Category: Canada

Ontario’s memorial to veterans of Afghanistan war ready for next Remembrance Day

TORONTO – A memorial to honour veterans of the war in Afghanistan that is being built on the grounds of the Ontario legislature will include a stone from an Inukshuk that stood at Kandahar Airfield as a tribute to fallen soldiers.

Premier Doug Ford unveiled the design of the monument Friday, saying it will help future generations remember Canada’s role in that war and the 158 Canadian soldiers who died.

“This memorial will be a space for all Ontarians and Canadians to connect with history, read about the sacrifices that were made in the name of freedom and remember those who made them,” he said.

The monument will be built on the south lawn of the legislature within the existing Ontario Veterans’ Memorial and is expected to be ready for next Remembrance Day.

A pattern of bronze maple leaves will be inlaid in the pavement, connecting the two memorials, said retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who led a consultation panel for the design of the memorial.

“This pattern of leaves will lead people to a ribbon-like piece of bronze…that will bend and fold into seven vertical elements, and each one of those seven elements represents one of the stages of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan,” Hillier said.

“When viewed from the north of the memorial, the shape of the bronze will resemble the silhouette of Afghanistan’s mountainous landscape and any soldier, airman, airwoman or sailor, whoever served there, will remember that landscape.”

The memorial, designed by PFS Studio, will look like a frame when viewed from the south, with imagery of Canadian operations in Afghanistan. Tall, bronze elements in the frame are “reminiscent of the twin towers before terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre on Sept. 11, 2001,” the government said in a statement. 

The stone from the Inukshuk at Kandahar Airfield that was erected by soldiers there as a tribute to the fallen will be incorporated into a granite bench.

“Visitors will be able to touch this stone and physically connect to its source, almost 11,000 kilometres away,” the government said.

More than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces served in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014.

“I truly believe the design will touch every veteran who served in Afghanistan as well as the families of those veterans and the families of our fallen,” Hillier said. “It will stand forever, I believe, as a place where visitors can remember the sacrifices of those that died during the conflict, Canada’s sons and daughters.”

Heritage Minister Lisa MacLeod said the memorial will provide a space for Ontarians to show their respect and gratitude to those Canadian soldiers.

The government also announced Friday that it will offer free weekday, day-time use of Ontario provincial parks to veterans living in the province and active members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2019.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

Jury enters third day of deliberations in Halifax jail cell death case

HALIFAX – A Nova Scotia jury has entered a third day of deliberations in the case of two special constables charged in the death of an impaired 41-year-old man who suffocated in a Halifax police jail cell.

Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner have been on trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on charges of criminal negligence causing the death of Corey Rogers on June 16, 2016.

The jury sent a series of notes to Justice Kevin Coady on Saturday asking for clarifications on the essential legal ingredients needed to convict the constables.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, criminal negligence is defined as completing or omitting any duty in a way that shows “wanton or reckless disregard” for the lives or safety of others.

The Crown has argued the constables failed to properly check Rogers’ cell while he lay there with a spit hood covering his face.

A medical examiner’s report stated that Rogers’ died from asphyxiation after apparently vomiting into the spit hood, which is a mask used to prevent prisoners from spitting on guards.

The defence has said the constables followed the usual procedures and had believed Rogers was asleep rather than unconscious.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov. 9, 2019.

The Canadian Press

O’Leary legal challenge of leadership finance rules set for April

OTTAWA – Celebrity businessman and former Conservative leadership contender Kevin O’Leary has an April court date to challenge the constitutionality of campaign finance law.

O’Leary filed a lawsuit against Elections Canada last year over rules that impose a timeline on how long leadership contenders have to pay back their debts, and the fact they can’t pay it off themselves. A court date has now been set for Apr. 15, 2020.

Until the law is fixed, he said, he’ll never make another leadership run – but does think someone else needs to step up to replace current leader Andrew Scheer after he failed to win a majority government for the Conservatives in last month’s vote.

“Andrew just can’t lead,” O’Leary told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“It just doesn’t make sense to run him again, the same outcome will occur.”

O’Leary said he’s whittled down his nearly $500,000 worth of debt to under $160,000. Under the current rules he has to pay it off by next May.

