In The News for Jan. 6, 2023: Are there toxic contaminants in some Alberta snowpacks?

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 Friday, Jan. 6, 2023 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Canada claimed its second consecutive world junior gold last night with a 3-2 overtime win over Czechia in Halifax.

Dylan Guenther scored his second of the game just over six minutes into the extra period to give Canada the win. Shane Wright scored the other. Connor Bedard was named tournament M-V-P after a performance for the history books, with 23 points in seven games.


And this ...

The Alberta government is refusing to release information on toxic contaminants in snowpacks downwind from mountaintop removal coal mines.

The data was collected by two senior provincial government scientists who conducted research into the impact of windblown dust from mines in British Columbia on a pristine Alberta alpine lake. They recently published a paper concluding that sediments in Window Lake are as contaminated as lakes downwind from the oilsands.

They also analyzed contaminants in area snowpacks, data as yet unpublished. That data appears to have been presented to senior Alberta Environment staff in November.

The Canadian Press filed a freedom of information request to have that presentation released. In response, the news agency received a copy of a slide deck containing information that was already public, minus large redactions.

One remark that survived the redactions suggests the complete document includes information on contaminant levels in the snowpack around Window Lake.

Under the heading "Next Steps," the released documentssay: "Proposeto conduct additional lake sediment and snow sampling."

How the redactions were justified also suggests the data exists. Information was removed under sections of legislation that allow the government not to disclose documents that may contain valuable intellectual property or to protect the researcher's right to publish first.


Also this ...

A new study on work-life balance says flexible schedules and shorter work weeks can lead to more productive, healthy and loyal workers.

The report by the International Labour Organization says giving workers flexibility in terms of where and when they work can be a win-win for both employees and businesses.

The United Nations agency says flexible work schedules can improve workers' job satisfaction, performance and commitment to an organization — reducing recruitment costs and increasing productivity.

Meanwhile, the study found that employers who enforce strict work arrangements or schedules such as a 9-to-5 office workweek, could see productivity and job performance drop, and turnover and absenteeism increase.

The report's lead author, Jon Messenger, says new work arrangements during the COVID-19 crisis and the ensuing so-called Great Resignation has placed work-life balance at the forefront of social and labour market issues.

He says lessons learned during the pandemic can improve both business performance and work-life balance.


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

The contours of a deal that could make Republican leader Kevin McCarthy the House speaker have begun to emerge.

The House returns today to try again to end the stalemate over choosing a new speaker after days of voting with no conclusion.

Party leader Kevin McCarthy is determined to win over enough fellow Republicans and now glimmers of a deal have started to take shape. He has offered the conservative holdouts rule changes to give them more power to shape legislation —and to boot him from office.

But it's still just “round one,” one of the holdouts said.

So far, 11 roll call votes have failed to elect a speaker. The impasse has left the House unable to fully form and govern.


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

China is seeking to minimize the possibility of a major new COVID-19 outbreak during this month's Lunar New Year travel rush following the end of most pandemic containment measures.

The Transportation Ministry on Friday called on travellers to reduce trips and gatherings, particularly if they involve elderly people, pregnant women, small children and those with underlying conditions.

People using public transport are also urged to wear masks and pay special attention to their health and personal hygiene, Vice Minister Xu Chengguang told reporters at a briefing.

The call stopped short of asking citizens to stay home entirely, as the government had since the pandemic began, although some local governments have urged migrant workers not to return home.

China abruptly ended a strict regime of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing in December amid growing concerns about the economic impact and rare public protests in a country that permits no open political dissent.

China on Sunday is also ending mandatory quarantines for people arriving from abroad.


On this day in 1918 ...

While diving to escape German fighters, Canadian pilot Captain J. Hedley was sucked from his seat and out of the plane. When the plane levelled out, the aviator was sitting safely near the tail. The slipstream had pulled him back to the plane.


In entertainment ...

"Heave away, me jollies, heave away!"

It's a phrase that Canadian hockey fans couldn't get enough of at the world junior hockey championship — a Celtic melody played each time that Team Canada scored a goal.

And for Billy Sutton, one of the members of St. John's band The Fables, it's a reminder of how their 1998 recording of the traditional sea shanty "Heave Away" has stood the test of time.

Sutton says the band had no idea their song was chosen as Team Canada's goal horn music this year, usurping a Red Hot Chili Peppers track that had been in use for some time.

The Fables' rendition of "Heave Away" might sound familiar to some hockey fans, as it was previously the goal music for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Suttons says he's happier hearing it used by Team Canada instead of the Leafs, mainly because he's a Habs fan.


Did you see this?

Canadian tourists were trapped inside a Mexican hotel yesterday after buses that were to take them to an airport were burned.

Tina Dahl of Edmonton, whose six family members are in the popular tourist city of Mazatlan, described the scene as "chaos."

The violence began after security forces captured alleged drug trafficker Ovidio Guzman, who is a son of former cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Ottawa says the violence is particularly fierce in Culiacan, Mazatlan, Los Mochis and Guasave.

Canadian officials say cars had been lit on fire, guns were being fired and there was a threat to essential infrastructure, including airports.

Jason Kung, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, says Canadians should avoid all non-essential travel to various regions in Mexico due to high levels of violence and organized crime.

The fighting came days before President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was to host Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U-S President Joe Biden at a summit in Mexico City.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2023

The Canadian Press