Colombo: The Sri Lankan government on Tuesday began the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) investigation into the security lapses surrounding the Easter Sunday suicide attacks that killed 258 people including 11 Indians, despite strong objection by President Maithripala Sirisena. President Sirisena, who is the head of the Cabinet, warned last week that he would not attend the Cabinet unless the government took immediate action to halt the parliamentary investigation. Also Read – ‘Hong Kong won’t rule out Chinese help over protests’The PSC began hearing testimony from Muslim leaders who said they repeatedly warned the authorities to dangerous radicalisation. The committee summoned former governor of the Western province Azath Sally to testify before it. The cabinet meeting which is usually held on Tuesday mornings was not called by Sirisena, officials said. President Sirisena last week asked the Cabinet to halt the hearings, citing national security concerns. Sirisena said that it was uncalled for and a serious threat to national security as the top intelligence personnel are identified through the media. He said he would not allow any serving defense official to testify before the PSC. Also Read – Pak Army chief accompanies Imran at key meetings in ChinaHe wrote to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya urging a halt to the PSC. Jayasuriya, however, replied that the PSC was a parliamentary issue and it would proceed. Sirisena has insisted that as minister of defence and law and order he was unaware of precise intelligence warnings from India about the attack on April 21. He suspended police chief Pujith Jayasundara and dismissed his top defence official Hemasiri Fernando after it was found that there were intelligence failures before the attacks. Sirisena said that none of the serving officers would be authorised by him to testify in future. Jayasuriya stressed that all officials are bound by parliamentary privileges and they would be compelled to respond to summons by the PSC. Nine suicide bombers, including a woman, carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three high-end hotels frequented by tourists in the country’s deadliest violence since the devastating civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ended in 2009. The Islamic State claimed the attacks, but the government blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaath (NTJ) for the bombings. A three-member committee appointed to probe the attacks that killed 258 people, including 11 Indians, submitted its final report to President Sirisena on Monday. The details of the report were immediately not available. Sirisena’s opposition to the PSC has triggered another clash between the executive and the legislature. The president and his coalition partner, prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are at loggerheads and in October last year the president sacked the premier unconstitutionally. The political and constitutional stand off lasted for nearly two months before Wickremesinghe was ordered to be restored by the Supreme Court.
New Delhi: Amid allegations that its administration is trying to impose Hindi as a subject in the undergraduate programmes, the JNU on Tuesday asserted that it is “unfortunate” that such “misinformation” has been circulated and said the discussion on the matter has been deferred.The Jawaharlal Nehru University said such “irresponsible” statements are “undesirable and condemnable” and clarified that the varsity administration has not taken any such decision. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) on Monday had alleged that the varsity was trying to impose Hindi by making it a compulsory subject at the undergraduate BA and B-Tech courses. The students’ body had said one of the agenda items of the the 151st meeting of the academic council on Friday pertains to “making Hindi a compulsory subject at undergraduate level for BA and B-Tech courses”. In a statement, JNU’s Registrar Pramod Kumar said it is unfortunate that some students have been spreading misinformation in the media claiming that the JNU administration has imposed Hindi as a compulsory subject in the undergraduate programmes of the University. “Such irresponsible statements are undesirable and condemnable. It is to clarify that the JNU administration has not taken any such decision,” he said. The agenda item of the Academic Council (which the JNUSU alleged pertained to imposition of Hindi) was related to a discussion on a letter from the UGC seeking the views of the university on Hindi as a possible course in the undergraduate programmes, he added.
Mumbai: Congress leader from Maharashtra Yashomati Thakur has alleged she was stopped by the police from meeting her party’s Karnataka MLA Shreemant Patil, who is undergoing treatment at St George Hospital in south Mumbai. Patil was admitted to the government-run hospital after he complained of chest pain on Thursday -the day when Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy moved confidence motion in the Assembly of that state. Thakur, who is All India Congress Committee secretary in-charge for Karnataka, said the police deployed at the hospital stopped her from meeting Patil Friday night. Also Read – Encounter under way in Pulwama, militant killed “We helped him (Patil) during the Karnataka Assembly elections (held in 2018). So, I wanted to see him at the hospital. But the police stopped me from meeting him at the behest of the state government,” Thakur told over phone. She added that Patil’s son Shreenivas was present when she visited the hospital. “He (Shreenivas), too, was against me meeting his father. He was the one who coordinated the elections preparation with us during the Karnataka polls,” she added. Politics in Karnataka has witnessed dramatic turn of events over the past few weeks with the BJP claiming the ruling Congress-JD(S) combine lacks numbers to prove majority on the floor of the House. According to sources, 15 rebel MLAs from the Congress and JD (S) are camping at a luxury hotel in Mumbai even as the confidence motion was moved earlier this week.
