Category: RD News Now

Rocker Ric Ocasek, frontman of The Cars, dead at 75

NEW YORK – Ric Ocasek, The Cars frontman whose deadpan vocal delivery and lanky, sunglassed look defined a rock era with chart-topping hits like “Just What I Needed,” was discovered dead Sunday afternoon in his Manhattan apartment.

The New York Police Department said that officers found the 75-year-old Ocasek at about 4 p.m. after responding to a 911 call. They said there were no signs of foul play and that the medical examiner was to determine a cause of death.

The death comes a year after The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, followed by an announcement by model Paulina Porizkova on social media that she and Ocasek had separated after 28 years of marriage. The pair first met while filming the music video for “Drive,” another Cars hit.

Ocasek, who sang, played guitar and wrote most of the band’s songs, and Benjamin Orr, who played bass and also sang, were ex-hippie buddies who formed The Cars in Boston in 1976. They were a decade older than many of their modern-rock compatriots but became one of the most essential American bands of the late 1970s and 1980s with their fusion of new wave, 1960s pop and 1970s glam.

Ocasek’s minimalist, half-spoken deadpan vocals set made the band’s sound, and his long, lanky appearance formed their lasting image.

The first three songs on their 1978 self-titled first album were all hit singles and remain widely known classics and oldies radio airplay: “Good Times Roll,” ”My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Just What I Needed.”

They had 10 other singles in the Billboard top 40, and of their six studio albums, four were in Billboard’s top 10.

The band’s commercial peak came with 1984’s “Heartbeat City,” which featured the hit singles “You Might Think” and “Magic,” sung by Ocasek, and the atypical ballad “Drive,” sung by Orr.

They were always an MTV favourite, and the whimsical, partly animated video for “You Might Think” along with the mournful video for “Drive” brought them near-constant airplay on the channel in the mid-1980s.

The band broke up in 1988, but their influence would be deeply felt in the 1990s and beyond. Kurt Cobain and Nirvana covered “My Best Friend’s Girl” at their last live show in 1994, and Ocasek produced albums for younger bands including Weezer, No Doubt and Bad Religion.

The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 after being nominated twice before. During the ceremony, Ocasek paid tribute to Orr, who died in 2000 of pancreatic cancer.

“It’s quite strange to be here without him,” Ocasek said.

In announcing the separation last year, Porizkova said that their family is “a well-built car.” But she says that “as a bicycle, my husband and I no longer pedal in unison.” Ocasek had six sons, two from each of his three marriages.

He grew up in Baltimore, and his family moved to Cleveland when he was a teenager. After graduating high school he had stints at Antioch College and Bowling Green State University in the mid-1960s before dropping out to pursue music.

Ocasek met Orr in 1965 and they formed their own first band called ID Nirvana in 1968. In the 1970s they relocated to Boston and formed bands including the folk-rock Milkwood and also played as an acoustic duo before finding their calling when they created The Cars.

Tom Hays And Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press


Energy, crime are top election issues for city councillors

Pipelines and crime are top of mind federal election issues for members of Red Deer city council.

“First and foremost is with respect to securing energy to market access. Making sure that the energy industry, and all of its benefits for all Canadians, is respected in future government decision making,” Mayor Tara Veer said on Monday.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in terms of our efforts to diversify our local economy. But it’s absolutely imperative that we see a return in the energy sector in order to remove us, once and for all, from this recession.”

“Getting our natural resources to tide water, I think that needs to be a number one priority for whoever forms the next federal government,” added Councillor Tanya Handley.

The other top election issue for councillors is another concern shared by many – crime and public safety.

“Obviously, the greatest concern of Red Deerians right now, outside of the economy, is crime and general public safety,” Veer pointed out. “We know that the property and persons crime in Red Deer is a direct consequence of the drug trade and trafficking, and we need very strong leadership at the federal level in order to get to the root of those systemic issues.”

Handley says ensuring that justice is carried out when it comes to repeat offenders is something both federal and provincial governments need to address.

Equally important as a strong energy sector, according to Councillor Michael Dawe, is strong agriculture.

