Alberta United Conservative Party leadership contenders square off in first debate
Two of Alberta’s pacesetters in the United Conservative leadership race squared off over a provincial sales tax Wednesday night in the first party debate.
Former finance minister Travis Toews, questioned by rival Todd Loewen over previously not rejecting the concept of a provincial sales tax, said he has never considered implementing one.
He said the only candidate who has considered it is Danielle Smith, who as a journalist wrote a newspaper column almost two years ago suggesting such a tax may be necessary to get Alberta’s finances back on a firm footing.
Smith, in response, said as a journalist she mused about a lot of things and the situation has changed, with multibillion-dollar deficits now turning into multibillion-dollar surpluses due to rising energy prices.
Smith has said she now rejects a sales tax.
Smith, Toews, and Brian Jean are considered the front-runners in the race for the Oct. 6 leadership vote to replace Jason Kenney as party leader and premier.
They were among seven candidates on the stage at the HALO air ambulance hangar at the Medicine Hat Regional Airport.
In introductory statements, candidate Loewen said the party must find a way to rebuild trust with its members.
Rajan Sawhney and others took aim at Smith numerous times, saying Smith’s promise to pass a bill giving Alberta the power to reject federal laws and court rulings would bring “chaos.”
“That is creating a politically risky environment and that is going to affect everything,” said Sawhney, who quit as transportation minister to run in the race.
Toews said Smith’s proposed Alberta sovereignty law is illusory and won’t solve differences with Ottawa.
Candidate Rebecca Schulz, the former children’s services minister, told Smith that she is “writing cheques you can’t cash.”
Jean, a UCP backbencher, called it a “fiscal fairy tale.”
Smith disagreed, saying it is the federal government that has unfairly tied up Alberta through policies that strangle development of its wellspring oil and gas industry.
“Ottawa has created the chaos,” said Smith.
Smith, the former Wildrose party leader who does not have a seat in the legislature, grabbed attention early in the race when she said if she wins the leadership she will bring in a bill this fall to give Alberta the power to ignore federal laws and court rulings deemed not in the province’s interest.
She has said she would also begin creating a provincial police force to replace the RCMP and launch a provincial revenue collection agency – two steps needed to give teeth to her proposed Alberta sovereignty act.
Legal scholars say such a bill would be illegal, unenforceable, and a dangerous dismissal of respect for the rule of law.
Government house leader Jason Nixon and Toews, who has the support of almost half the UCP caucus, have said they doubt the house would even pass such a bill.
Smith has said such legislation is critical to send a message to Ottawa that Alberta is serious about protecting its turf and to derail any possible future laws restricting freedoms tied to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sawhney, Toews and Jean also went after Smith for stating in a recent podcast that responsibility for early-stage cancer is within a patient’s control. Patients and health professionals have called that profoundly misinformed and cruel.
Smith told the debate audience her comments were expressed “awkwardly” and that she only meant to say preventive health measures are just one more way to help detect, prevent and combat early-stage cancer.
Sawhney said Smith’s comments ring hollow and she needs to apologize to cancer survivors.
Smith countered that when it comes to apologies, she wants to hear one from Kenney’s cabinet members for imposing lockdown rules during COVID-19 – a response that brought a round of applause from the audience.
UCP backbencher Leela Aheer, speaking to the economy, said the government needs to do more for Albertans facing high costs due to inflation starting with re-indexing income supports for those in need.
This is the only scheduled debate before the crucial Aug. 12 cutoff for members to sign up if they wish to vote in the leadership contest. A final debate is set for Aug. 30 in Edmonton.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2022.
Norad, Haiti, migration, critical minerals to top agenda for Trudeau and Biden
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden is embarking on a 27-hour whirwind visit to Ottawa, where he will meet Friday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and speak to a joint session of Parliament — his first bilateral sojourn north as commander-in-chief.
Here are some of the issues the two leaders are likely to discuss:
Migration breakthrough: The two countries are already close to an agreement to expand the 2004 migration treaty known as the Safe Third County Agreement, which is designed to limit asylum claims in both countries but currently only applies to official entry points. As a result, critics say it encourages asylum seekers to enter Canada at unofficial border crossings, which allows them to make a claim. Sources familiar with the details say the two sides have been working on extending the agreement to cover the length of the Canada-U.S. border since the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles last June. Such an agreement would help resolve a major political headache for Trudeau, while giving Biden the political cover he would need to devote more spending to northern border security.