New Delhi: Delhi Police on Monday said that they have arrested three persons involved in a robbery with Canadian pilot with a knife near Delhi Cantt area.Police identified the accused as Mehraj Salmani (31) (the kingpin of the gang) since 2012, he is running taxi with cab company and presently he used to run taxi for GTS (Garhwal Taxi Service) app-based taxies and his associates Asif (22) and Farman (22). Deputy Commissioner of Police during the investigation, it was revealed that the mastermind along with his two other accomplices was in police custody since July 16 at Sahibabad police station. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderThe accused person Mehraj Salmani, Asif and Farman were questioned in the court complex at Sahibabad court. All three were arrested after their admitted committing the offences. “They were taken on three days police custody remands and were questioned at length. As many as three fresh cases of Delhi Cantonment, Delhi and Vijay Nagar Ghaziabad of similar modus operandi were solved,” said DCP IGI. Police said that on the intervening night of 12/13 July one Canadian national originally from Iran working in Indigo Airlines as Pilot arrived from Kolkata who was looking for his company cab which was supposed to come to pick up him. He came outside towards cityside on the main road where one person met him who suggested him to talk to him in Hindi. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings”He talked to him and told to drop him by his taxi near his cab by charging Rs 100. Complainant sat in the taxi, three persons were already sitting in the taxi who took his Debit card/Visa card by putting him in fear of knife and also taken PIN code of Debit Card, VISA Card,” said DCP IGI. They robbed rupees about 1.30 lakh and dropped him on the flyover of Mahipal Pur. The teams formed under the supervision of two ACsP of IGI Ramesh Chand and Abhishek Gupta investigated the case. Police said that during further interrogation three more cases were solved. In one of the case in the accused robbed a doctor after he took a lift in a cab for Jaipur from Dhaula Kuan.
Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed its registry department to make arrangements on July 30 to film hearing of the bail pleas of three senior doctors, arrested for allegedly abetting the suicide of their junior colleague at a civic-run hospital here.Justice D S Naidu was hearing bail pleas filed by the Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Meher and Ankita Khandelwal, arrested on May 29 for allegedly making casteist slurs and abetting the suicide of their colleague Dr Payal Tadvi. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Tadvi (26), a second-year postgraduate medical student attached to B Y L Nair Hospital, allegedly committed suicide in her hostel room on May 22. Justice Naidu on Thursday noted that Section 15 (a) (10) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) mandates that all proceedings under the act have to be video recorded by the court concerned. The provision was pointed out to the court by advocate Gunaratan Sadavarte, who appeared for the victim’s mother. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KWhile special public prosecutor Raja Thakare said it was a policy matter, advocate Aabad Ponda, appearing for the accused, said the provision is only for trial proceedings and not bail hearings. Justice Naidu, however, said the proceedings would mean all judicial proceedings. “I cannot ignore the statutory provisions. While I am sympathetic towards the fact that this would mean a delay in hearing of the bail pleas, but it is also imperative that the provisions of the act are followed,” the judge said. The court then directed the high court’s registry department to make necessary arrangements for video-recording and posted the bail pleas for further hearing on July 30. Justice Naidu said as a judge, he was for recording of court proceedings and that he uses his mobile phone to record audios of arguments of lawyers in important cases. Ponda, while seeking bail, argued that the accused are educated persons and not criminals.
