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TORONTO STAR

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TaiwanFest showcases culture, art, and paper cranes

Sat, 29 Aug 2015 12:38:26 EDT


For Harry Chen, a folded paper crane is a hope for many things: freedom, democracy, world peace — and his own good health.

Chen, a Taiwanese-Canadian, has recently made a habit of folding small origami paper cranes.

He has also spent the last two years living with kidney cancer.

“When I was in the hospital, I started to fold those things,” he said, but it’s a skill he’s had for some time. At six years old, his kindergarten teacher first taught him origami to stop his crying.

After undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Chen’s cancer is now under control. In July 2014, when he was out of the hospital but still recovering, he began folding more cranes in his spare time: on the bus, in the doctor’s waiting room and while out shopping with his wife.

He was inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who famously attempted to fold 1,000 paper cranes in 1955 for good health. Sasaki developed leukemia after she had been exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima atomic bomb as a young child.

With Sasaki in mind, Chen kept folding, and just 10 months later, he stopped at 2,345: a representation of Taiwan’s 23.45 million population.

Chen is displaying his cranes, attached onto mobiles, at TaiwanFest this weekend at the Harbourfront Centre. On Friday evening, a crowd had already gathered around Chen’s display.

Organizers expect up to 50,000 people to pop in between Friday and Sunday for the festivities.

In addition to Chen’s mobiles, there are several other art and cultural pieces on display throughout the Harbourfront grounds. The festival is multidisciplinary, incorporating art, music, culture and food.

It’s held for two weekends back to back: this weekend in Toronto the next in Vancouver. The guests tend to be Taiwanese-Canadians coming from all areas of the city, according to the festival’s managing director Charlie Wu.

But the event is also for Torontonians who may not know a lot about Taiwan.

“It’s important for TaiwanFest to be in downtown venues,” Wu said. “We always feel that Taiwanese-Canadians and Asian-Canadians like to share their cultures in a more mainstream environment where other Canadians get to see it.”

Diverse programming is the key to attracting non-Taiwanese Canadians to the festival, he said. For instance, this year, they are hosting a fashion designer whose heritage is of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, who dwelled on the island for thousands of years before the now-predominant Han Chinese began arriving in numbers in the 17th century. It’s hoped that presence of the designer, known simply as Andre, attracts Torontonians with a general interest in fashion or indigenous peoples’ culture and art.

“That cross-interest — perhaps we can engage with people who can come to the festival and get drawn into other things,” Wu said.

Another good way to draw outsiders in? Tempt their stomachs. There are multiple food and drink vendors at the festival, including the popular Bubble Tea Lounge.

Bubble tea, a cold tea-based drink often served with tapioca, can be made with different mixes and flavours, Wu said.

“A lot of creativity goes into it,” he said. “Bubble tea is almost like the national beverage for Taiwan.”


Houston shooting, sheriff‚??s deputy killed in ‚??cold-blooded‚?? incident

Sat, 29 Aug 2015 11:45:25 EDT


HOUSTON—A sheriff’s deputy in uniform was shot and killed Friday night while filling up his patrol car at a suburban Houston gas station, according to authorities.

Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, was pumping gas into his vehicle about 8:30 p.m. Friday when a man approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ryan Sullivan told The Associated Press. Once the deputy fell to the ground, the suspect fired more shots.

Police described the suspect as a dark-complexioned male who is believed to be between 20 and 25 years old, and stands about 5-foot-10 to 6-feet tall. He was wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts and driving a red or maroon pickup-style truck with an extended cab. Police said an intensive search for the suspect remained ongoing Saturday morning.

No motive was determined for the shooting. Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said Goforth, who was a 10-year veteran of the force, had a wife and two children.

“In my 45 years in law enforcement, I can’t recall another incident so cold-blooded and cowardly,” Hickman said.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Deputy Thomas Gilliland said Goforth had travelled to the Chevron station where the shooting happened, after earlier responding to a routine car accident.

“He was pumping gas into his vehicle. and the male suspect came up behind him and shot the deputy multiple times,” Gilliland told the Houston Chronicle. “The deputy fell to ground. the suspect came over and shot the deputy again multiple times as he lay on the ground.”

He said Goforth died at the scene. Detectives were checking security camera video for possible clues.

“We are actively searching for suspect right now,” Gilliland said. “I can tell you with diligence and justice the suspect will be caught. And he will be brought to justice ... This is a very callous individual.”

Harris County Sheriff’s deputies and homicide investigators joined officers from other agencies, including the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department, in searching for the suspect.

“This is a very tough moment right now for the Harris County Sheriffs Office,” Gilliland said. “Keep us in your prayers and in your thoughts.”

Bob Goerlitz, president of the Harris County Deputies Organization, said the incident was “shocking.”

“We’ve been warned of things like this, because of public sentiment nationally and events over the last few years ... It’s just horrific. That’s the only way to describe it.”


China‚??s economic crisis raises spectre of Tiananmen: Burman

Sat, 29 Aug 2015 07:00:00 EDT


This September was supposed to be a magical month for China’s president, Xi Jinping. After all, this is destined to be “China’s Century,” isn’t it? Or is it anymore? The choreography being planned for the global stage in upcoming weeks now seems a bit hollow.