O’Leary dropped out of the 2017 leadership race after dismal internal polling results, and threw his support behind Maxime Bernier, who finished second overall. Bernier later quit the Conservatives to form a splinter party, which failed to win any seats last month.

Scheer won the leadership, O’Leary said, by managing to convince the membership he’d be able to get around this issue of his socially conservative views.

“We thought Scheer could say look, he could handle it and he could communicate it properly and he just didn’t,” O’Leary said.

O’Leary said the caucus members he has spoken to are angry, and are angling for immediate change. Scheer survived a vote Wednesday night that would have allowed his MPs to kick him out, but the full party membership will get a say in April when he will face a mandatory leadership at the party’s convention in Toronto.

O’Leary said he remains a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party, and did cast a ballot for the Conservatives in last month’s election.

But he said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cannot remain in office, using the recent example of energy giant Encana choosing to relocate its headquarters to the U.S. as proof the Canadian economy is in danger.

Conservative ideas like the national energy corridor could right the economic ship, O’Leary said, they just need a different captain. 

Among the names he raised: Peter MacKay, a former cabinet minister who repeatedly insists he’s not interested, and Lisa Raitt, another former leadership contestant who has also said she supports Scheer at present.

She lost her seat in last month’s election because of Scheer, O’Leary said.

His refusal to march in gay pride parades means he’ll never gain enough support among women in crucial ridings like Raitt’s outside Toronto, and without them he can’t win, O’Leary said.

While Scheer insists he can hold the personal views he does, and find other ways to champion the rights of Canada’s LGBTQ community, O’Leary disagreed.

When you’re asked to march, you march, O’Leary said.

“You don’t say no, you say yes,” he said. “You show respect. That is a must. It is not an option. You have to show respect as a leader. If you can’t find that within yourself to do it, you can’t lead.”

O’Leary and his wife Linda are currently being sued in connection with a boat accident that killed two people last summer; O’Leary declined to comment on the litigation but called the accident tragic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov. 8, 2019.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Supreme Court says drug trafficker need not pay additional fine by 6-3 margin

OTTAWA – A convicted drug trafficker should not have to pay a fine as part of his punishment to offset the fact he used money he obtained from his crimes to pay his legal fees, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday.

The 6-3 decision gave new guidance to sentencing judges on how they should exercise their discretion under what it called the “complex and multi-factored regime” governing proceeds of crime. The provision was enacted by Parliament in 1988 to ensure that “crime does not pay.”

Friday’s case involves Yulik Rafilovich, a Toronto man who pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking and possession of property obtained through crime.

When police arrested Rafilovich they seized 560 grams of cocaine, $41,130 in Canadian cash and $651 in U.S. funds.

Rafilovich could not afford legal fees and did not qualify for legal aid, so he successfully applied under a Criminal Code provision for permission to use the seized funds to pay his lawyers. 

After Rafilovich pleaded guilty to five charges, the funds were found to be proceeds of crime and, at his sentencing, the Crown sought an order imposing a fine in lieu of forfeiture of $41,976.

The sentencing judge decided not to grant the fine, but the ruling was overturned on appeal. Rafilovich appealed to the Supreme Court and won.

Six Supreme Court judges ruled that, in general, sentencing judges should not impose a fine instead of forfeiture for funds that had been returned to an accused under a court order.

“By enacting the return provision, Parliament not only foresaw the possibility that seized funds may be needed to mount a defence, but explicitly allowed individuals to spend returned funds for this purpose,” Justice Sheilah Martin wrote for the majority.

Martin noted that while the provision tries to ensure that “crime does not pay,” allowing an accused person to access the funds for their defence serves two purposes. It provides access to a lawyer and gives “meaningful weight to the presumption of innocence,” both of which ensure fairness in criminal cases.

“Clawing back reasonable legal fees as a fine instead of forfeiture would, in most cases, undermine these equally valid purposes,” Martin wrote.

Martin said allowing seized funds to be used to pay lawyers would not apply in all cases, including if an accused doesn’t have a real financial need or if there was a misrepresentation of the accused’s financial position.

Three dissenting judges said accused people should not be allowed to benefit from their crimes, but the use of seized assets to pay for a defence lawyer can be allowed if it is essential to safeguard the constitutional right to a fair trial.

