguing that he did not constitute a true third party. The lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Nunziata said establishing a transparent process would unleash a flood of other allegations.“It’s one thing in the #MeToo movement to come forward and praise women and men who come forward, but there has to be a process. People just don’t want to walk down to the local police station,” he said. “If a process is set up, this is just the beginning, there will be many more allegations involving other people within the legislature and within the bureaucracy.”Accusations of sexual misconduct have already caused upheaval in Ontario politics. Allegations levelled against former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown prompted his abrupt resignation and touched off a leadership contest due to conclude in March.Brown vehemently denies the allegations, which were reported by CTV but not independently verified by the Canadian Press, and has recently embarked on a vocal campaign to clear his name. He announced his intention to sue CTV for its handling of the story and has publicly challenged the veracity of the accounts provided by two women.Nunziata was elected to the federal legislature as a Liberal in 1984, but was eventually tossed from caucus after failing to support his party’s budget. He was re-elected as an independent in 1997, but was ultimately defeated in 2000.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly called Nunziata a former member of provincial parliament.
QUEBEC – Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee will not run again in this year’s provincial election.Vallee held a news conference in Quebec City on Wednesday to say she wants to focus on her family and on her private life.“I want to reclaim my family life and my personal life, it’s as simple as that,” she said.Vallee added that she expects to remain involved in politics in some capacity.She has been on the hot seat in recent years, dealing with the management of the Quebec justice system following a Supreme Court ruling on delays in cases getting to trial.Vallee was also tasked with the difficult job of adopting the legislation on face coverings.She has represented the riding of Gatineau since 2007.Five other Liberal members have declared they won’t run again while a handful of others are mulling their future.The Liberals currently hold 69 of the 125 seats in the legislature.
HALIFAX – African Nova Scotians and other minority communities will have input as the province remodels schools administration under sweeping reforms, the education minister says.Zach Churchill said he wants full community involvement in the selection process for the new education advisory council that is to replace the province’s seven English-language regional school boards.“I want that to happen,” Churchill said. “We want this to be a fair process where we get good people who can contribute to good outcomes for kids in our province.”Minority groups have voiced concerns about losing their elected representatives through legislation introduced Thursday that will eliminate the school boards by March 31.Archy Beals, the African Nova Scotian representative on the Halifax Regional School Board, said Friday his community is concerned about losing its voice to a large bureaucratic body.“We need to have a strong voice at the table and we need to have a non-partisan voice and a transparent voice so that we are not just rubber-stamping what governments ask,” said Beals.Beals says there are concerns about who will be appointed to the 15-member council.He said the members of the African Nova Scotian school board caucus have written to Churchill but have received no response. He said they’ve also submitted the names of four people to sit on a transition team that will shepherd in the creation of the new advisory council, but have not heard back.“The problem with that is, you are hand-picking people,” said Beals. “Where’s the transparency in that? Where’s the non-partisan piece in that?”Beals said he believes a system of community nominations could be a part of the change process.However, he also defended the school boards as they are currently constituted, saying minority representation on the Halifax board has worked to make substantial changes. He pointed to reports on the incidents of racism and discrimination under the board’s auspices, and work on culturally relevant teaching methods.“Granted there are some things that we need to change and work on, but throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not the solution.”Churchill said there would be minority input as part of the transition team that will advise his department on the terms of reference and selection process for the advisory council.In addition to minority seats on the council, two new executive director positions representing the African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq communities will also be created at the Education Department as part of sweeping reforms based on a recent report by education consultant Avis Glaze.
