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Conservatives plan filibuster after Liberals shut down Wilson-Raybould motion

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  • OTTAWA — Members of Parliament were bracing Wednesday for an all-night voting marathon as opposition parties protested the Trudeau government’s efforts to shut down any further investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair.

    The Liberal majority shot down a Conservative motion calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to let former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould testify more fully about her allegation that she was improperly pressured to drop a criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

    The motion was defeated by a vote of 161-134.

    That set the stage for a Conservative-sponsored filibuster, requiring 257 separate votes on items in the government’s spending estimates. The voting could theoretically last 36 hours, but the Conservatives have only to keep it going until just after 10 a.m. Thursday to scrub the remainder of the parliamentary day.

    The filibuster started Wednesday evening — one day after Liberals on the House of Commons justice committee used their majority to pull the plug on their investigation into the affair.

    Wilson-Raybould has already testified for nearly four hours before the committee, having been granted a waiver from solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality to freely discuss events from last fall — when the inappropriate pressure was allegedly applied — until Jan. 14, when she was shuffled out of the dual justice and attorney general post to Veterans Affairs.

    The Conservative motion called on Trudeau to extend the waiver of cabinet confidentiality to cover the period from Jan. 14 to mid-February, when Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet.

    Wilson-Raybould has said she has more to say about what occurred after she was shuffled, but she was not in the Commons for the vote on the Conservative motion. Nor was Jane Philpott, who resigned from cabinet in solidarity with Wilson-Raybould early this month, saying she’d lost confidence in the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin file.

    However, the Conservatives are not giving up just yet. They are asking the Commons ethics committee to launch its own investigation into the affair, starting with calling Wilson-Raybould to testify by no later than March 27. The Liberal-dominated committee is to consider the request on Thursday.

    A month ago, when the Commons voted on another opposition motion to let the former minister testify freely, Wilson-Raybould abstained but then added fuel to the SNC-Lavalin fire by saying: “I understand fully that Canadians want to know the truth and want transparency; privilege and confidentiality are not mine to waive and I hope that I have the opportunity to speak my truth.”

    Liberals nervously waited to see whether she or Philpott would bring another can of gas to Wednesday’s vote. They did not, adding to Liberals’ professed comfort at letting the pair remain in the governing caucus and seek re-election as Liberals this fall, despite their lack of confidence in the prime minister.

    Wilson-Raybould attended part of a closed-door Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday morning but Philpott did not show up.

    “They’ve both indicated that they continue to believe in the Liberal party and want to stand for us in the election in the fall. I look forward to continuing to work together,” Trudeau said on his way into the caucus meeting.

    “You know, sometimes there are differences of opinion but we’re a big tent,” echoed Liberal caucus chair Francis Scarpaleggia, a Quebec MP.

    Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


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    Person airlifted to hospital after avalanche in Yoho National Park has died

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  • LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — Parks Canada says a person who was airlifted to hospital in Calgary following an avalanche in Yoho National Park has died.

    The agency says a male who was among a party of three was involved in an avalanche Saturday afternoon on Des Poilus Glacier, which is on the Wapta Icefield, approximately 180 kilometres northwest of Calgary.

    STARS Air Ambulance said the person was in critical condition at the time, and Parks Canada says in an update that he did not survive.

    The other two people in the party were not injured.

    Parks Canada says the slide was not connected to an avalanche that happened Tuesday on Howse Peak in Banff National Park that is believed to have claimed the lives of three professional climbers.

    Efforts to find those men — American Jess Roskelley and Austrians David Lama and Hansjorg Auer — have been hampered by poor weather and dangerous conditions.

    Parks Canada says the avalanche danger rating for Saturday was variable, noting that spring avalanche conditions can range from high to low and are dependent on weather and location, among other factors.

     

    The Canadian Press


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    National

    New Brunswick premier urges caution as floodwaters continue to rise

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  • FREDERICTON — Rising floodwaters have forced the closure of at least 25 roads in western New Brunswick, where the premier is urging residents to do what they can to protect their families and property.

    Premier Blaine Higgs issued a brief statement saying New Brunswickers are facing severe flooding in several communities.

    The province’s Public Safety Department says the Saint John River Basin is now beyond or nearly at flood stage in Clair, Saint-Hilaire and Edmundston in the north, and in Fredericton, Maugerville, Jemseg and Sheffield-Lakeville Corner in the south.

    The department says residents in other communities along the river should remain on high alert in the coming days as water levels are still rising.

    Heavy rain and a rapid snowmelt are being blamed for the flooding, which isn’t unusual at this time of year.

    About 120 soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in southern New Brunswick were expected to help residents fill sandbags and, if necessary, evacuate their homes.

    “Residents should know that they aren’t alone in these difficult times,” Higgs said in a statement. “Impacted residents should not hesitate to seek assistance and to take steps, where safely possible, to protect their family and property.”

    The Canadian Press


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