The dramatic financial shocks in China have stripped his government of much of its glitter. It isn’t that the eye-popping plunge this week on China’s stock markets — described even in Beijing as “Black Monday” — means that much in itself. The stock market matters less in China than it does in the West.

But to many analysts, the government’s overall handling of its current financial woes suggests something worse: that China’s authoritarian rulers are either unwilling or unable to get their fragile economic house in order.

As Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning columnist at the New York Times, put it: “The big news here isn’t about the Chinese economy; it’s about China’s leaders. Forget everything you’ve heard about their brilliance and foresightedness. Judging by their current flailing, they have no clue what they’re doing.”

If that proves to be right, then the world at large has every reason to be worried, very worried.

However, the show will still go on, of course. Next Thursday, President Xi Jinping will preside over an immense military parade in Beijing marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. It will be the first time that China is marking this anniversary with a military parade and it will be Xi’s first appearance at such a military display since coming to power in 2012.

Later in the month, Xi will travel to the United States for a long-awaited state visit with President Barack Obama. On the same trip, he will go to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly.

When these events were planned, it was assumed it would be Xi’s 21st-century “coming out” party on the world stage. As China increased its challenge to the United States for international economic supremacy, so too would its leadership. With this in mind, its president would appear to the world as confident, powerful and in control.

But given the current financial turmoil in China, that act may be difficult to pull off. Next month, Xi will come to the U.S. as a diminished figure.

In spite of his constant smile, Xi has been a tough and repressive ruler. He has led a campaign against corruption, but his critics have often been swept up in the crackdown. Hundreds of human rights activists and lawyers have been arrested.

As with previous regimes, his deal with the Chinese people at large is that his government will deliver stability and economic progress in exchange for curtailed freedom and human rights. Recent events suggest that not only is he not delivering on this promise, his government may be incapable of doing so.

China’s rulers seemed paralyzed this week as their stock markets crashed. It reflected a recent government pattern of responding to dire economic news with ineffective, often contradictory actions.

These developments were barely mentioned in China’s state-run media. But there were signs this was part of an increasing rebellion within the Communist party against efforts by Xi to reform the system.

The Beijing bureau of The Guardian newspaper reported this damning commentary was featured last week in a state-run newspaper: “The in-depth reform touches the basic issue of reconfiguring the lifeblood of this enormous economy, and making it healthier. The scale of the resistance is beyond what could have been imagined.”

Next Thursday’s military parade in Beijing — with President Xi Jinping taking the salute — will include dozens of tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square, site of the 1989 massacre of protesting students.

It is useful to remember that this massacre by government troops was the climax of a campaign that saw more than 100 million people across China demonstrate in support of political reform.

This campaign was a response to China’s severe economic problems suffered from 1986 to ’89. The government panicked and introduced reforms that backfired. The consequences from that became an indelible stain in Chinese history.

Might history one day repeat itself?

Tony Burman, former head of CBC News and Al Jazeera English, teaches journalism at Ryerson University. Reach him @TonyBurman or at tony.burman@gmail.com .


Captain John‚??s coming apart at the last port: Keenan

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:00:00 EDT


On a sunny August afternoon, the mouth of the Welland Canal in Port Colborne at the shore of Lake Erie offers a picturesque lesson into the marine history of Ontario. In the waters where shipping traffic once travelled non-stop every day, a few children skinny dip off the steps of the pier; the impressive bulk and height of one of the canal’s few remaining lift bridges overlooks the fading footprint of the three earlier canals that flowed here and the stone abutments of retired bridges and locks; along West Street there are historical markers outlining the ongoing industrial history of the town straddling the now shuttered pilot’s cabin.

And from there, on the Promenade overlook, a familiar site becomes visible across the water: a red star on a white field, above the stylized seriffed letters “John’s Seafo.” Looking closer, there’s a familiar blue plank surrounded by light bulbs, with inoperable neon tubing spelling out “SEAFOOD.” It’s the old ship, alright, what’s left of it, the MS Jadran, which was anchored in the Toronto harbour at the foot of Yonge St. for 40 years, serving as Captain John’s restaurant. Before that it had spent two decades as a passenger ship in the Adriatic. Now it sits in pieces here, the recognizable upper half in pieces emerging from the earth and bush along the canal.

For a visitor from Toronto, it is a startling sight, like the sudden appearance of the beached tip of Statue of Liberty at the end of Planet of the Apes — the ruin of a familiar landmark in an unfamiliar place. What was for a couple generations an iconic fixture of Toronto’s waterfront has become, for the summer, a part of the view for Port Colborne’s residents and visitors.

“I was familiar with Captain John’s restaurant when it was moored in Toronto harbour,” says Port Colborne mayor John Maloney. “Certainly when it came down here, it gathered a lot of interest. Not just from local people, but also people were coming from quite a distance to see it,” he says, saying it served as “almost a tourist attraction” throughout the summer, and a conversation piece among local residents.

Maloney himself has visited the canal each day, watching the Jadran’s progress anchored to another, larger vessel at the edge of Marine Recycling Corporation’s marine salvage yard. “It’s being demolished rather quickly,” he says, disassembled in parts by a crew of a few dozen local labourers. What remains of the hull is still in the water, while the wheelhouse, cabin, and passenger compartments are disassembled onshore. “It’s actually sad to see these vessels that had an interesting history . . . it’s sad to see them demolished and disposed of.”

