U.S. to pre-position tanks, artillery in Baltics, eastern Europe

By Phil Stewart and David Mardiste

By Phil Stewart and David Mardiste

TALLINN (Reuters) - The United States will pre-position tanks, artillery and other military equipment in eastern and central Europe, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday, moving to reassure NATO allies unnerved by Russian involvement in Ukraine.

Carter made the announcement a little over 200 km (125 miles) from the Russian border, in the Estonian capital Tallinn, where he met Baltic defense chiefs and spoke to troops aboard a U.S. warship that had just completed drills in the Baltic Sea.

"We didn't want to have this new challenge," Carter said, addressing U.S. Marines and sailors on the San Antonio.

"But then all of the sudden here you have behavior by Russia, which ... is an effort to take the world backward in time. And we can't allow that to happen."

Carter said the Baltic states - Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia -- as well as Bulgaria, Romania and Poland had agreed to host the arms and heavy equipment. Some of the weaponry would also be located in Germany.

The U.S. decision to stage heavy equipment closer to Russia's borders will speed deployment of rotating U.S. forces as NATO steps up exercises in Europe following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region last year.

Neighboring NATO countries, especially the former Soviet Baltic states with their Russian minorities, fear Russia could stir unrest there. Moscow denies any such intention.

Flanked by defense chiefs from the Baltic states, Carter said the United States and NATO were "committed to defending the territorial integrity of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania".

Under NATO's founding treaty, an attack on any member state would constitute an attack on all parties. Russia accuses the West of violating post-Cold War arrangements by extending NATO to Russia's frontiers, something the West denies.

Estonian Defence Minister Sven Mikser cheered the decision, as did defense chiefs from Latvia and Lithuania. Mikser said his nation was ready to host pre-positioned equipment and a rotational presence of U.S. forces.

"We have reasons to believe that Russia views the Baltic region as one of NATO's most vulnerable areas, a place where NATO's resolve and commitment could be tested," Mikser said.

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said more needed to be done, underscoring the Baltic state's hawkish attitude to Russia. The government has already reinstated military conscription.

CONDEMNATION IN MOSCOW

The United States had not formally disclosed where in Europe the equipment would be stored before Tuesday but news reports about military planning triggered an angry response from Moscow ahead of Carter's trip to Europe.

A Russian Defence Ministry official said stationing tanks and heavy weapons in NATO states on Russia's border would be the most aggressive U.S. act since the Cold War.

President Vladimir Putin, who denies any direct involvement in Ukraine and accuses the West of stirring tensions, has announced Russia would add more than 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year.

Carter has condemned Putin's return to what he considers Cold War-style rhetoric.

A fact sheet provided by the U.S. military said the U.S. pre-positioning would include about 250 tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers.

The equipment temporarily stored in each country would be enough to supply either a company, so enough for about 150 soldiers, or a battalion, or about 750 soldiers. Much of it is already in Europe, officials say.

Carter said the equipment would move around as needed, to support exercises in Europe.

U.S. officials say Ukraine has illustrated the importance of being able to counter "hybrid warfare" - the blend of unidentified troops, propaganda and economic pressure that the West says Russia has used there.

It also involves cyber warfare. Carter also announced plans on Tuesday to work with an Estonia-based NATO cyber center to help allies develop cyber defense strategies and critical infrastructure protection planning.

(Additional reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Alison Williams)

  • Eyes off the prize: Why is the Conservative leadership field so small?
    News
    CBC

    Eyes off the prize: Why is the Conservative leadership field so small?

    Back in 2017, it seemed like everyone wanted to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.It's a curious place the Conservative Party finds itself in right now. In 2017, the party was trying to move past a bruising election defeat and the resignation of Stephen Harper, the modern party's co-founder — arguably a low point. But Conservatives still had 14 names on the ballot to choose from when voting began May 29.Today, the party objectively is in far better shape. While it failed to defeat the Trudeau Liberals last year, it gained 20 seats and (as current leader Andrew Scheer likes to remind us) won the popular vote. It still tends to crush rival parties when it comes to fundraising.And if electoral history offers any guide, after two terms the Liberals will be ripe for replacement in the next election. Which means the next Conservative leader has an awfully good chance of becoming the next prime minister as well.So what is it about the job that seems to make it so unappealing for so many prominent, capable candidates?Personal circumstances don't make a trend, and in several cases, the people stepping back from the race this time seemed to be doing it for personal reasons. Rona Ambrose considered a run for weeks before finally deciding that she loves her private sector job and would much rather live in Alberta.Jean Charest toyed with the idea long enough to record videos announcing his candidacy — only to finally conclude that the party had changed too much in his absence and that, perhaps, his chances weren't what he'd hoped they would be.Pierre Poilievre was widely expected to declare right up until the moment he ruled himself out, citing a wish to spend more time with his young family. John Baird was organizing for Poilievre; when Poilievre dropped out, Baird started thinking about seeking the job himself.He spoke to his allies and friends and had put together all the campaign organization he was going to need. Then, quite suddenly, he didn't need it: he issued a statement online thanking his supporters and saying he was "enjoying his post-political life" too much.The price to playPart of the gap between the interest shown in the leadership in 2017 and what we're seeing now probably can be explained by the party's own rules for the 2020 contest — which seem meant to discourage outside challengers and lower-profile candidates. (My colleague Éric Grenier did an excellent job of laying out some of those factors here.)In 2017, candidates had nearly a year to collect 300 party member signatures and raise the $100,000 entrance fee. This time, they have to raise $300,000 (including a $100,000 refundable deposit) and gather 3,000 member signatures by March 25 in order to secure a spot on the ballot for the June 27 vote.That's a very high bar and an extremely tight deadline; it probably would have blocked most of the people running in 2017. Unless you're a known entity in the party, someone with an existing network of support, you're probably not going to get past it.The initial entry deadline is next Thursday; by that point, candidates must pony up $25,000 and the signatures of 1,000 members from 30 different ridings in seven provinces or territories to qualify. As of publication, only three candidates had met those conditions: Peter MacKay, Erin O'Toole and Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis. O'Toole and MacKay have each reached "authorized contestant" status by collecting $50,000 toward the entrance fee, plus the $100,000 compliance deposit and 2,000 member signatures.But this is still the Conservative Party of Canada we're talking about here. Things like steep entrance fees and the pull of private lives are going to factor into personal decisions, but something else must be going on — something that is keeping qualified people away.Strangely, this situation is not unlike what we saw with the party's very first leadership race.In 2004, just after the merger of the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance, many high-profile people were getting their elbows bent to jump into the race — Mike Harris, Bernard Lord, Ralph Klein, Chuck Strahl and Peter MacKay, to name a few. None of them did, which left the door wide open for Stephen Harper to walk through.But the comparison breaks down after that point. Back then, the party had no electoral track record, no history of contesting and winning elections over a decade. To leave a successful career to run for the Conservative leadership in 2004 was to run a substantial personal risk.There are always risks in politics. So what are the risks this time?Before the leadership speculation started building up, Baird was tasked by the party with conducting a comprehensive post-mortem of its performance in 2019. We still don't have a clear idea of what his conclusions were; we've heard people say that his report cites "centralized control" of the campaign as one of the problems, but that's not a particularly detailed or helpful observation if you're trying to get a party ready to fight an election. One assumes the report has more to say about why the party lost, and that it will be the task of the next leader to act on that analysis.Beyond tactical matters, the next leader also will have to decide how Conservatives present themselves to Canadians in the next campaign. The party needs a serious climate change policy; coming up with one could prove controversial within the party itself. So could efforts to move the party beyond socially conservative positions to make it more appealing in urban ridings. The current leading candidates seem content to march in Pride parades and don't seem to have a problem with same-sex marriage — but the conversation isn't likely to end there.Keeping the coalition togetherTo win, the Conservative Party needs to reach out beyond its base in Western Canada to build support in and around Toronto and in Quebec. But the plight of Canada's energy sector is ramping up voter rage in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which might make it harder for the next leader to reconcile those voters' wishes with those of Canadians elsewhere who hate pipelines.Stephen Harper's success was based on his ability to get those camps working together — to build and maintain a coalition of traditional Progressive Conservatives, Western populists, social conservatives and (eventually) ethnic communities who identified with the party's values.Any Harper loyalist will tell you that he succeeded in part because he kept that unruly coalition united inside the caucus itself, even as he was reaching out to it in the electorate. That was no small accomplishment, and it still speaks to Harper's leadership style, skills and, yes, his vision for his party and the country.In short, leading the modern Conservative Party is a tough job — tougher even than it looks from the outside. Setting aside for a moment the high bar set for the leadership race, it's not something everyone's going to be willing to take on.What Conservatives need right now is a leader who understands how important it is to keep that coalition alive and has a plan to do it. Maybe there's someone like that running already. If not, the party might end up going through another leadership race that doesn't quite prepare it for the election to come.