Modernizing Norad: Until last month, the binational early-warning system known as the North American Aerospace Defence Command might have been best known for tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. But a February flurry of unidentified flying objects drifting through North American airspace, most notably what U.S. officials insist was a Chinese surveillance balloon, exposed what Norad commander Gen. Glen VanHerck described as a “domain awareness gap”: the archaic, Cold War-era system’s ability to track small, high-flying, slow-moving objects. Coupled with the brazen ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ongoing but largely opaque joint effort to upgrade Norad — rarely mentioned in past Trudeau-Biden readouts — is suddenly front and centre for both governments. Media reports suggest Canada could agree to an accelerated timeline.
Helping Haiti: The list of foreign-policy hotspots around the world that instantly bring Canada to mind is a short one, but Haiti is surely near the top. And as Haiti has descended ever deeper into lawlessness in the wake of the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise, the need for military intervention has been growing — and some senior U.S. officials have expressly name-checked Canada as the perfect country to lead the effort. Trudeau’s response has been diplomatic but firm: the crisis is best addressed from a distance. “Canada is elbows deep in terms of trying to help,” he said last month. “But we know from difficult experience that the best thing we can do to help is enable the Haitian leadership … to be driving their pathway out of this crisis.” Military experts in Canada say the Canadian Armed Forces are in no state to be able to lead any sort of intervention. U.S. officials said Wednesday they are pursuing a solution with urgency, but insist the discussions are multilateral in nature and will have to involve Haiti itself, and perhaps even the United Nations.
Mission-critical minerals: No high-level conversation between the U.S. and Canada these days would be complete without talking about critical minerals, the 21st-century rocket fuel for the electric-vehicle revolution that Trudeau calls the “building blocks for the clean economy.” Canada has the minerals — cobalt, lithium, magnesium and rare earth elements, among others — and a strategy to develop them, but the industry is still in its infancy and the U.S. wants those minerals now. The issue has profound foreign-policy implications: China has long dominated the critical minerals supply chain, something the Biden administration is determined to change. “This really is one of the most transformative moments since the Industrial Revolution,” said Helaina Matza, the State Department’s deputy special co-ordinator for the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. “We understand that we can’t do it alone.”
Water, water everywhere: Canada and the U.S. have been negotiating since 2018 to modernize the Columbia River Treaty, a 1961 agreement designed to protect a key cross-border watershed the size of Texas in the Pacific Northwest. Despite 15 separate rounds of talks, progress has been middling at best. Meanwhile, Canada is under U.S. pressure to allow the International Joint Commission — the investigative arm of a separate 1909 boundary waters agreement — to investigate toxic mining runoff in the B.C. Interior that Indigenous communities on both sides of the border say has been poisoning their lands and waters for years. Add to all of that the mounting pressure on Canada to supercharge efforts to extract and process critical minerals, and the plot promises to thicken.
Border blues: The flow of irregular migration isn’t the only bilateral issue focused on the border. Critics on both sides say travel between the two countries hasn’t been the same since the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nexus trusted-traveller program, a popular fast-tracking system in Canada, broke down last year amid a dispute over U.S. border agents working on Canadian soil; the fix is widely seen as less streamlined than the old system. Many of those same critical voices are taking issue with Canada’s imposed new tax measures to discourage foreigners from owning real estate north of the border; some on Capitol Hill have been vociferous in pressing the Biden administration to demand an exemption.
A trade deal by any other name: Regardless of what the two leaders end up talking about, it will happen within the framework of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, known in Canada as CUSMA. The USMCA era of continental trade, which began in earnest in 2020, has not been without its hiccups, including disputes over U.S. access to Canada’s dairy market and the way the U.S. defines foreign automotive content. The Biden administration is also staunchly opposed to Canada’s plans for a digital services tax, which it considers a violation. The agreement is due to be reviewed in 2026, and a lot could happen — especially on Capitol Hill and in the White House — between now and then. It’s also worth noting that while it’s not covered by the trade deal, the softwood lumber dispute remains a perennial irritant. International Trade Minister Mary Ng met earlier this month with industry leaders to discuss “unwarranted and illegal U.S. duties” on softwood lumber, vowing that a solution that protects Canadian jobs “is the only resolution that we will accept.” In other words, don’t hold your breath for a breakthrough on a dispute “that’s been going on since Adam and Eve,” said Tony Wayne, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press
Thompson’s 37-save effort leads Golden Knights to 3-2 win over Flames
Vegas Golden Knights goalie Logan Thompson scrambles to block the net during third period NHL hockey action against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, March 23, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Darren Haynes in Calgary
Logan Thompson’s triumphant return for Vegas after six weeks on the shelf was overshadowed by him exiting the game late in the third period with another injury.