New Delhi: Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri was Wednesday elected as the new Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. This comes two days after the BJP proved its majority on the floor of the House, and former Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar resigned.Kageri, a senior BJP leader, was the only one to file his nomination papers for the post on Tuesday. He was accompanied by Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa and leaders Govind Karjol, R Ashok, Jagadish Shettar, K S Eshwarappa and S Suresh Kumar. With the majority in the House, it is a convention for the BJP to elect a Speaker. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details “We received only one nomination that was of Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri,” an official in the Karnataka Assembly secretariat was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. On Monday, the BJP sailed through the trust vote in the Assembly after the Speaker disqualified 11 Congress and three JD(S) MLAs. This effectively brought down the majority mark to 105, equivalent to the current strength of 105 of the BJP, which also enjoyed the support of an Independent MLA. Congress has 66 members, while JD(S) has 34 in the House. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from Thursday Three days after the Congress-JD(S) coalition government lost a floor test in the House 99-105, Yediyurappa was sworn-in as the chief minister of Karnataka for the fourth time, Who is Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri? Kageri is a six-time MLA from Ankola constituency. He was first elected to the Assembly from the seat in 1994. Kageri was an active member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Sangh Pariwar, before joining politics. In the state government, he has served as minister for primary and secondary education. (With inputs from Indian Express)
New Delhi: The Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) Assam wing announced a 24-hour withdrawal of medical services across the state on Tuesday. The announcement came in protest against the killing of a 73-year old doctor, Deben Dutta by a mob of 250 in Jorhat district on Saturday. While speaking to the Millennium Post, Santanu Sen, national president of IMA said apart from Assam, it will observe a day of solidarity and silent mourning across the country. “Black badges and solemn mourning at 11 am on that day should be held in all the branches of Indian Medical Association. Candlelight vigil may be organised in the evening,” an official statement mentioned. A delegation of doctors consisting of IMA chief Santanu Sen, Past HSG R N Tandon and Ramesh Dutta, finance secretary will also visit Jorhat to protest. Sen to meet the family of Dr Dutta on Wednesday, he confirmed. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Meanwhile, 21 people have been arrested by the Assam police. Somra Majhi, the 33-year-old worker, was taken to the hospital in a critical state around noon on Saturday. At the time, Dr Dutta was not at the hospital and the pharmacist was also on leave. The nurse on duty administered saline. The worker died shortly afterwards. At 3:30 pm, when Dutta arrived, angry workers thrashed him and locked him up in a room in the hospital. The mob allegedly even cut him with glass shards. He was rescued by the police but he died on the way to the hospital.
Riyadh: Drone attacks sparked fires at two Saudi Aramco oil facilities on Saturday, the interior ministry said, the latest such assault claimed by Yemeni rebels as the energy giant prepares for a much-anticipated stock listing. Huge palls of smoke rose into the sky after the pre-dawn attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais, two major Aramco facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, which follow a spike in regional tensions with Iran. The attacks highlight how the increasingly advanced weaponry of the Iran-linked Huthi rebels — from ballistic missiles to unmanned drones — poses a serious threat to oil installations in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from US”At 4:00 am (0100 GMT) the industrial security teams of Aramco started dealing with fires at two of its facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais as a result of… drones,” the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. “The two fires have been controlled.” The statement added that an investigation had been launched after the attack in the kingdom’s Eastern Province, but did not specify the source of the drones. It also did not say if there were any casualties or whether operations at the two facilities had been affected. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsThe full extent of the damage was not immediately clear as reporters were not allowed near the plants where Saudi authorities appeared to have beefed up security. In recent months, the Huthi rebels have carried out a spate of cross-border missile and drone attacks targeting Saudi air bases and other facilities in what they say is retaliation for a long-running Saudi-led bombing campaign on rebel-held areas in Yemen. The rebels launched “a large-scale operation involving 10 drones that targeted refineries in Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia”, the group’s Al-Masirah television reported. Last month, an attack claimed by Yemen’s Huthi rebels sparked a fire at Aramco’s Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility — close to the Emirati border — but no casualties were reported by the company. Rebel drones also targeted two oil pumping stations on Saudi Arabia’s key east-west pipeline in May, shutting it down for several days. The growing attacks underscore how Saudi infrastructure, including oil installations, are increasingly vulnerable to rebel attacks four years after a Saudi-led coalition launched a military intervention in Yemen. The Abqaiq facility, 60 kilometres (37 miles) southwest of Aramco’s Dhahran headquarters, is home to the company’s largest oil processing plant. It has been targeted by militants in the past. In an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda in February 2006, suicide bombers with explosive-laden vehicles attempted to penetrate the processing plant, killing two security guards. The two bombers also died in the attack, which failed to breach the compound, authorities reported at the time. In 2014, a Saudi court sentenced a man to death for links to the 2006 attack. Two other Saudis were jailed for 33 and 27 years respectively, state media reported. Khurais, 250 kilometres from Dhahran, hosts a major Aramco oil field.