  • Virus claims life of hospital director in hard-hit Wuhan
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Virus claims life of hospital director in hard-hit Wuhan

    BEIJING — As a mysterious new virus enveloped central China's Wuhan early this year, Liu Zhiming mobilized all the resources of his hospital in the city's Wuchang district to deal with the thousands of sick people arriving daily, threatening to overwhelm the local health care system.That dedication appears to have cost him his life, with Wuhan's health bureau announcing Tuesday that he became infected and died despite “all-out" attempts to save him.Liu is at least the seventh health worker to die of the COVID-19 disease among the more than 1,700 doctors and nurses who have become sick. His death comes as authorities are cautiously cheering a reduction in the number of new daily cases and deaths, along with the results of a study showing most people who contracted the virus experienced only mild symptoms.China on Tuesday reported 1,886 new cases and 98 more deaths. That raised the number of deaths in mainland China to 1,868 and the total number of confirmed cases to 72,436.“Now the prevention and control work is at a critical time,” President Xi Jinping told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a phone call Tuesday, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.Japan, meanwhile, announced that 88 more cases of the virus were confirmed aboard a quarantined cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, bringing the total to 542 among the 3,700 initially on board.The U.N. secretary general told The Associated Pres that the virus outbreak “is not out of control but it is a very dangerous situation.”Antonio Guterres said in an interview in Lahore, Pakistan, that “the risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that.”The outbreak has caused massive disruptions and China may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year to avoid having people travel to Beijing while the virus is still spreading. One of the automotive industry's biggest events, China's biannual auto show, also is being postponed, and many sports and entertainment events have been delayed or cancelled.Despite strict rules on use of masks and safety suits, medical workers have been prominent among the victims, particularly in the early stage of the outbreak.In announcing Liu's death, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said he had taken part in the battle against the virus from the start and had made “important contributions in the work of fighting and controlling" the virus.During that process, "unfortunately he became infected and passed away at 10:54 Tuesday morning at the age of 51 after all-out efforts to save him failed," the commission said.The Hubei native had graduated from Wuhan University's School of Medicine in 1991 and went on to a career as a chief physician, neurosurgeon and administrator.Earlier this month, public outrage was stirred by the death from the virus of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who had been threatened by police after releasing word of an outbreak of an unusual respiratory illness in December before it had spread widely and the city was placed under quarantine.Wuhan and its surrounding cities in Hubei province have accounted for the vast majority of infections and deaths, prompting the government to enforce a travel ban that has spread to other parts of the country and now includes a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine period for anyone travelling outside their home district. Two new prefabricated hospitals have been built to deal with the overflow in Wuhan and thousands of medical staff have been brought in from other parts of the country to help.A study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention found more than 80% of the cases studied were mild and the number of new infections seemed to be falling since early this month. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was too early to know if the reported decline would continue, however. "Every scenario is still on the table," he said at a news conference.The seeming drop in the number of new cases follows a large spike last week after Hubei province began counting cases by doctors' diagnoses without waiting for laboratory test results. Health authorities there said the change was meant to get patients treated faster.The Chinese study examined 44,672 cases of the disease that were confirmed in the mainland as of Feb. 11. Severe symptoms such as pneumonia occurred in 14% of them and critical illness in 5%. The fatality rate was 2.3% — 2.8% for males versus 1.7% for females.The death rate is lower than for SARS and MERS, diseases caused by coronaviruses related to the one that causes COVID-19. But the new virus ultimately could prove more deadly if it spreads to far more people than the others did. The COVID-19 cases include relatively few children, and the risk of death rises with age or other health problems and was higher in Hubei province versus elsewhere in China.The study warned that while cases seem to have been declining since Feb. 1, that could change as people return to work and school after the Lunar New Year holidays, typically the biggest travel period for Chinese travellers. Beijing and other governments have sought to forestall that by extending the holiday break, encouraging telecommuting and self-quarantines and conducting health checks on travellers.Travel to and from the worst-hit central China region was associated with the initial cases of COVID-19 confirmed abroad. But Japan, Singapore and South Korea have identified new cases without clear ties to China or previously known patients, raising concern of the virus spreading locally.The largest number of cases outside China is the 542 among passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined at a port near Tokyo. The infections have led to heavy criticism of the decision to quarantine passengers on the vessel.The U.S. evacuated 328 American passengers last weekend, and placed them under quarantine for two weeks in California, Texas and Nebraska. On Tuesday, the U.S. government said the more than 100 American passengers who stayed on the ship or were hospitalized in Japan would have to wait for another two weeks before they could return to the U.S.___Associated Press writers Maria Cheng in London and Marilynn Marchione, David Pitt, Olga R. Rodriguez and Ken Miller in the U.S. contributed to this report.___This story removes incorrect timing of the Chinese auto show, which alternates yearly between Beijing and Shanghai.Yanan Wang, The Associated Press

  • Huawei accuses U.S. of overlooking HSBC misconduct to go after Chinese firm
    News
    Reuters

    Huawei accuses U.S. of overlooking HSBC misconduct to go after Chinese firm

    "The government agreed to overlook HSBC's continued misconduct, electing not to punish the bank, prosecute its executives or even extend the monitorship," Huawei's lawyers wrote in a Feb. 10, 2020 letter filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York. In return, "HSBC agreed to cooperate with the government's efforts to depict Huawei as the mastermind of HSBC's sanctions violations and supply witnesses to the government's stalled investigation of Huawei," the lawyers wrote. In an indictment unsealed last year, Huawei was charged by the United States with bank fraud and violating sanctions against Iran.

  • Opposition promises new info on Trans Mountain costs
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Opposition promises new info on Trans Mountain costs

    OTTAWA — Federal opposition parties are promising new information about the price of the Trans Mountain pipeline at a morning news conference in Ottawa.Environment critics from the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, and the Greens' leader in the House of Commons Elizabeth May, say they'll sound the alarm about ballooning costs on the project.The federal government bought the existing oil pipeline between Alberta and the B.C. coast, and an unfinished plan to twin it, for $4.5 billion in 2018.The latest tally says the total cost of the twinning project will be $12.6 billion, much higher than a previous $7.4-billion estimate.The Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stepped in with public money when the company driving the project, Kinder Morgan, the regulatory obstacles and legal challenges posed too much of a risk.Some of those hurdles have since been cleared and the government says it intends to sell the completed pipeline at a profit once it's done, reinvesting the proceeds into fighting climate change.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • No 'depth' to consultation with Mi'kmaq on Alton Gas, lawyer argues
    News
    CBC