“The agricultural sector has really been hit with some severe blows the last couple years,” Dawe noted. “We really need to tackle that in a strong and forward way to make sure it doesn’t get left behind, because it is so important to us.”

City Manager Allan Seabrooke says he’s looking for a commitment to reliable, sustainable funding for municipalities to look after infrastructure.

“I know that Alberta is committed to that, but we need our federal (government) to also recognize that municipalities are a strong player in looking after the assets that ensure the quality of life for people here in Red Deer.”

Seabrooke, too, highlighted the importance of government helping to ensure the strength of Alberta’s energy and agriculture industries.

“We rely so heavily on our natural resources and our agriculture. Those are two key industries that the rest of Canada cannot forget because Alberta is such a strong player in ensuring those strong industries. It’s what makes Canada tick.”

Red Deer Public School board to defend its ‘legal’ name

Red Deer Public School board to defend its ‘legal’ name

The Red Deer Public Schools Board of Trustees have voted to continue their advocacy efforts in maintaining the word ‘public’ in the District’s legal name.

Board chair Nicole Buchanan says three motions were approved on Sept. 11 detailing those efforts.

Trustees authorized the chair and vice chair to take appropriate action to defend the legal naming of the jurisdiction to maintain their public school identity, continue branding the district as Red Deer Public Schools, and refer the matter to the board’s Advocacy Committee for further discussions, strategies and recommendations.

“Eight boards within our province had to remove the word ‘public’ out of our legal name,” says Buchanan.

“It’s important for Red Deer Public to keep the word ‘public’ in our name because the word ‘public’ in our name is just as important to us as ‘Catholic’ is to separate schools. The word ‘public’ makes it clear that we are an inclusive system that welcomes each and every student.”

Despite The Continuance of the School Divisions and The Board of Trustees Order under the Education Act issued by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange on Aug. 15, Buchanan says their board will continue to operate as Red Deer Public Schools.

“We are also working with PSBAA (Public School Board’s Association of Alberta) and ASBA (Alberta School Boards Association) with regards to this,” adds Buchanan.

“Legally it had to be changed prior to September 30 for funding because they had changed the naming on their end. So if the names didn’t add up for banking, their funding wouldn’t come through, so legally, our name had to be changed for us to receive funding.”

Red Deer Public School board to defend its ‘legal’ name 1Nicole Buchanan

Although the District is able to continue branding itself as Red Deer Public Schools, Buchanan says she remains concerned about what the change could mean for public school education moving forward.

LaGrange issued a statement on Sept. 9 claiming the NDP and other special interest groups were fear mongering on public education. She said the government has acted to standardize school division names.

“There’s nothing preventing school divisions from branding themselves as they like in common usage,” the statement reads. “What’s more, the changes made only affect eight of 41 public school divisions. The vast majority of public school divisions never included ‘public’ in their title in the first place – yet they were very much public school divisions. This was the case under the NDP, just as it is now.”

LaGrange said that looking across Canada, it’s not uncommon for public school divisions to not include ‘public’.

“The Toronto District School Board, the nation’s largest school division, is indeed public but does not include the term ‘public’,” she added. “The omission of ‘public’ changes nothing. This is similar elsewhere in Canada.”

LaGrange says there were technical reasons why changes were made to standardize school division names, adding the previous system under the old School Act allowed for unequal treatment of school divisions.

“Previously there was a patchwork of different types of school divisions with different powers,” she explains. “With the Education Act, we are creating a level playing field. Before the new Education Act, regional divisions required ward and trustee representation from each of the initial entities that formed the regional division when regionalization occurred 25 years ago.”

LaGrange said to insinuate these changes are an attack on public education, is simply an attempt to cause unnecessary fear and stress in Alberta’s education system.

“I can assure all Albertans that our government fully supports the longstanding and successful tradition of pluralism in Alberta’s education system – including strong and viable public schools,” her statement concluded. “Despite the conspiracy theories of some with their own partisan motives, there is absolutely no ulterior motive with these common sense changes. Rest assured that our government will continue to protect public education in Alberta.”

