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Trudeau delivers campaign-style speech while introducing candidate Taggart

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  • VANCOUVER — Justin Trudeau delivered a feisty, campaign-style speech in Vancouver-Kingsway Sunday night as he introduced former TV news anchor Tamara Taggart as the riding’s Liberal candidate in the fall federal election.

    The prime minister fired off a flurry of verbal jabs at Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, and also former prime minister Stephen Harper, giving a glimpse of what could be a heated campaign for the October election.

    “Investing in people and communities is the way to grow the economy. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives still don’t get it. Andrew Sheer doesn’t get it either,” he said to a gym full of enthusiastic supporters.

    “Under Stephen Harper, Canada had the worst growth rate we’d had since the depths of the Great Depression under R. B. Bennett.”

    Trudeau then accused Sheer’s Conservatives of hoping to continue Harper’s policies by giving tax breaks to the wealthy while cutting programs for the middle and lower classes.

    “They still think the way to create economic growth for everyone is to cut programs and give advantages and benefits to the wealthiest,” he said. “Well, that doesn’t trickle down to anyone and it didn’t work for 10 years.”

    Trudeau pitched the upcoming election as an opportunity for all Canadians to step up and start talking about the kind of country they want to leave for their children and grandchildren.

    “Do we want to invest in the middle class — shine on the world stage,” he asked, before warning that Canada “is seeing the rise of populism, aggressive, fear-based politics, just like the rest of the world.”

    The crowd roared its approval when the prime minister suggested the best way to counter divisive populism is by recruiting “strong, compassionate people who’ve focused their lives on bringing people together and on empowering people.”

    He lauded Taggart as one of those people from all walks of Canadian life who have invested in their communities in various ways to grow the economy, respond to the challenges of climate change and put Canada on the world stage.

    Taggart, admitted feeling a bit overwhelmed and emotional at being on stage, especially seeing her children holding up signs that read, “Team Tamara.”

    The Order of British Columbia recipient said she wants to be the people’s voice in Ottawa, adding that her media career made her a good listener.

    While Taggart steered clear of talking about the specifics of her campaign platform at the event, she has previously said that she wants to focus on affordable housing, protecting the environment while boosting the economy, and women’s health and safety.

    She’s likely to face a tough challenge in Vancouver-Kingsway, which has been held by New Democrat MP Don Davies since 2008.

    But as Taggart told her supporters, “a woman can follow her dreams and achieve anything — anything she wants.”

     

    Hina Alam, The Canadian Press


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    Grassy Narrows worries about fate of Trudeau Liberals’ promised treatment home

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  • OTTAWA — The chief of a First Nation in northwestern Ontario long-plagued by the debilitating impacts of mercury contamination says he is worried about the fate of a federally promised treatment facility as the calendar speeds towards this fall’s election without any signs of progress.

    Grassy Narrows First Nation has suffered from the health impacts of mercury contamination stemming from when a paper mill in Dryden, Ont., dumped 9,000 kilograms of the substance into the English-Wabigoon River system in the 1960s.

    Those afflicted with mercury poisoning suffer from impaired peripheral vision, hearing, speech, and cognitive function. Other symptoms include muscle weakness, numbness or stinging pain in the extremities and mouth.

    Help for those residents appeared a certainty two years ago when the minister in charge of the file promised a specialized treatment facility on the reserve. A required feasibility study was produced last November that outlined costs and design ideas.

    Grassy Narrows Chief Rudy Turtle said there has been little action on the project. Meanwhile, there also appears to be a political disagreement between the federal Liberals and the Ontario Tory government over jurisdictional responsibility.

    In an interview, Turtle said the community wants to see evidence of progress from the Trudeau government so the project doesn’t disappear.

    “They made a commitment,” he said of the federal government. “We would like to get it going and right now, it is kind of stalled.”

    He urged the federal government to put $88.7 million — the estimated 30-year cost for the facility, according to the feasibility study — into a trust fund for the community to ensure the project moves ahead no matter the results of the fall federal election.

    “We will be certain that there’s money there, that money was set aside for the project and whoever gets in (as government), that we can continue on with the work,” Turtle said.

    The Ontario government secured a $85-million trust for clean up of the land and water nearby in 2017, and that fall, then Indigenous services minister Jane Philpott promised community leaders that Ottawa would fund the treatment facility on reserve.

    Philpott followed up in December with a letter confirming the government would pay for the feasibility study and “the construction and operation of the treatment centre in Grassy Narrows once the design work and programming is ready.”

    Philpott was moved from the post this past January in a cabinet shuffle. She now sits as an Independent MP after being removed from the Liberal caucus over her public concerns about the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

    “I actually had been preparing to go to the community myself before I was shuffled,” Philpott said.

    Her replacement at Indigenous Services, Seamus O’Regan, plans to visit the community and said the government remains “absolutely committed” to the mercury home. He said design work is underway along with building a construction schedule, but he did not offer specifics.

    Grassy Narrows has suffered for generations, O’Regan said, but work can’t go ahead without Ontario’s co-operation.

    “Ultimately, it is a health facility so we have to make sure we work with them (Ontario) on that because delivery of health care is provincial jurisdiction,” O’Regan said. “We are committed to building the facility and we will do that.”

    Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government argued the federal Liberals were playing partisan political games to distract from inaction. A spokesman for Ontario Northern Development Minister Greg Rickford said Philpott’s 2017 promise came absent any funding or operational commitment from the previous provincial Liberal government.

    “There’s absolutely nothing stopping the federal government from fulfilling their commitment to the community,” Brayden Akers said in a statement. “Any suggestion otherwise is blatantly false.”

    In the meantime, Grassy Narrows awaits word about when O’Regan will visit. The First Nation has also sent multiple invitations to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that have yet to be answered.

    At the end of March, Trudeau apologized for his response to a protester who interrupted a Liberal fundraising event to draw attention to the mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows. As security escorted the woman out, Trudeau thanked her for her donation: “I really appreciate your donation to the Liberal Party of Canada.”

    Philpott said she personally hopes federal work on the mercury home will move ahead quickly because Canadians can’t understand why the people of Grassy Narrows have not yet gotten the help they need.

    “That we can’t provide care is really something that shames us all,” she said.

    —Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

    Kristy Kirkup, 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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