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Greenland fallout: Trump’s cancelled trip blindsides Denmark

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Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen

COPENHAGEN — The prime minister of Denmark said Wednesday she is “disappointed and surprised” by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel his visit to Denmark after she called Trump’s idea of buying Greenland, Denmark’s semi-autonomous Arctic territory, “an absurd discussion.”

Trump, who was scheduled to visit Denmark on Sept. 2-3 as part of a European tour, tweeted his decision early Wednesday. The cancellation stunned Danes and blindsided the Danish royal palace, with spokeswoman Lene Balleby telling The Associated Press it came as “a surprise” to the royal household, which had formally invited Trump.

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump said.

The vast island of Greenland sits between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, has a population of 56,000 and has 80% of its land mass covered by a 1.7 million-square-kilometre (660,000 square-mile) ice sheet.

The political brouhaha over the world’s largest island comes from its strategic location in the Arctic, which due to global warming is becoming more accessible to possible potential oil and mineral resources. Nations from Russia to China, the U.S., Canada and elsewhere are racing to stake as strong a claim as they can to Arctic lands, hoping they will yield future riches.

At the same time, scientists consider Greenland the canary in the coal mine for climate change and say its massive ice sheet has seen one of its biggest melts on record this summer, contributing to a global rise in sea levels.

Frederiksen said she is standing behind the government of Greenland.

“A discussion about a potential sale of Greenland has been put forward. It has been rejected by Greenland Premier Kim Kielsen and I fully stand behind that rejection,” she told reporters at a press conference Wednesday in Copenhagen.

Frederiksen, who took office two months ago in a minority Social Democratic government, went on to say that diplomatic relations between Copenhagen and Washington “are not in any crisis in my opinion” despite Trump’s cancelled plans.

“The invitation for a stronger strategic co-operation with the Americans in the Arctic is still open,” Frederiksen told reporters, adding “the United States is one of our closest allies.”

Others in Denmark were not as gracious as the prime minister.

Martin Lidegaard, a former Danish foreign minister, told broadcaster TV2 that it was “a diplomatic farce” and called Trump’s behaviour “grotesque.”

Trump’s cancellation was “deeply insulting to the people of Greenland and Denmark,” former Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt wrote on Twitter.

Claus Oxfeldt, chairman of Denmark’s main police union, told Danish media that authorities had been busy planning the third visit by a sitting U.S. president to the Scandinavian NATO member. “It has created great frustrations to have spent so much time preparing for a visit that is cancelled,” Oxfeldt was quoted as saying.

Ordinary Danes shook their heads at the news, with many calling Trump immature.

“He thinks he can just buy Greenland. He acts like an elephant in a china shop,” said Pernille Iversen, a 41-year-old shopkeeper in Copenhagen.

“This is an insult to (Queen) Margrethe, to Denmark,” said Steen Gade, a 55-year-old road worker.

In Greenland, Johannes Kyed, an employee with a mine company, told Denmark’s TV2 channel that wanting to buy a country and its people is a relic of the past.

“This is not the way the world works today,” Kyed said.

The U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, was apparently not informed of Trump’s decision ahead of time.

Shortly before Trump cancelled the trip on Twitter, she sent a tweet saying “Denmark is ready for POTUS,” using an acronym for “President of the United States” along with Trump’s Twitter handle and a photo from Copenhagen’s City Hall square, where a Dane had paid for two pro-Trump ads on giant electronic screens.

Trump had said Sunday that he was interested in buying Greenland for strategic purposes, but said a purchase was not a priority for his government at this time. Both Frederiksen and Greenland leader Kielsen responded that Greenland is not for sale.

“The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct,” Trump said in the tweet. “I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”

Trump is still expected to visit nearby Poland beginning on Aug. 31.

Retreating ice could uncover potential oil and mineral resources in Greenland which, if successfully tapped, could dramatically change the island’s fortunes. However, no oil has yet been found in Greenlandic waters and the thickness of the ice means exploration is only possible in coastal regions.

Even then, conditions are far from ideal, due to Greenland’s long winters with frozen ports, 24-hour darkness and temperatures that regularly drop below minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) in the island’s northern regions.

American leaders have tried to buy Greenland before. In 1946, the U.S. proposed paying Denmark $100 million to buy Greenland after flirting with the idea of swapping land in Alaska for strategic parts of the Arctic island.

Under a 1951 deal, Denmark allowed the U.S. to build bases and radar stations on Greenland.

The U.S. Air Force currently maintains one base in northern Greenland, Thule Air Force Base, 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) south of the North Pole. Former military airfields in Narsarsuaq, Kulusuk and Kangerlussuaq have become civilian airports.

The Thule base, constructed in 1952, was originally designed as a refuelling base for long-range bombing missions. Since 1961, it has been a ballistic missile early warning and space surveillance site.

Analysts said, for Trump, his announcement on the cancellation was as close to diplomatic as the American president gets.

“His relatively polite wording in the tweets seems to indicate that he didn’t want to provoke or step up anything,” said Kristian Soeby Kristensen, a political scientist with the University of Copenhagen. He noted that Trump didn’t call Frederiksen “weak” as he has done with others.

