Fall housing market, NATO chief visits Alberta military base: In The News for Aug. 26

·12 min read

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Aug. 26 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

After fuelling Canada's economy through the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate market is showing signs of weakness as home prices fall and bidding wars dissipate.

But as the busy fall season nears, realtors and economists are at odds over how long the pricing slide will last and how low it will go.

John Pasalis, president of Realosophy Realty in Toronto, says the fall will probably push buyers that have sat on the sidelines waiting for lower prices into the market.

He says it doesn't take many more buyers for prices to stabilize or the number of weeks a property stays on the market to shrink.

The latest data from the Canadian Real Estate Association shows prices hit $629,971 in July, down five per cent from $662,924 last July, and are projected to reach $762,386 by the end of the year.

However, Desjardins economists recently said they expect prices to drop between 20 and 25 per cent this year, but will end 2023 above pre-pandemic levels nationally and in each of the 10 provinces.

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Also this ...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will be in Cold Lake, Alta., today as they wrap up a visit focused on northern defences.

Yesterday they attended Operation Nanook, the country's largest Arctic military training operation, and toured a radar station in Nunavut.

Experts have noted this is part of Canada's renewed focus on Arctic security in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent expansion of NATO.

With Finland and Sweden becoming members, Russia will be the sole Arctic nation outside of the alliance.

Stoltenberg and Trudeau will hold a bilateral meeting after visiting the Royal Canadian Air Force base in Cold Lake.

The NATO chief is likely to raise the issue of defence spending, given that Canada is among the countries that have consistently failed to reach the alliance's target of spending two per cent of GDP on the military.

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And this too ...

Marketing experts say brands that have advertised themselves with a nod to CTV host Lisa LaFlamme's recent dismissal should beware of blowback.

Retail analyst Bruce Winder says companies that integrate news moments into their branding run the risk of being seen as opportunistic.

He says every brand has skeletons in their closet and should prepare for added scrutiny from customers and employees when they take a stand on hot-button issues.

Winder's remarks come after fast-food chain Wendy's changed the profile photo on its Canadian Twitter account on Thursday to its mascot bearing grey hair instead of her usual red locks and captioned the photo with LaFlamme's name in hashtag and a note about a star always being a star despite their hair colour.

Media reports have tied LaFlamme's ousting from the Bell Media network she worked at for 35 years to her pandemic decision to stop dying her hair.

Earlier this week, Dove Canada alluded to LaFlamme's dismissal with a campaign called Keep The Grey that proclaimed "age is beautiful" and said women should be able to age on their own terms and without consequences.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON _ The U.S. Justice Department is set to release Friday a heavily blacked out document explaining the justification for an FBI search of former U.S president Donald Trump's Florida estate earlier this month, when agents removed top secret government records and other classified documents.

The document, expected by noon, is likely to offer at least some new details about an ongoing criminal investigation that has brought fresh legal peril for Trump just as he lays the groundwork for another presidential run. Though Justice Department officials are expected to have removed sensitive details about witnesses, and the scope and direction of the probe, the affidavit may offer the fullest explanation yet about the events leading up to the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.

The document being released is the redacted form of an affidavit, or sworn statement, that the FBI submitted to a judge so it could obtain a warrant to search Trump's property. Affidavits typically contain vital information about an investigation, with agents spelling out to a judge the justification for why they want to search a particular property and why they believe they're likely to find evidence of a potential crime there. But affidavits routinely remain sealed during pending investigations, making the judge's decision to reveal portions of it all the more striking.

In an acknowledgment of the extraordinary public interest in the investigation, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Thursday ordered the department by Friday to make public a redacted version of the affidavit. The directive came hours after federal law enforcement officials submitted under seal the portions of the affidavit that they want to keep secret as their investigation moves forward.

The redactions proposed by the Justice Department are likely to be extensive given the sensitivity of the investigation, lessening the likelihood that the document will offer a comprehensive look at the basis for the unprecedented search or significant insights about the direction of the probe. Yet even a redacted affidavit can contain at least some fresh revelations about the investigation, and is likely to help explain why federal agents who had tried for months to recover sensitive government records from Mar-a-Lago ultimately felt compelled to obtain a search warrant.

Documents already made public show the FBI retrieved from the property 11 sets of classified documents, including information marked at the top secret level. They also show that federal agents are investigating potential violations of three different federal laws, including one that governs gathering, transmitting or losing defence information under the Espionage Act. The other statutes address the concealment, mutilation or removal of records and the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.

It's possible that the affidavit, particularly in its unredacted form, could shed light on key unanswered questions, including why sensitive presidential documents _ classified documents, among them _ were transported to Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House and why Trump and his representatives did not supply the entire tranche of material to the National Archives and Records Administration despite repeated entreaties.

It could also offer additional details on the back-and-forth between Trump and the FBI, including a subpoena for documents that was issued last spring, as well as a June visit by FBI and Justice Department officials to assess how the materials were being stored.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

UNITED NATIONS _ As 191 countries approach Friday's end to a four-week conference to review the landmark U.N. treaty aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear weapons, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and takeover of Europe's largest nuclear power plant and rivalries between the West and China were posing key obstacles to agreement on a final document.