It’s not a novelty in Port Colborne, though. For more than 30 years, Marine Recycling has been operating as a recycler on the canal, a major — and growing — employer. Where once ships from all over the Great Lakes and from down the St. Lawrence moved through Port Colborne carrying freight, now they come here to die. Or to be reborn, their pieces sold off to be remade into other things.

Jordan Elliott of the Marine Recycling Corporation says he expects the Jadran to disappear entirely — for the recycling project to be complete — before the fall. At which point, it will be replaced on the canal by another ship destined for destruction and dismantling.

“When one is gone, there’s another one shortly after, it’s an ongoing operation 12 months a year,” Mayor Maloney says. “We’re sorry to see it happen, but the scrap is recycled, new boats come out, and they serve the country.” And old industrial shipping channel becomes the site of a new recycling facility, old materials become new products, old landmarks disappear, to be replaced by others. And the whole cycle is visible from the Promenade in Port Colborne, where a piece of Toronto’s own marine history slips slowly, piece by piece, into memory.

Edward Keenan writes on city issues ekeenan@thestar.ca . Follow: @thekeenanwire


NDP launching blitz against Liberals over anti-terrorism law

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 16:27:38 EDT


The NDP is launching a national attack on Justin Trudeau’s Liberals over their support for Canada’s controversial anti-terrorism law.

The “T minus 51” blitz — 51 days from Saturday until the Oct. 19 election — will see dozens of NDP candidates in targeted ridings from coast to coast go door-to-door with special brochures attacking the Liberals on Bill C-51.

The weekend blitz will focus on ridings with incumbent Liberals who voted for the Conservatives’ “spy bill,” NDP sources say, including Toronto MPs Adam Vaughan and Chrystia Freeland.

Olivia Chow, the former MP and failed Toronto mayoral candidate, has gone a step further and created an online attack ad accusing Trudeau and Vaughan, her opponent in the new downtown riding of Spadina-Fort York, of “betraying” constituents by voting for a “dangerous and anti-democratic” law.

NDP leaders hope C-51, which they brand a threat to the civil liberties of peaceful protesters, journalists and anyone else who opposes the government, will be the wedge issue that convinces Canadians they are the real alternative to Harper’s Conservatives.

Liberals “said they were going to Ottawa to stand up to Stephen Harper and they didn’t,” an NDP organizer in Ottawa said on background Friday.

Trudeau has said voting in favour of C-51 was in the best interests of Canadians, but that, if elected, his government would repeal parts of it and add more oversight and scrutiny for security agencies.

Vaughan, the former city councillor elected to replace Chow in a byelection last year, has told the Star the Liberals and NDP essentially want to get to the same place with anti-terrorism protections, but the Liberals want to fix the bill, while the NDP wants to kill it and start over.

Chow’s ad, to be released on social media Saturday morning, but obtained by the Star on Friday, begins with the line: “We’ve all been let down when the Liberals voted with Stephen Harper on the spy bill.”

It shows both Trudeau and Vaughan standing in May to vote for C-51. “Activist” Elliot Loran tells the camera: “The Harper government with the help of the Liberals have betrayed our values.”

Loran, an actor whose Twitter account is rife with anti-C-51 tweets, adds: “MPs are supposed to stand up and protect our rights and freedoms. Instead they voted to pass Bill C-51.”

Lawyer James Lockyer, famed for his defence of the wrongly convicted, says in the ad that C-51 gives “government spy agencies massive new powers.

“It allows them to violate your Charter rights ’cause they don’t like what you’re saying. This doesn’t make us more secure; it makes us less free . . . Bill C-51 is dangerous and is anti-democratic.”

Chow does not mention Vaughan by name, saying only: “Yes, Canadians are so ready for change. Let’s replace fear and division with hope and optimism!”

The words are an echo of those of her late husband, former NDP leader Jack Layton, whose in 2011 included: “Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.”


Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy sentenced to three years in prison

Sat, 29 Aug 2015 07:24:00 EDT


CAIRO—A court in Egypt sentenced a Canadian journalist and two of his colleagues to three years in prison on Saturday, the latest twist in a highly publicized case that has sparked global condemnation of the Egyptian government.

Canadian citizen Mohamed Fahmy, who served as the acting Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English, was present in court along with Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed. Australian correspondent Peter Greste was deported earlier this year and convicted in absentia.

Judge Hassan Farid began his verdict by addressing, “the great Egyptian people.” He went on to say that the defendants “are not journalists” and that they were using unlicensed equipment, operating without proper permission and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt. Baher Mohamed received an additional six months in prison and a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds.

Fahmy’s lawyer, Amal Clooney, who had flown into Egypt the night before to attend the session, said she would be holding a series of meetings with Egyptian officials where she would ask for a pardon or deportation for her client.

“The verdict today sets a very dangerous precedent in Egypt. It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job. It sends a dangerous message that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become instruments of political repression and propaganda,” Clooney said. “This case has put media freedom on the line and it has also called into question the integrity of the judicial process. Any fair and independent tribunal would have found an acquittal on all charges and that’s not what happened today.”

