Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Feb. 6 ——— LEGAL POT ON TRACK FOR JULY, MINISTER SAYS: The Trudeau government insists it’s on track to legalize recreational pot in July — but that will require co-operation from senators who don’t appear to be in any hurry to pass the legislation. Three federal ministers — Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale — are making a rare appearance in the Senate, where they’re fielding questions from senators on Bill C-45. Petitpas Taylor says provincial and territorial governments have indicated they’ll need eight to 12 weeks after the legislation has received royal assent before they’ll be ready to implement the new regime for legalized and regulated cannabis. That would mean the Senate would have to pass the bill by no later than the end of May, if the legislation is to go into effect by the end of July. Conservative Senate leader Larry Smith says his senators won’t be obstructionist, but they will insist on rigorous and thorough examination of the bill. ——— SPACEX’S NEW ROCKET BLASTS OFF ON ITS FIRST TEST FLIGHT: SpaceX’s big new rocket blasted off Tuesday on its first test flight, carrying a red sports car aiming for an endless road trip past Mars. The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the liftoff punch of its closest competitor. The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center, as thousands jammed surrounding beaches, bridges and roads to watch the rocket soar, delayed more than two hours by high wind. Two of the boosters were recycled and programmed to return for a simultaneous touchdown at Cape Canaveral, while the third, brand new, set its sights on an ocean platform some 300 miles offshore. SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk owns the rocketing Tesla Roadster, which is shooting for a solar orbit that will reach all the way to Mars. As head of the electric carmaker Tesla, he combined his passions to add a dramatic flair to the Heavy’s long-awaited inaugural flight. Typical ballast for a rocket debut: concrete or steel slabs, or experiments. ——— CANADA SELLING HELICOPTERS TO THE PHILIPPINES DESPITE HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS: The Canadian government is facilitating the sale of 16 helicopters to the Philippine military, which human rights groups have accused of killing civilians and committing other atrocities while waging a war on two rebel groups. The Canadian Commercial Corporation, whose role includes selling military goods to other countries on behalf of the government, says the Philippines agreed to buy the Canadian-made Bell helicopters at the end of December. While the Crown corporation would not reveal any other details about the deal, citing commercial confidentiality, reports say the Philippine government had set aside nearly $300 million for the purchase. And while the deal represents another win for the Canadian defence industry following the sale of eight other helicopters to the Southeast Asian country in 2015, it has also sparked concerns from human-rights groups. They say there is evidence that the Philippine military has committed numerous human-rights abuses while fighting Islamist militants and communist rebels in the country, and want a suspension of military sales. ——— GROUPS READY FOR NEW LYRICS TO O CANADA: School districts, a police department and the National Hockey League are just some of the groups preparing for the new gender-neutral lyrics of O Canada, which could get Rideau Hall’s seal of approval just in time for Friday’s start of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Once the legislation changing the lyrics receives royal assent from Governor General Julie Payette, it will be the first time the official wording has been altered since the song was enshrined as the country’s national anthem in 1980. The update applies only to the English version and will see the second line “in all thy sons command” replaced with the gender-neutral “in all of us command.” The Canadian Olympic Committee has asked athletes competing in the games to use the new wording. National Hockey League spokesman Gary Meagher said adjustments will be made once the new lyrics become official. ——— ALBERTA TO STOP IMPORTING B.C. WINE: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the province will stop importing wine from British Columbia. It’s the latest move in a growing dispute over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would carry more Alberta oilsands bitumen to the B.C. coast. B.C. has said it will restrict increased shipments of bitumen while it further studies the effectiveness of spill response and cleanup. Notley says Alberta currently imports about 17 million bottles of wine worth $70 million annually from B.C. wineries. She also says the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission will step up enforcement of sales from B.C. directly to consumers in her province. Last week, Notley said Alberta was ending any further talks on power purchase agreements with B.C. ——— B.C. TO INTRODUCE AUTO INSURANCE PAYOUT LIMITS: Years of reckless decisions by the previous British Columbia Liberal administration have thrown the public auto insurer into chaos and forced the government to place a cap of $5,500 on accident payouts for pain and suffering, Attorney General David Eby says. Eby said Tuesday the Insurance Corporation of B.C. was created to provide affordable insurance to all drivers in the province, but decisions and inaction by the former Liberal government led the corporation to a projected net loss this fiscal year of $1.3 billion. Eby said the settlement limit on injury claims will not take effect until April 2019, as part of legislation to be introduced by the NDP government. Without these actions, Eby said B.C. drivers could face insurance premiums averaging $400 or more. Immediate changes introduced Tuesday include doubling the amount of money available for care and recovery for accident victims to $300,000. The government said the cost of pain and suffering claims has increased by 265 per cent since 2000 and B.C. is the last province in Canada to place a limit on such claims.