OTTAWA – A national recall of flour due to E. coli contamination that began in March has been expanded again, this time to a product aimed at hotels and restaurants.The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s recall now includes 20-kilogram bags of Baker’s Hood All Purpose Flour, which has been sold in Ontario and possibly across Canada.The recall was first announced on March 28 and affected Robin Hood flour sold in four provinces in Western Canada. It was later expanded across the country.More products were added to the recall in the following months, including certain flour goods produced by Ardent Mills of Brampton, Ont.A complete list of recalled products can be found on the CFIA website.The federal agency says all recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store.No deaths have been reported in connection with the recall but the agency said 26 people were initially infected with E. coli and at least six required hospital care.A class-action lawsuit has already been proposed.
Calgary police continue to search for a person of interest in a recent quadruple homicide.Yu Chieh Liao, 24, is believed to currently be in Ontario or Quebec. Police say she may have dyed her hair and changed her hairstyle. She also goes by the name Diana Liao and is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for fraud.She is Asian, 5’5″ and 160 pounds with long dark hair and brown eyes.A person she was believed to be travelling with, Tewodros Mutugeta Kebede, was arrested in Toronto last Tuesday on unrelated offences.Glynnis Fox, Cody Pfeiffer, and Tiffany Ear were found dead in a burned-out vehicle in Sage Hill on July 10. Hanock Afowerk was found dead near Highway 22 and Highway 8 on July 12.The deaths are connected and police continue to explore the theory that Fox, Ear, and Pfeiffer were caught up in a targeted attack against Afowerk. Police believe multiple people may be involved and continue to search for additional crime scenes in what they’re calling a complex investigation.Anyone who may have information that could assist the investigation is asked to contact the police non-emergency number at 403-266-1234, or Crime Stoppers anonymously using either of the following methods:TALK: 1-800-222-8477TYPE: www.calgarycrimestoppers.orgInformation can also be shared via the Homicide Tip Line at 403-428-8877.Case #17289204
WASHINGTON – Justin Trudeau will visit the North American capitals next week amid early signs of turbulence in continental trade negotiations that have stoked some concern from NAFTA supporters about the agreement’s long-term prospects.The prime minister will meet U.S. President Donald Trump during a two-day visit to Washington, followed by a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto during a two-day visit to Mexico City.The trip was not specifically designed around NAFTA, say Canadian officials, noting that it was in the works for some time and began with an invitation to a women-in-business summit in Washington, coupled with Trudeau’s long-standing plan to visit Mexico.But trade will come up, they said.Some officials have been unnerved by early sticking points that have emerged even before the negotiations touch the hardest issues: dairy, auto parts, the dispute-resolution system and the U.S. idea of forcing a mandatory review of NAFTA every five years.A rare major file that has already opened involves so-called Buy American rules. And America’s neighbours were dismayed by the U.S. proposal during the last round in Ottawa: that access to U.S. public works be restricted to a one-for-one ratio — a dollar’s worth of U.S. contracts for every dollar of contacts across the border.“Which is ridiculous,” said an official in one of the other NAFTA countries.“Whether they’re just driving a hard bargain (or serious about this idea, we) don’t know.”Canada’s position is that it’s unrealistic to expect perfect reciprocity given massive differences in market size. It has pushed back against some of the numbers cited by fans of Buy American rules, who argue the U.S. offers nearly 100 times more access to government procurement ($198 billion) than it gets from Canada ($2.25 billion at the federal level).The Canadian embassy recently sent Washington lawmakers a letter citing a counter-statistic: that just three per cent of U.S. federal contracts are won by foreign suppliers, while 11 per cent of Canadian federal contracts go to foreign firms.One Washington trade consultant says that’s not the main sign of trouble.Eric Miller says what he finds worrying is that even on comparably simple issues like textiles and fruits and vegetables, the default U.S. position so far tends toward restrictions on trade.He said that’s causing anxiety in boardrooms, given the Trump administration’s stated intention: to get a new deal, or terminate NAFTA. He said he’s aware of more than one Fortune 500 company that has briefed its board on the need to plan for the possibility of a world without NAFTA.”Things are going pretty badly,” said Miller, head of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, which has advised different clients on trade issues, including Industry Canada.”There are a number of proposals which have been put on the table by the U.S. that are considered by many in the trade community to be radical — or certainly a radical reorientation based on both what’s in the current agreement and what’s become established practice on international trade.”His advice to Trudeau next week: Learn Trump’s intentions.