Clooney also noted that Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has said he wished the prosecution had never been brought and that he would intervene at the end of the judicial process to grant a pardon if the journalists were convicted a second time. “This is the time to intervene in this fiasco,” she said, referring to Sisi.

Lynne Yelich, the minister of state (Foreign Affairs and Consular), released a statement early Saturday saying the decision “undermines confidence in the rule of law in Egypt,” and called for Fahmy’s “immediate return” to Canada.

“Canadian government officials have raised this case with Egyptian officials at the highest level and will continue to do so,” she said.

Three students, Sohaib Saad, Khaled Mohamed and Shadi Abdel Hamid, were also sentenced to three years in prison while two defendants, Khaled Abdel-Rahman and Nour Hassan El-Banna, were acquitted by the court.

Both Fahmy and Mohamed had been sitting amongst reporters in the courtroom before the session began. “It’s been a very tormenting 20 months for all of us and we hope today that justice is served,” Fahmy said before being ordered into the soundproof caged dock.

The journalists’ ordeal stretches back to December 2013, when Fahmy and Greste were arrested from the Marriott hotel, where they had been operating. Mohamed was arrested in a dawn police raid on his home. They were accused of belonging to or promoting the Muslim Brotherhood — which has been designated a terrorist group by the Egyptian government — and of falsifying their coverage to portray Egypt as sliding into civil war to damage the country’s reputation.

The case was widely viewed to be politicized, embroiling the journalists in a wider struggle between Egypt and Qatar, which owns the Al Jazeera network and was a strong backer of the Muslim Brotherhood during their brief time in power before being ousted by Sisi, who was the head of the armed forces at the time, following mass protests.

After a highly publicized trial that was derided by rights observers as a sham, the three journalists were sentenced in June 2014 to between seven and 10 years in prison. Egypt’s highest appeals court ordered a retrial on January 1, ruling that their conviction was based on flawed evidence and issuing a damning appraisal of the original trial.

Fahmy and Mohamed were released on bail at the first session of their retrial in mid-February after more than 400 days behind bars while Greste was deported from Egypt several days before. During the retrial, the head of a technical committee commissioned by the court to review video evidence in the case testified that none of the footage had been fabricated, a key accusation of the prosecution.

Saturday’s three-year prison sentence came as a surprise to many observers who had been cautiously optimistic given the retrial’s proceedings, the nature of the appeals court ruling and the highly publicized nature of the case. As the verdict was read out, an audible gasp rippled through the courtroom. Fahmy’s wife, Marwa Omara, immediately burst into tears while his younger brother, Adel, appeared stoic. Marwa rushed down to the front of the courtroom, weeping, and screamed at guards holding her back to let her into the cage to see her husband.

“I never expected that Mohamed would be sent back to prison and now I’m all alone, I don’t know what to do. My life has been destroyed, Mohamed’s life has been destroyed,” she said afterwards. “All I’m asking for is justice and for what happened with Peter to happen with Mohammed,” she added, referring to the deportation of Greste this past February though a decree that allows the president to deport foreigners convicted of crimes to their home countries.

Fahmy officially renounced his Egyptian citizenship last December. He said he was pressured to do so by senior Egyptian government officials with the understanding that he would be deported.

Canadian ambassador Troy Lulashnyk, who attended the session, said after the ruling he would be following up with senior Egyptian officials to push for deportation.

“Obviously Canada is deeply disappointed in the outcome of this process,” Lulashnyk said. “We are calling for his full and immediate release and his return to Canada and this is now the time for the government to make that happen.”

Al Jazeera’s Acting Director General, Mostefa Souag, criticized the ruling. “Today’s verdict defies logic and common sense,” he said. “There is no evidence proving that our colleagues in any way fabricated news or aided and abetted terrorist organizations and at no point during the long drawn out retrial did any of the unfounded allegations stand up to scrutiny.”

Fahmy has been highly critical of Al Jazeera for its handling of the case. In May he announced he filed a lawsuit against the Qatari network for $100 million accusing them of negligence and breach of contract.

Saturday’s ruling dealt the latest blow to press freedom in Egypt. The government has been widely criticized for launching an unprecedented crackdown on journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported in June that at least 18 journalists were behind bars in Egypt, the highest tally since the watchdog group began keep records in 1990. Local human rights groups put the number of imprisoned journalists in the dozens. Among them is Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as “Shawkan,” an independent photojournalist who has spent over two years behind bars without trial.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a local human rights group, released a report earlier this month that concluded authorities violated journalists’ rights at least 658 times during the first year of Sisi’s presidency.

Fahmy and Mohamed can also appeal their case a second time. If successful, the case would be tried by the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest appeals court.

“You start to question the whole judicial system,” said Fahmy’s younger brother Adel. “I flew in last night expecting a good final scene to this nightmare that has run for a year and eight months and we get the complete opposite, the worst case scenario. It’s an absolute joke, I don’t know what to say.”

On his Twitter account after the verdict, Baher Mohamed wrote: “Keep shouting for us my colleagues I’m sorry. from now on will not be able to keep in touch with you #FreeAJStaff”

With files from the Associated Press


Corporations rule in Alberta‚??s oilpatch

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:00:00 EDT


In Alberta, government policy and regulation are designed to give oilsands developers an almost free hand to build projects as fast as they can raise the millions needed to get them started.

