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Alberta

NEW Edmonton Baseball Mystery

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NEW Edmonton Baseball Mystery

Unless there’s a sudden burst in the amount of information being released by those who speak for the Edmonton Prospects and the still-unnamed baseball team recently established as the new operators of Re/Max Field,  a lot of guessing will be going on for at least a little longer.

The mystery: will there really be two university-level baseball teams in the Edmonton area next year?

Up to this point, Pat Cassidy’s Prospects have received most of the public attention after being ousted from their previous home in an apparent ‘hostile takeover” engineered by Randy Gregg and his followers. Cassidy’s biggest announcement came with details and probable pictures of what a new stadium will look like when it opens as the Prospects’ home in nearby Spruce Grove. The Gregg group, as usual, stayed silent.

On Thursday, however, entrepreneur Dale Wishewan, founder of the powerful Booster Juice franchise, went public. He is part of the group – also including Gregg’s brother Gary – that outlasted the Prospects in a fierce confrontation over which organization would receive city council blessing to operate at Re/Max.

Wishewan promised quick and positive news about where the new team would find a home. One unconfirmed guess: the 12-team Western Baseball Association, which has two teams — Kelowna and Victoria – opposing foes from Washington and Oregon.

A call to one number on the WBA website was not answered.

The Prospects are part of the Western Canada Baseball League, based entirely in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Operators have determined, so far at least, that there is no room for any newcomer intruding on the space of current members.

Wishewan, one of several minority owners tied to the NHL’s Vegas Knights, has been a lifetime baseball fan. At a young age, he played in and around tiny Waskatenau and Smoky Lake County, about 90 miles from Edmonton, then progressed to college ball in Oregon.

His interest in baseball became obvious at least a year ago when an Edmonton lawyer organized a meeting for discussion of some small hope that Edmonton might rejoin the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and let participants know that Wishewan was among those likely to attend. He did not appear, but his recent comments reaffirm his love of baseball.

“There’s a pretty big announcement that we want to make in the next few weeks,” he said. “It’ll be the best calibre of baseball that’s come to Edmonton in years.”

If in fact the Western Baseball Association heads this way, plenty of positive noise can be expected. One WBA player, a Washington product, was taken in the first round of the recent Major League draft. The website says it is common for WBA players to go in high rounds of the MLB selection process.

Cassidy, careful once again to avoid more heat on the Re/Max issue that forced the Prospects to find a new home, refused to comment on Wishewan’s statement.

 “There is nothing I can say that will affect what will or will not happen,” he said. “It would be interesting to see the difference in the fans’ approach – Canadian teams playing here with a lot of Canadian content, or American cities that may have no Canadian kids at all.”

As always in conflicts such as this, hard feelings can be expected to linger on all sides. One welcome possibility comes to mind: over time, how attractive would a western college playoff – WCBL vs. WBA – become in the public’s view?

Neither Cassidy nor Wishewan was asked for an answer to this hypothetical question.

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Alberta

Alberta government says jobs, economy, COVID to be focus of fall legislature sitting

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EDMONTON — The Alberta government plans a busy fall legislature sitting aimed at adding jobs and diversifying the economy while focusing on tamping down the renewed surge of COVID-19.

Government house leader Jason Nixon says this will include proposed legislation on recognizing professional credentials to address labour shortages. The bill will be introduced by Premier Jason Kenney.

“Our focus will be on Alberta’s workforce, a couple of bills around diversifying the economy, a big focus on building infrastructure for our future, (and) growing our resources, particularly on the energy side,” Nixon said in an interview Friday.

There will also be new initiatives on environmental protection and conservation.

Nixon said there will be 18 to 20 bills for the sitting, which begins Monday and is scheduled to run to the first week of December. 

“It’s a very robust fall agenda,” he said.

Nixon said the government will continue to take steps to reduce COVID-19 cases, which have severely stressed the health system.

No COVID-19-specific bills are planned, he said, noting they were passed in previous sittings. 

“There’s certainly other stuff to be done to manage the pandemic … but we’ll stand ready if Alberta Health needs us to pass any legislation to deal with the pandemic.”

He said debate in the chamber is expected to return to some semblance of normalcy.