Greens call for stronger digital privacy protections

WATERLOO, Ont. – Intrusions into Canadians’ digital privacy have become a crisis and it’s time to stop companies from mining people’s information for profit, the Green party leader said Tuesday as she highlighted her platform on privacy.

Later in the day, the party would admit to having mishandled some private information in training videos on its website.

But in the morning, Elizabeth May was in the tech-hub community of Waterloo, Ont., to talk about the Greens’ pledges on protecting privacy, and she said an election is an important time to look at the issue.

“In the middle of an election campaign I really want to emphasize that democracy itself can be at risk when data is collected, manipulated, packaged, pre-programmed to hit receptors in our brain that are ready to hear that we have something to be afraid of instead of something to understand,” she said.

May wants to require political parties to follow the Privacy Act. They’re currently exempt, though they have some obligations under laws governing elections. The party says that the Greens have developed a privacy policy promising not to sell personal information, conduct “micro-targeting,” or misuse data, but it wants the law to require those standards for all parties.

In the afternoon, the Green party said in a statement that it had, “due to an oversight,” used the private information of “a small number of Canadian voters” in internal training videos hosted on its website. Political parties get access to voter lists, under a Canada Elections Act provision that says the information can be used only to communicate with electors.

Elections Canada urges parties to keep such data close, restricting access to people who really need it for legitimate, authorized political work.

“Elections Canada has been notified and the error has been corrected,” the Greens said.

The Greens have promised to prohibit warrantless intrusions on Canadians’ communications, ban cyber-surveillance programs that use bulk data collection and significantly increase the powers of the federal privacy commissioner to protect identity and personal data.

The party would require companies to respect the “right to be forgotten,” the principle that people should be able to control whether information from their pasts remains online after some time has passed.

May said the Greens endorse recommendations from Centre for Digital Rights founder Jim Balsillie, who made his fortune from the wireless-device company now called BlackBerry, including legislating stronger privacy protections and providing effective whistleblower protections for those who expose abuses of data.

The Greens also want to regulate Facebook, Twitter and other social-media platforms to ensure that only people with verifiable identities can use the platforms to publish.

“This is at a crisis stage,” May said. “(Companies) are mining for profit our private information and it’s time we put it to a stop.”

The party is also calling for a parliamentary inquiry into modernizing Canada’s privacy laws.

May denied that a new suite of privacy requirements would hamper business, in particular small business.

“We’re in favour of small business and we’d like small business to get bigger and have profits and hire more people, but there is a large crisis happening here because this is something that is largely unregulated,” she said. “This is a whole new playing field and in that playing field citizens’ rights to privacy are being trampled.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has announced that he would create a certification system to let consumers know whether certain digital products meet federal security standards. His government would also force companies that want to collect electronic data to use clear language in user agreements and to obtain prior informed consent from Canadians.

The NDP has said it would boost the power of the privacy commissioner to make and enforce orders.

– By Allison Jones in Toronto

The Canadian Press



Alberta spends $3M for 30 nurse practitioners for remote, specialized areas

EDMONTON – Alberta is hiring up to 30 new nurse practitioners to work in remote areas or places where it’s difficult for patients to see a family doctor.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the new hires will work with family physicians and others in primary care networks.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have taken advanced education and can perform tasks such as setting broken bones, doing checkups, ordering tests and prescribing medications.

Alberta has 600 nurse practitioners, but Shandro says almost all of them work in hospitals or outpatient clinics.

He says the goal is to have them work in areas like Bonnyville, where the primary care network there has 600 patients on a wait list for a doctor.

“We’re delivering on our campaign commitment to add more nurse practitioners, to give people in underserved communities more access to primary care and other health services,” Shandro said. “Nurse practitioners are valuable, skilled health-care professionals, and we look forward to working with them to strengthen our publicly funded health system.”

Anne Summach, with the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta, says she doesn’t see any problem finding 30 practitioners to work away from the major centres given they will have more opportunity to do a broader range of work.

“Any day that the government announces funding for more nurse practitioners is a good day for Albertans. However, today’s promise of more nurse practitioners is just a drop in the bucket compared this government’s panel recommendations for deep cuts to health care funding and Americanization of services,” said David Shepherd, NDP Official Opposition Critic. “Nurse Practitioners are a great addition to our health care system but the UCP is going to make it harder for them to deliver care by making a 20 per cent cut.”