Before he departed with just over six minutes to go, Thompson made 37 saves as the surging Golden Knights picked up a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
“Right now, obviously concerned about Logan,” said Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy. “ Obviously, Logan missing that much time, we’ll have to look closely at that one.”
It was unknown if the latest setback is related to the lower-body injury he suffered back on Feb. 9.
“I don’t know what happened, to be honest. He just got up and left,” Cassidy said. “He knows his body. I have no idea. At the end of the day, let’s hope it’s not related to the previous injury and it’s something that will be short term.”
Up 3-2 at the time, Jonathan Quick came in and turned aside all five shots he faced as Calgary poured on the pressure in search of the tying goal.
“It doesn’t happen really often but when he got out there (Quick) made a couple really good saves to keep us in the game,” said Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev.
The best chance to tie came off the stick of MacKenzie Weegar with a minute to go but he couldn’t beat Quick from 30 feet out.
“I saw the net and I missed my shot,” said the Flames defenceman. “If there was one chance I can get back all year, it would be that one.”
Nicolas Roy scored in his return from an 18-game absence for Vegas (45-21-6). Jonathan Marchessault and Michael Amadio added the others.
Milan Lucic and Nazem Kadri replied for Calgary (32-26-15). Jacob Markstrom stopped 29-of-32 shots in his 11th start in the last 12 games.
In avenging their 7-2 home loss to the Flames on March 16, the Golden Knights earned their seventh win in eight games and are 16-3-2 in their last 21 contests.
Vegas opened up a four-point cushion on the Los Angeles Kings atop the Pacific Division.
Meanwhile, the Flames took a blow to their flickering playoff hopes, falling six points behind Winnipeg for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
It’s the Flames’ 27th one-goal loss this year, which leads the NHL.
“We’re in every game, and we have a chance to win every game we’re playing, so it obviously makes it more frustrating that we lose and it feels like we’re always losing by that one goal,” said Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson.
“I don’t know how many games I’ve played back in my head thinking that ‘Ah, I should have scored that’ or ‘How did we not score that’ and we would have been in a different situation, but it’s the reality.”
Up 2-1 entering the third period, Vegas got some breathing room at 5:19 when pressure from Roy forced a defensive zone turnover from Rasmus Andersson. Roy then went to the net, received a pass from Phil Kessel and fired a shot over Markstrom.
The Flames crept back to within one at 12:33 when Kadri ended his 16-game goal drought with a power-play marker, but that’s as close as they would get.
“When it’s big games, we need guys to step up and be big players and we didn’t have that tonight from everyone,” said Lucic.
Calgary fell to 0-18-3 when trailing after two periods. The Flames are the only NHL team without a comeback victory this season.
Vegas, which entered the night having outscored teams 70-45 in the first period this year, jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame, with both goals coming less than four minutes apart.
Jack Eichel sprung Marchessault who whipped a shot past Markstrom on a 2-on-1 at 11:43.
Slipping behind the Flames defence and after being stopped on his first shot, Amadio rattled in his own rebound at 15:23.
Lucic cut the deficit in half with 58 seconds left in the frame off a slick cross-ice setup from rookie Walker Duehr.
SHOW OF SUPPORT
The Flames wore #SnowyStrong stickers on the back of their helmets in support of assistant general manager Chris Snow’s ongoing battle with ALS. The stickers that feature a blue cornflower, the international symbol of hope for the fight against ALS, were created by a parent from the U9 hockey team in which Snow’s daughter plays and were first worn by that team and its coaches.
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith had his career-best point streak snapped at nine games (four goals, 11 assists). It equalled the franchise best, also held by Alex Tuch, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.
Four Flames also had their scoring streaks come to an end. Defenceman Noah Hanifin at six games, while Tyler Toffoli, Elias Lindholm and Blake Coleman each had their four-game streaks halted.
Golden Knights: Wrap up their road trip in Edmonton on Saturday night.
Flames: Play host to San Jose in an afternoon game on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.
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