In the spring sitting, both the United Conservative government and the Opposition NDP reduced their numbers in the chamber to prevent the spread of the virus. 

This time, with all NDP members and all but one on the UCP side vaccinated, all will be allowed back in for debate.

The lone UCP member has a medical exemption and will be tested regularly, said Nixon.

He said there are still masking rules and members will try to maintain distancing where possible.

The NDP said it plans to hold the government accountable for what went disastrously wrong on COVID-19.

“This fall sitting of the legislature will be laser-focused on getting answers from the UCP on why they’ve failed Albertans so miserably in managing the devastating fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Christina Gray, the NDP house leader.

“Since July 15, more than 85,000 additional Albertans have been infected with the virus and 700 have died.”

Gray said the NDP will call for an all-party inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic with the power to compel documents and testimony.

Nixon said the government will not agree to such a motion. He said it would be wrong to redeploy vital health resources right now and that Kenney has promised an eventual review of how the province handled the pandemic.

Kenney has also promised to bring forward a motion to ratify and act on the results of Monday’s provincewide referendum on Canada’s equalization program.

Final results aren’t in from Edmonton, but figures from Calgary and other cities suggest the referendum will pass with about 60 per cent in support of urging the federal government to remove the principle of equalization from the Constitution.

Kenney has said the issue is not about removing equalization, something no province can do unilaterally, but about getting leverage to negotiate other issues surrounding federal transfers to attain a better deal with Ottawa.

Political scientist Jared Wesley said Kenney will likely continue to focus on initiatives such as the equalization referendum, if only to change the narrative on his low popularity ratings.

“The premier will be spending most of his time, if he has anything to say about it, outside the province, stumping for this fair deal,” said Wesley, with the University of Alberta.

COVID-19 numbers have been trending down in recent weeks. But Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, say the situation remains precarious.

On Friday, there were just over 10,000 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta. And there were 191 COVID-19 patients in intensive care. 

Alberta’s fourth wave troubles began after Kenney lifted almost all COVID-19 related health restrictions as of July 1, boasting that the pandemic had moved to the “endemic” phase and there was no need to plan for a renewed case surge.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

'You're looking at it:' Undercover officer says suspect led them to burial site

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CALGARY — A Calgary man who killed his girlfriend and is on trial for the murder of her young daughter took undercover officers in the middle of the night to a remote, snow-covered area where they were buried.

Robert Leeming, who is 36, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Jasmine Lovett and not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson. 

The mother and toddler were reported missing in April of 2019 after they didn’t show up for a family dinner.

Court heard this week that Leeming was befriended by two undercover officers, who told him they had retrieved a bag of evidence from a nosy neighbour. 

They offered to help him with his problems — including removing the bodies of Lovett and her daughter, who were in a shallow grave under a pile of mulch and branches in a day-use area west of Calgary.

One of the officers testified that Leeming knew exactly where the bodies were.

The officer said they went to the area in the early morning of May 6, 2019, and walked a short distance on foot.

“I said, ‘OK, where to?’ And (Leeming) goes, ‘You’re looking at it.’ And he points down. And underneath and against my left foot were branches and a pile,” said the officer.

“(Leeming) goes and he grabs a branch and lifts it up as if to prove what’s underneath all these branches. As he does that, I see a small bit of blue that I believe to be the moving blankets.”

Investigators previously testified that the mother and child were doused in gasoline and wrapped in blue blankets before they were covered in dirt, mulch and branches.

The trial also heard that Lovett had skull fractures and was shot in the head. Aliyah died of blunt force head trauma.

The officer said Leeming boasted about steps he had taken to hinder a possible police investigation — including hiding wads of raw bacon around his house to throw off cadaver dogs and filling the back of his car with mulch.

“Well, mulch is death, right? So it smells like death,” Leeming told the officers in a tape recording played in court.

“You cleaned that car up good?” asked the undercover officer. 

“Oh, yeah,” he replied.

The officer said Leeming also expressed relief that his 2014 Mercedes seized by police was an older model.

“It’s funny ’cause they were telling me the Mercedes, they pretty much can hook up to the computer in the car and know exactly where I’ve been,” Leeming said with a laugh. 

“It’s too old a car. If it was an ’18, then I’d be in jail.”

The prosecution was expected to wrap up its case Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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