There is so little government control that even former premier Peter Lougheed, the godfather of the oilsands, was astounded by the rapid proliferation of projects by 2006.

That July, he flew over the oilsands to see for himself.

“That’s when I came up with the review that this was a mess,” he told Edmonton Journal reporter Sheila Pratt. “It just confirmed what I was uneasy about. All those projects going on at the same time. Why then, because my operative word is orderly, did we not have orderly development?”

The feverish pace was creating huge cost overruns on oilsands construction projects and overheating the economy, Lougheed said.

To get in on the game, a company must first choose a parcel of provincial Crown land in northern Alberta. It asks Alberta Energy, the provincial ministry responsible for energy promotion and development, to put it up for bidding on petroleum rights.

Alberta Energy then notifies the industry that the section is open for bidding.

The highest bidder (usually the company that wanted it initially) is awarded the lease or tenure. Some bids can be extremely high. In February 2006, for example, Shell Canada paid $400 million for land it wanted to use for top-secret experimental research. That same month Fort Hills Energy — a division of Suncor, the biggest oil sands player — paid $60 million for leases.

In total that year, developers anted up almost $2 billion for leasing rights, the highest amount on record.

“It’s 1-per-cent money for 100-per-cent oil,” says Ken Chapman, former executive director of the Oil Sands Developers Group. Oilsands mining and in situ (involving the injection of steam) projects are far less risky than drilling for oil, which is how Alberta used to recover most of its oil reserves, because there are fewer unknowns and no chance of a dry hole.

Once a company has secured the lease, it explores the geology to determine the best locations to extract bitumen

To carry out these geological surveys, roads are constructed, sometimes air strips are built (there are 40 airports in the Fort McMurray region) and temporary accommodation for workers springs up. At this point, people living in the surrounding area still have not been notified. And, as yet, there is no finalized land use plan to guide local governments, developers and the public about how the land would best be used for the common good.

Preliminary exploration proceeds before any environmental assessment of land, air, lakes, rivers, groundwater, vegetation or animal population is undertaken. In other words, the industry decides when, where and how fast oilsands projects are developed.

“The big general problem with our leasing system is that everything is open for industry to bid on and acquire leases,” says Nigel Bankes, chair of natural resources law at the University of Calgary.

Once a company decides that the land is worthy of an extraction project, it draws up detailed project plans to submit to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Until two years ago, project approval was the bailiwick of the Energy Resources Conservation Board. Alberta Environment also had a role. But in 2012, the Alberta government rolled the ERCB, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Development and the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) into one agency: the Alberta Energy Regulator.

As in the rework of the federal environmental legislation (which happened at the same time), the approval process was streamlined so proposals wouldn’t get batted among government departments.

The AER, including the environmental wing, is funded by the oil and gas industry through administrative levies. It is governed by a board chaired by Gerry Protti, founding president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Other directors are directly or indirectly involved with the natural resources sector. There are no representatives from First Nations, no environmental experts or advocates.

“It’s difficult for the regulator to say ‘no’ after the land has been leased,” says Brenda Heelan Powell, staff counsel for Alberta’s Environmental Law Centre. “The approval process is more about how can we mitigate potential damage.”

The AER examines each proposal on its merits and does not assess cumulative impacts even if there is another project on a neighbouring parcel of land.

Changes to federal environmental legislation in 2012 limit the input of federal agencies and leave most of the decision-making to provincial authorities.

The Alberta process for acquiring leases and approval for development is markedly different from what happens in Norway, where a government agency conducts preliminary geological and environmental assessments before it puts offshore areas up for bid. Then the industry is informed.

The government sets criteria in its bid notice, including the share it will retain through a state agency called Petoro. Criteria include experience and expertise in the geology of the region, management skills, financial capability and a development plan most likely to produce results.

Bidders do not offer up-front cash as they do in Alberta. The government assesses the proposals and gives the go-ahead. If a company loses a bid it can protest or challenge the government decision.

“The Norwegians have a much more controlled process when it comes to leasing and development,” says Nigel Bankes, who also teaches at the University of Tromso in Norway.

“In Alberta, it’s just a free-for-all.”


Dramatic bronze for 4x100 relay team caps big day for Canada at track worlds

Sat, 29 Aug 2015 09:58:18 EDT


BEIJING—The Canadian men’s 4x100-metre relay team were on the right side of a disqualification this time.

Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney, Andre De Grasse and Justyn Warner won the bronze medal at the world track and field championships Saturday after the Americans were disqualified for an illegal baton change.

It was redemption for the Canadians, who were denied a gold medal at the Pan Am Games earlier this year after they were disqualified following two American-led protests.

Canada was also disqualified in the event at the 2012 London Olympics, costing the team a bronze medal.

The dramatic bronze in the relay capped a big day for Canada, with decathlete Damian Warner and 800-metre runner Melissa Bishop capturing silver medals.

Canada will head into the final day of competition in Beijing with seven medals, two more than its previous best of five set two years ago in Moscow.

With Justyn Warner running the anchor leg in the relay, it appeared the Canadians would have to settle for fourth with a time of 38.13 seconds when China’s last runner sprinted to an unexpected third-place finish.