Argentine Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen, president of the conference reviewing the 50-year-old Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty, which is considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament, circulated a 35-page draft final document on Thursday. After listening to objections from countries at a closed-door session, diplomats said he was planning to revise the document for a final closed-door discussion Friday morning, ahead of an open meeting in the afternoon to end the conference.

Any document must be approved by all parties to the treaty and it's uncertain whether an agreement will be reached before the conference ends. There is a possibility that only a brief statement reaffirming support for the NPT might get unanimous support.

The NPT review conference is supposed to be held every five years but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last one in 2015 ended without an agreement because of serious differences over establishing a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

The issue that has changed the dynamics of the conference is Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning that Russia is a "potent'' nuclear power and any attempt to interfere would lead to "consequences you have never seen,'' and his decision soon after to put Russia's nuclear forces on high alert.

Putin has since rolled back, saying that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,'' a message reiterated by a senior Russian official on the opening day of the NPT conference on Aug. 2. In addition, Russia's occupation of Europe's biggest nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine, where Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling, has raised fears of a nuclear disaster.

The 35-page draft document has at least three specific references to the Zaporizhzhia plant, including expressing "grave concern'' over its security, the military activities conducted at or near it, and the loss of control over the facility by Ukrainian authorities. The draft expresses support for efforts by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to visit the plant and ensure the non-diversion of nuclear material.

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On this day in 1961 ...

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker opened Canada's Hockey Hall of Fame at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto. The hall moved into a restored bank building in downtown Toronto in 1993.

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In entertainment ...

Elton John and Britney Spears have collaborated for the first time, creating the slinky, club-ready single "Hold Me Closer'' that sees the pop icons take old sounds and fashion something new.

The funky, piano-driven single uses John's 1971 hit "Tiny Dancer'' as the skeleton and adds elements from his songs "The One'' and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart,'' all with Spears voice soaring and fluttering.

While John has been releasing new music in the past few years _ including the 16-track 2021 album "The Lockdown Sessions'' _ the song represents Spear's first new music since her 2016 album "Glory'' and her first offering since the ending of her contentious conservatorship.

"She truly is an icon, one of the all-time great pop stars and she sounds amazing on this record. I love her dearly and am delighted with what we've created together,'' John said in a statement. Spears, in her statement, told John it was an honour to be asked: ''I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to work with you and your legendary mind.''

The track is produced by Andrew Watt, who has worked with such acts as Ed Sheeran, Eddie Vedder, Ozzy Osbourne, Justin Bieber, Post Malone and Miley Cyrus.

The song begins with both stars singing the opening lyrics of "The One'' _ "I saw you dancing out the ocean/Running fast along the sand/A spirit born of earth and water/Fire flying from your hands.'' It then seamlessly moves to ''Tiny Dancer'': "Hold me closer, tiny dancer/Count the headlights on the highway/Lay me down in sheets of linen/You had a busy day today.''

The track calls to mind last year's hit "Cold Heart (PNAU Remix),'' which melded John's songs "Kiss the Bride,'' "Rocket Man,'' "Where's the Shoorah?'' and "Sacrifice'' into a dance bop featuring vocals by Dua Lipa.

John and Spears first met in 2014 at an Oscar viewing party and she later tweeted her love of "Tiny Dancer,'' sowing the seeds for the latest collaboration. John is in the midst of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.

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Did you see this?

OTTAWA _ Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says former U.S. President Donald Trump used "bully'' tactics during negotiations on a new North American free-trade agreement more than two years ago.

Freeland was asked Thursday to respond to a characterization of herself as a frustrating and difficult negotiator in a new memoir by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

"When you're threatened by a bully the answer is not to cave in,'' she said. "The answer is to be united, and to stand strong.''

She initially linked the notion to Ukraine standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin but quickly said she wasn't trying in any way to compare the plight of Ukrainians to Canada's dealings with its biggest trading partner.

In his book "Breaking History," Kushner accused Freeland of purposely stalling negotiations and speaking publicly about the talks against the wishes of the White House.

He said Canada, with Freeland at the helm, engaged in "an increasingly frustrating series of negotiations'' and "refusing to commit to any substantive changes.''

He was also critical of her for leaving the negotiations and holding press conferences with Canadian journalists "uttering platitudes like 'I get paid in Canadian dollars, not U.S. dollars.'''

Freeland didn't directly confront any of Kushner's assertions but said Canada's best asset in those negotiations was a united front on the talks presented by Conservative premiers and the federal Liberal government.

That united front included public statements backing the government against Trump by then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

"Canada's Conservatives continue to support the Prime Minister's efforts to make the case for free trade. Divisive rhetoric and personal attacks from the US administration are clearly unhelpful.,'' Scheer tweeted on June 10, 2018.

That came after Trump called Trudeau "very dishonest and weak.''

"We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Prime Minister and the people of Canada,'' Ford said, responding to the same insult.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2022.

The Canadian Press