    No 'depth' to consultation with Mi'kmaq on Alton Gas, lawyer argues

    The lawyer representing Sipekne'katik First Nation says there was no "depth" to the province's consultation with the band over a controversial natural gas project. Lawyer Ray Larkin made his arguments before Justice Frank Edwards at Nova Scotia Supreme Court Tuesday.It was the first day of what's scheduled to be a two-day appeal hearing that centres around the Crown's duty to consult with Indigenous peoples in matters that could affect their treaty and Aboriginal rights.It's a duty that comes from Canada's Constitution Act, applies to federal and provincial governments and has been upheld in several Supreme Court of Canada rulings.Larkin said Sipekne'katik has the right to consult on the Alton Gas project because of its rights to fish for food, ceremonial purposes and to make a moderate livelihood, which are established in treaties and case law.He said the band also has a legitimate claim to aboriginal title in the Crown land around the Shubenacadie River where Alton Gas wants to build a natural gas storage facility.Because of those established treaty rights and asserted title rights, Larkin said the case demands a "deep" level of consultation."Deep consultation involves having the kind of thorough discussion of all the issues and a dialogue, a meaningful dialogue on all of those issues, and finding accommodations to the Aboriginal treaty rights that are affected," Larkin told reporters outside court.The appeal has its roots in a 2016 industrial approval granted by Margaret Miller, the environment minister at the time, to Alton Gas, a subsidiary of Calgary-based energy company AltaGas.Larkin told the court Miller's decision was legally flawed because the consultation had no "depth."He said Miller's error was the same as the one made by the National Energy Board in the Clyde River case. In 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada ruling quashed seismic testing in Nunavut over inadequate consultation with Inuit. The 2016 industrial approval gave Alton Gas the green light to start construction of an underground natural gas storage facility in Alton, N.S. Band wants court to overturn industrial approvalLarkin said Sipekne'katik is looking for the court to overturn the industrial approval and direct the province to re-engage with the First Nation band before making a new ruling on the Alton Gas proposal. The proposal is to use water from the nearby Shubenacadie River to flush out natural salt deposits, creating caverns that Alton Gas says could store up to 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas.The company and the province both tout the project as a potential boon for natural gas users in Nova Scotia, because it would allow for the fossil fuel to be stockpiled, protecting rates against seasonal spikes.But the project has faced opposition. Miller's 2016 industrial approval was met with six separate appeals, some of which expressed concern for the ecosystem of the Shubenacadie River.According to Alton Gas's plan, the briny mixture of river water and salt from the underground deposits would be gradually reintroduced to the river over two to three years.Miller said consultation was sufficientSipekne'katik appealed on the grounds that the band had not been adequately consulted, but Miller dismissed all the appeals. She said Indigenous consultation was sufficient.Sean Foreman, lawyer for the province, maintained that argument in court Tuesday.Foreman said that while the specific language of "deep" consultation was not always used in the recorded dealings between the province and the First Nation, the process still met the highest standard of consultation.This is the second time Sipekne'katik has taken the matter to the province's high court.In 2017, a justice found some procedural unfairness in the industrial approval process — the Department of Environment had failed to share some pertinent documents with the First Nation band.Once that matter was settled in April 2019, Miller upheld the industrial approval and said the province had sufficiently consulted with Nova Scotia's Mik'maq.Sipekne'katik disagreed, again, and sought another review, leading to this month's hearing.Arguments are set to conclude in court Wednesday.MORE TOP STORIES

  • Quebec politicians optimistic Bombardier rail jobs are safe following sale to Alstom
    News
    CBC

    Quebec politicians optimistic Bombardier rail jobs are safe following sale to Alstom

    Now that Bombardier Inc. has sold its rail division to Alstom SA, Quebec politicians and workers alike are hoping the move will lead to more investment in the province's transport industry.On Monday, Alstom announced it signed a memorandum of understanding with Bombardier to acquire Bombardier Transportation for between $8.4 billion and $9 billion.The deal, if approved by European regulators, could mean up to $4.5 billion in net proceeds for Bombardier, which is carrying an estimated $9.3 billion US of debt, most of that due by 2025.Quebec's pension fund manager, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, now has an 18 per cent stake in Alstom and says the French rail giant will strengthen its presence in Quebec.That presence will include a Montreal-area headquarters that will oversee the company's assets in North America. There will also be a new engineering and design centre and a centre for high-tech research and development, the Caisse said.Premier François Legault and his economy minister, Pierre Fitzgibbon, had nothing but praise for the deal on Monday.In a tweet, Legault said Alstom will supervise 1,500 jobs already in Quebec.No jobs are guaranteed, Fitzgibbon said, but there are growing opportunities in the North American market that he believes could lead to more business for Alstom's newly acquired Quebec manufacturing plants.Union calls for more incentivesThe federation of labour unions representing Bombardier rail workers, the CSN, said Quebec should be proactive about not just protecting existing jobs, but stimulating new ones.In a statement, the CSN said Quebec could be doing more by developing new contracts that would catch Alstom's interest.It calls on Legault to "speed up the process surrounding the many public transit projects currently under consideration in Quebec."For example, the province could expand Montreal's light-rail network even further, as well as other projects, as part of the government's electric transportation strategy, the CSN said.The union said the province must take steps to ensure the survival of the former Bombardier plant in La Pocatière, Que., 100 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, where about 400 people are employed building Bombardier trains.La Pocatière Mayor Sylvain Hudon told Radio-Canada he's happy about the deal and hopeful that Alstom will see the town's potential."If they need help sorting out any details, we'll assist with pleasure," he said.Hudon isn't breaking out the champagne just yet: he's waiting for confirmation from Alstom that the plant's operations won't be affected by the company's sale.

  • From litter to lumber: Clean St. John's plans cigarette butt recycling project
    News
    CBC

    From litter to lumber: Clean St. John's plans cigarette butt recycling project

    They might not be as noticeable as coffee cups or plastic bags, but when it comes to trash in the city of St. John's, cigarette butts are a huge problem, according to one litter prevention group.According to a report from the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board for 2016-17, there were an estimated 66 million cigarette butts littered around the province.Each of those filters is made of tiny strands of plastic that pose a danger to wildlife, especially when they break down in the marine environment.The not-for-profit organization Clean St. John's is currently working on a way to turn those numbers around — and turn all those discarded butts into something useful.The group is in the process of securing funding to buy 25 cigarette butt recycling receptacles which would be installed in the downtown area, in popular smoking hotspots like George Street, and busy pedestrian areas along Duckworth Street and Water Street. "Our goal is to see cigarette butt receptacles the same as you would see a garbage container, so people would become aware that cigarette butts are litter and they should be disposed of properly," said Karen Hickman, executive director of Clean St. John's.The slim receptacles can be fixed to buildings or poles, and the butts would be collected once a week, dried and then sent in bulk to a company called TerraCycle in New Jersey. "They take whatever tobacco is left in the cigarette and they use that for compost, and then the rest of the cigarette is used for plastic lumber. So plastic for park benches, things like that, as well as pallets," she told the St. John's Morning Show."That's sort of just as exciting as [getting] cigarettes off the ground, knowing that they could be recycled into other materials."'Your butt would look good in this'Hickman said there would be no cost to send the butts to TerraCycle, as the company provides a prepaid shipping label that can be used for loads up to 30 kilograms.The target start date for the six month pilot project is July 1, and each receptacle will be branded with the Clean St. John's logo and the catchy slogan, "Your butt would look good in this."Hickman said Clean St. John's has a limited budget, but if the pilot project is successful she hopes the city will take over and put money into expanding the program to other areas where butts tend to be discarded, such as bus shelters.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • News
    CBC