But officials ruled that the Americans’ third baton exchange occurred outside the zone, moving the host Chinese to silver and Canada to bronze.

The result gives De Grasse, a rising sprint star from Markham, Ont., two medals at his first world championships. De Grasse also took bronze in the men’s 100 metres.

Usain Bolt and the powerful Jamaicans thundered to gold in 37.36 seconds.

In earlier action, Damian Warner, a 25-year-old from London, Ont., finished the decathlon by beating his own Canadian record with a total of 8,695 points. He finished behind Ashton Eaton of the United States, who set a world record at 9,045 points to win gold.

Germany’s Rico Freimuth took bronze with 8,561 points.

Warner finished the final event, the 1,500 metres, in eighth with a time of four minutes 31.51 seconds. That gave him enough points to hold off Freimuth, but no one was going to catch Eaton. The American poured everything into the last 200 metres of his race to give him just enough points to break his own world record.

Warner won last month’s Pan American Games in Toronto with a score of 8,659, shattering Mike Smith’s 19-year-old Canadian record.

He was the world bronze medallist in 2013.

Bishop, a 27-year-old from Eganville, Ont., crossed in 1:58.12 in a battle down the homestretch to take silver in the women’s 800 metres.

Bishop had run 1:57.52 in the semifinals, breaking Diane Cummins’ Canadian record that stood for 14 years.

Canada’s previous best finish in the event at worlds was Cummins’ fifth in 2001.

Marina Arzamasova of Belarus won the gold in 1:58.03, while Eunice Sum of Kenya took the bronze in 1:58.18.


Two young Katrina survivors, two post-Katrina paths

Sat, 29 Aug 2015 07:00:00 EDT


VIOLET, LA.—Taesha Mahoney sat in the living room of the house shared by her mother and twin sister in a suburb of New Orleans. Ten days before the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, she was musing about moving back to the house where her father’s decomposed body was found on a couch.

The brick bungalow where Joseph Major’s remains were discovered was still a perfectly good home. They were happy there before the storm. Why not?

Her sister, Tineisha, was in the kitchen making dinner: yaka mein, a New Orleans noodle soup. She shot Taesha a look.

“You act like he gonna torture me in that house or something,” Taesha said, teasing. “His spirit gonna torture me?”

Tineisha didn’t respond. She keeps her father’s ashes in a box in her bedroom. She simultaneously refuses to accept he is dead.

Major, a 39-year-old bricklayer, ignored his family’s pleas and decided to ride out Katrina at home. His children didn’t know for two months if he was dead or alive.

“She’ll be all right,” Taesha continued. “It’ll be all over in a couple of years.”

“It’s been 10 years,” scoffed their mother, Rose, lying morosely on the couch across the room. “I don’t know how many more it’s going to take.”

More than 1,800 people were killed, most of them in and around New Orleans, by the hurricane and the flooding that followed when the protective levee system failed. Half the residents of one of America’s biggest metro areas were forced to flee. A city known for its ghost stories became a ghost town.

A decade later, the recovery has been successful enough that Mayor Mitch Landrieu says New Orleans is “no longer recovering, no longer rebuilding,” but “creating.” The population and real estate prices are rising sharply. A tech start-up scene has taken root. Tourism spending has hit record peaks. By some measures, the old city left to fight for its survival is downright hot.

And then there are the other measures. In one recent poll, 70 per cent of white residents said New Orleans has mostly recovered; only 44 per cent of black residents agreed. The perpetual gap between white incomes and black incomes has widened as the majority-black city has grown whiter. The black unemployment rate hovers around 50 per cent. And thousands still show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Reduced to biographical basics, Tineisha Mahoney qualifies as one of the success stories politicians around here have spent the month talking about. She has returned to the New Orleans area after nine years in Baton Rouge. She is close to completing a college program to become a certified nursing assistant.

She is lost.

Before this college program, she finished three others in fields she then decided she didn’t like. She has now decided she doesn’t want to be a nursing assistant either. She thinks she will probably go back to school, a fifth time, to study business.

Tineisha was daddy’s little girl, Joseph Major’s sidekick in bike riding and Nintendo and Jerry Springer.

Tineisha, now 25, is a traumatized woman adrift — unwilling to do any real planning for a future she isn’t convinced she will live to see, unable to commit herself to living fully in the present, a “paranoid mom” who won’t let her children out of sight even to attend a daycare.

“I literally go to sleep every night praying like I’m going to wake up, it’s going to be August 25, 2005, and none of this going to ever happen,” she said. “I don’t want to wake up every day thinking about Katrina. But I can’t bring myself to not think about it, and I can’t bring myself to just forget about it. I try, but I don’t know what it’s going to take.”

Tineisha lives in St. Bernard Parish, the hard-hit area just east of New Orleans. She declares the city proper a “lost cause.” She is barely more upbeat about herself.

“This is the future: kids screwed up in the head,” she said. “That’s what it is. Because nobody cared.”

Her own kids, 7-year-old Traveon, 4-year-old Caleigh and 2-year-old Chance, crowded around her as she ate. She is easy to like and bitingly funny, the comic relief of her social group. Her private thoughts are bleak.

“You would never know,” she said quietly. “I’m a master of disguise.”