Both Denmark and the United States have an interest in “business as usual” as Denmark is “a key partner in the Arctic.”

“They need each other, so I don’t see a buildup of tensions,” he said, adding that, however, “one should be cautious about analyzing Trump’s unconventional foreign policy.”

___

Darlene Superville in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press

























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Names in the mix: Conservative leadership contenders

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OTTAWA — The Conservative leadership race is underway and the deadline to register as a candidate was Thursday.

To register, a candidate had to submit 1,000 signatures, $25,000, and a full application form. Each also needs to be approved by the party’s leadership organizing committee.

These are the candidates who have been approved to run:

— Marilyn Gladu: A professional engineer for decades before she was elected an MP in 2015, Gladu is well-liked among her peers in the House of Commons, once being named the “Most Collegial Parliamentarian” in an annual survey. She represents the Ontario riding of Sarnia-Lambton, and has been the party critic on health and science files. She has two children.

— Jim Karahalios: A long-time activist in Ontario conservative circles, Karahalios is known for two advocacy campaigns targeting the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, one to end its once-upon-a-time support for a carbon tax, and a second over nomination issues plaguing the party under former leader Patrick Brown. A lawyer and businessman, he is the spouse of Belinda Karahalios, the Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP for the riding of Cambridge.

— Leslyn Lewis: A Toronto lawyer who came to Canada from Jamaica as a child. Though she’s never held elected office, she did run for the Conservatives in the 2015 election, losing to a Liberal. She runs a legal practice and among other things was until recently the vice-chair of Ontario’s Trillium Foundation, a major government granting agency. She holds multiple degrees, including a PhD. She has been endorsed by the Campaign Life Coalition, an organization that supports pro-life candidates.

— Peter MacKay: MacKay was a member of Parliament from 1997 to 2015 representing ridings in Nova Scotia. In 2003, he became the leader of the Progressive Conservative party, and was instrumental in its merger with the Canadian Alliance to form the current Conservative party in 2004. He went on to hold three cabinet positions in the subsequent Conservative governments. He left politics to resume his legal career. He is married to human-rights advocate Nazanin Afshin-Jam, with whom he has three children, and they live in Toronto. In addition to meeting the first threshold for candidates, MacKay has submitted a further 1,000 signatures, the entire refundable $100,000 compliance deposit and an additional $25,000 of the total fee.

— Erin O’Toole: O’Toole is in his third term as an MP, having left the private sector for politics in a 2012 byelection for the Toronto-area riding of Durham. He was veterans-affairs minister in the last Conservative government, a post he received in part thanks to his earlier career in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He ran for the leadership of the party in 2017, finishing third. He is married to events planner Rebecca O’Toole and they have three children. In addition to meeting the first threshold for candidates, O’Toole has submitted a further 1,000 signatures, the entire refundable $100,000 compliance deposit and an additional $25,000 of the total fee.

— Rick Peterson: Peterson is making his second try for the Conservative leadership, having run and lost in 2017. After that campaign, he moved his B.C.-based business to Alberta, partially in an unsuccessful effort to try and secure a nomination to run as a candidate there. Since then, in addition to his finance business, he’s launched a not-for-profit focusing on getting people in the investment industry to support resource-sector workers and their families. He lives in Edmonton with his wife and three dogs.

— Derek Sloan: In his first term as a member of Parliament for the Ontario riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington, Sloan previously worked as a lawyer and before that, owned a furniture business. He’s running with the support of several anti-abortion organizations. He is married and has three children.

These are the candidates who met the deadline to submit the required signatures and fee but who are awaiting official approval by the party:

— Richard Decarie: From Quebec, his conservative bona fides include work getting Stephen Harper elected as the first leader of the Conservative party. He’s also worked as a talk show host and in the not-for-profit sector, including with Food Banks Quebec. He is running expressly as a social conservative. He is married and has a daughter and a stepdaughter.

— Rudy Husny: The longtime Quebec operative for the Conservative party was until recently working for current leader Andrew Scheer. When the Conservatives were in government, Husny held several positions in the trade minister’s office, assisting with communications and stakeholder relations on files including international trade agreements.

All candidates must, by March 25, submit the refundable $100,000 compliance deposit, the entire non-refundable $200,000 entry fee and a total of 3,000 signatures to have their names appear on the ballot and attend party debates.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2020.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

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NewsAlert: Alberta files red-ink budget but says hope on horizon

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EDMONTON — The Alberta budget remains mired in red ink, but doubles down on oil and gas and gives a boost to diversification.

Finance Minister Travis Toews is forecasting a $6.8-billion deficit this year on revenues of $50 billion.

Debt is expected to rise to almost $77 billion by the spring of 2021.

Toews says while unemployment remains stubbornly high at about seven per cent, he’s optimistic that new pipeline projects and higher exports will mean more revenues for Alberta’s lifeblood industry.

The province is also investing $200 million to encourage innovation and attract talent in cutting-edge industries such as artificial intelligence.

Toews says given that oil prices will always be volatile, Alberta will keep a close watch on its spending to make sure it gets back to  balanced books by 2023.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2020

The Canadian Press

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