Recruitment begins soon for new nurse practitioners across Alberta, including:

Aspen Primary Care Network in northern Alberta, to provide services for many Treaty 8 First Nations in the area (such as Driftpile and Bigstone Cree) and Metis Settlements (including Peavine and Gift Lake).

Bow Valley Primary Care Network, to provide services in the areas of Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise, where patients currently have to seek care through hospital emergency departments.

Bonnyville Primary Care Network, where 600 patients are currently on a wait-list for a doctor.

Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network, to increase services for foster children at the Covenant Health Foster Care Clinic.

Sherwood Park-Strathcona County Primary Care Network, to provide services in the hospital’s opioid dependency clinic.

(With file from Government of Alberta, NDP media releases)

Court allows appeal on pipeline certificate, says B.C. needs to reconsider

VANCOUVER – The British Columbia government has been ordered by the province’s highest court to reconsider its environmental assessment certificate allowing the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

In challenges by the Squamish Nation and the City of Vancouver, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled the province’s approval of the certificate was based on the original report from the National Energy Board, which was later quashed by the Federal Court of Appeal.

After the National Energy Board reviewed the project for a second time, the federal government approved the pipeline expansion again.

The Appeal Court says in its decision released today that in light of changes to the original report of the energy board when it reconsidered the project, provincial approval also needs to be reconsidered. 

B.C.’s former Liberal government approved the expansion with 37 conditions, while relying on an agreement with the energy board that would stand for a provincial environmental assessment.

The three-judge panel said in its unanimous decision that through no fault of the provincial government, what is now Canada’s environmental assessment of the pipeline was not the same assessment used when B.C. approved its certificate.

The court dismissed other claims by the city and the Squamish Nation including that the province failed to sufficiently consult with Indigenous groups.

The Federal Court of Appeal agreed earlier this month to hear arguments from First Nations that argue they were improperly consulted before the federal government approved the pipeline expansion for the second time.

The City of Vancouver says in a statement that it’s pleased with the court’s decision. One of the reasons the city pursued the case was the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision that overturning Ottawa’s approval of the project, which led the energy board to reconsider the project and issue a new report.

“The City remains of the view that the Trans Mountain Pipeline project would have significant environmental impacts, including the unacceptable risk of oil spills and increased greenhouse gas emission related to the project at a time when the world needs to reduce emissions,” it says.

Environment Minister George Heyman was not immediately available for comment. Representatives from Trans Mountain and the Squamish Nation could not immediately be reached for comment.

The project would triple the capacity of an existing pipeline from Alberta’s oilpatch to a terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

The federal government bought the existing pipeline and the unfinished expansion work for $4.5 billion last year, promising to get it past the political opposition that had scared off Kinder Morgan Canada from proceeding.

The Canadian Press

Man who scammed romantic partner wants mistrial despite guilty finding

TORONTO – A con artist who scammed the romantic partner he met online out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has asked a judge to declare a mistrial months after finding him guilty.

In his motion, Shaun Rootenberg argues Superior Court Justice Beth Allen unfairly refused to stay the proceedings over problems with pretrial disclosure and his being strip searched in prison.

Allen convicted Rootenberg, 51, of Thornhill, Ont., in July of defrauding Victoria Smith, a divorced mother of two, out of $595,000. She had given him the money in September and October 2013 to invest on her behalf. Instead, Allen ruled, he had used the funds to buy himself a new BMW and pay off gambling debts, among other things.

Rootenberg’s lawyer Bryan Badali conceded the nine-day trial that began in May before Allen was itself fair. Nevertheless, he said the “extreme remedy” of a mistrial was justified by the earlier issues.

“I fundamentally disagree,” prosecutor Mitchell Flagg responded during the hearing last week. “Everything about this trial was fair.”

Evidence before Allen was that Rootenberg, pretending to be Shaun Rothberg, met Smith via the e-Harmony dating site in July 2013. She quickly fell for the divorced father of two. Rootenberg talked up his idea for developing an online gaming venture called Social Trivia and, after a month of dating, she handed over $160,000 as an investment.

