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Budget to tout Liberal economic record, provide distraction from SNC furor

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  • OTTAWA — The Trudeau government will attempt to set the stage for this fall’s election — and provide some distraction from the SNC-Lavalin affair — with today’s end-of-mandate budget touting the Liberals’ economic record.

    The Liberal government’s fourth and final budget before the election is expected to include measures to help first-time home buyers, seniors and adult Canadians who want to return to school for skills training.

    It’s also expected to take an initial step towards a national pharmacare program and disclose details of previously announced tax credits and incentives, worth $595 million over five years, to help Canada’s ailing journalism industry.

    But Finance Minister Bill Morneau will also try to set the narrative for the coming election, arguing that years of deficit spending have put the economy on a stronger footing.

    Expect him to credit the Liberals’ investments in infrastructure and other spending measures for the creation of almost 950,000 jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in almost 40 years, and point to the Liberals’ enhanced child benefit for the lowest poverty rate in 10 years.

    Moreover, Morneau is expected to boast a better fiscal picture than he anticipated in last fall’s economic update, thanks to an increase in tax revenues despite surprisingly weak economic growth in the final three months of 2018.

    The budget is being presented in the midst of a continuing furor over allegations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his senior staff and others improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to end a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. The affair has so far cost Trudeau two cabinet ministers, his principal secretary and the country’s top public servant, although he continues to insist no one did anything wrong.

    The Liberal-dominated House of Commons justice committee is to meet behind closed doors today to discuss opposition demands for Wilson-Raybould, who’s already given nearly four hours of testimony, to be recalled. She has indicated she has more to say, particularly about the period between her mid-January move from Justice to Veterans Affairs and her resignation from cabinet a month later.

    However, the Liberal MPs on the committee sent a letter to the chair late Monday indicating that they’ll block any further investigation into the matter. They said they’ve heard enough after 13 hours of testimony from 10 different witnesses and they “believe that all rules and laws were followed.” The Liberal MPs said the “appropriate way forward” is to let the federal ethics commissioner conclude his own investigation into the matter.

    Today’s budget may at least give the Liberals a short respite from the SNC-Lavalin affair.

    But it will also draw attention to the Liberals’ failure to deliver on a major 2015 campaign promise, to run up annual deficits of no more than $10 billion before balancing the budget by 2019.

    Instead, the Trudeau government has posted deficits of more than $18 billion in each of the last two years and has offered no timeline for returning to balance. In his economic update last fall, Morneau projected annual deficits of between $18.1 billion and $19 billion over the next three years.

     

     

     

    The Canadian Press


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    Health

    Rain, wind equals no 4-20 blow out for Parliament Hill, but West Coast shines

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  • OTTAWA — It was a blow out, man, the kind that’s a total drag.

    Protesters dotted one half of Parliament Hill’s front lawn on a blustery, rainy Saturday at the climax the first 4-20 “Weed Day” demonstration since Canada legalized recreational marijuana.

    The turnout disappointed organizers who expected thousands more, but a festive atmosphere prevailed as the Peace Tower clock struck 4:20 p.m., sparking simultaneous smart phone photography and the lighting of joints, bongs and pipes.

    “The weather didn’t co-operate. It kind of shut us down,” Shawn Mac, a program director for 4-20 Ottawa, said moments earlier. “Coming and going, we’ve probably seen about 3,000, but right now, probably about a thousand.”

    A bout of blowing rain earlier in the afternoon meant the shutdown of a public address system, and a made for a sparse gathering of perhaps several dozen people, most huddled under plastic ponchos or tarps.

    Sara Bakir, 29, of Ottawa was one of early arrivals, dressed in a dark hoodie under a black umbrella.

    “It’s still nice to be out with a few like-minded people,” she said laughing, and casting her eyes at the empty and soaked brownish yellow lawn. 

    Organizers learned a tough lesson even before the rain started falling — new freedoms bring great bureaucracy.

    Mac said his group is encountering more red tape Saturday than on past April 20 protests.

    Organizers can’t use the steps to the now-closed Centre Block, which means spectators will need a front row position on the lawn to see or hear — something Mac calls a “huge letdown.” 

    “Hearing is already a problem so not being able to see is a crushing blow,” he said.

