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Alberta lieutenant-governor says not a done deal she’ll OK proposed sovereignty act


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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Alberta’s lieutenant-governor says it’s not a done deal that she would automatically sign off on a proposal from a United Conservative Party leadership candidate to pass a bill aimed at ignoring federal laws and court rulings.

Salma Lakhani says she would seek legal advice as required, but says she is duty-bound to ensure the Constitution is followed.

“We will try and cross that bridge when we get to it, and we will get the appropriate advice that we need as to whether we can sign, whether it’s against our Constitution,” Lakhani said Thursday when asked about the sovereignty act bill proposed by former Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith.

Lakhani’s signature is required to have any law take effect. She acknowledged that some view her role as purely ceremonial and that she should simply sign any bill that passes the legislature and let the courts handle any disagreements.

She said she doesn’t view her role that way.

“We are a constitutional monarchy, and this is where we keep checks and balances,” she said.

“I’m what I would call a constitutional fire extinguisher. We don’t have to use it a lot, but sometimes we do.

“We want to do the right thing for our people and for our Constitution.”

Lakhani added it’s critical Alberta uphold the rule of law, saying she has firsthand experience after she and others of South Asian origin were expelled from an authoritarian Uganda.

“I appreciate very, very much the rule of law. I think we have to guard it and we have respect it and we also have to guard democracy. These are gifts,” she said.

Smith is the perceived front-runner among seven candidates vying to replace Jason Kenney as party leader and premier.

Candidate Brian Jean took to Twitter to address Lakhani’s comments.

“I am extremely uncomfortable with the lieutenant-governor getting political,” Jean wrote.

“That said, Danielle Smith’s lack of clarity on this issue is already causing a constitutional crisis. To end this controversy, Smith must produce the text of the sovereignty act before UCP members vote.”

The act is Smith’s centrepiece policy.

She grabbed the headlines with it in June as the campaign heated up, promising to pass a bill designed to ignore federal laws and court rulings as a way to administer a shock to a “lawless” federal government undermining Alberta’s economy.

However, legal scholars labelled the act illegal and a betrayal of the rule of law. Other politicians have stepped up to criticize it.

Smith then started describing it as symbolic and a simple recitation of rights similar to those exercised by Quebec.

Her team responded to Lakhani in a one-line statement: “As Danielle has said repeatedly, she will work collaboratively with caucus to ensure the sovereignty act is drafted in accordance with sound constitutional language and principles.”

Kenney has called Smith’s proposal “nuts” and government house leader Jason Nixon has questioned whether such a bill could pass in the form Smith has proposed.

Most of the other candidates in the leadership race say the act is not only legally dubious, but would see business and investment flee a province stricken by confusion over which rules apply on which day.

Smith has been challenged to wait until the spring general election and seek a popular mandate for the sovereignty act. Smith has declined, saying she feels she has enough popular support now to pursue it.

Confusion over the act was evident earlier this week when Smith, during the two hours of a leadership debate, described her plan at various times as a legislative cudgel and a restatement of existing values.

“It (the sovereignty act) gets us in a sovereign frame of mind,” she said.

That later prompted candidate Travis Toews to turn to Smith and ask, “What sovereignty act are you talking about today?

“The one that chases tens of billions of dollars out of this province, or the one that’s completely benign (while) over-promising and under-delivering?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2022.

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Partial settlement approved in lawsuit against Calgary Stampede over abuse of boys

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A judge has approved a partial settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the Calgary Stampede that alleged the organization allowed a performance school staffer to sexually abuse young boys.

Phillip Heerema received a 10-year prison sentence in 2018 after pleading guilty to charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child pornography and luring.

Heerema admitted to using his position with the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, which performs each year in the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show, to lure and groom six boys into sexual relationships.

The school is operated by the Calgary Stampede Foundation.

Court of King’s Bench Justice Alice Woolley approved the deal in which the Stampede has agreed to pay 100 per cent of the damages.

Hearings on the amount will take place on Dec. 14 and 15.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023

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Hot rental market makes search ‘stressful’ for many — and it won’t get better soon

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Marissa Giesinger is pictured in Calgary, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. On the hunt for a rental home in Calgary over the last six weeks, Giesinger and her boyfriend trawled through listings morning, noon and night, only to find most come along with dozens of applications and a steep price tag. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By Tara Deschamps in Toronto

On the hunt for a rental home in Calgary over the last six weeks, Marissa Giesinger and her boyfriend trawled through listings morning, noon and night, only to find most come along with dozens of applications and a steep price tag. As an added difficulty, many landlords are unwelcoming to the couple’s brood — dogs Kado and Rosco and a cat named Jester.