“This follows from a straightforward application of the primary objective of the proceeds of crime regime – namely, ensuring that crime does not pay,” Justice Michael Moldaver wrote for the dissenters, which included Chief Justice Richard Wagner.

“However, where a sentencing judge is satisfied that representation by counsel was essential to the offender’s constitutional right to a fair trial . . . the judge should exercise his or her limited discretion not to impose a fine in lieu in respect of the released funds.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2019.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Harvest a struggle in Alberta, Saskatchewan, but a miracle in Manitoba

Winter’s icy fingers have touched most of the Prairies since late September, causing havoc and frustration for many farmers trying to get crops off their fields.

Dave Reid, who farms near Cremona, northwest of Calgary, estimates 20 to 25 per cent of his canola is still in the ground under layers of snow. And it may have to stay there.

“With the snow we got the past couple of days, I’d say the chances of getting it before spring now are really slim.”

The last time he left a crop in the field over the winter was in 1972, he said.

Losses this year will be difficult to swallow, since crop insurance doesn’t kick in until harvest is actually completed.

“We’re a mixed farm so we have hay as well, but we’re still out several hundred thousand dollars of crops sitting in the field right now,” Reid said.

It’s not just the early winter that’s the problem, he added. Most of his crops were well behind schedule because of a cool, wet summer and weren’t ready to be harvested.

“With no break in the weather and winter now, it’s just a perfect storm.”

Hail over the summer destroyed most of the corn crop in the Taber area of southeastern Alberta. The early winter also finished the sugar beet harvest in the same region.

About 89 per cent of the crop in Alberta has been harvested compared with 95 per cent at this time last year. The province’s weekly crop report says snow and cooler temperatures are “likely to bring harvest to a complete halt for the season.”

Next door in Saskatchewan, about 90 per cent of this year’s harvest is complete compared with the five-year average of 96 percent.

“It doesn’t sound that bad. But in Saskatchewan, 10 per cent is about 3.5 to 4 million acres (1.4 million to 1.6 million hectares). Now that sounds a lot more scary when we say it that way,” said crops specialist Cory Jacob with Saskatchewan Agriculture.

He said he’s lost track of how many snowstorms have pelted the province so far this fall. It’s a bitter pill for producers.

“They’re frustrated. They want to get harvest off but they just can’t,” he said.

“If they give up, they get a bit of closure for the year and they can kind of move on. It’s absolutely draining to try and keep going at it into November.”

The situation in Manitoba is better, despite a severe storm that hit the southern part of the province just before the Thanksgiving weekend. Up to 50 centimetres of heavy, wet snow fell in some areas.

About 89 per cent of Manitoba’s crop is off compared with an average 96 per cent, and farmers continue to harvest, said a Manitoba Agriculture spokeswoman.

“We have had fabulous weather, better than most producers ever expected after the snow had fallen. The resulting week after the snow was slow melting,” said Anastasia Kubinec, manager of Crop Industry Development.

It’s not unheard of in Manitoba for combines to be out in fields until the end of November, she said. The storm was just a minor delay.

“It really is a miracle. It’s much better than many producers ever could have imagined or hoped for.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2019

– Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Remembering the sacrifices of Canada’s military families

OTTAWA – Not only did Reine Samson Dawe’s husband serve his entire career in the Canadian Armed Forces, but her four sons all followed in his footsteps. And while she is quick to point to the many ways military life has benefited her family, there have also been hardships – including the death of her youngest son, Capt. Matthew Dawe, in Afghanistan in 2007.

Selected this year’s Silver Cross Mother by the Royal Canadian Legion, Samson Dawe will lay a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial during Monday’s Remembrance Day ceremonies on behalf of all mothers who have lost children as a result of military service to Canada.

In an interview from her home in Kingston, Ont., Samson Dawe acknowledged the challenges that come with being part of a military family. Those include frequent relocations, often to relatively isolated communities, as well as the separation that comes with training and deployments and the threat of a loved one being injured or killed in the line of duty.