“She believed they were in a committed monogamous relationship,” Allen, who will rule on the mistrial next month, said in her judgment.

Soon after, Smith gave Rootenberg $435,000 to invest in mortgages he said would yield six per cent interest income every month. Over the ensuing 16 months, she did receive payments totalling about $36,500.

“For all the court knows,” Allen said, “Mr. Rootenberg may well have used Ms. Smith’s own funds to pay her the dividends.”

About 18 months into the relationship, Smith discovered – much to her shock – that her love interest was a convicted fraudster who had spent time in prison and was not Shaun Rothberg but Shaun Rootenberg. Worried about her money, she testified that she tried to keep the relationship going but ultimately went to police.

Rootenberg is also a key figure in an unrelated case in which a former medical officer of health, Dr. Kim Barker, claims he preyed on her vulnerability.

At the same time Smith was dating Rootenberg and handing over cash to him, Barker was also involved with a man she knew as Shaun Rothberg, and hired him as interim chief financial officer of the Algoma Public Health Unit in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Barker has spent years fighting to block the release of an embarrassing forensic report detailing her relationship with Rootenberg and his hiring. She is currently waiting to see if the Supreme Court of Canada will weigh in after a lower court ruled the report should be public.

Barker resigned in 2015 after it became public that Rootenberg had served time for multiple counts of fraud.

It had been during his incarceration at Beaver Creek penitentiary in 2011 that Rootenberg met another convicted fraudster, Myron Gottlieb, the former second-in-command to disgraced Livent Inc. impresario Garth Drabinsky. The two men, Gottlieb testified, discussed Rootenberg’s plan for the social media business.

After their release, Gottlieb, president of B-G Enterprises Inc., agreed to help Rootenberg with the venture in exchange for $70,000. Gottlieb also allowed Rootenberg to deposit money ostensibly from off-shore assets into B-G’s bank account and disbursed the cash as directed. In fact, the money had come from Smith.

In finding him guilty, Allen said it was clear Rootenberg had diverted funds for his own personal use and gave them to third parties for their use.

“Ms. Smith was unaware of what Mr. Rootenberg had done with her money,” Allen said. “She did not know the BMW she saw him driving around in was purchased with her $435,000.”

 

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Gory murders, stabbings, kids slain: Killers found not criminally responsible

EDMONTON – A review board at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton is deciding whether a man who killed five young people at a house party in Calgary should be given some increased freedom. A judge found Matthew de Grood not criminally responsible in the 2014 killings because he was suffering from schizophrenia. Here’s a look at some other cases in which the finding was made or sought.

Gregory Despres: Fatally stabbed two elderly neighbours in Minto, N.B., in 2005, decapitating one of them. Despres, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had crossed the border despite guards finding him with a small arsenal including a chainsaw, a sword and brass knuckles. He told them he was an assassin on a military mission. Three psychiatrists diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. He was found not criminally responsible. 

Elaine Campione: Drowned her daughters, who were three and 19 months, in a bathtub in 2006 during a custody battle with her ex-husband. Doctors diagnosed the Barrie, Ont., woman with unspecified psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder from spousal abuse, depression and an eating disorder. But the Crown successfully argued her mental illness didn’t prevent her from knowing right from wrong. Campione was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

Glen Race: Pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Trevor Brewster and second-degree murder of Paul Michael Knott. Race suffered from schizophrenia and was not taking his medicine in May 2007 when he lured the Halifax men to their deaths. Court was told Race believed he was a vampire slayer and a god-like entity at the time of the killings. He was found not criminally responsible, based on a joint recommendation from the Crown and the defence.

Allan Schoenborn: Killed his three children, who were 10, eight and five, in Merritt, B.C., in April 2008. Schoenborn was diagnosed with delusional disorder and said he killed the children to protect them from an imagined threat of sexual abuse. He was found not criminally responsible and is in a psychiatric hospital in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Vincent Li: Fatally stabbed and beheaded Tim McLean, a young man who was sleeping next to him on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba in July 2008. Li told a mental-health advocate he heard the voice of God telling him McLean was an alien whom he needed to destroy. Li was found not criminally responsible and was sent to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. He saw his privileges expand slowly until February 2016 when Li, now known as Will Baker, won the right to eventually move out of a group home and live on his own.