    Organizers have also been told to limit musical performers to just two, Mac said, adding that isn’t in the rules of how to hold a public event on the Hill. 

    New limits on auto access also meant organizers had to haul equipment and material by hand up to the lawn from Wellington Street, he added.

    “It’s frustrating because legalization was supposed to … make things easier and not more complicated,” he said.

    Lingering post-legalization concerns are sustaining a sense of protest among 4-20 event organizers across the country.

    They include concerns over the government’s decision to tax medicinal marijuana, slow progress on legislation to expedite pardons for people previously convicted of simple pot possession, and the fact that provincial and municipal governments are grappling with retail sales and land-use laws for growing pot.

    The federal government also has yet to legalize edible marijuana products and has six more months to set rules to do so. 

    “Everything about legalization has made things harder, which is the opposite of what is was supposed to be,” said Mac.

    Others were more upbeat and saw Saturday’s event as an inspiration to the world.

    “Again, the world is watching, and I’m very proud of Canada today and Canadians,” said Kelly Coulter, a cannabis policy adviser based in British Columbia.

    She said Canada is helping change global attitudes and policies as the first G7 nation to legalize pot, and she expected people from Germany and Britain to take part in Saturday’s festivities on the Hill.

    It was a far cry from Ottawa’s subdued festivities on the West Coast, as hoards of people crowded Vancouver’s Sunset Beach to mark the city’s 25th annual 4-20 event warmed by rays of glorious spring sunshine amid a low lying marijuana haze.

    A much smaller crowd gathered at the front lawn of British Columbia’s legislature in Victoria, but the mood was equally celebratory and defiant.

    “Today, in many ways, is bittersweet for us,” said long-time marijuana activist Ted Smith, who led the countdown chant to 4:20 p.m. in Victoria. “We’re happy it’s legalized, sure, but there’s a lot of things to protest.”

    Smith, in between puffs from a large joint, said the current marijuana rules are biased against entrepreneurs who want to sell their products in much the same way as craft brewers and winemakers.

    And a downpour didn’t dampen the festivities at Woodbine Park in Toronto’s east end, where revellers trampled through the muddy grass to the steady thrum of house music.

    Cannabis artisans sold their wares at tarp-covered stands, many expressing hope that they could one day emerge from the “grey market” to set up shop at brick-and-mortar storefronts.

    Justin Loizos, owner of the Just Compassion marijuana dispensary in Toronto, said the mood Saturday was more celebratory than in past 4-20 gatherings, which felt more like protests.

    The current regime may not be the “legalization people asked for,” Loizos said, but the cannabis community should take heart in just how far Canada has come.

    “I see a lot of people complaining, whatever — don’t,” he said. “We’re just going to celebrate here and enjoy the day.”

    — with files from Adina Bresge and Dirk Meissner.

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press




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    Celebrity Dance Off

    Travolta and Newton-John wrap up the Celebrity Dance Off

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  • Trevor Sopracolle went from watching the Celebrity Dance Off last year, to being front and centre this year!  Trevor was the first “Oil Man” in the Celebrity Dance Off.  Hopefully the first of many.  He’s also one of the toughest looking Travolta’s you’ll ever see.  Trevor and his pro partner Alex McPherson wrapped up the show with a brilliant choice of music from Grease.  “Olivia” was amazing.. and “John” turned the world upside down.  See for yourself. .. 

    My Story…

    I was born in Goodsoil, Saskatchewan and moved to Alberta when I was in grade 3 and spent most of my youth in Consort.

    I lost my Dad to cancer when I was in high school and so I grew up fast. At 17 I secured a loan for a 2-bedroom house with a dirt floor basement. To make ends meet, I worked as a tire technician at the local tire shop while attending high school. One of the only benefits of owning your own place in high school is having the coolest parties after the high school dances!

    I moved to Red Deer in 1999 at the age of 19 and began working at Fountain Tire. Not long later a local snubbing company hired me. Over a 10-year period I worked my way up becoming a senior supervisor overseeing most of the higher-class pressure jobs and many overseas projects. In 2008, Garrett Radchenko and I started Goliath Snubbing Ltd., and we haven’t looked back.

    I have also been blessed with the best kids a Dad could ask for. Being a single Dad with three kids under 8 definitely keeps me busy.


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