“We made the tough decision recently to house our dogs with someone else until we can find a place that’s affordable and we can take both of them,” said Giesinger, a 23-year-old Mount Royal University student.

“It’s definitely been stressful.”

The competitive rental market Giesinger has encountered in Calgary is being seen across the country as multiple factors combine: high interest rates deter buyers and add to rental demand, still-high inflation is squeezing renter budgets, there’s an undersupply of purpose-built rental units and population growth is fuelling demand.

These conditions have left prospective renters feeling even more frustrated than usual by sky-high rents, the frenzy of interest that surrounds any affordable listing and the litany of demands landlords can make when so many people are interested in their home.

Giacomo Ladas, communications director for, calls it “almost a perfect storm” — and it isn’t likely to ease up any time soon.

“What this does is create such a burden on this rental housing market that even though we’re out of the (busy) summer rental season, there’s so much demand that (these conditions are) going to continue like this until the fall and into the winter,” he said.

Data crunched by his organization and research firm shows average asking rents for newly-listed units in Canada increased 1.8 per cent between July and August and 9.6 per cent from a year earlier to reach a record high of $2,117 last month.

Between May and August, asking rents in Canada increased by 5.1 per cent or an average of $103 per month.

When Giesinger rented a two-bedroom basement unit with a roommate a few years ago, the duo paid $1,000 per month, but now she routinely spots “super tiny,” one-bedroom places for $1,350 a month.

“If you want a basement suite or an apartment, you’re looking at minimum $1,200 and that doesn’t include any utilities or anything like that unless it’s a super rare listing,” Giesinger said. data show newly listed one-bedroom properties in Calgary priced at an average $1,728 per month in August, up 21.6 per cent from a year earlier. Two-bedroom homes have climbed 17.4 per cent to $2,150 over the same period.

The picture in Vancouver and Toronto is far bleaker. found the cities had the highest rents in the country.

Newly-listed one-bedroom properties in Vancouver averaged $2,988 in August, up 13.1 per cent from a year earlier, while two-bedroom units hit $3,879, an almost 10 per cent increase year-over-year.

Newly-listed Toronto one-bedroom homes averaged $2,620 in August, up almost 11 per cent from the year before, while two-bedroom properties had a 7.1 per cent rise over the same time frame to $3,413.

It’s numbers like these that have convinced Kanishka Punjabi to abandon her hopes of moving in the near term.

“Two days ago, I gave up on my search because the rental market is that bad,” she said.

The public relations worker has been living in Mississauga, Ont., but felt it was time to find a home in downtown or midtown Toronto, closer to where she works.

However, few of the two-bedroom homes she spotted in her two-month search were within her $2,800 budget.

For example, one apartment she liked at the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton streets had 25 offers in just over a week.

“Some people actually just sent in their offer without looking at the apartment too because there are so many people who are in desperate need of rental units,” said Punjabi. “There’s just not enough.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has projected that the country needs to build 3.5 million additional homes beyond what’s planned before the market reaches some semblance of affordability.

It also calculated that the annual pace of housing starts — when construction begins on a home — edged down one per cent in August to 252,787 units compared with 255,232 in July.

Despite the nudge down, Rishi Sondhi, an economist with TD Bank Group, said it has been a strong year for starts because the industry is responding to elevated prices by building at a robust pace.

But between population growth and rising interest rates, he said, “supply is struggling to keep up with demand” and that’s bound to weigh on renters for quite some time.

“In the short term, it would be unrealistic to expect too much of a reprieve simply because population growth is likely to remain strong through the duration of this year — and that’s really one of the big fundamental drivers,” he said.

“In addition, it’s unlikely to expect affordability in the ownership market to improve too much either because we think the Bank of Canada (key rate) is going to be on hold for the remainder of the year, but there is some risk that they take rates even higher, especially if inflation doesn’t co-operate.”

For renters like Giesinger that message puts even more pressure on her to settle on a place soon.

“Now I’m scrambling to find the money for a deposit and we’re still never really sure like what kind of place we’re going to get,” she said.

“And when you’re battling dozens of other people for a rental it can be super stressful.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2023.

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