“Look into the into the eyes of the president and figure out if the U.S. is serious about getting a renegotiated NAFTA,” Miller said.“(Try) to understand to what extent these are hard and fast U.S. proposals, or are they posturing.”It’s also important to speak with Mexico, he said, about how to respond should Trump trigger the NAFTA pullout clause.Should that crisis scenario emerge, Canada and Mexico would have allies in Washington: scores of U.S. lawmakers are strenuously opposed to torpedoing the deal and could argue that the president lacks the constitutional authority to do it alone.Some NAFTA-supporting lawmakers spoke at Canada’s Washington embassy on Tuesday, as it hosted a gathering of Latino legislators, some Democrat, some Republican and all expressing a desire for a quick and mutually beneficial deal.In their speeches, Marco Rubio, Mario Diaz-Balart, Henry Cuellar, and Will Hurd touted the benefits of trade not only on the economy, but on regional stability. Some voiced a sense of urgency in getting a deal before Mexico and the U.S. enter national elections next year.Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, said that if talks run into election season, some lawmakers will be afraid to vote on the deal. Hurd, a Texas Republican, laid out three guiding principles for NAFTA: “Do no harm. Make it better. Do it quickly”Rubio expressed confidence it will get done.“I’m not worried,” the senator told The Canadian Press.“It’s difficult, it’s hard, it’s going to be hard because these are issues of great importance in all three countries. But I’m generally optimistic that not only will they make progress on it, but that it will be done expeditiously.”
MONTREAL – Finding a tractor would have been easy, but Mylaine Massicotte wanted horses.After her last draft horse died last fall, the 34-year-old spent weeks combing classifieds before bringing home Jack and Alfie — a pair of short, sturdy, Haflinger horses with their breed’s signature chestnut colouring and blonde manes.From spring to fall, Massicotte’s slim figure can be seen walking or riding a small plow behind her team as she turns over the earth at Les Jardins d’en Haut, the small organic vegetable farm in she owns in Havelock, Que.She’s one of a handful of small-scale farmers who mostly eschews tractors in favour of real-life horsepower, for reasons she says are both idealistic and practical.While she admits the work would go much more quickly and easily with a tractor, she says there’s something to be said for partnering with an animal.“You feel a symbiosis with them, where with just a slight movement of your hand, they go where you want,” she explains, sitting at a picnic bench outside her small wooden stable.“You feel they’re happy to work, and willing to work.”Massicotte, who did not grow up on a farm, fell in love with horses over 10 years ago after she did an internship on a farm that used them in France.And while the practice may appear old-fashioned, she says horses have practical advantages.They’re less expensive to buy than a tractor, don’t compact the soil quite as much, their manure fertilizes the garden and they can be fed with hay she grows herself — although she does use a neighbour’s tractor to harvest it.Few statistics exist to show how many Canadian or North American farmers use horses for farm work.While some believe the practice continues to decline, others say there has been a resurgence — buoyed by a new generation of young farmers who are interested in environmentally-friendly and organic farming.Ken Laing, a southwestern Ontario farmer who has been farming with horses since 1979, is among those who believes the practice is on the rise.Laing and his wife and daughter run a 93 acre organic farm in St. Thomas, Ont., where they also breed, raise and sell Suffolk Punch draft horses.Laing describes horses as “solar-powered tractors,” which, unlike their mechanical counterparts, can be fully fed with materials grown on the farm and can reproduce themselves.“I’ve never gone out to the shed and found a baby tractor,” he says.Since the 1990s, his Orchard Hill Farm has taken in two or three interns every year — generally university-educated adults from an urban background who spend an entire season learning the ins and outs of farming with horses.The first thing Laing teaches them, he says, is to understand that working with animals takes time and commitment.“You need to passionate about it and really delve into it, because you need to learn how horses think, and you have to be thinking a little ahead of them so they don’t react to something and take you by surprise,” he says.Laing believes it’s now easier for young farmers to get started with horses than it used to be, thanks to internship programs like his as well as books and resources available online.But Massicotte still finds it hard.As one of only a handful of farmers in Quebec who uses horses, she sometimes feels isolated, with nobody nearby to turn to when she needs advice.Sometimes, she struggles to train Jack and Alfie, who only pulled sleighs and carts before she got them and can be temperamental at times.Since few companies manufacture modern agricultural tools for horses, she’s trying to design her own with the help of a machine shop in town.At times, she admits the tractor beckons. But for now at least, she’s not giving up.“What I really want is to improve with the horses,” she said.“Maybe if I can improve enough, and develop the right tools and talk about it, other people might join me.”