REGINA – The Saskatchewan municipality where a newly built bridge collapsed hours after opening had been approved for $750,000 in provincial funding to go toward construction, but opted for a less expensive design, a rural leader says.The Dyck Memorial Bridge in the Rural Municipality of Clayton opened to traffic Sept. 14, but collapsed into the Swan River later that day. No one was hurt and the contractor is responsible for repairs.The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities said Tuesday that Clayton applied last fall for funding through the province’s municipal roads program which the association administers. The RM was primarily approved in January by a project management board.Over the next several months, SARM requested engineering criteria from Clayton, but didn’t received it, said executive director Jay Meyer. Clayton was given a week-long extension to July 20, but the information still didn’t come in, he said.The total cost of the rural bridge if it had been built through the municipal road program was $1.1 million. The maximum the program could allocate was $750,000, which left Clayton on the hook for $350,000.“They felt the bridge that fell under the program was too expensive,” Meyer said Tuesday.In a Sept. 24 interview, Clayton Reeve Duane Hicks said the cost for his municipality to independently replace the bridge through builder Can-Struct Systems Inc. was about $340,000.Clayton administrator Kelly Rea declined an interview request on Tuesday.In a video posted on YouTube from SARM’s annual convention in March, Rea said she had concerns with the roads program and with criteria for bridge repairs.She said when Clayton was approved for funding, only one specific bridge was recommended by the program.“This bridge is above our needs. We do not need this bridge,” Rea said as she asked government for a policy change giving municipalities more than one option.The highways minister at the time, David Marit, responded by saying he would look at the program criteria and alternatives around bridges. He acknowledged the costs could be “quite onerous” on municipalities.Ministry of Highways spokesman Doug Wakabayashi said Clayton wanted to build the bridge by screwing piles into the ground — a technique used when building a deck — instead of concrete or wood piles normally used in bridge construction.The province doesn’t have any plans to change the way bridge construction is funded, he added.“Our ministry has been pretty consistent that any bridge design that is funded through (the roads program) it has to be shown to be safe,” Wakabayashi said. “And that’s really something that can’t change.”SARM president Ray Orb said, while bridges under the municipal roads program are more expensive, they’re also safe.“We’ve never had a bridge that has been designed through the … program that has ever collapsed that we know of, anyway,” he said.Meyer said bridges built through his organization follow criteria laid out by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways.Hicks previously said the bridge was built to Canadian safety standards, though no geotechnical investigation was performed on the riverbed under the bridge before it was built.He said the municipality wanted to get the bridge built in time for harvest and it took four to five weeks to complete.Orb said that had the municipality gone with the provincial funding for the bridge, it would have been built by now.— Follow @RyanBMcKenna on Twitter
FREDERICTON — Former New Brunswick premier Brian Gallant will be stepping down as Liberal leader, and asking the party to organize a leadership convention.The Canadian Press has learned from sources close to Gallant that he intends to remain as Opposition leader until the party chooses a new head.An official announcement is expected Thursday.Gallant became leader in 2012, and premier in 2014 at the age of 32, but came up short in September’s provincial election.Gallant’s minority government was toppled two weeks ago in a confidence vote on the throne speech, and Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs and his minority government were sworn-in last week.On his last day in office, Gallant said if he was to quit as leader, he would remain as MLA for his riding of Shediac Bay-Dieppe.Donald Wright, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick, says ideally the new Liberal leader will be someone from outside the party who can bring new ideas and new energy, and not be associated with the last four years.The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — The wandering river otter with a taste for decorative and valuable koi carp has managed to elude a trap set Tuesday in hopes of removing it from a classical Chinese garden in Vancouver.Officials with the Vancouver Park Board baited the humane trap with chicken and smeared a mat with fish oil to entice the otter in an effort to relocate the adventurous mammal to a more appropriate home in Stanley Park, about three kilometres away.But a park board spokeswoman says the trap was empty Wednesday.She says there’s still no solution to the mystery of how the otter found the tranquil ponds within the walled Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden at the edge of the city’s Chinatown.The otter has had no trouble chasing down some of the large, and very old koi that live in the garden’s ponds, and is blamed for eating about five or six of them.While they try to catch the otter, park board and Vancouver Aquarium staff are also making plans to remove the roughly 11 large koi still remaining in the ponds.The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s whirlwind visit to Ottawa this weekend offers the Liberal government a rare chance to trumpet a strong international alliance in the face of unyielding strain with its two top trading partners.Canada finds itself between a rock and a hard place with the United States and China: the Trump administration is holding firm on punitive metal tariffs while the People’s Republic’s ongoing imprisonment of two Canadian men following the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer in Vancouver has thwarted the Trudeau government’s Asian trade ambitions.Abe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will celebrate their successful launch of the rebooted Trans-Pacific Partnership late last year — the 11-country Pacific Rim trade alliance that was rescued after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from it in January 2017, nearly killing it.The two countries are also charter members of another international club that doesn’t include the U.S.: the Alliance for Multilateralism, a French-German initiative aimed at supporting the post Second World War architecture — the United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organization, and others — to which Trump has taken a wrecking ball.Abe is to host the G20 summit in June and will join Trudeau at the G7 leaders’ gathering in France in late August, and while Trump’s seat at those two multilateral tables is guaranteed, continuing U.S. participation is no longer a given with its mercurial president.International Trade Minister Jim Carr, who met Abe in Japan in January and will accompany Trudeau on Sunday, said the summit is about reinforcing strong Japanese-Canadian ties that have only flourished more since the new TPP. He cited increased exports of Canadian beef, pork and heavy machinery to Japan.“The Americans chose for their own reasons not to be part of that group,” Carr said in an interview Saturday. “Our interest is to take advantage of the ratification of this agreement in our countries, to deepen the trading relationship, which we are already doing.”Abe arrived in Ottawa on Saturday, hours after playing a round of golf with Trump at his Virginia course on a visit that demonstrated personal bonhomie but bore no fruit towards advancing a U.S.-Japan trade deal to replace the TPP that Trump abandoned.Carr said the Abe-Trudeau bond is also strong and that it will help “set the stage” for this summer’s round of multilateral summitry — foreign trips that will be Trudeau’s last before Parliament breaks in June ahead of the October election.“We are agreed that the rules-based multilateral trading order is in the interest of all of those nations who have benefited from post-war freer trading relationships among countries. We believe that rules-based trading systems create growth and create jobs,” said Carr.Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press