——— NEW BILL TO EXPAND PROTECTIONS FOR FISH: The federal government will spend $284 million over the next five years to enforce new laws protecting habitat wherever fish are present, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc says. A number of amendments to the Fisheries Act were introduced in the House of Commons on Tuesday to expand the reach of a prohibition against anything that alters or impacts fish habitat to all waters where fish exist. Changes to the act in 2012 meant the protections were enforced only for fish listed in provincial registries as being part of commercial, recreational or Indigenous fisheries. Officials with Fisheries and Oceans Canada said in Ottawa the 2012 changes resulted in a lot of confusion about exactly what projects would require a federal government assessment, because it wasn’t always clear which fish needed protecting and which didn’t. Under the new law, only major projects will go through a federal assessment with more minor ones, such as smaller things being done on individual farms or in small municipalities, being given guidelines to follow. ——— AT LEAST TWO DEAD AFTER MAGNITUDE-6.4 QUAKE HITS TAIWAN: A magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck Tuesday near the coast of Taiwan, killing two people and injuring more than 200 others, officials said. The ground floor of the Marshal Hotel in Hualien county caved in, causing the death of one employee. Another person died in a residential building, the national fire and rescue service reported. Other buildings shifted on their foundations and rescuers used ladders, ropes and cranes to get residents to safety. Taiwanese media reported that a separate hotel known as the Beautiful Life Hotel was tilting. The agency also posted photos showing a road fractured in several parts. Bridges and some highways were closed pending inspections after buckling due to the force of the quake. With aftershocks continuing, shell-shocked residents were being directed to shelters, including a newly built baseball stadium, where beds and hot food were provided. Speaking from a crisis
centre in Taipei, Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung said rail links appeared to be unaffected and the runway of Hualien airport was intact.
AIDE DEFENDS KEEPING CHAGGER IN THE DARK: Liberal cabinet minister Bardish Chagger has made it clear to her top aides that if they ever hear of sexual misconduct allegations involving anyone in her office, they need to tell her about it. “I have spoken to my chiefs of staff to ensure that I am notified of these matters moving forward, because not only do I want to know, I need to know,” the small business and tourism minister said Tuesday. The direction came after Chagger learned Rachel Bendayan, who was then her chief of staff, did not follow up on allegations that a colleague had made sexually suggestive remarks toward a young woman applying for a job. “I did what I thought was best,” Bendayan said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “There was no further action we could take as an office.” According to HuffPost Canada, Myriam Denis told Bendayan in August 2016 that a policy adviser in Chagger’s office had contacted her about a job opportunity through an online networking site, then made sexual comments during their meetings to discuss it. Chagger, who is also the government House leader, said she did not learn about the allegations until last week.
PARTICK BROWN SAYS ‘TRUTH WILL COME OUT’: The former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives broke his silence Tuesday, saying “the truth will come out” about the sexual misconduct allegations that prompted him to step down abruptly last month. In a brief message posted on Twitter, Patrick Brown said that while he applauds the #MeToo movement, which has sparked an international conversation on sexual harassment and assault in recent months, false allegations “undermine that good work.” Brown, who had not publicly spoken since his resignation in late January, said he is “immensely grateful” for the support he and his family have received. He has vehemently denied the allegations against him, which were made to CTV News and have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press. His sister, Stephanie Brown, has also denounced the allegations as a “political hit.” Brown’s resignation plunged the Progressive Conservatives into turmoil in late January, forcing the party to select an interim leader and plan a leadership race that will be held before the spring election.
The Canadian Press