She believes she would suffer from less post-traumatic stress if there had been any support for Katrina’s teen survivors. Uprooted at 15, she got no mental health counselling and no strategic advice.

Tineisha made three suicide attempts in the year after she got the news of her father’s death. When she was not in the treatment facility she calls “the crazy house,” she fought other girls at an unwelcoming Baton Rouge school whose principal, she said, told the evacuees to buck up and carry on.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know where my dad at. How am I supposed to go on with life?’ ” she said. “You ripped me out of fresh soil and threw me in the desert somewhere. How am I supposed to survive and what am I supposed to do?”

Anything, she said, would have helped. Even a hug.

“I just needed somebody to sit me down and be like, ‘Well, this is how you go on with life after this.’ Not to have a pity party with me, but just have some kind of sympathy. Like, ‘OK, this is what you’re going through now, but you’re going to get through this. We gonna help you.’ Nobody helped me.”

She now cares deeply only about her children. A friend recently called her a “ticking time bomb.” She said she won’t go off like she used to: she refuses to make a foolish decision that would leave her kids without a parent.

She also carries a stun gun everywhere she goes, ready to use it on a threat that could possibly be lurking in the suburban shadows.

Katrina was unexpected, too. She refuses to be caught unprepared yet again.


Both of Rayna Ben’s parents are dead. She smiles a lot.

Rayna, 21, is another black nursing student. She lives half an hour away from Tineisha Mahoney in a grand but damaged century-old house in the urban neighbourhood of Treme. The house, which she is helping to paint yellow in the colourful New Orleans tradition, is owned by her aunt.

“People don’t believe me when I tell them stuff that I’ve been through. ‘Because you look so happy,’ ” Rayna said softly, showing her gap-toothed grin again, outside the house in August. “I’m like, ‘Because it’s the past. And the future is brighter and better.’ ”

Tineisha’s weariness is far from universal even among black New Orleans residents who have suffered immense losses. In the same poll in which only a minority of blacks said New Orleans had recovered, a full three-quarters said they were optimistic about the city’s future.

The government’s preferred post-Katrina marketing buzzword is “resilience.” On the streets of once-blighted neighbourhoods filling back up with families, in the corner restaurants again doing brisk business in po’ boy subs and sno-ball iced treats, you hear it organically — and you see it: the wilful good cheer of people who have decided their hometown will keep improving if they keep insisting.

“It’s not really easy to have a good outlook,” Rayna said. “But I try to have a good outlook.”

Tineisha says Katrina stunted her growth. Rayna says Katrina accelerated hers.

She passed the storm at the Radisson Hotel where her mother worked. The next day, her uncle decided to take her and her 17-year-old brother Raymond to the Superdome, a stadium that had been turned into a shelter.

They had another idea. When he told them to wait on a bridge as he surveyed their surroundings, they set out on a quest for home — tiptoeing for an hour through floodwater that rose to Raymond’s chest and Rayna’s chin, attaching themselves to a floating log, climbing from porch to porch, Raymond carrying his 11-year-old sister on his back in the blackness of the night.

He didn’t know how to swim.

“We felt like the two dogs and a cat in (the film) Homeward Bound,” Rayna said. “We were like, ‘We just want to get home, we just want to get home.’ Whatever it took.”

They made it back to Bienville St. Nobody was there. Rayna’s parents had already left for a shelter.

When they were reunited later in the night, the Ben family made a promise: they would never separate again. Within four years, Rayna’s parents were gone for good.

Her dad, also named Raymond, had HIV and lung cancer, and he died in 2007. Her mom, Mattie, died of liver cancer in 2009. Both were 47.

“I was like, ‘Why is all this happening? What did I do?’ ” Rayna said. “I was like, ‘Something had to have happened. Did my parents do something and the children are paying for it? Like a generational curse or something?’ ”

She started writing poetry as an outlet for her sadness. When she became devoted to her aunt’s Seventh Day Adventist Church in 2008, her mood brightened.

“A new light,” she said. “A new beacon of hope.”

She learned a helpful aphorism: “Every test brings a testimony.” She started praying for people that had things worse than her. She concluded that everything bad had happened for a reason.

She didn’t know what the reason was, precisely, but she managed to find the positive even in liver cancer: without her experience caring for her dying mother, she would never have been inspired to become a nursing assistant and then a registered nurse. She is now a year and a half from her RN diploma.

Rayna had a single quarter in her pocket when her family caught an evacuation flight to San Antonio after the storm. She lived there for a year. In the spring, she plans to move back to finish school and start a career.

She will leave New Orleans. Her New Orleans trials will not leave her. Her Katrina journey, she said, equipped her to deal with the turbulence of a stormy life.

“Sometimes it takes an experience to bring certain things out of you. And that’s probably what Hurricane Katrina did. It brings things out of me that I really didn’t know I had,” she said.

“My brother Raymond: he couldn’t swim. But we swam that night.”


Japanese officials take a stand for escalator safety

Sat, 29 Aug 2015 14:00:00 EDT


What is the correct etiquette when using an escalator? Should you walk up to help quicken everyone’s journey, or remain still to keep everything orderly? If you do stand still, should it be on the left or on the right of the escalator?