    Why B.C. is now taxing sugary, carbonated drinks

    British Columbia is slapping a seven per cent tax on carbonated beverages that are sweetened.The measure, which eliminates a provincial sales tax exemption for certain beverages, is part of the province's projected balanced budget for next year.It was announced by Finance Minster Carole James during her budget presentation in Victoria on Tuesday. The new tax on sweetened, carbonated beverages will come into effect on July 1, 2020.James says the measure is based on seven years of health recommendations and will address increases in health-care costs from the consumption of sugary drinks, which are linked to negative health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes."This is a health initiative to look at how we grow healthy young people," she said.James said that research shows that the biggest consumers of pop are teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18."We certainly want to make sure we are doing our part to set them on the stage of having a healthy life ahead," she said.She says the tax is a response to health professionals calling for the tax, along with an all-party legislative committee and the 2018 Medical Services Plan task force.While James said the new tax is a progressive measure to help the overall health of British Columbians, it also helps her balance her latest 2020 budget.The measure will add $27 million to revenues in 2020/2021 and $37 million in 2021/2022. The projected surplus for 2020/2021 is $227 million.'Some revenue'"It brings in certainly some revenue, which will help with health care … but the real focus here is a step in making sure we address those recommendations and address the health of our young people," she said."Certainly we known that sweetened carbonated beverages are one of our high areas when it comes to health costs and health impacts."Dr. Tom Warshawski, the chair of the B.C. Childhood Obesity Foundation says the new tax in B.C. helps the province catch up to others. He says B.C. has, in the past, treated sugary drinks as a grocery item, when he and others view them as a luxury item."And it's an unhealthy one at that," he said. "Really what we're doing is bringing our tax policy closer in alignment to what the rest of the country is doing already."Officials with the B.C. government say every other province in Canada has a similar tax with the exception of Alberta.

  • AVC officials 'saddened' after 3 crows shot, euthanized
    News
    CBC

    AVC officials 'saddened' after 3 crows shot, euthanized

    Wildlife officials with the Atlantic Veterinary College are "disheartened" after three crows found in Charlottetown in the past month have been brought in after being shot with pellet guns.The injured crows were brought to the AVC with lead pellets lodged inside them — one in the shoulder, one in the neck, one in the head.All three had to be euthanized. Wildlife veterinarian Lara Cusack said she is sad, but not surprised someone would resort to shooting the crows."I'm just disheartened and saddened from an animal welfare perspective that this is what people are doing," Cusack said. "Regardless of how you feel about a crow, this is not an appropriate way to deal with it."Cusack said the crows likely would have suffered."Birds experience pain, just like your dog, your cat or you and I do," she said."With these types of injury — soft tissue, bone, and brain injury — there's a lot of pain and suffering that would go with that." 'Obviously a concern'Charlottetown police are advising residents not to shoot at crows within city limits. Provincial conservation laws allow crows to be shot in some parts of P.E.I., but it is illegal to fire a gun within city limits. Charlottetown police said they are not investigating because there's no proof the birds were shot in the city even if they were found there.Cpl. Ron Kennedy said they are, however, using the incidents to warn residents of the dangers of firing a gun anywhere there may be people nearby."As police officers and anyone discharging a firearm, we have to be concerned about if we do miss, where's that projectile going to end up?" Kennedy said. "Which is obviously a concern in the city with people living in such close proximity."Some Charlottetown residents have complained for years about the noise from crows and the damage to property caused by their droppings.City officials have tried unsuccessfully to relocate the birds.More P.E.I. news

  • High River council takes stand against UCP cuts in provincial payments to municipalities
    News
    CBC

    High River council takes stand against UCP cuts in provincial payments to municipalities

    The Town of High River is taking a stand against the province for not paying all of its property taxes. High River council voted to keep a government funding shortfall on the books as a receivable, rather than writing it off, as a form of protest against funding changes."What people have to understand is, this is too easy when you're talking provincial politics to just look at a spreadsheet and be a backseat accountant and start taking this stuff off to fix that bottom-line number," High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass told the Calgary Eyeopener."But we have to understand that money has to be recouped from somewhere, and where it's going to come from is your residential taxes."The discrepancy stems from the UCP government's budget, which made changes to the "grant in place of property taxes" program, leaving the town with a nearly $30,000 funding shortfall for 2019."These guys have just got to be careful with how they're downloading all of these cuts onto municipalities and onto your residential and business commercial property taxpayers in your municipality," Snodgrass said. With the grants in place of taxes, the province pays out grant monies in lieu of paying property taxes, on any provincially owned buildings.In 2019, the UCP government announced a reduction to those grant formulas, reducing the payouts from 100 per cent of taxes owed to 75 per cent in 2019, and to 50 per cent in 2020.The funding change has a significant impact on the Town of High River, where the province owns 51 properties, thanks to buyouts after the flood of 2013.Snodgrass said the town is taking a stand against the budget move. At its Feb. 10 council meeting, councillors voted 4-3 to keep the unpaid balance of $28,397 on the books, rather than writing it off."So it'll just sit on our books as a receivable and probably do it next year and it'll just be a bill that's owed," he said. "You know, I guess when the economy comes back this won't be written-off debt, it'll be a receivable on our books, and I guess we get to send them an invoice for it once the economy.… I don't know, that's what I would do with my own business."CBC reached out to Kaycee Madu, the minister of Municipal Affairs, for comment."Alberta is currently in a fiscal crisis," Madu wrote. "The MacKinnon report found that Alberta municipalities were being funded 20 per cent higher than the national average. In budget 2019, we announced that we are reducing the amount of property taxes the province pays to municipalities for provincially owned buildings. This will help bring spending more in line with the rest of Canada, and ensure Alberta taxpayers are protected."The MacKinnon report examined Alberta's finances and came up with 26 recommendations to trim spending.Snodgrass said the UCP's mandate to target what he called "low-hanging fruit" to reduce costs is shortsighted."You can get short-term wins really fast, right?" Snodgrass said. "But the long-term impacts, the human impacts to those of us that are working our butts off, as the hardworking Albertans that they are always claiming to be there for, you're costing us more money in doing this.… And now you're downloading this back onto you know, little old me and those of us in these municipalities that are going to have to make it up."Snodgrass said the town is also working with the province to get flood buyout properties returned to the municipality and eventually sold back into private ownership. Province owns 51 properties"That's the tricky thing about High River, there's a lot of properties, there's 51 in High River … when the province did the provincial floodway buyout relocation program."Snodgrass said there are homes in the Beachwood area that have been removed and the land has been returned to a natural state, but there are others that are in more viable, berm-protected areas that the town would like to get back from the province."We're currently working on getting those homes back into the hands of the Town of High River, and then we will put them back into the hands of private ownership," he said."So there's a lot going on with this, but … saying 'we are now we're only going to pay 75 per cent of our property tax and next year it'll be 50 per cent.' There's not another business in High River, whether they're struggling or not, that has that luxury that can just say that."The town continues to rebuild after the devastating flood of 2013, and to shore up its flood-mitigation efforts. Work is scheduled to begin this spring on a southwest dike and route, just south of 12th Avenue S.W.With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

  • Fire damages old emergency shelter for homeless in downtown Moncton
    News
    CBC

    Fire damages old emergency shelter for homeless in downtown Moncton

    Fire severely damaged a well-known emergency shelter for homeless people in Moncton on Tuesday afternoon. The fire broke out at the original House of Nazareth on Clark Street.Jean Dubé, executive director of the House of Nazareth, said a fire had already been extinguished in the building's bathroom on Monday.  About 20 firefighters battled the blaze Tuesday afternoon, and it was quickly brought under control.  "It's sad to see that. We still have history here. I hope this is not a total loss," Dubé told Radio-Canada.No one was hurt fighting the fire, and no one was staying or working in the building when the fire started.A new shelter opened on Albert Street last week. The old building was expected to be renovated to accommodate people in transition to a life out of homelessness. An investigation into the fire is underway. Dubé said a few possible suspects were seen lurking near the building on Monday. Their names were passed along to the police.