TORONTO – No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot in Friday night’s Lotto Max draw.The jackpot for the next draw on August 17 will grow to approximately $16 million.
CALGARY – The National Energy Board says Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC can start construction on sections of its pipeline expansion between Alberta and British Columbia.The NEB says in a statement that Trans Mountain has met all applicable pre-construction condition requirements for so-called segments one to four from the Edmonton terminal to its Darfield pump station near Kamloops, B.C.The board says it has approved more than 96 per cent of the detailed route for these pipeline segments.The NEB says Trans Mountain can begin construction, including clearing right of way — subject to other government permits and regulations.It says two active hearings remain for these segments and construction for work that relates to the hearings is not permitted while they’re pending.The NEB says 72 per cent of the entire detailed route has been approved for the pipeline, and hearings for the final segment are scheduled to begin in Chilliwack, B.C., in October.
KAMLOOPS, B.C. – About 135 students at an elementary school in Kamloops, B.C., were stung by wasps during their Terry Fox run Thursday.Diana Skoglund, communications manager for School District 73, said it’s believed the swarm attacked after the students ran over a ground nest.While the cross-country running team regularly uses the same trail, staff believe the high volume of kids participating in the run Thursday disturbed the nest.Parents and emergency responders were called immediately and all of the children were gathered in the gym for treatment and observation. Two children were taken to hospital for observation but Skoglund said the remainder recovered with treatments of ice packs and sting remedies.“There were some tears for sure but it wasn’t chaos,” she said.None of the kids with known anaphylaxis had extreme reactions, but Skoglund said they had EpiPens with them just in case. The two who were taken to hospital with stronger reactions had not previously been known to have anaphylactic allergies.“Many of the children went home with their parents. Many others stayed, finished their lunch and went to class,” Skoglund said.
TORONTO – Canadian home sales fell for the first time in five months in September amid weakening markets in Vancouver and Toronto.The Canadian Real Estate Association said Monday national home sales dropped 0.4 per cent last month compared to August, marking the first month-over-month decline since April.Home sales moved lower in more than half of all local markets, led by Vancouver Island and Edmonton, along with several markets in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe region.The drop came as home sales compared with a year ago fell 8.9 per cent.In Vancouver, sales were down by 1.5 per cent and benchmark prices fell by 1.2 per cent last month. In Toronto, sales fell by 0.5 per cent and benchmark prices were up slightly by 0.1 per cent.CREA president Barb Sukkau says rising mortgage rates and the new mortgage stress test will continue to influence the balance between supply and demand with most markets expected to “become even more restrictive” in the months to come.The group’s chief economist Gregory Klump adds that time will tell how these factors will play out for certain cities.“In markets with an abundant supply of homes and slower sales activity, buyers have the upper hand when it comes to negotiations over price,” he said in a statement.“However, in places where buyers are keen to make a purchase but there’s a shortage of homes for sale, sellers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to price. It will be interesting to see how supply and demand respond to rising interest rates amid this year’s new mortgage stress-test.”The new mortgage stress test came into effect in January, adding downward pressure on property values that were still adjusting to other newly introduced measures such as a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax in Ontario.TD Economics says the report points to a more “moderate pace” for the Canadian housing market in the coming quarters.“This is consistent with our forecast calling for resale activity to rise at a more moderate pace in coming quarters, as increasing borrowing costs and stretched affordability conditions in key markets keep a lid on demand,” bank economist Rishi Sondhi said in a note.The association says the national average price for a home sold in September was just under $487,000, up 0.2 per cent compared with a year ago.Excluding the Greater Toronto Area and Greater Vancouver Area, the average price was just over $383,000.Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.
OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear former NHL great Guy Lafleur’s bid to seek damages stemming from an arrest several years ago.Lafleur was seeking financial compensation following his 2008 arrest for giving contradictory testimony at his son Mark’s bail hearing.The ex-Montreal Canadiens star had claimed the Crown and police were cavalier in issuing the arrest warrant, that his reputation was tarnished and that he incurred financial losses following the highly publicized event.Lafleur was arrested in 2008 and found guilty in 2009, but the conviction was overturned on appeal in 2010. Mark Lafleur eventually pleaded guilty to charges of assault, forcible confinement and uttering threats against his girlfriend.The police and Crown had maintained they were justified in proceeding with the warrant given the seriousness of the rare Criminal Code offence.Quebec Superior Court Justice Andre Wery said in a 2015 decision there was valid reason to pursue the charge against Lafleur at the time — a ruling Lafleur unsuccessfully appealed, prompting him to take his case to the Supreme Court.
Six stories in the news for Friday, Feb. 8———SINGH WANTS INVESTIGATION INTO SNC-LAVALIN CASENDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling for an ethics investigation into allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution. If, as Justin Trudeau insists, the allegations are not true, Singh said the prime minister should have nothing to fear from an independent investigation by the federal ethics commissioner. Singh’s call comes in the wake of a report Thursday in The Globe and Mail alleging Wilson-Raybould was demoted in a cabinet shuffle early last month because she refused to succumb to pressure from prime ministerial aides to intervene in the case of SNC-Lavalin.———QUEBEC MOSQUE SHOOTER TO BE SENTENCED TODAYThe man who murdered six worshippers in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017 will learn today whether he’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars. Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot is set to decide how long Alexandre Bissonnette will spend in custody before he is eligible for parole. Bissonnette, 29, pleaded guilty last March to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder after he walked into the mosque during evening prayers on Jan. 29, 2017, and opened fire. The Crown has recommended that Bissonnette serve six consecutive sentences totalling 150 years, while the defence has argued he should be eligible for parole after 25 years.———BRUCE McARTHUR TO BE SENTENCED TODAYSerial killer Bruce McArthur is set to be sentenced today. The 67-year-old self-employed landscaper pleaded guilty last week to murdering eight men with ties to Toronto’s gay village. The Crown is seeking a life sentence with no chance of parole for 50 years. The defence has asked that sentences for all eight first-degree murder counts be served concurrently, which would make McArthur eligible for parole in 25 years. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, but when there are several convictions, the court can impose consecutive periods of parole ineligibility.———NIGHTMARE STILL NOT OVER, BOUSHIE’S MOTHER SAYSThe mother of an Indigenous man who was shot and killed on a Saskatchewan farm says her nightmare is not over. Debbie Baptiste says she has lost hope in finding justice for her son Colten Boushie, who was killed in August 2016. Farmer Gerald Stanley admitted that he fired the gun on the day Boushie died, but he was found not guilty of second-degree murder. He testified his gun went off accidentally and that he was firing his gun to scare off some young people he thought were stealing from him after they drove onto his property. Members of Boushie’s family will spend the anniversary of the not-guilty verdict on Saturday participating in a candlelight vigil and pipe ceremony.———COUPLE GUILTY IN BABY’S DEATH FACE SENTENCING A sentencing hearing is to begin today for a Calgary couple who delayed taking their gravely ill son to hospital until it was too late. A jury found Jennifer and Jeromie Clark guilty last fall of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life. The trial heard 14-month-old John didn’t see a doctor until the day before he died of a staph infection in November 2013. Jurors were shown photos of the child after he died and he had blackened toes and a red rash covering three quarters of his body. The couple’s lawyers suggested doctors at the Alberta Children’s Hospital were to blame because they raised the boy’s sodium and fluid levels too aggressively.———WINTER A ‘MAJOR CHALLENGE’ FOR RAILROADS The Calgary-based railway involved in this week’s deadly train derailment in B.C. says frigid temperatures have a big impact on operations. Canadian Pacific Railway detailed the challenges of harsh weather in a white paper last year. It says cold can cause air to leak from a train’s brake system, causing it to run shorter trains than usual. It also says trains must travel at slower speeds when it gets colder than -25 C. The train that derailed was carrying 112 grain hoppers and three locomotives. An engineer, a conductor and a trainee died.———ALSO IN THE NEWS:— Matthew Vincent Raymond, accused of killing four people including two city police officers, is due back in court. The court is expected to get the results of an assessment to determine criminal responsibility.— Statistics Canada will release its labour force survey for January.— Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will be in conversation with Catherine Holt, CEO Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.The Canadian Press