Francis Proulx: Shot Nancy Michaud, an aide to a Quebec cabinet minister, in the head after taking her hostage in 2008 while her two children slept. He took credit cards and banking information and had sex with her corpse. During his trial, he argued he had been on medication at the time and was not criminally responsible because of a mental issue. However, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Guy Turcotte: Fatally stabbed his three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son in 2009. The Quebec cardiologist was found not criminally responsible and was sent to a psychiatric hospital in Montreal and released in December 2012. An Appeal Court overturned the verdict. In 2015, Turcotte was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 17 years.

Kimberly Noyes: Told police in 2009 that she had killed a 12-year-old autistic boy with a knife. Noyes, from Grand Forks, B.C., was found not criminally responsible for John Fulton’s death. Medical experts testified that she was bipolar and severely depressed, had gone off her medication and was hearing voices.

Miloslav Kapsik: Bludgeoned his wife to death with a hammer, hitting her more than 100 times while they were watching a hockey game in 2010. Court was told he had been hearing voices. Medical records showed the Winnipeg man was first diagnosed with severe depression in 2003. The defence’s attempt to argue he was not criminally responsible was unsuccessful. He is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder, with no eligibility for parole for 10 years.

Richard Kachkar: Stole a snowplow in January 2011 and in the middle of a two-hour rampage hit and killed Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell. Witnesses heard him yell about the Taliban, Chinese technology and microchips. He was found not criminally responsible.

Luka Rocco Magnotta: Killed and dismembered Chinese exchange student Jun Lin in May 2012. Experts testified Magnotta is schizophrenic and was psychotic and out of touch with reality the night of the slaying. The prosecution said Magnotta had made a promise several months earlier to take the life of a human being. He was found guilty of first-degree murder.

Trevor Kloschinsky: Killed Alberta peace officer Rod Lazenby, who had come to Kloschinsky’s rural property in August 2012 to investigate a dog complaint. He was charged with first-degree murder but found not criminally responsible. A judge ruled Kloschinsky’s delusional thinking prevented him from realizing what he was doing was wrong.

Daniel Goodridge: Stabbed two people to death at a northern Alberta work camp in June 2015. A male victim was stabbed more than 70 times and parts of his body cut off before it was set on fire. A woman who tried to help the man was also stabbed to death. Goodridge was charged with first-degree murder and interfering with human remains. His trial was told that he had been hearing voices and believed his co-workers wanted to assault him. Court also heard he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had mental-health issues dating back to Grade 7. A judge found him not criminally responsible.

 

The Canadian Press

NDP’s Singh seeks urban support with housing billions, avoids deficit questions

OTTAWA – Jagmeet Singh continued his push to win progressive votes on Tuesday by promising an NDP government would invest billions of dollars in affordable housing to help Canadians struggling to make ends meet.

The commitment was the NDP’s latest pledge to expand social programs. The party’s promises have included universal pharmacare and free tuition for post-secondary education while promising higher taxes on large corporations and the wealthy.

Yet Singh also deflected questions about how and when an NDP government would tackle the federal deficit, saying only that he would make different choices from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and that his priority is helping Canadians now.

“We want to take the budget very seriously, and we’ll look at what that means in the future,” Singh said during a campaign event at a non-profit housing complex in downtown Ottawa, a few kilometres from Parliament Hill.

“But right now our priority’s investing in some of the crises that people are going through.”

Singh’s stop in the capital on Tuesday meant a return to Ontario, where he spent the first few days of the campaign before a tour of western Quebec over the weekend. He was in Ottawa Centre, where Liberal Catherine McKenna defeated New Democrat Paul Dewar in 2015. The seat has historically flipped back and forth between the Liberals and the NDP.

After kicking a soccer ball with some children, Singh announced that an NDP government would build 500,000 new affordable homes over 10 years, starting with an immediate investment of $5 billion.