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Ontario Catholic teachers to resume bargaining, but plan more strikes

    TORONTO — Ontario's English Catholic teachers announced more strikes Tuesday as the education minister signalled flexibility on class sizes — one of the most contentious issues in ongoing negotiations with the province's educators.All four of the province's major teachers' unions have been staging strikes as contract talks with the government have made little progress. The teachers are all planning a joint, provincewide walkout on Friday.The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association has agreed to meet with the government on Wednesday, but they are also planning more strikes if a deal can't be reached."We are ready to get back to the table, but the government needs to recognize that these discussions must be about protecting our world-renowned publicly funded education system," OECTA president Liz Stuart said in a statement."Catholic teachers have done our part to move these negotiations forward, but we cannot accept the government’s agenda to take resources out of the classroom."OECTA and the other unions representing secondary teachers are upset that the government announced last March it would increase average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 and require students to take four e-learning courses to graduate.Premier Doug Ford noted Tuesday the government has partly backed off on both issues. In recent months, Education Minister Stephen Lecce has offered to instead increase average high school class sizes to 25 and require two online learning courses."We've been reasonable," Ford said in the legislature. "We've made significant moves (at) the table and priority number 1 again is to make sure that kids get back into the classroom."Lecce said Tuesday he would rather make further moves on class sizes than on compensation for teachers."So in a binary choice, I'd rather see the students be better off, which is why I've made the case now for many weeks, now for many months, that our priority is investments in schools, investments in classrooms and keeping public education strong in this province — not in enhancements for pay," he said."We want to make sure that we find innovative ways to reduce classroom sizes, keep them as low as possible."All of the teachers' unions are asking for around two per cent in annual salary increases, while the government won't budge beyond offering one per cent. It passed legislation last year capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years. The teachers' unions and several others are fighting the law in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights.Elementary teachers say their key issues include guaranteeing the future of full-day kindergarten, securing more funding to hire special education teachers, and maintaining seniority hiring rules.Their union has been looking for a guarantee that the full-day kindergarten model will be protected after the previous education minister opened the door to changes. The government has made that commitment in writing, but the union has said it was not presented in language that could be included in a collective agreement and was instead shared with the union in a letter away from the bargaining table. Lecce said Tuesday they were one in the same."There's tons of precedents for signed letters within collective agreements," he said.The union representing teachers in the French system will also bargain with the government Wednesday.Public schools across Ontario will be closed this Friday, Feb. 21 as elementary, secondary, Catholic and French teachers band together for a joint strike in a bid to ramp up pressure on the government.The Catholic teachers' rotating strikes next week are set to start Monday in the Toronto, Huron-Superior, Niagara, Northwest, St. Clair, and Waterloo Catholic boards. On Tuesday, teachers will strike at the Durham, Halton, Huron-Perth, Kenora, Nipissing-Parry Sound, Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic boards.No strike is planned for Wednesday, as it is Ash Wednesday — a Christian holy day marking the first day of Lent. But on Thursday, the union will target the Algonquin and Lakeshore, Brant Haldimand Norfolk, Bruce-Grey, Dufferin-Peel, Northeastern, Renfrew County, Simcoe Muskoka, and Superior North Catholic boards.Friday will see teachers walk out at the Hamilton-Wentworth, London, York, Wellington, Windsor-Essex, and Eastern Ontario Catholic school boards.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2020.Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

  • MUN's student-built space satellite to launch in 2022
    News
    CBC

    MUN's student-built space satellite to launch in 2022

    A pint-sized satellite made by students at Memorial University will travel around the earth starting in 2022.The Killick-1, built by students in Memorial University's faculty of engineering, will measure information coming from the ocean. The satellite will be launched 400 kilometres up into space, where it will measure things like sea ice and waves.Desmond Power, vice president of remote sensing at C-Core — a research advisory company based out of St. John's — says the satellite will serve as a great help to the province's fishing and oil industries."In terms of the oil and gas industry ... sea ice is important because we need to be able to understand where it is, so that if a tanker wants to transit through there they have no trouble," Power said.It's also essential for search and rescue operations, he said. "If there's an incident on a rig for instance, you need to be able to get people off the rig. And of course for fisheries, you really need to know where the ice is."The satellite is only 20 centimetres long, measuring in at about the size of a one-litre carton of milk.Its guts include a communications system, attitude control to keep the satellite upright, a small but powerful computer, thermal controls and a transmitter.The satellite will be attached to a rocket in 2022 and launched into orbit from the International Space Station.Power credits the size of the device to the advancement of cell phone technology."You think of all the things that get jammed into a cell phone ... it's really that kind of technology that's made these types of satellites possible," Power said.Grad student Benjamin Dowden is the mechanical lead for the project, and has been with it since day one. "It's really something to think that we can fit so much together in this," Dowden said. "Especially doing something like picking up GPS signals and all the processing power, we need to be fully self contained and have our own battery, power system and controls."Over time, the team working on the satellite has grown from six students to close to 30.The team secured funding from the Canadian Space Agency, as well as $200,000 from the province. Its size, according to Power, means lower costs than sending a traditional, far bulkier satellite into orbit."Traditional satellites cost tens and hundreds of millions of dollars," Power said."Probably a total cost of launching this is about half a million dollars. So if you were to be able to produce this in mass, you could launch dozens and hundreds of these satellites.The difference between having one satellite in space and having hundreds? "You can have your eye on the entire world at once," he said."That's extremely important, because it gives us a complete picture of the ground all the time."By the time the satellite launches, Power estimates about 120 students will have had a hand in the project -- boosting their marketable skills in the space field."A lot of times, the students just come fresh out of university and have to get the training," Power said. "If they have the training already, that's huge."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • SPVM says closure of NDG's Station 11 will improve services to the community
    News
    CBC

    SPVM says closure of NDG's Station 11 will improve services to the community

    Mike Porcelli's car has been broken into three times while parked in his own Montreal neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, and he said local police have always responded in a timely way."When I would call, they would send an officer within 45 minutes." said Porcelli, standing in front of Station 11 on Somerled Avenue."They've always been very nice over here."By the end of this year, police will no longer be operating out of Station 11. The nearest police station will be Côte Saint-Luc's Station 9, two and half kilometres away, on Westminster Avenue.Montreal police service (SPVM) spokesperson Insp. André Durocher said the two stations will be integrated, with the goal of improving services to the community."The objective is not to cut resources, but to be more optimal of the use of our resources," Durocher said.Station 9, which moved to the Westminster Avenue location two years ago, primarily serves Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Montreal West.  When Station 11 moves in, there will be no job or service cuts, Durocher said, as the decision has nothing to do with budgetary constraints.He said officers will continue to patrol the surrounding neighbourhoods as they always have."Having been a commander of a station for many years, I know it's more important that the officers are out there on the road rather than to have them inside," he said."In terms of efficiency and for police visibility, for safety, and in order to respond in a quicker fashion, it's better to have the officers on the road."Porcelli told CBC that having Station 11 so close by has always put NDG residents at ease."We're going to see them a lot less often," he said. "I don't know if that's such a good thing."Residents throughout the city's the west end have been expressing worries about the merger on social media for more than a week.Some say they feel safe because they see officers patrolling daily in NDG, while others argue there isn't enough presence to begin with.A loss for the area, says mayor Côte-des-Neiges–NDG borough Mayor Sue Montgomery said she disagrees with the decision to merge the two stations, but elected officials don't have the power to stop a police station from being shut down."Côte Saint-Luc doesn't have the same challenges that we do," she told CBC Montreal's Daybreak. "I don't even know if they have any sort of violent crime.""I'm not saying that there's a lot of crime in our community, but there certainly is room to build relationships between the police and the various communities."Though it is generally a quieter community than NDG, Côte Saint-Luc is not free of all violent crime.There have been stabbings, assaults, burglaries and homicides in recent years, including the 2016 death of a 17-year-old boy in a robbery, and the 2019 death of a man in a suspected knife fight in the parking lot of Décarie Square.Watch as Insp. André Durocher explains the SPVM's decision:Montgomery said the SPVM told her weeks ago that the merger was a "done deal." When she expressed her concerns about the move, police told her that NDG residents can file a report online instead."That's not the point," she said. "What I want are people present in the community. I want people to feel that the police are approachable."Politicians oppose decisionCôte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has said he, too, is concerned about the integration plan. He said the consolidation will more than triple the number of officers working out of a single location covering a vast area, which he worries will lead to a drop in service.Coun. Marvin Rotrand said he is urging his fellow councillors in Côte-Des-Neiges—NDG to take "united action" to oppose the closure of Station 11."We will have to be proactive and invite the community groups to join us in pushing back, or the police station will be gone," said Rotrand in a statement.Rotrand, who represents the district of Snowdon but lives in NDG, also criticized Montgomery for not letting citizens or the borough council know about the SPVM decision."She did not inform the councillors, made no effort to rally the public and made no statement that she is opposed," he said. "I call her actions irresponsible and a breathtaking lack of leadership."

