Trudeau on climate and ultra-rare disease; In The News for Dec. 27

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 Dec. 27.

What we are watching in Canada ...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads into 2020 promising to chart a path to Canada's most ambitious greenhouse-gas emissions target yet: getting to a point within 30 years where Canada is adding no emissions that will stay in the atmosphere.

But one of the first things his government has to decide in the new year is whether to give cabinet approval to a major new oilsands project that environment advocates say is absolutely incompatible with reaching the "net-zero" target.

Environment groups say the decision will send a signal about how serious Trudeau is about ramping up Canada's plans to cut emissions and do its part to slow global warming.

If his government rejects the project, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has warned, that will send a signal that Canada's oil-and-gas sector has no future.

Rock, meet political hard place.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Trudeau said he has "been unabashed that we have to get ahead of the fight against climate change and be really thoughtful about how we are moving forward."

Moments earlier, in the same interview, he acknowledged he is not ruling out approving the Teck Frontier mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

---

Also this ...

Doug Ford's government has backtracked on about a dozen policies and promises this year — an unprecedented amount symptomatic of an on-the-fly style of governing that marked his early days in power, critics and observers say.

From a wildly unpopular Ontario autism program to cuts to municipal public health and childcare funding to a promise to upload Toronto's subway, the year has seen many significant plans yanked back, often after outcry reached a fever pitch.

"I think the bottom line is their cut-first-and-think-later approach to governing simply isn't working," said Green party Leader Mike Schreiner. "They're essentially admitting it's not working either, given how many things they've backtracked on."

Early this year, the backtracks began when the government scrapped an element of a then-proposed law that could have opened up the province's protected Greenbelt to development. The Tories had faced criticism over it, but nowhere near the level that was still to come over a new autism program announced the following month.

Then-social services minister Lisa MacLeod announced that the government would clear 23,000 children from the waiting list by giving everyone up to either $20,000 or $5,000, depending on age and family income — far short of the amounts needed for intensive therapy. Condemnation was swift and furious, with parents staging sustained protests over a program they said would ensure children couldn't access the amount of treatment they need.

After initially standing firm, by the next month the plan had essentially been scrapped, and in June so was the minister, demoted in a cabinet shuffle.

That shuffle, which saw many top ministers moved around and many new faces promoted into cabinet, marked a reset of sorts, said Jamie Ellerton, principal at Conaptus public relations and a former Tory staffer.

---

ICYMI (in case you missed it) ...

Armando Perez was only three months old when he got itchy.

His mom, Alexandra Perez, says it wasn't normal scratching that could be fixed with a cute pair of baby mittens. It was so bad that there were blood stains on his bedsheets and scabs on his little arms and legs.

At first, she thought Armando might have an allergy.

"I tried different laundry detergents and different body washes, but he was still itchy," recalls Perez, as the now 2 1/2-year old and his big brother and little sister play with their grandpa in the downstairs of their Edmonton home.

"Then he turned yellow. I was like, 'Well, that's not normal.'"

She says she took the boy to see a doctor, blood tests were ordered and they came back "totally out of whack." The doctor sent Armando to a specialist and he was admitted for a week to the city's children's hospital for more testing.

Perez and her husband, Walter, soon found out their son has progressive familial intraheptic cholestasis — an ultra-rare genetic liver disease that affects one in every 50,000 to 100,000 children born around the world.

Dr. Cara Mack, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Colorado, says there are 40 to 80 cases of the disease diagnosed each year in the United States. And there are six different types.

---

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

The rumours swirled for decades: A dark history long lay buried under the grassy knolls and manicured lawns of a country club in Florida's capital city.

Over the years, neat rows of rectangular depressions along the 7th fairway deepened in the grass, outlining what would be confirmed this month as sunken graves of the slaves who lived and died on a plantation that once sprawled with cotton near the Florida Capitol.

The discovery of 40 graves — with perhaps dozens more yet to be found — has spawned discussion about how to honour those who lie in rest at the golf course. And it has brought renewed attention to the many thousands of unmarked and forgotten slave cemeteries across the Deep South that forever could be lost to development or indifference.

“When I stand here on a cemetery for slaves, it makes me thoughtful and pensive," said Delaitre Hollinger, the immediate past president of the Tallahassee branch of the NAACP. His ancestors worked the fields of Leon County as slaves.

“They deserve much better than this," said Hollinger, 26, who is leading a push to memorialize the rediscovered burial ground. "And they deserved much better than what occurred in that era.”

Wooden markers that had identified the graves have long since decayed. For years, golfers have unknowingly trod through the cemetery.

---

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

A strong typhoon that barrelled through the central Philippines left at least 28 dead and 12 missing, and forced thousands to flee their homes, devastating Christmas celebrations in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Typhoon Phanfone stranded many people in sea and airports at the peak of holiday travel, set off landslides, flooded low-lying villages, destroyed houses, downed trees and electrical poles and knocked out power in entire provinces. One disaster response officer described the battered coastal town of Batad in Iloilo province as a “ghost town” on Christmas Day.

“You can’t see anybody because there was a total blackout, you can’t hear anything. The town looked like a ghost town,” Cindy Ferrer of the regional Office of the Civil Defence said by phone.

The storm weakened as it blew into the South China Sea with sustained winds of 120 kilometres (74 miles) per hour and gusts of 150 kph (93 mph), after lashing island after island with fierce winds and pounding rain on Christmas Day, the weather agency said.

Most of the deaths reported by police and local officials were due to drowning, falling trees and accidental electrocution.

A father, his three children and another relative were among those missing in hard-hit Iloilo province after a swollen river inundated their shanty.

The typhoon slammed into Eastern Samar province on Christmas Eve and then plowed across the archipelago’s central region on Christmas, slamming into seven coastal towns and island provinces without losing power.

---

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 27, 2019.

The Canadian Press