Samson Dawe, who met her husband while interning at a military hospital in Halifax after studying physiotherapy in Montreal, recalls the night in 2002 when four Canadian soldiers were killed by a U.S. warplane in Afghanistan. Her two oldest sons, Peter and Philip, were serving in the country at the time and she barely slept a wink while waiting for news.

“When Pete called and the first thing he said was ‘Mom, we’re OK,’ I couldn’t speak,” she said. “I cried my eyes out. At that point, there was no restraint or anything. I was so relieved. But those are moments that are extremely difficult, obviously.”

Five years later, however, Matthew Dawe was killed by an improvised explosive device along with five of his fellow Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter. The 27-year-old died the same day his son, Lucas, turned two.

Even now, Samson Dawe has difficulty relating how the tragedy affected her and her family. But she credits her son’s death with having brought the family closer together as they struggled to cope with its aftermath, which included supporting Lucas. And despite losing her son, she prefers to see the positives of her unexpected life as the wife and mother of Forces members.

“We were young and I always thought it was a bit of a challenge to move at times, but it was also an adventure and I enjoyed going to new places and meeting new people,” Samson Dawe said, adding it also helped build resiliency in her and her sons.

The federal government did not historically give much thought to military families for most of the last century, said Canadian War Museum historian Tim Cook.

“The care of the families was not primarily the task of (the Department of National Defence) and others,” Cook said. “It was to win the war. And I think what we found, certainly in the second half of the 20th century, was that we were doing a poor job in helping families deal with grief and loss and re-integrating veterans back.”

It was only after the Cold War, when Canadian military personnel deployed on a variety of different missions, most of them peacekeeping, there was “a renewed affirmation of the relationship between stable, functioning military families and an effective, sustainable fighting force,” the Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman wrote in 2013.

“Consequently, support to families has been elevated to a top institutional priority for much of the post-2000 period.”

The Canadian Armed Forces now maintains a network of 32 Military Family Resource Centres on bases across the country, which serve as a one-stop shop for families who are moving to new areas or dealing with the stresses of separation and loss.

A covenant was also released in 2008 promising military families would not be put at a disadvantage because a loved one is serving in uniform; the government’s defence policy, released in June 2017, also committed to additional funds and support for families.

“You don’t really know the lifestyle until you’ve lived it,” said Taylor Galloway, family engagement services manager at the MFRC in Ottawa, who works closely with military families in the national capital region.

“It really, truly is a choice to sacrifice that much of your life and that much of your family’s life to serve a country. So I just think of that bravery and that complete strength that that really entails from a member’s perspective, but also from a family’s perspective and from children’s perspective.”

The Vanier Institute of the Family released a study last week that found many military families in Canada continue to face more financial challenges than their civilian counterparts, including additional costs associated with relocations and deployments and husbands and wives having to sacrifice careers for a military spouse.

Many military families also have difficulty accessing health care, according to an article published in the Canadian Family Physician journal in January. The article noted that while Forces members are treated through the military health-care system, “their families must repeatedly navigate multiple civilian provincial and territorial health systems.”

And while only a fraction of military families are affected by service-related injuries or illnesses, an August 2018 report by the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services group, which is responsible for their well-being, found the impacts can be severe.

Overall, the CFMWS report found roughly 10 per cent of military families were struggling. And while one-third of military families felt they were well supported, “one-third did not think so and one-third were neutral.” The report added that overall family participation in offered programs and services was low, though those who did participate felt the services were beneficial.

For her part, Samson Dawe encouraged military families to access the support and services that has been made available to help. And while she didn’t want to diminish the support shown her family after Matthew’s death, she urged Canadians across the country to spare a thought for military families on Remembrance Day – and every other day of the year as well.

“I would like Canadians to demonstrate their support to the military families,” she said. “The last thing that the families want, and I think that goes for soldiers in general, they don’t want pity. They deserve a whole lot more than that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov. 10, 2019.

– Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


As brazen organized crime shootings hit Montreal, police mum on extent of problem

MONTREAL – A panicking woman spins in circles and screams for her children. Well-dressed party-goers in the posh hotel lobby are frantic. A uniformed officer is on his knees, trying to pump life back into a dying Mafioso.

