Canada in Brief, May 5-11

By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
May 11, 2016 Updated: May 11, 2016

Oilsands plant production to resume soon, Notley says

EDMONTON—Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the province and the energy industry are working together to quickly restart oilsands projects that were forced to shut down by the Fort McMurray wildfire.

Notley said May 10 that production is expected to resume in the days ahead once “it is absolutely safe to do so for personnel as well as for the environment.”

“There is an economic consequence to taking production offline,” she said after a meeting with oil company executives. “There’s foregone revenue to both companies and to the Crown.”

Steve Williams, CEO of Suncor, said it’s important for the Canadian economy to get production back on track. He added he doesn’t anticipate any layoffs generally because of the fire.

Government finally moves to create committee on electoral reform

OTTAWA—The Trudeau government is finally getting around to creating a long-awaited special parliamentary committee on electoral reform. A motion to create the committee was placed on the House of Commons order paper May 9.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during last fall’s election campaign that it would be the last election conducted under the first-past-the-post electoral system. He promised to create a committee to examine alternatives and report back with recommendations within 18 months.

The motion specifies that the committee is to study “viable alternative voting systems, such as preferential ballots and proportional representation” as well as mandatory voting and online voting, and to present its final report no later than December, 2016.

New Brunswick launches strategy to become a world leader in cybersecurity

FREDERICTON—Premier Brian Gallant says New Brunswick is the first province in the country to develop a comprehensive strategy on cybersecurity and cyber innovation.

Gallant made the announcement at the University of New Brunswick where he launched CyberNB, a strategy to create jobs and revenues in the various fields of cyber technology.

Cybersecurity expert Allen Dillon has been hired to head CyberNB. He says the pace of technology has outpaced security experts, and New Brunswick is well placed to be a world leader in the efforts to combat cybercrime.

Dillon says there will be approximately 192,000 information and communications technology jobs in Canada by 2020 and 67,000 of them will be in cybersecurity.

Astronomical odds: Naturally conceived identical quads born to Alberta couple

EDMONTON—Alberta couple Bethani and Tim Webb of Hythe, 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, became the parents of four identical baby girls on May 6.

The naturally conceived quadruplets were delivered by caesarean section by obstetric and neonatal specialists at an Edmonton hospital. The Webbs were told by a nurse during the pregnancy that the odds of having natural quads are one in 67 million.

Alberta Health Services says mother Bethani is recovering well from surgery and the babies are being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The girls have been named Emily, Grace, McKayla and Abigail and weigh between three pounds and four pounds, one ounce.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau before tabling the budget on Parliament Hill on March 22, 2016. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau before tabling the budget on Parliament Hill on March 22, 2016. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)

Bob Geldof says Trudeau ‘unambitious’ on aid targets

MONTREAL—Bob Geldof is criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim that spending 0.7 percent of Canada’s gross national income on foreign aid is too ambitious.

The musician and international activist says Canada can do much more to help finance aid projects around the world, notably on the African continent.

Geldof was reacting to Trudeau’s comments earlier in the week that the 0.7-percent goal endorsed by the United Nations is not realistic for this year or the next.  The world body has long urged rich countries to devote more to what’s known as Official Development Assistance, although few hit the UN target.

Geldof was in Montreal giving a speech on the benefits of international investment in Africa.

Man flees Alberta wildfire, discovers his NS house has burned down

Bruce MacDonald, who works as a labourer during oil field shutdown periods in Fort McMurray, was making his way home to Cape North, N.S., and was in Toronto when he was told that his house was destroyed by a fire on May 5.

His brother, Norm MacDonald, said he and his wife Cindy started a GoFundMe page to help out and are “overwhelmed” with the response with more than $16,000 pledged since the weekend.

MacDonald said the support is typical for Cape Breton where people are quick to step up to help others in times of crisis. He said his brother is back in Cape Breton and is staying with his family in temporary lodgings.

Committee rejects most amendments proposed to assisted dying bill

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is open to improving its controversial bill on medically assisted dying but so far the Liberal-dominated committee examining the legislation is showing little appetite for amendments.

The Commons justice committee has rejected a proposed NDP amendment that would have made the bill more permissive, expanding it to include the right of people with competence-eroding conditions like dementia to make advance requests for an assisted death.

But it has also rejected multiple amendments proposed by Conservative MPs that would have made it more restrictive.

However, committee chairman Anthony Housefather says there are still plenty more proposed amendments to come—about 100 in total.

Decision to hold small business tax rate will boost revenue, but cost jobs: PBO

OTTAWA—The parliamentary budget watchdog says a decision by the federal government to put on hold a Tory plan to reduce the small business tax rate will boost government revenue, but cost jobs.

The PBO says the changes in the budget to the small business tax rate will reduce annual federal revenues by $45 million in 2016-17, but increase revenues by $155 million in 2017-18 rising to $815 million in 2020-21.

However, the decision will reduce real GDP by $300 million or 0.015 percent in 2020-2021 and the level of employment by 1,240 workers.

The report by the PBO follows a request by Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre.

Relief for Saskatchewan: Fort Mac fire not moving toward province

REGINA—Emergency officials say the predicted movement of large wildfires in northern Alberta toward northwestern Saskatchewan has not happened.

Emergency management commissioner Duane McKay says the fires, including a blaze that raced through Fort McMurray, haven’t advanced much and that’s a relief. McKay says there’s a lot less anxiety in Saskatchewan now because there’s no immediate threat.

But he also says fire response crews are not standing down and will stay prepared because it’s just the beginning of the fire season.

Much-needed rain has soaked southern Saskatchewan and lowered the fire risk. Steve Roberts, executive director of wildfire management, says only a pocket of northwestern Saskatchewan remains an extreme hazard.

Canada’s big banks partnering with Apple Pay, but rollout times vary

TORONTO—All of Canada’s five biggest banks are partnering with Apple Pay to bring the mobile payment systems to their customers, but rollout times vary between the institutions.

The mobile payment system allows customers to upload credit and debit card information to certain Apple devices and then use them to pay at merchants that are equipped to handle the technology.

Starting May 9, Royal Bank and CIBC customers will be able to use Apple devices to pay for purchases, rather than physical Visa, MasterCard or Interac cards. TD Bank will make the service available within weeks, while BMO and Scotiabank say they plan to launch the offering in the coming months.

BC tightens real estate rules to protect sellers from contract flipping

VICTORIA—The British Columbia government is moving to protect property owners from predatory conduct in the real estate market by stopping so-called contract flipping without the sellers’ consent.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong says new rules starting May 16 will require real estate agents to include the consent of the seller to transfer the contract to another buyer, and spells out that profits from the contract change must go back to the original seller.

De Jong says the changes are designed to prevent situations where a buyer profits by selling a home at a higher price before the closing date of the original sale.

SNC Lavalin to reimburse Quebec municipalities, agencies for ill-gotten gains

MONTREAL—SNC-Lavalin says it will reimburse Quebec municipalities and agencies an undisclosed amount of money to settle contracts it obtained through fraudulent acts.

The provincial government launched a program last November that gave companies and individuals two years to voluntarily repay funds they received through ill-gotten contracts dating back to 1996.

Top SNC-Lavalin executives testified before the Charbonneau corruption inquiry that the company illegally donated money to provincial and municipal political parties to obtain work contracts.

The Montreal-based firm says it will submit proposals in the coming days for fraudulent contracts relating to work in Montreal, Laval, Quebec City, and Saint-Cyprien in the Lower St. Lawrence.

With files from The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press