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Around Red Deer March 22nd…..

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5:01 pm – The City of Red Deer is pleased that the Federal Budget announced on Wednesday will continue with stable Gas Tax funding for municipalities but is also hoping to benefit from Infrastructure Investments. Read More.

2:39 pm – Red Deer RCMP have arrested numerous people wanted on outstanding warrants. They were arrested between March 15th – 21st. They include 29 year old Daniel Wade Shields, 24 year old Rickell Jessica Frenchman, 27 year old Kayla Marie Cecka, 22 year old Kyla Joy Harter, 25 year old Matthew Robert McKinney, 20 year old Courtney Darlene Reid, 40 year old Brandy Christine Carl, 25 year old Nicholas Dale Krock and 46 year old James Mitchell. Read More.

1:13 pm – The Red Deer Catholic Regional School District has amended it’s Three Year Capital Plan. This, after Alberta Education’s school projects announcement on March 21st that indicates St. Patrick’s Community School will receive funding for modernization and has now been removed from this plan. Priority #1. Our Lady of the Rosary 8 classroom addition. #2. A new 6-9 middle school in Red Deer. #3. A new K-5 school in Red Deer. #4. A new K-5 French Immersion school in Red Deer. #5. A new K-5 school in Sylvan Lake.

12:48 pm – Red Deerians are being encouraged to turn off the lights for Earth Hour Saturday night! Read More.

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12:19 pm – Members of the public are invited to join the Red Deer College Board of Governors, President & CEO Joel Ward and special guest, Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt on Wednesday, March 29th from 5 – 6 pm as RDC’s new Board Chair is introduced. A report on the College’s contributions to central Alberta will also be presented. A reception is to follow in the Arts Centre Foyer.

11:54 – The Honourable David Eggen, Minister of Education, will visit St. Patrick’s Community School in Red Deer this Saturday, March 25 at 1:00 p.m. to discuss the new modernization project. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Minister Eggen announced funding to modernize St. Patrick’s Community School on March 21st. This comes as exceptional news as the school has been operating at 130% capacity. The school is one of seven in the province to undergo modernization. This modernization will provide improvements to the school including functional upgrades to ensure students have access to effective and modern learning environments. The Minister will visit with the school Principal, Senior Administration and Trustees.

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11:16 am – Red Deer RCMP are looking for a missing woman. Read More.

10:59 am – On Friday, March 24 at 7:00 AM, Red Deer County road bans will come into effect. With the recent warmer conditions, Red Deer County Operations staff have implemented road bans on many different County roadways, excluding all industrial and commercial subdivisions. Gravel roadways will be banned on an as-needed basis. For a complete listing of effected roads, go to www.rdcounty.ca or contact Red Deer County at 403.350.2150.

10:23 am – Rocky Mountain House RCMP are looking for an assault suspect possibly on the O’Chiese First Nation. Read More.

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10:09 am – Improvements to Main Street in Lacombe will soon be underway. Here, the City’s Engineering Services Manager Jordan Thompson provides a brief overview of the upcoming 2017 Main Street Improvements project:

9:54 am – The Red Deer Regional Catholic School Board received an update Tuesday regarding their current capital projects. St. Marguerite Bourgeoys School Work is progressing in the last stage of the project. This work is expected to be completed by the end of March. St. Gregory the Great Catholic School Ceiling grid has started on the second floor, painting is occurring in all areas, gym floor hardwood is starting in April and all other work is progressing on schedule. The school is scheduled to be completed at the end of May. St. Joseph High School Construction is complete other than some seasonal deficiencies which will be addressed in the spring. Our Lady of the Rosary Modular relocation is currently out for tender with results expected by the end of this month. St. Elizabeth Seton Modular relocation will be going out to tender shortly. Father Henri Voisin Modular addition planning has begun. ABC School, as part of the P3 contract, will deal with all aspects of this project.

9:32 am – The Red Deer College Men’s and Women’s Curling teams are competing in Camrose for a national title over the next few days. The University of Alberta (Augustana) will host the event from March 22nd to 25th at the Rose City Curling Club.

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US Justice Department worried about Arizona Senate recount

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PHOENIX — The U.S. Department of Justice expressed concern Wednesday about ballot security and potential voter intimidation arising from the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate’s unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County.

In a letter to GOP Senate President Karen Fann, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said the Senate’s farming out of 2.1 million ballots from the state’s most populous county to a contractor may run afoul of federal law requiring ballots to remain in the control of elections officials for 22 months.

And Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan said that the Senate contractor’s plans to directly contact voters could amount to illegal voter intimidation.

“Past experience with similar investigative efforts around the country has raised concerns that they can be directed at minority voters, which potentially can implicate the anti-intimidation prohibitions of the Voting Rights Act,” Karlan wrote. “Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future.”

Karlan wants Fann to lay out how the Senate and its contractors will ensure federal laws are followed. She pointed to news reports showing lax security at the former basketball arena where the ballots are being recounted by hand.

Fann said Senate attorneys were working on a response she promised to share when it was completed.

The Justice Department letter came six days after voting rights groups asked federal officials to intervene or send monitors to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix at the state fairgrounds, where the ballots are being recounted.

“We are very concerned that the auditors are engaged in ongoing and imminent violations of federal voting and election laws,” said the letter sent by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Leadership Conference and Protect Democracy.

In other developments Wednesday, the Arizona Democratic Party has reached a deal with the Republican-controlled state Senate to ensure that voter and ballot privacy is guaranteed during an unprecedented recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County.