These scenes were captured in shaky camera footage, later published by the Journal de Montreal, on the night of May 4 after mobster Salvatore Scoppa was shot dead in a suburban Montreal hotel. Five months later, his brother, Andrea “Andrew” Scoppa, described in news reports as an influential Mafia figure, was shot in the head in a west-end Montreal parking lot – one of 17 organized crime-linked murders in the greater Montreal area this year.

Analysts say these types of shootings are becoming more frequent and more brazen, but they criticize police for a lack of transparency about the extent of the city’s crime problem. Police refuse to say whether the Montreal area is witnessing more shootings in 2019 than in past years.

While murders of organized crime members are nothing new in the city, retired detective Guy Ryan says Montreal is also witnessing a lot of what he called “disorganized crime.” He pointed to an October attack on a hookah lounge in the St-Leonard borough – also caught on camera and published by the Journal de Montreal.

Three masked men are seen emptying round after round from their handguns into the lounge, as patrons scurry under tables to hide from the bullets. He says that kind of violence – especially by young people – is happening more often. And he lamented that, compared to Toronto, the city’s police are keeping the public in the dark.

“We’re not seeing the kind of transparency here that we’re seeing in Toronto,” Ryan said in an interview.

Toronto police publish detailed statistics, such as how many shootings have taken place in the city every month, and whether anyone was injured – and the data can be sorted using several different filters. As of Sunday Nov. 3, Toronto had recorded 408 shootings in 2019.

When asked if Montreal police collected similar data, chief spokesman Andre Durocher said it is not available and suggested filling out an access to information request – a process that is notoriously slow.

He said no two police departments in Canada define shootings the same way. “Sometimes we get a call about a gunshot – and there never was a gunshot!” Durocher said. “It was a tire blowout.” In order to know how many shootings there are in Montreal, he said, someone would have to analyze every call made to police

Ryan, who spent 28 years on the Montreal police force, is not buying it.

“I can’t believe they came to the conclusion there aren’t any statistics,” he said. “I am convinced they study all the events with shootings – and those cases are worked as a priority, because those are crimes against people.”

Montreal La Presse recently sought to compile the number of murders, attempted murders, shootings without victims, and cases of gun possession or gun trafficking in the greater Montreal area this year and came up with 70 – 58 in Montreal alone. But the news organization’s tally was limited to cases that made headlines.

The Montreal police department’s annual report indicates there were 436 “firearms offences” in the city in 2018, but that term wasn’t defined. After being asked Thursday for the definition, a police spokesperson told The Canadian Press the information could not be available before next week.

Ryan said the gunplay around his neighbourhood of Montreal-North is increasing. Whereas shots used to be reported in particular high-crime areas, “now it’s everywhere,” he said. Drive-by shootings, where young men would release rounds just for fun, used to happen at night, Ryan said – now it happens in broad daylight.

He said he’s convinced the police are working hard and investigating these crimes: “What I’m saying is they lack a little bit of transparency.”

Organized crime expert, Andre Cedilot, a retired journalist and co-author of the book “Mafia Inc.” about the Rizzuto crime family, said the recent rash of killings is a sign of the power vacuum in the city’s underworld since the death of Vito Rizzuto in 2013.

Rizzuto was able to keep the peace, settle disputes and control warring clans, Cedilot said, but since his death, at least three or four attempts to take over Italian-linked crime circles have failed. And the Hells Angels have taken advantage of the chaos and now control much of the city’s drug distribution network, he said.

The biker gang’s resurgence has not been without a cost. On Oct. 17, a Hells-linked drug trafficker, Gaetan Sevigny, was shot dead outside his home north of Montreal. Another reported Hells Angels associate, Roger Bishop, was murdered Oct. 30 outside a gym just south of Montreal.

In response to the recent spate of organized crime-related murders, Quebec and Montreal police announced last Wednesday their officers would work together in a permanent squad dedicated to investigating groups such as the Mafia and the Hells Angels.

Of the 17 killings in the Montreal region this year that police link to organized crime, just three were on the island of Montreal and 14 were in off-island suburbs, provincial police spokesman Guy Lapointe said.

Lapointe and Durocher did rounds of media interviews earlier in the week to market the new “mixed squad” – but they were unable to say whether gun violence is on the rise.