  • A yodeling husky is literally the only thing you need to see today
    Rumble

    A yodeling husky is literally the only thing you need to see today

    Nora the husky loves to sing, but this time her owners tried something a little different. Check it out!

  • Desmond inquiry looks at how Afghanistan veteran legally obtained firearm
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Desmond inquiry looks at how Afghanistan veteran legally obtained firearm

    GUYSBOROUGH, N.S. — Just over a year before Lionel Desmond bought a Soviet-era semi-automatic rifle and killed three members of his family and himself, the mentally ill former soldier was forced to hand over all of his firearms to police.The incident that led to the confiscation was the focus Tuesday of a provincial fatality inquiry that started hearings last month in a small town in eastern Nova Scotia.The inquiry has already taken a close look at the role of the health-care system and whether Desmond and his family had access to help for mental health and domestic violence issues.But key questions remain about how a man with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and a possible traumatic brain injury could hold a licence to possess and buy firearms.On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond legally purchased an SKS 7.62 carbine, which he later used to kill his 31-year-old wife Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah and his 52-year-old mother Brenda inside the family's home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.As the inquiry resumed Tuesday, its 12th day of hearings, RCMP Const. Steven Richard testified that he and three other Mounties were dispatched on Nov. 27, 2015 to the home in Oromocto, N.B., where Desmond was living at the time.Richard said Desmond's wife told police she had received texts from him indicating he was contemplating suicide."He was saying it was time to go," Richard told the hearing, adding that one of Desmond's texts said he would see his young daughter in heaven.The four officers knew Desmond had been diagnosed with depression and PTSD — and they were also aware he kept a firearm in his garage.Desmond's wife, who was living in Nova Scotia at the time, confirmed that her husband was being medically discharged from the military — he was based at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick — and that the couple was having marital problems."Their relationship wasn't the healthiest at that point," said Richard.The constable testified that he arrested Desmond under the provincial Mental Health Act when it became clear he was a threat to himself, but the officer insisted the retired corporal did not appear to be a threat to anyone else."He was one of the most calm and straightforward people I ever arrested under the Mental Health Act," the officer said. "There was no indication for me to believe he was a threat to others."Richard's testimony echoed that of several other witnesses who have said Desmond had the ability to keep calm and show deference to people in positions of authority, even when he was in distress.The officer also testified there was no indication that domestic violence was an issue with the Desmonds, though he said he wasn't sure if it was discussed.After Desmond was taken to a hospital in Fredericton, the Mounties seized a Savage .223 rifle from a locked case in his garage. Police in Nova Scotia later seized two other rifles Desmond kept in the couple's home in Upper Big Tracadie.At the hospital, Desmond was assessed by a doctor for 20 minutes and released early on Nov. 28, 2015.Richard said he knew Desmond had a firearms licence, but it did not occur to him to take it from him because the former infantryman never made any overt threat to use a weapon of any sort. Richard also said it was his understanding Desmond's license would soon be under review by New Brunswick's chief firearms officer.However, the inquiry also heard Tuesday that Desmond's possession and acquisition licence wasn't placed under review until Dec. 29, 2015, which meant he could have purchased a weapon during the month after the suicide call in Oromocto.As well, the inquiry heard that on the day after the incident in Oromocto — Nov. 28, 2015 — Desmond travelled to the home he occasionally shared with his wife in Nova Scotia, where he called the local RCMP detachment and demanded to know where his guns were.Later that day, the RCMP received a complaint from Shanna Desmond's father, who alleged that Lionel Desmond was yelling toward his property, again demanding to know where his rifles were.Richard said it wasn't until May 2016 that he learned Desmond had submitted a medical assessment to New Brunswick's chief firearms officer confirming he was not a threat to himself or others — and his license was reinstated and his guns returned on May 13, 2016.The inquiry has heard the assessment was produced by Dr. Paul Smith, a family physician who worked at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. Smith has yet to testify.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2020.— By Michael MacDonald in HalifaxThe Canadian Press

  • US tells remaining cruise passengers: Stay out for 2 weeks
    News
    The Canadian Press

    US tells remaining cruise passengers: Stay out for 2 weeks

    The U.S. government made good on its warning to Americans who chose to remain on board a quarantined cruise ship in Japan, telling them they cannot return home for at least two weeks after they come ashore.U.S. officials notified the passengers Tuesday of the travel restriction, citing their possible exposure to the new virus while on board the Diamond Princess. More than 100 U.S. citizens are still on the ship or in Japanese hospitals.A two-week quarantine of the Diamond Princess ends Wednesday. Over the weekend, more than 300 American passengers, including some who tested positive for coronavirus, left Japan on charter flights. Most of them remain under quarantine at military bases in California and Texas, although about a dozen have been moved to a hospital.Some Americans decided to take their chances and stay on the ship. On Tuesday, they were told their names would be put on a travel restriction list. The letter from U.S. health authorities said the passengers would not be issued a boarding pass or allowed on a flight “until you are no longer at risk of spreading infection during travel.”The letter also warned them against trying to enter the country through Mexico or Canada or at a seaport, saying “you will be stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.”___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press

  • Most TDSB students, parents and teachers don't want e-learning, survey suggests
    News
    CBC

    Most TDSB students, parents and teachers don't want e-learning, survey suggests

    The vast majority of people who responded to a recent Toronto District School Board (TDSB) survey don't support the province's plan to bring in mandatory e-learning courses for high school students, the board announced Tuesday.In a letter to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, TDSB chair Robin Pilkey implored the ministry to listen to the concerns of students, parents and teachers."It is also concerning that our students are now choosing their courses for the upcoming school year, with little to no knowledge of what your government's e-learning courses will look like, and yet it will be mandatory for them to not only take two e-learning courses, but to also succeed in them in order to graduate," Pilkey wrote."We fear this could hinder our students' achievement and well-being levels, and affect their graduation and post-secondary education opportunities."The board says 5,000 people responded to its survey about the issue, including 428 students from Grades 7 to 12, 1,938 parents and guardians, and 2,730 secondary school teachers. It was conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 11.When asked if they supported the ministry's decision to institute mandatory e-learning courses, 87 per cent of students said no, compared to 81 per cent of parents, and 97 per cent of teachers.When asked if mandatory e-learning would benefit students, 67 per cent of students said no, while 21 per cent said they weren't sure. Sixty-five per cent of parents said no, while 18 per cent said they weren't sure.Finally, 91 per cent of teachers said no, while six per cent said they weren't sure."I want to make it clear that the board is not against e-learning," Pilkey said in her letter to Lecce."However, our survey found that there are significant concerns among students, parents and teachers related to your government's plan for mandatory e-learning."In a statement, Education Ministry spokesperson Alexandra Adamo did not answer questions about the survey's results, nor did she provide specifics about the province's plan."We remain committed to building a world-leading online learning system to strengthen Ontario students' competencies in the modern economy," she said in an email."We are proceeding with developing and implementing a made-in-Ontario program that will ensure student flexibility, technological literacy and a vast selection of courses, through two mandatory courses over the lifetime of a student's high school career."E-learning has become a major issue in the ongoing labour battle between the provincial government and education workers, alongside class sizes and compensation for teachers. Thousands of students have been affected by rotating strikes across Ontario in recent weeks.The province announced last year that it would require high school students to take four online courses to graduate. After considerable blowback, the government scaled that number back to two.Students graduating in 2023-2024 would be the first cohort required to complete the two courses, selecting from options like Grade 11 biology, Grade 12 data management, and Grade 10 career studies.adam.carter@cbc.ca