The agreement reached Wednesday puts teeth in a court order that already required the Senate and its contractor, Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, to follow state laws around ballot privacy. Any violations of the agreement would be enforceable by seeking an emergency court order.

The agreement also puts in writing a verbal agreement between the Senate and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs that allows her to have three observers inside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the state fairgrounds.

Under the court order, the Senate and Cyber Ninjas last week released their policies and procedures for the recount. Hobbs’ elections director, Bo Dul, told The Associated Press there were major problems with those rules, including that they seemed haphazard, lacked specifics and left much room for interpretation — something that is never allowed in ballot counts.

Dul noted that the policies allow counters to accept a large enough error rate to perhaps show Trump won the state. Such an outcome would not change the outcome of the election because the results were certified months ago in the state and Congress.

Hobbs on Wednesday sent a letter to the Senate’s liaison to its recount contractor, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, formally laying out a series of problems with the policies.

“Mr. Bennett, as a former Secretary of State, you know that our elections are governed by a complex framework of laws and procedures designed to ensure accuracy, security, and transparency,” Hobbs wrote. “You also must therefore know that the procedures governing this audit ensure none of those things.”

The developments come as the counting of 2.1 million ballots from the November election won by President Joe Biden are off to a slow pace. Bennett told the Associated Press Tuesday night that teams doing a hand recount of the presidential race lost by former President Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate race won by Democrat Mark Kelly has tallied less than 10% of the ballots since starting on April 23.

Bennett said it is clear the count can’t be done by the time the deal allowing the Senate to use the Coliseum ends on May 14. Several days of high school graduations are set to begin on May 15.

Bennett said the plan was to move the ballots and other materials into a secure area of the Coliseum to allow the events, then restart counting and continue until that is completed.

That seems far from certain, though, after a state fair board official told the Arizona Republic that extending the Coliseum lease is “not feasible.” The fair board didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP.

Trump and his backers have alleged without evidence that he lost Arizona and other battleground states because of fraud. Fann said she wants to prove one way or the other whether GOP claims of problems with the vote are valid and use the results of the audit to craft updated election laws.

Bob Christie, The Associated Press









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Federal budget ‘overstates’ economic impact of stimulus spending, budget officer says

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OTTAWA — Parliament’s spending watchdog says the federal Liberals’ budget overestimates how much of an impact its stimulus measures will have on Canada’s economy.

The budget last month outlined what the government said was $101.4 billion in new spending over three years aimed at helping the country climb out of the economic hole caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the budget officer’s report on Wednesday estimated that only $69 billion of that spending could be considered stimulus, such as the extension of emergency supports that were outlined prior to the budget.

Yves Giroux said his estimates of stimulus spending would boost economic growth by one per cent next year and create 74,000 jobs, compared with the budget’s estimates, respectively, of two per cent and 334,000 jobs.

He went on to say that the higher deficits and debt in the coming years could limit the ability of a government to introduce any new, permanent programs without spending cuts or tax increases.

Hours after Giroux’s report landed, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland kicked off debate in the House of Commons on the government’s budget bill by standing by the economic impacts from planned stimulus spending.

She was cut off from debate via a technological hiccup and returned later.

Her office said the economic outlook provided in the budget were based on a survey of private sector economists and called the the fiscal plan “prudent and responsible.”

The Senate is also poised to start studying the legislation, having given marching orders to various committees in anticipation of its arrival next month in the upper chamber.

But first the bill has to survive the House of Commons.

The minority Liberal government would fall without the support of at least one other major party to pass the budget bill, leading to a process that would likely trigger an election campaign.

Conservative finance critic Ed Fast said the PBO report showing higher-than-projected deficits, largely due to lower-than-expected revenues, and details on stimulus shows the budget is more about politics than the economy.

“A good portion of the spending wasn’t used to stimulate the economy at all,” Fast said during debate on the bill. “In classic Liberal fashion, much of the so-called stimulus was instead spent on measures intended to further the political interest of this Liberal government.”

Fast said the Tories would take a different approach to boost wages and help small businesses if his party was elected to govern.

Similarly, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tried to paint the different approach his party would take, telling reporters on Parliament Hill that more spending is needed on health care, and that the ultra-rich and large, profitable corporations should help cover the cost through higher taxes.

“We got a whole plan around direct support that will go to small businesses, make sure that the ultra-rich, wealthy corporations pay their fair share, and that we invest in health care and supports that people need,” he said.

“That’s our vision that’s different from the Liberals.”

The Liberals have pegged their spending plans to a rebound in the labour market, which one year ago witnessed a historic drop when three millions jobs were lost over March and April 2020, while 2.5 million more had their hours plummet.

In March, overall employment was 296,000 jobs shy of the pre-COVID level in February 2020, a gap of 1.5 per cent, and the unemployment rate hit a pandemic-era low of 7.5 per cent.

Statistics Canada will update employment figures on Friday when it releases the April jobs report, which experts expect to show a decline as renewed restrictions and lockdowns took hold in response to the pandemic’s third wave.

Even with a drop in jobs in April, Giroux said the budget office still expects the labour force to be back at its pre-pandemic levels by next year, which is when the first tranche of stimulus money is supposed to move out of the federal treasury.

“And that reinforces the point that we’ve made repeatedly over the last several months that the $70 (billion) to $100 billion to jump start the economy is miscalibrated,” Giroux said during a morning briefing with reporters, “or in other words, too much and over too long a period of time if the objective is to return labour market indicators to their pre-pandemic levels.”

Giroux also said the government’s ability to manage the next economic crisis could be curtailed by the Liberals’ decision to gobble up expanded fiscal room with new spending items.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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