“Our priorities are the people behind me, the families who need affordable housing, the people who tell me that they cannot find a place to live,” Singh said during the low-key campaign event before attacking the Liberals’ record.

The NDP leader cited a report by parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux in June that found under the Liberals’ plan, spending on affordable housing is slated to fall as a percentage of the economy over the next decade.

While the raw dollar figure is set to increase, Giroux found federal spending on housing is slated to decline from 0.13 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product in 2017-18 to 0.11 per cent in 2027-28.

Meanwhile, census data released Tuesday shows roughly one-third of Canadian households, 4.7 million, live in rental housing and they are often low-income earners, young adults, or newcomers to Canada.

In addition, 44 per cent of renters under age 30 spend 30 per cent or more of their incomes on housing. More than half of young renters in Toronto, Metro Vancouver and Ottawa do.

Similar affordability issues are found among seniors (including for 64 per cent of those renting in Regina), recent immigrants to Canada, and single mothers.

“We hear Mr. Trudeau talk about there is a housing crisis with more of those pretty words,” Singh said during the campaign event. “You know, acknowledging the problem, but then when it comes to the actual solving of the problem, empty promises.”

Yet Singh was hard-pressed to say where he would find $5 billion for affordable housing in the first year of his mandate, and instead pointed to the Liberal government having found billions to pay for corporate tax cuts and the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Singh painted the $4.5 billion for the pipeline and $14 billion in corporate tax cuts, which the government has said were needed to help Canadian companies compete with U.S. competitors following similar cuts down south, as a handout to the wealthy.

Some experts have said such a characterization is misleading as it does not acknowledge how ordinary Canadians might benefit, too, by driving investment in the country and getting Canadian oil to more lucrative markets.

“When something is a priority, Mr. Trudeau seems to go out and do it,” said Singh. “But it hasn’t been a priority to make people’s lives better. We believe our priority should be investing in people, investing in housing, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

While Singh noted his previous promises to hike taxes on corporations and the wealthy, close various tax loopholes and crack down on tax evasion, he indicated all revenues from those measures will be put into social programs.

“With these measures we’re going to increase revenue and we’re going to use the revenue towards programs that actually invest in our country,” he said of the tax hikes and other initiatives. “We know that if we invest in people, we build a better future.”

Both the New Democrats and Conservatives promised in the last federal election to run balanced budgets if elected, while the Liberals were elected on a promise to run modest deficits during the first few years of their mandate before returning to balance.

In the three full fiscal years since the Liberals came to power, however, the federal government has posted $52 billion worth of shortfalls even though the economy has had a solid run of growth.

Ahead of next month’s election, the Liberals have laid out projections calling for five more years of deficits of at least $10 billion. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is promising to pull Canada out of the red in about five years.

Green Leader Elizabeth May has also committed to returning Canada to budgetary balance in five years. Maxime Bernier’s new People’s Party of Canada is the only political party that’s promised a quick path to balanced books – within two years.

-With files from Jordan Press

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misnamed the pipeline project the federal government bought.



Review board hears mass killer doing well, should have unsupervised outings

EDMONTON – A psychiatrist in charge of treating an Alberta man who stabbed and killed five young people at a Calgary house party says the patient’s risk of re-offending is low.

But Dr. Santoch Rai has told the Alberta Review Board that if Matthew de Grood was to commit another offence, it would be severe.

A judge in 2016 found de Grood not criminally responsible for the killings because he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time.

A trial heard that de Grood believed the devil was talking to him and a war was about to begin, signalling the end of the world, when he arrived at the party in 2014.

The review board decided last year that de Grood, with his mental condition in remission, could be transferred from a secure psychiatric hospital in Calgary to Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.

Rai says de Grood takes his medication and should be allowed to have unsupervised trips into Edmonton as well as be eased into living in a group home.

Zackariah Rathwell, 21; Jordan Segura, 22; Kaitlin Perras, 23; Josh Hunter, 23; and Lawrence Hong, 27, were killed at the party, which was being held to mark the end of the school year. 

The Canadian Press