  • Broomstick challenge that swept across social media based on myth
    News
    CBC

    Broomstick challenge that swept across social media based on myth

    A new viral Internet challenge has people trying to make their brooms stand on their own because of a false claim about an annual fluctuation in the Earth's gravity.       The broomstickchallenge has spread across YouTube, Twitter and TikTok and has thousands of people trying it out and being surprised by the outcome.It all started with a tweet claiming that Feb.10 was the one day of the year when a broom can stand up on its own.However, it's not true. A broom can stand on its own any day of the year — it just requires patience and the right broom to do the trick.Davis Leong, daily programs supervisor at Calgary's Telus Spark, debunked the premise of the challenge in an interview with The Eyeopener on Tuesday. He said it has nothing to do with Earth's gravity. Rather, it's because brooms have a low centre of gravity."Every object has a balanced point, when all the forces that are acting on it are going to be even," he said. "If you find that balance point, it'll kind of stand up on its own."Leong noted that challenges like this are so popular because it gives you a sense of accomplishment. "It's still a challenge and this is stuff that is valuable from early childhood and trying to balance objects on each other and learning where different objects have their balance points," he said."Even celebrities, as we saw with the broomstick challenge, love to try to get things to balance."As well, he said, if Earth's gravity did fluctuate like this, it would wreak "absolute havoc" on our bodies and muscles."We would just have a really hard time living life normally as we do," he said. "Earth's gravity stays relatively constant just like the mass of the Earth does."Another popular myth similar to the broomstick challenge is an old wives' tail that you can balance an egg during vernal and autumnal equinoxes — March 19 and Sept. 22 this year in Calgary — because night and day are approximately equal length all over the planet.However, this is another trick that can be done at any point in the year, but it takes the right egg to do it."It has nothing to do with gravity or your ability to balance," Leong said."You have to find an egg with a yolk that's perfectly centred in order to do it and there's no way to tell from looking outside the egg."

  • Mayor mask a no go at city hall, LRT protester says
    News
    CBC

    Mayor mask a no go at city hall, LRT protester says

    An Ottawa woman who wore a large papier mâché likeness of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson to city hall to protest the ongoing LRT problems claims she was asked by security guards to take it off.Velvet LeClair donned the mask and a cardboard train bearing the slogan "Fix the LRT" to Watson's Family Day skating party on Monday.LeClair began with a skate on the Sens Rink of Dreams, where she said her costume was well-received."A lot of people were laughing and taking pictures," she said.LeClair said the trouble began when she entered city hall and approached the real mayor. She said she introduced herself as Jim Watson and told him to fix the LRT. A photo of the encounter shows Watson smiling as he appears to lift her mask.LeClair claims security staff later approached her to say her mask was a face covering and the cardboard train was considered a "sign," and therefore not allowed inside city hall. "We thought that was just in [council] chambers," LeClair said. "[The security guard] said no, it's all City of Ottawa property."Marnie Wellar, who helped make the costume and accompanied LeClair to city hall, corroborated her friend's story to CBC."The security guard came over ... and told us that the mask was considered a face covering and face coverings were not allowed on city property, and that the tiny LRT [car] was considered a sign and signs were not allowed on city property," said Wellar."We were there to protest and they told us we had to take off the things that we had ... to protest with. So, basically, the protest was cancelled."While the city could not confirm the incident occurred as described, a spokesperson told CBC LeClair was never "removed" from the building.In an separate emailed statement, the city said it "respects the right of residents to demonstrate on City Hall property. Demonstrations take place regularly at city hall without incident. For security reasons, staff have a long-standing practice to restrict signs and placards within city hall."'We cannot quell dissent'Nevertheless, Coun. Catherine McKenney said the incident is upsetting."It's gotten to a point right now at city hall where we're really ... not tolerating any type of dissension," the Somerset ward councillor said."People may disagree with you. They may even protest you, but as long as it's done in a fair and calm way we have to be able to take that.... We cannot quell dissent."McKenney said there are actually no rules preventing people from carrying signs inside city hall."Staff made a decision to limit food in council chambers, banners, that sort of thing. But this has gone beyond [that]. This is outside of council chambers and ... it's a real concern."City hall security under scrutinyNew security measures at city hall introduced at the end of 2019 received criticism from some councillors and community members who were concerned about the stifling of public participation in city business.New security gates at the entrances to the foyer outside Andrew S. Haydon Hall were also approved and installed on Jan 23.McKenney said city hall is a public space where residents are allowed to hold placards and stage peaceful demonstrations, and said they will be following up with city staff to ensure security officials get that message."The rules have to be made clear as to what is and isn't allowed," McKenney said.As an artist, LeClair said she uses her craft to express her views in a fun way that appeals to children."I just think it's a more effective way of getting my message across," she said. "I'm just tired of the typical protest where you stand there in silence listening to speakers for an hour. I think that doing something engaging is just a better, more effective way of doing it." LeClair said the incident Monday has not deterred her, and she plans to return to city hall with her costume.

  • Virus strikes more Canadians on cruise ship as evacuation plane heads for Japan
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Virus strikes more Canadians on cruise ship as evacuation plane heads for Japan

    A plane carrying Canadians from a quarantined cruise ship in Japan will leave the region by week's end, the federal government says, as the number aboard sickened with the novel coronavirus continues to rise.More than 450 people from the Diamond Princess, held in the port of Yokohama, had tested positive for the virus known as COVID-19, among them 43 Canadians at last count.Authorities in Japan and here say only people who are examined and found healthy will be allowed to fly to quarantine in Canada.Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Tuesday that Canadian officials were waiting on final authorization from those in Japan before the plane ferrying people home is able to take off.Departure is now likely to happen Thursday or Friday, he said. The plane was en route to Japan after some unforeseen technical issues prior to takeoff Tuesday, Champagne said."The plane right now is in the air and will be there on the 19th," he said.Canadians who are sick will remain in Japanese health facilities, he said.But not everyone who is healthy will travel: Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said some aboard the cruise ship have indicated they plan to stay with ill family members. She said their travel home, whenever it happens, will be tracked and they, too, will be subject to quarantine rules when they land.Hajdu said there are others aboard the cruise ship who officials are still trying to get in touch with. In all, there are 256 Canadians aboard the ship.Those who have requested and been cleared to fly will arrive at CFB Trenton for health examinations before being moved on to a Nav Canada training centre in Cornwall, Ont., which includes a large hotel.Hajdu said the amount of time they stay in quarantine will be unique to each person based on the symptoms they show and whether they test positive for the virus."In every circumstance, we'll be considering that particular person's health and the risk of further infection," Hajdu said at a press conference in nearby Belleville, Ont."What we're trying to do as a country is do our global part in containing the spread in Canada and I will say that I am very proud of the work that's been happening at all levels of jurisdiction to reach that goal together."She had just visited an existing quarantine site at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in southern Ontario. More than 400 Canadians and family members airlifted from Wuhan, China, are waiting out the COVID-19 bug's two-week incubation period.She met health workers, Canadian Armed Forces members and staff from the Red Cross, who are all trying to keep the people in quarantine healthy and not too bored while they wait out the incubation period for the respiratory illness.So far, no cases of COVID-19 have been detected there.Most cases of the virus are mild, but the illness can be deadly, especially in people who are already in poor health. Eight people in Canada have tested positive for the virus, out of about 350 cases tested at the country's premier microbiology lab, and none has died.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2020.Jordan Press and Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

