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


Published on April 18, 2017

Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, April 18

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TRUMP TAKES DIRECT AIM AT CANADIAN DAIRY: U.S. President Donald Trump singled Canada out by name Tuesday as he put dairy farmers north of the border on notice that they are in America's fair-trade sights. Trump also signalled he wants to do more than simply tweak the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying he is looking for "very big changes" to the trilateral pact that includes Mexico, or else he will scrap it once and for all. Trump levelled the threats — some of his strongest-ever anti-Canadian rhetoric — during an event at a Wisconsin factory where he unveiled his "Buy American-Hire American" executive order. Other countries have taken runs at Canada's sacrosanct supply-management system in previous trade negotiations, and Trump appeared to be taking dead aim during his appearance Tuesday. "When it comes to wasteful destructive job killing regulations, we are going to use a tool you know very well — it's called the sledgehammer," Trump said. Standing up for dairy farmers in Wisconsin "demands fair trade with all of our trading partners," Trump said, "and that includes Canada." In Canada, he continued, "some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers and others and we're going to start working on that."

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BRACE FOR AUTOMATION'S SIDE-EFFECTS, CENTRAL BANK SAYS: A senior Bank of Canada official says while the country's poised to reap economic benefits from technological progress, it must also brace for potentially painful side-effects such as job losses and greater income inequality. In a speech in Toronto, senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins said Tuesday innovations like artificial intelligence and robotics are expected to help re-energize underwhelming productivity in advanced economies like Canada. Over the longer haul, she added that new technologies should eventually create more jobs than they replace. However, the fast-approaching changes come with concerns for Wilkins — from the challenging adjustment for the labour force, to the distribution of the new wealth. She noted how experts predict changes like automation to have downsides, which could include impacts on close to half of all jobs in some industrialized countries within 20 years. Policy-makers, she added, must get ready to manage negatives like amplified income inequality brought on by conditions that could help workers whose skills are complemented by innovations and those whose tasks are replaced by machines.

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DEFENCE MINISTER ACCUSED OF BEING SIKH NATIONALIST: Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's visit to his native India this week is being greeted with controversy after one of the country's most recognizable political leaders accused him of being a Sikh nationalist. Amarinder Singh, the top elected official in India's Punjab province, made the explosive accusation in an interview on Indian TV in advance of Sajjan's trip. In the interview, Singh expressed anger over being blocked from visiting Canada last year before calling Sajjan a Khalistani. The Khalistani movement is comprised of Sikhs who want to create an independent homeland and was notorious for a wave of violence in India in the 1980s. Sajjan's office has refused to be drawn into a war of words with Singh, saying the defence minister is a proud Canadian and that his trip is intended to strengthen ties between Canada and India. But Sikh groups in both Canada and India have expressed anger at Singh's comment, calling it undiplomatic and unseemly.

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U.K. PRIME MINISTER SEEKS SNAP JUNE 8 ELECTION: Delivering the latest jolt in Britain's year of political shocks, Prime Minister Theresa May called Tuesday for a snap June 8 general election, seeking to strengthen her hand in European Union exit talks and tighten her grip on a fractious Conservative party. With the Labour opposition weakened, May's gamble will probably pay off with an enhanced Conservative majority in Parliament — but it's unlikely to unite a country deeply split over the decision to quit the EU. May returned from an Easter break in the Welsh mountains to announce that she would make a televised statement on an undisclosed subject early Tuesday outside 10 Downing St. Speculation swirled and the pound plunged against the dollar amid uncertainty about whether she planned to resign, call an election or even declare war. Since taking office after her predecessor David Cameron resigned in the wake of Britain's June 23 vote to leave the EU, May had repeatedly ruled out going to the polls before the next scheduled election in 2020. But on Tuesday, she said she had "reluctantly" changed her mind because political divisions "risk our ability to make a success of Brexit."