“It’s a lot,” Lapointe said of the number of slayings this year. “I don’t have the number of the other years on me …. But it’s a lot.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov. 10, 2019.

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press


B.C. rental crisis goes far beyond impact of short-term rentals, say experts

VICTORIA – British Columbia’s rental housing crisis goes far beyond factoring the impact of short-term rentals, say housing experts who say more building is needed to help families find affordable homes.

Recent data from Airbnb Canada says the short-term rental company collected almost $43 million in provincial, municipal and regional taxes over the past year, which will be provided to the provincial government, regional districts and the City of Vancouver to fund housing and tourism initiatives.

Housing experts said the tax is a small return for a province where families struggle to find affordable homes.

“The extra amount of tax the hosts are paying and the Airbnb is collecting and passing along, there’s no scenario where that tax makes up for the harmful impact of all the short-term rentals on housing availability and affordability in the province,” says Prof. David Wachsmuth at McGill University’s school of urban planning.

“Even if every cent of it was immediately placed into building affordable housing for B.C. residents that wouldn’t begin to address, wouldn’t begin to make up for the harmful impacts on the availability of housing short-term rentals are responsible for in the province.”

The Finance Ministry estimated last year that an Airbnb tax agreement would generate $16 million, but this year’s provincial return is more than double the forecast.

“The PST payment agreement is a new tax application, and as with any new tax application, we were conservative in our revenue projections,” Finance Minister Carole James said in a statement. “We’re closely watching the data as it comes in, and we’re making sure municipalities have the information they need to make decisions about regulating short-term rentals.”

Wachsmuth, who co-authored a study last June that found more than 31,000 homes across Canada were rented so frequently on Airbnb that they were likely dropped as long-term rentals, said collecting more tax in B.C. than was forecast should be viewed as a “bad sign.”

“What that is saying is that compared to Airbnb’s estimates, compared to the province’s own estimates, there’s been dramatically more short-term rental activity in B.C. than they were expecting,” he said.

The City of Vancouver said Thursday its efforts to regulate short-term rental units and bring back more long-term rental options are working because the number of long-term rental business licences have increased since the introduction of regulations for short-term rentals.

Brian Clifford, policy manager at the B.C. Non Profit Housing Association, said short-term rentals are just one part of an affordability crisis that escalated after decades of underfunding of housing initiatives.

“We know that (short-term rentals) contributes to affordability problems,” he said. “I’d say that there is a lot of focus on Airbnb, but it is not the silver bullet causing the affordability crisis. It is a contributing factor. It’s not the sole problem that we have.”

Clifford said the society, which represents the non-profit housing sector with more than 600 members, has data highlighting the extent of the affordability crisis across B.C.

In B.C., 43 per cent of renter homes spend more than the recommended affordability benchmark of 30 per cent of gross income on housing and utilities, he said. The national average is 40 per cent.

Clifford said 21 per cent of B.C. renters spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities, while the Canadian average is 18 per cent.

“One in five renters are in a crisis level of spending too much on rent,” he said. “It places households at risk of homelessness. If you are spending half of your income, what are you sacrificing?”

Clifford said he doesn’t yet have evidence that the B.C. government’s housing initiatives have had an impact on people needing housing.

“I want to say it’s getting better,” he said. “We don’t really know as of right now whether it is. All indications show rents are increasing. They are increasing faster than what average people are earning.”

Housing Minister Selina Robinson said B.C. is building its way out of a housing crisis that grew over several decades. She said thousands of affordable housing projects are under construction and people will start seeing new units by next year.

“We’ve been missing purpose-built rentals for decades,” said Robinson. “We had an out of control housing market. We really had not enough subsidized housing being built in the last couple of decades.”

Last year, The NDP government introduced an almost $7 billion affordable housing plan to deliver 114,000 units in a decade.

Robinson said construction of 22,459 units are underway. Of those units, she said 3,281 homes are complete, 6,304 are under construction and 12,874 are in the development and approval process.

“There are people on construction sites, But remember, typically, you have 18 to 48 months depending on where and which community. That’s how long it takes.”

Wachsmuth said B.C.’s housing plan is leading Canada when it comes to facing the challenges of housing supply and affordability, but more needs to be done.