  • Vacant for almost 15 years, Windsor's old social services building finally comes down
    News
    CBC

    Vacant for almost 15 years, Windsor's old social services building finally comes down

    A vacant building which has caused a lot of contention in Windsor over the years is being torn down — and it has residents in the area hoping it's a sign of things to come.The City of Windsor's old social services building on Louis Avenue has stood untouched for almost 15 years. For the last three, people in the neighbourhood were told it would be demolished.But early Tuesday morning, it finally happened as heavy machinery rolled in — pulling back steel and crushing bricks."It was going to be soon, soon, soon. Well, soon finally happened," said area resident Mary Jane Renaud. "The whole neighbourhood is happy about it. We can't wait. It's been vacant since 2005."Renaud has been vocal about the demolition project for the past three years. She spoke with CBC News spoke in 2017, saying the vacant building had become a site for drug use and vandalism.She went on to fight for change, demanding the city to handle its vacant building problem in a different way — and it worked."I think it triggered a lot of interest in the community and the councillors in ensuring that we're taking care of and monitoring vacant buildings," said chief building official John Revell.In 2018, the city developed a strategy, hiring seven by-law officers who deal specifically with building complaints.Prior to this plan, all complaints fell on the desks of building inspectors who also handled construction projects and building codes. On average, there were 1,200 complaints and it took months for the city to respond, Revell said.Now, the complaint count has dropped to just 30, with all of them now being handled within the week."I think the Windsor model is a little unique in the province and it's been very successful," said Revell. "I would say it's a role model for other communities."The strategy has resulted in more owners of vacant buildings turning their properties over, according to the city, by selling them, rebuilding or tearing them down.If owners do not comply, the city takes them to court. At one time, the city issued about $101,000 worth of fines.Two vacant schools sit near the social services building lot — and residents in the area hope they are next to be demolished. Currently, there are 221 vacant buildings in Windsor.

  • EU bets on industrial data, new rules to catch up in global tech
    News
    Reuters

    EU bets on industrial data, new rules to catch up in global tech

    The European Commission plans to create a single European market for data, hoping that pooling the region's deep industrial expertise will help build technology powerhouses to catch up with Silicon Valley and state-backed Chinese heavyweights. Having lagged the first wave of digital innovation, particularly in consumer markets such as social media, online shopping and smartphones, the EU is keen to make up lost ground and avoid its firms relying on data from U.S and Asian rivals. It is hoping that tapping into the trove of industrial data held by companies such as Germany's Siemens and France's Alstom could push Europe to the forefront of the next wave of innovation as machines and industrial processes are connected up via the so-called "internet of things".

  • No new coronavirus cases under investigation in Ontario as of Tuesday
    News
    The Canadian Press

    No new coronavirus cases under investigation in Ontario as of Tuesday

    TORONTO — New methods are allowing Ontario public health officials to more quickly clear tests for the novel coronavirus, leaving no cases listed as currently under investigation, the province’s chief medical officer of health said Tuesday.A daily update from the provincial government showed that 421 people have been tested over the past several weeks, and nearly all were negative for the virus, called COVID-19.Dr. David Williams said samples from roughly 20 people are still being submitted to public health for testing each day, but test results are available much quicker."Our lab has moved up on the technology," he said. "Before, remember, it used to take 24 to 36 hours. That backlog is moving away because we can turn them around in six hours."Williams said the number of people under investigation for the virus did start to ease 14 days after China quarantined some cities, including the city of Wuhan where the outbreak originated. Two weeks is the maximum incubation period for the virus.Three people in Ontario, who had recently travelled to the affected area in China, have tested positive for the virus. At least one of the cases has since completely recovered, with tests showing she no longer has the virus in her system.The other two people — a husband and wife — are doing well, but have not yet been cleared by having two completely negative tests 24 hours apart, Williams said."The testing is very sensitive, so any remaining bits of RNA (genetic material) that are left will still give you a slight positive, so it's probably very cautious, but that's what we want to do," he said.There have been eight confirmed cases in Canada, including five in British Columbia.In China, more than 72,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus — mostly in the central province of Hubei — and more than 1,800 people have died.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2020.Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

  • Teen shot at Toronto Airbnb party doubts company's safety measures
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Teen shot at Toronto Airbnb party doubts company's safety measures

    TORONTO — Just about anything can set Sean McCann's mind racing to the night a bullet ripped through his body. It can be a loud noise, an invite to a party or news of another shooting at an Airbnb rental.The latest such incident at an Airbnb condo in Toronto left three young men dead and prompted the American company to launch a pilot program in Canada aimed at limiting young adults' ability to book properties.The company had previously announced a ban on so-called "party houses" following a shooting in Orinda, Calif., that left five people dead. It also recently introduced a hotline and an online tool where neighbours can send concerns to the company about unruly properties.There have been a number of similar incidents in Canada, including a shooting on April 27, 2019 in which McCann was wounded, another one at a prom party in Stouffville, Ont., a week later that killed an 18-year-old, and one at a house party in Newmarket, Ont., in October 2019 that left a man dead and sent a woman to hospital."I don't know why they had to wait for so many people to die or get injured before trying to stop it," said McCann. "But, honestly, it seems more like a PR stunt. If they really cared, they would have made changes after these shootings started."McCann also expressed doubt about whether the new measures announced by the company will prevent shooting incidents from happening in the future."How are they going to enforce these new rules?" he said. "People will figure out a way around it. This won't change anything."Last April, McCann and his friends wanted to go out after his final exam at Toronto's Humber College, where he was studying business management, and they had heard about a "mansion party" — large houses rented on Airbnb for the sole purpose of having big bashes — that had been making the rounds on social media.He says it cost $15 per person to get in and two men acted as security and patted down arriving guests."We thought it was weird, but whatever," McCann said.The large home was packed. Many smoked inside and one guy was playing with a knife. The group of friends did not know many there, he said.It was about 12:30 a.m. when they decided to leave.The place was so busy, they could only make their way outside through the back door, where they saw a friend they knew."We're just talking to him, then the shooting started," he said.They couldn't figure out where it was coming from, but the shots rang out in quick succession."I heard another shot, then felt something," he said.He was near a set of stairs going down the sloping backyard toward the fence when he crumpled on the railing. His friend ran back to help and shone a light on McCann, whose clothes were covered in blood.He got up and they pair jumped over the backyard fence and onto a nearby road where McCann collapsed.A police officer responding to a noise complaint was there within minutes, McCann said.The bullet entered McCann's body along his belt line, tearing skin and muscle before ricocheting off his pelvis, which fractured, and exiting through his right groin. He was taken to Sunnybrook hospital where he stayed for four days before he was discharged.His recovery took a while, McCann said. Walking was difficult, as was lifting his leg to get into bed and going to the washroom. The pain gave him many sleepless nights.Once the physical pain abated, the mental anguish began."Anything on TV can set me off. Sometimes I get upset and have to leave the room, it just takes me back to that night," he said.His mind tricks his body, he explained. Anxiety kicks in, he sweats and sometimes has a panic attack. Fear grips his body.Working with a therapist has helped to develop techniques, like mind tricks, he said."The best thing is instead of excusing myself from a situation is try to bring yourself back, so that it grounds you in the present, where I'm safe," he said.McCann has filed a $5-million lawsuit against Airbnb, the home's owners and the party's hosts, alleging negligence.Two people were arrested on the night of the shooting and charged with possession of guns. A spokeswoman for Airbnb said the company took immediate action after the incident."The senseless violence reported has no place in the Airbnb community and we immediately removed the booking guest from our platform in April," Lindsey Scully said in an email.The City of Toronto has since implemented online registrations, licensing and enforcement systems for short-term rentals.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2020.Liam Casey, The Canadian Press