The federal government has proposed accepting British Columbia’s rules to cut methane emissions that cause climate change despite an independent report that says the regulations would be weaker than Ottawa’s.Some environmental groups fear the same could happen in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which they say would make it harder for Canada to meet its greenhouse gas commitments.“It’s a weak first step,” said Jan Gorski of the Pembina Institute, a clean energy think-tank. “If they’re willing to approve regulations that are subpar in B.C., then it really puts the opportunity to meet the climate goals at risk.”Methane is a greenhouse gas between 30 and 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Almost half of Canada’s methane emissions leak from oil and gas facilities and the governing Liberals have announced targets to reduce them by 45 per cent.On the weekend, the federal government announced the start of a consultation period for accepting B.C.’s proposed regulations instead of those developed in Ottawa.“(The B.C. proposal) will result in methane emission reductions that meet the expected impact,” says a government document.But in February, an independent scientific review of fracking commissioned by the B.C. government concluded the province’s proposed rules weren’t as stringent as the federal ones.Under B.C.’s proposals, a leaking well could emit more than twice the amount of methane than Ottawa will allow when its rules come into effect next year.“Potentially, a leaking well can exceed the federal limit,” the review says.The review also points out that the province would reduce the amount of inspection and leak detection that federal rules require.Federal rules will require inspections at least three times a year. British Columbia would require them once yearly.The energy industry supports methane reduction goals. But it has said the best way to achieve them is to let producers focus on an overall target instead of requiring standard testing for all facilities.The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers argues that focusing on the largest emitters instead of imposing across-the-board inspections would give the biggest bang for the buck.“The incremental volume of leaks detected and repaired with a survey frequency of three times per year … has not been high and,consequently, may result in much higher abatement costs,” the association said in a letter to B.C.’s regulator.The problem, said Gorksi, is that it’s tough to measure how much methane escapes from large emitters.“What they’re proposing is an outcome-based regulation. For that kind of regulation to work, you need really good data.”Alberta and Saskatchewan have proposed similar outcome-based approaches for methane reduction. Gorski said rules drafted by both provinces would fall short of Ottawa’s reduction costs.Previous studies using aerial measurement suggest industry estimates of methane emissions from oil and gas fields — especially heavy oil fields — are far low of the mark. The B.C.-commissioned review quotes similar evidence.“Leakage incident rates are strongly influenced by reporting standards rather than actual well failure rate,” it says.An Environment Canada spokeswoman said the government has published an analysis of why it thinks the B.C. proposal would reduce methane by the same amount as the federal rules.“We think B.C.’s regulations could deliver equivalent reductions,” Sabrina Kim said in an email.The federal analysis relies on the same estimates that aerial measurements have questioned.Gorski said requiring producers to use best practices everywhere is the surest way to meet the reduction targets.— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960 Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
DINARD, France — Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies are wrapping up a two-day meeting in the French seaside resort of Dinard where they hope to seal joint commitments on a range of global challenges and lay the groundwork for August’s G-7 summit in Biarritz.Diplomats from G-7 countries — which includes the U.S., France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and the U.K. — want a joint statement by Saturday on the fight against trafficking drugs, arms and migrants in Africa’s troubled Sahel region, fighting cybercrime and stopping sexual violence against women in conflict zones, especially in Africa.But U.S. officials said that points of discord will also be discussed. Washington seems to be at odds with Italy over its stance on Venezuela and China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.The Associated Press