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NOT GUILTY PLEAS ENTERED IN B.C. POLYGAMY TRIAL: The leader of a fundamentalist sect that condones plural marriage remained silent as a long-awaited trial of two men on polygamy charges began Tuesday in British Columbia. Winston Blackmore had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf in B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook, while James Oler pleaded not guilty. Each man faces one charge of polygamy. Both men have served as bishops for the religious settlement of Bountiful, which follows the teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, often referred to as the FLDS. Oler is representing himself while Blackmore stood beside his lawyer and remained mute when asked for a plea. Justice Sheri Donegan said a not guilty plea would be entered on his behalf. The case has a long history dating back to the early 1990s when police first investigated allegations that residents of an isolated religious community were practising multiple marriages. A lack of clarity around Canada's polygamy laws led to failed attempts at prosecuting Blackmore, followed by several efforts to clarify the legislation, including a reference question to the B.C. Supreme Court. The court ruled in 2011 that laws banning polygamy were constitutional and did not violate religious freedoms guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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FEDS TO RAISE MILLION IN GST ON CARBON TAXES: The federal government stands to raise as much as $280 million in revenue off provincial carbon taxes in Alberta and B.C. in the next two years despite claims carbon taxes would be revenue neutral for Ottawa. Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna have long insisted Ottawa would collect no revenue from the carbon price the federal government is requiring the provinces and territories impose by 2018. However, a new report from the Library of Parliament shows federal coffers stand to benefit financially when the five per cent GST is applied on top of carbon taxes built into the prices of goods and services such as gasoline or utilities. "That's where the federal government suddenly gets rich off Canadians," said B.C. Conservative MP Mark Warawa, who requested the report. In April 2016, the Canada Revenue Agency said provincial carbon taxes would be subject to GST. Warawa asked the library to find out how much Ottawa stood to gain as he prepared a private members' bill to reverse the CRA's decision. Last week, the answer came back: as much as $130 million this year and $150 million next year in Alberta and B.C., the two provinces where carbon taxes are already in place. The federal government has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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GARNEAU SAYS PASSENGERS' BILL OF RIGHTS TO BE IN PLACE BY 2018: In the wake of another controversial case of passenger bumping, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau reiterated Tuesday that legislation addressing the rights of airline passengers is coming later this spring. Asked to comment about the case of a 10-year-old Prince Edward Island boy who was bumped from an Air Canada flight, Garneau said a bill of rights for passengers would be in place by 2018. He wouldn't speculate on what measures would be included in the bill of rights — an idea that was floated last November. Garneau said it would spell out situations where compensation could be had, adding it would be "fair" and recognize the rights of passengers while being "practical" for airlines. "This is a clear recognition that when you buy a ticket to a flight somewhere, you have certain rights," he told reporters at an unrelated event in Montreal. "This bill of rights will address the issue of what happens when you're not given the service you paid for and it is within the control of the airline, what measures to compensate you will be taken." The boy was bumped from an Air Canada flight that was supposed to take his family to Costa Rica during the March break. The airline apologized Monday, saying it offered generous compensation and will investigate what happened.

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FACEBOOK KILLER TAKES HIS OWN LIFE AS POLICE CLOSE IN: The man who randomly gunned down a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook killed himself Tuesday during a police chase in Pennsylvania that began when a McDonald's drive-thru attendant recognized him. It marked a violent end to the nearly 48-hour multistate manhunt for Steve Stephens, whose case brought another round of criticism down on Facebook over how responsibly it polices objectionable material posted by users. Acting on a tip from the McDonald's, state troopers spotted Stephens leaving the restaurant in Erie and went after him, bumping his car to try to get it to stop, authorities said. He shot himself in the head after the car spun and came to a stop, police said. Stephens, a 37-year-old job counsellor who worked with young people, was wanted on murder charges in the killing of Robert Godwin Sr., 74, a former foundry worker and father of 10 who was picking up aluminum cans on Sunday when he was shot. The chilling video was on Facebook for three hours before it was taken down. It was just the latest instance of crime footage being shared on social media.

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CROWN SAYS ALLEGED MIGRANT SMUGGLERS DRIVEN BY PROFIT: Four men who orchestrated a dangerous voyage across the Pacific were out to make a profit, rather than help dozens of Tamil asylum seekers, the Crown prosecutor told their B.C. Supreme Court trial. In her closing arguments at the human smuggling trial Tuesday, Maggie Loda says the accused held a privileged position on board the MV Ocean Lady, taking part in operating the vessel, preparing the journey and helping migrants get aboard. The rickety cargo vessel left Thailand and arrived off the coast of Vancouver with 76 Sri Lankan asylum seekers in October 2009. Francis Anthonimuthu Appulonappa, Hamalraj Handasamy, Jeyachandran Kanagarajah and Vignarajah Thevarajah are charged under a provision of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada determined part of the act was too broad and unconstitutional. The high court ordered a new trial for the men, after ruling the federal government's laws on human smuggling shouldn't apply to those who help migrants on humanitarian grounds or aid between family members. Loda told the court that those exemptions do not apply to the four accused. She said while there is no evidence the accused made money out of the scheme, they should be convicted for helping smuggle vulnerable migrants who paid thousands of dollars to agents to bring them to Canada.

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NEW BRUNSWICK FIRST NATIONS SET TO BANISH DRUG DEALERS: There is a growing movement on New Brunswick's First Nations to banish drug dealers, as mourners said farewell this week to a woman who died of a drug overdose. Leo Bartibogue, an addictions counsellor, says there are 30 to 40 drug dealers in his community of Esgenoopetitj, in northeastern New Brunswick, and it's hard for people to quit when there's an ample supply of drugs at every turn. Bartibogue attended the 35-year-old woman's funeral on Monday and says it's suspected she may have taken fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid drug that has killed hundreds in western Canada but is relatively new to the East Coast. RCMP Cpl. Maxime Babineau said while an autopsy has confirmed an overdose, police have yet to confirm the drug, and are awaiting test results from Health Canada, possibly later this week. Bartibogue said the band council has suggested a resolution to ban drug trafficking, as the Elsipogtog and Tobique First Nations have done, and he's in full support. Tobique Chief Ross Perley said under a banishment resolution passed last week in his community, anyone charged with drug trafficking would be cut off from all band services and benefits.

The Canadian Press