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Lewis to fight Liberal plan to axe charity status for anti-abortion pregnancy centres

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OTTAWA — Leslyn Lewis, in one of her first acts as an MP on Parliament Hill, says she plans on inviting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to a pregnancy centre that risks losing its charity status over opposing abortion.

The newly elected Ontario representative revealed her plans to a recent crowd of demonstrators who gathered in Ottawa to rally against the Liberal government’s promise to remove charity status for anti-abortion organizations.

During the election campaign, Trudeau ran on a platform pledge to no longer provide this status for organizations that provide “dishonest counselling to women about their rights and about the options available to them at all stages of the pregnancy.”

It listed crisis pregnancy centres as an example, which proponents of access to abortion services say offer incorrect information about the procedure.

“We know that regardless of the fact that they may distribute some diapers, they have impacts on people’s access to health care, and they have public health impacts in terms of delayed access to care,” said Frédérique Chabot, director of health promotion at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, said of crisis pregnancy centres.

In a statement, Lewis, a former Conservative leadership contender who was heavily backed by the party’s social conservative members, said Trudeau ran on a plan that required “adherence (to) the Liberal Party of Canada’s illiberal values test,” as she touted pregnancy centres for offering supports to women.

“Too often, women find themselves in a position where they feel that the circumstances of life are pushing them to make a decision they don’t want to make,” she said.

“As a member of Parliament, I will be opposing the proposed illiberal, anti-women policy that would seek to strip charitable status from organizations … that don’t pass Justin Trudeau’s values test,” Lewis said her statement.

In a statement, Adrienne Vaupshas, press secretary for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, repeated the wording of the Liberals’ platform pledge, adding only that “more information will be available in due course.”

In an interview, charity tax lawyer Adam Aptowitzer warned moving on the promise would be a politically loaded process that could open the country up to a debate about what counts as “charitable” in Canada.

“They surely do not want to get into that discussion because that is really fraught with difficulty,” he said.

Campaign Life Coalition, a national organization opposed to abortion, has nonetheless been mobilizing against the promise. On Wednesday, it presented petitions to Lewis, as well as other MPs that hail from the federal Tories’ social conservative ranks.

One of those was Alberta MP Arnold Viersen, who appeared alongside Lewis at that day’s Parliament Hill demonstration. He told the crowd they would fight the move “tooth and nail in the House of Commons.”

How much Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole plans to back that battle, however, remains unclear.

Asked about the Liberal pledge on Thursday, O’Toole repeated he supports reproductive rights, and that he doesn’t believe in politicizing health issues.

“If anyone is at crisis, for any reason, whether it’s addiction, homelessness, an issue related to choice for a woman, we need to bring people together, not divide them. And that’s what Conservatives will try and do.”

Several years ago, the Conservatives mounted a vocal opposition to the Liberal government’s requirement that applicants to its summer-jobs program needed to pledge support for abortion access to qualify for funding.

Last month, a Federal Court judge dismissed a legal challenge against that rule, which came from Toronto Right to Life.

The social conservative grassroots of the Conservative party have been some of the fiercest critics of O’Toole because they say he backed down from promises he made to them when he was running for the leadership last year, where he directly appealed to supporters of Lewis.

Despite what was viewed as an impressive showing during the race, Lewis was left on the backbenches when O’Toole named his picks for critics earlier in the month.

O’Toole says as Conservative leader, he’s a supporter of reproductive rights.

Most of his caucus voted in favour of a private member’s bill from Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall in June that proposed to ban physicians from performing what is known as sex-selective abortion.

The bill was defeated easily after Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs characterized it as a Trojan horse to erode reproductive rights.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2021.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Energy

Europe faces ‘unprecedented risk’ of gas shortage, IEA says

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By David Mchugh

Europe faces “unprecedented risks” to its natural gas supplies this winter after Russia cut off most pipeline shipments and could wind up competing with Asia for already scarce and expensive liquid gas that comes by ship, the International Energy Agency said.

The Paris-based IEA said in its quarterly gas report released Monday that European Union countries would need to reduce use by 13% over the winter in case of a complete Russian cutoff amid the war in Ukraine. Much of that cutback would have to come from consumer behavior such as turning down thermostats by 1 degree and adjusting boiler temperatures as well as industrial and utility conservation, the group said.

The EU on Friday agreed to mandate a reduction in electricity consumption by at least 5% during peak price hours.

Just a trickle of Russian gas is still arriving in pipelines through Ukraine to Slovakia and across the Black Sea through Turkey to Bulgaria. Two other routes, under the Baltic Sea to Germany and through Belarus and Poland, have shut down.

Another hazard in the study was a late winter cold snap, which would be particularly challenging because underground gas reserves flow more slowly at the end of the season due to less gas and lower pressure in the storage caverns. The EU has already filled storage to 88%, ahead of its goal of 80% before winter. The IEA assumed 90% would be needed in its Russian cutoff scenario.

Businesses in Europe have already cut back natural gas use, sometimes simply by abandoning energy-intensive activity such as making steel and fertilizer, while smaller businesses like bakeries are feeling a severe crimp in their costs.

High prices for gas, which is used for heating homes, generating electricity and a host of industrial processes are feeding through to record consumer inflation of 10% in the 19 EU member countries that use the euro and sapping so much consumer purchasing power that economists predict a recession at the end of this year and the beginning of next.

