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In the news today, Sept. 21


Five stories in the news for Friday, Sept. 21

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QUEBEC LEADERS SQUARE OFF IN LAST DEBATE

After seeing his party's lead in the polls evaporate, Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault tried to humanize his controversial position on immigration Thursday before hitting his Liberal opponent hard on secularism and corruption. Legault has been dogged over the past few weeks for repeatedly stating that immigrants who fail a French-language and values test cannot stay in Quebec — a stance that has allowed his rivals to paint him as heartless toward newcomers. In a previous debate Legault said he wasn't planning on "expelling" citizens, but "people" who don't pass the test. In Thursday's third and last leaders' debate, the Liberals' Philippe Couillard brought up that comment, prompting Legault to try to neutralize the line of attack with what he called a "mea culpa."

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FEDS TO COMB SOCIAL MEDIA FOR CANNABIS DATA

The federal government is looking to scour social-media platforms to find out what Canadians really think about pot as the country enters its new era of legalized weed. With only a few weeks to go before the end of recreational marijuana prohibition, Ottawa is seeking an outside contractor to help the government learn more about Canadians' attitudes and behaviours when it comes to legalized cannabis. A new government tendering notice posted this week describes a project that will collect marijuana-related information on Canadians — from how often and where people light up, to what type of buds users prefer, to criminal activities. The government hopes the effort will help it design communications strategies to address specific public safety risks, such as driving while high.

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FEDELI TO LAY OUT STATE OF ONTARIO FINANCES

Ontario's finance minister will be providing an update on the state of the province's books this morning. Vic Fedeli will be speaking to the Economic Club in Toronto, his first major address since becoming finance minister this summer. His speech is expected to include details on the findings of an independent commission that probed the former Liberal government's spending. The Progressive Conservative government announced the independent inquiry in July and tasked it with probing the Liberal regime's accounting methods surrounding a pair of teacher pension plans and the province's Fair Hydro Plan. Those accounting practices led to a two-year fight with Ontario's auditor general, who said in April that the Liberals understated their deficits by billions.

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JURY TO CONTINUE DELIBERATIONS IN CALGARY MURDER TRIAL

Jurors are to continue deliberating Friday whether a man accused of raping and killing a Calgary mother of four is guilty of first-degree murder or a lesser charge. Queen's Bench Justice Charlene Anderson on told the jurors Thursday they could acquit Curtis Healy or convict him of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter in the death of Dawns Baptiste. In closing arguments, prosecutor Carla MacPhail said because the murder, sexual assault and unlawful confinement were part of the same series of events, Healy should be convicted of first-degree murder. The defence didn't dispute that Healy was responsible for Baptiste's death and that he sexually assaulted her. But lawyer Shamsher Kothari told the jury in his closing arguments that the sequence of events was unclear, so Healy should be found guilty of second-degree murder.

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ALBERTA APOLOGIZES FOR RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL QUESTION

Alberta's education minister apologized Thursday after learning an online social studies course asked students about the positive effects of residential schools. Students were asked: "A positive effect of residential schools was?" The four multiple choice options listed were: that children were away from home, they learned to read, they became civilized and they were taught manners. The question prompted a complaint from a student taking the course from the St. Paul Alternative Education Centre. A photo of the question was posted online Wednesday and was met with outrage.

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ALSO IN THE NEWS TODAY:

— Statistics Canada releases the consumer price index for August and retail trade data for July.

— Environment Minister Catherine McKenna will hold a media teleconference to discuss the outcomes of the G7 environment ministers meeting in Halifax.

— Ex-French president Francois Hollande speaks to an international relations group in Montreal.

— The City of Calgary is holding the official opening of West Eau Claire Park, which connects Eau Claire and downtown Calgary with the city’s promenade and cycling network.

— Supporters of Nanaimo's tent city will respond to B.C. Supreme Court ruling, to be released today, on the city's application for an injunction against campers.

The Canadian Press

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