“Ultimately, the solution has to be governments at the provincial and federal level making much more significant investments in public housing, in subsidized housing and in market housing as well,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2019.

 

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Online backlash against Don Cherry for comments on immigrants and Remembrance Day

TORONTO – Hockey commentator Don Cherry is in the limelight yet again, this time for complaining that he rarely sees people he believes to be new immigrants wearing poppies ahead of Remembrance Day.

The 85-year-old Cherry said on Saturday on his weekly Coach’s Corner segment as part of Hockey Night in Canada that he’s less frequently seeing people wearing poppies anymore to honour fallen Canadian soldiers – and he singled out those he believes are immigrants in Toronto, prompting a swift online backlash.

“You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,” Cherry said.  “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Among the online responses was one from Paula Simons, an independent senator from Alberta.

She wrote that it has not been her experience that new immigrants don’t wear poppies or appreciate the tragedies of war, and further condemned the sentiment behind Cherry’s remarks.

“We don’t honour the sacrifice of those who died in battle by sowing division or distrust,” Simons wrote. 

Cherry made his comment prior to running his annual Remembrance Day video montage, where he is seen walking through a military cemetery in France visiting the graves of Canadian soldiers who went to battle in the First World War.

Poppies are sold every year starting on the last Friday in October until Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 by The Royal Canadian Legion to raise money in support of veterans and their families.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2019.

The Canadian Press

Kenney announces ‘Fair Deal Panel’ to advance Alberta’s interests, like pipelines

RED DEER, Alta. – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the creation of a panel that will examine ways to make his province more independent of Ottawa in a speech to the conservative Manning Centre on Saturday in which he rejected separatist arguments.

Kenney’s “Fair Deal Panel,” which will include former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, will consult with Albertans on ideas such as establishing a provincial revenue agency, withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan in favour of a new provincial agency and establishing a formalized provincial constitution.

The point of the panel, Kenney explained, is to secure a fair deal for Alberta and advance Alberta’s economic interests, such as the construction of energy pipelines.

Kenney noted that several of the ideas are borrowed from Quebec, such as collecting taxes and seeking provincial representation in treaty negotiations that affect Alberta’s interests.

He said that none of the ideas would be implemented without Albertans endorsing them in a referendum.

Kenney told the audience that separating from Canada would landlock Alberta and not make it any easier to get a pipeline built to a coast, but that he sees the fear in Albertans eyes about their economic futures.

“It’s expressed most devastatingly in an increase in the rate of Albertans who have taken their own lives over the past five years. The per capita rate of suicide in Alberta is 50 per cent higher than it is in Ontario,” Kenney said in his speech in Red Deer, adding that economic woes are also contributing to a wave of rural crime and opiod addiction.

“So this literally for many people is a life-and-death question.”

Other members of the panel will include Stephen Lougheed, a businessman and son of former premier Peter Lougheed, as well as University of Alberta law professor Moin Yahya, First Nations leader Jason Goodstriker, Canada West Foundation chair Oryssia Lennie, and some members of Kenney’s United Conservative Party caucus.

Kenney’s speech was the keynote address at the conference, where three of four panels discussed the federal election result and what it meant for Alberta and the West.

In the days that followed the Oct. 21 vote, a simmering separatist movement in Alberta gained momentum under the “Wexit” umbrella, a name seemingly created to mimic the Brexit movement aimed at separating Britain from the European Union.

The group’s founder, Peter Downing, earlier this week filed paperwork with Elections Canada to form a federal Wexit Alberta party that could, in his words, do for Western Canada what the Bloc Quebecois does for Quebec.

Kenney said the status quo isn’t acceptable, but that he and most Albertans don’t want to give up on Canada forever.

“So what is the alternative?” Kenney asked. “Bold action.”

The panel will conduct public consultations between Nov. 16 and Jan. 30. It will complete its report to government by March 31.

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley responded in a statement that Kenney was “intentionally stoking the fires of western alienation in order to advance his own political objectives.”

The NDP leader also noted that Kenney never mentioned withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan during the provincial election last April.

“Alberta is part of Canada, and Jason Kenney needs to accept that,” Notley said. “This premier needs to cut the theatrics and get back to the job of getting Albertans back to work.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2019.

The Canadian Press