European governments and utilities have made up much of the Russian shortfall by purchasing expensive supplies of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, that comes by ship from countries such as the U.S. and Qatar and by obtaining increased pipeline supply from Norway and Azerbaijan.

The goal is to prevent storage levels from falling so far that governments must ration gas to businesses. Gas storage must remain above 33% for a secure winter, according to the IEA, while levels below that risk shortages if there’s a late cold snap.

Lower levels also would make it harder for Europe to refill storage next summer, while higher reserves from conservation would help lower extremely high prices.

European leaders say the cutback in Russian gas is energy blackmail aimed at pressuring governments over their support for Ukraine and sanctions against Moscow.

Since Russia halted flows this month through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline running under the Baltic Sea to Germany, it and the parallel Nord Stream 2 — built but never operated after Germany refused to certify it — were damaged in underwater explosionsthat European governments say are sabotage.

Demand for liquefied gas has driven up prices and tightened supply to the extent that poorer countries in Asia cannot afford it. Bangladesh is experiencing widespread power blackouts, while Pakistan faces rolling blackouts and has introduced reduced working hours for shops and factories to save electricity.

“Interregional competition in LNG procurement may create further tension, as additional European needs would put more pressure on other buyers, especially in Asia, and conversely cold spells in Northeast Asia could limit Europe’s access to LNG,” the agency said.

The gas crisis in Europe has also deprived Asian countries of the limited number of floating regasification terminals, which were expected to play a major role in LNG imports in Southeast Asia. Europe has secured 12 of the vessels and plans another nine.

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International

MLB playoff primer: Things to know as postseason nears

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By David Brandt

Major League Baseball’s postseason has a little more heft this season.

The playoffs are rapidly approaching, with the final regular season games set for Oct. 5. The postseason begins two days later with a field of 12 teams — up from last year’s 10 — and includes a best-of-three format for the opening wild-card round.

An expanded postseason could lead to some spicy early postseason matchups. San Diego’s newly acquired slugger Juan Soto against the defending World Series champion Braves? Ageless star Albert Pujols and the Cardinals against Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and the Phillies?

Both are possibilities depending on results in the season’s final week.

MLB’s new wild-card format is similar to the one currently used in college baseball for the NCAA Super Regional round: The three games will be scheduled on three consecutive days from Oct. 7-9 at the higher seed’s field. The first team that gets two wins advances.

After that, the playoffs will be business as usual. The division series will be best-of-five, while the league championship series and World Series will be best-of-seven.

Here’s a little more information about baseball’s bulked-up postseason:

WHAT’S NEW IN BASEBALL’S WILD-CARD ROUND?

The best-of-three wild card format is a change from the sudden death one-game format that’s been in place since 2012.

Six teams each from the American League and National League will qualify for the postseason, including the three division winners in each league. The three wild-card teams in each league will be the teams with the best record that didn’t win their division.

The top two teams with the best records in each league will get a bye and don’t have to play in the wild-card round. Those four teams get a few days of rest. Right now, that would be the Astros and Yankees in the American League and the Dodgers and Braves in the National League.

The wild-card round will feature four series: The No. 6 seed will play at the No. 3 seed in both the AL and NL. The No. 5 seed will play at the No. 4 seed.

WHY ARE THE PLAYOFFS STARTING LATE?

October’s postseason festivities will bleed into November before a champion is crowned.

That’s mostly because of the sport’s labor strife that resulted in a work stoppage over the winter. It delayed the beginning of spring training and pushed the regular season back about a week. Baseball players and owners salvaged the usual 162-game season, but to do that, they had to move opening day from March 31 to April 7.

Some of the games originally scheduled for the first week of the season were moved to the end, meaning a season that was originally scheduled to end on Oct. 2 instead ends on Oct. 5.

Hence, a late start to the playoffs.

WHAT HAPPENED TO BASEBALL TIEBREAKER GAMES?

Game No. 163 is one that lives in baseball lore. Bucky Dent’s homer for the Yankees in 1978. Matt Holliday’s game-winning run in the 13th inning for the Rockies in 2007.

Those days are gone.

If there’s a tie for one of the playoff spots, mathematical tiebreakers will be used instead of an extra game. The first will be the head-to-head record between the two teams involved.

If that can’t handle the stalemate, the team with the best intra-divisional record will win the tiebreaker. If that doesn’t work, the process continues with more and more convoluted solutionsuntil a resolution is reached.

It’s unlikely tiebreakers will be needed in the American League, but keep an eye on the National League. The Braves and Mets are locked in a tight race for the NL East, while the Brewers and Phillies are in a battle for the final NL wild-card spot.

WHO ARE THE FAVORITES?

Great question.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been dominant all season with a lineup that includes Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Will Smith and Freddie Freeman. They could top 110 wins this season during the final week.

Over in the American League, the Houston Astros have already topped 100 wins as well. They’ve got a loaded lineup that includes Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez, along with potential AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.

New York’s teams should figure into the mix as well. The Yankees were cruising for much of the season — led by star Aaron Judge’s 61-homer campaign — but have just a 30-31 record since the All-Star break. The Mets have one of the league’s deepest pitching staffs, with two aces on top in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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