Recently, officials in Japan have been pushing for a set of rules governing escalator use in the country that will sound like heresy to many around the world: Do not walk. Stand on either side.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that 51 railway operators and airport-related companies have banded together to support the no-walk campaign. “The number of accidents decreases during the campaign period but the practice of keeping one side open is strongly rooted,” a public relations official at East Japan Railway Co. explained to the newspaper. “We’d like to positively appeal to people to change the practice.”

“It’s not necessary to leave one side open,” an official from the Japan Elevator Association, a body of elevator and escalator manufacturers, added. “There are some people who have an arm or a hand that is incapable of functioning and have difficulty keeping a specific side open.”

The campaign also calls for escalator riders to leave one step between them and the rider above them.

The practice of keeping one side of the escalator open for people wishing to walk up has become common in Japan, but it isn’t uniformly observed nationwide. In Tokyo, people tend to stand to the left and let others pass on the right; in Osaka, they tend to stay on the right. Around the world, however, most countries, if they favour a side, seem to prefer standing on the right and walking on the left. (Australia is a notable exception.)

In Toronto, the TTC created a stir in 2007 when it removed its signs urging riders to “Walk left, stand right,” citing concerns about accidents.

Britain appears to have been the first nation to promote the idea of standing on the right. Exactly why is unclear. It may have been because of the country’s practice of driving on the left-hand side, but in 2009 the BBC posited another theory: in the early part of the 20th century, escalators in the London Underground had a diagonal step-off point “clearly meant for the right foot first, so standing on the right made sense.”

Supporters of walking on the escalator are often passionate about its efficiency. “I don’t have anything in common with people who stand on escalators,” billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg told the New York Times last year. “I always walk around them — why waste time? You have eternity to rest when you die.”

In Japan, however, the worry is that walking on the escalator could in fact increase your chances of dying. Earlier this year, Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency warned that 3,865 people in Tokyo alone had required hospital treatment for injuries suffered on escalators from 2011 to 2013. A guide on the website of the Japan Elevator Association lists a number of reasons for not walking on escalators, which include the risk of slipping or falling because you are unbalanced. “There is a possibility of death or serious injury,” the guide notes.

If death by escalator sounds hyperbolic, cast your mind back a few months to the shocking footage of a mother being crushed to death while riding an escalator in a shopping mall in China’s Hubei province. Or the 2014 incident in which a Montreal woman was strangled to death after her scarf became caught in a subway escalator.

Whether the Japanese campaign will work, however, remains to be seen: after a similar effort last year, the Wall Street Journal noted that escalator riders in Japan still seemed to be standing to one side.


Tens of thousands of Malaysians demand PM‚??s resignation

Sat, 29 Aug 2015 13:56:08 EDT


KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA—Tens of thousands of Malaysians wearing yellow T-shirts and blowing horns defiantly held a major rally in the capital Saturday to demand the resignation of embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The crowds were undeterred by a heavy police presence after authorities declared the rally illegal, blocked the organizer’s website and banned yellow attire and the logo of Bersih, the coalition for clean and fair elections that’s behind the weekend rallies.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad added momentum to the rally when he made a surprise brief appearance in the city late Saturday with his wife to loud cheers from the crowd, and telling protestors to “carry on.”

Najib has been fighting for political survival after leaked documents in July showed he received some $700 million in his private accounts from entities linked to indebted state fund 1MDB. He later said the money was a donation from the Middle East, fired his critical deputy and four other Cabinet members as well as the attorney general investigating him.

Protesters in yellow Bersih T-shirts and headbands converged at five locations and marched to areas surrounding the landmark Independence Square, where celebrations to mark Malaysia’s 58th National Day will be held Monday. Police estimated Saturday’s crowd at 25,000 while Bersih says 200,000 participated at its peak.

The crowd thinned in the evening, though some protesters pitched tents on the streets to camp overnight. The rally was scheduled to last until midnight Sunday.

Scores of police sealed off roads leading to the square, which authorities have said is off-limits to protesters. Previous two Bersih rallies, in 2011 and 2012, were dispersed by police using tear gas and water cannons.

Some activists carried canvas bags with the words “My Prime Minister Embarrasses Me.” Some held placards saying “We will not be silenced,” while others chanted “Bersih” and waved Malaysian flags.

In one area near the square, a comedian entertaining the crowd poked fun at Najib. Dressed up as an Arab, he pretended to hand over a multi-billion-ringgit check as a donation to a rally participant.

“Stop treating us like fools, Mr. prime minister,” said businessman Tony Wong. “We deserve to know the truth about 1MDB. Where has the money gone to?”

Najib slammed the protesters for tarnishing Malaysia’s image.

“Those who wear this yellow attire ... they want to discredit our good name, scribble black coal on Malaysia’s face to the outside world,” he was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama.

A nation of 30 million, Malaysia is predominantly Malay Muslim with significant Chinese and Indian minorities. Its ambitions to rise from a middle income to a developed nation this decade have been stymied by slow-paced reforms and Najib’s increasing authoritarianism.

1MDB, set up by Najib in 2009 to develop new industries, has accumulated 42 billion ringgit ($10.1 billion) in debt after its energy ventures abroad faltered. Concerns over the political scandal partly contributed to the Malaysian currency plunging to a 17-year low earlier this month.

Support for Najib’s National Front has eroded in the last two general elections. It won in 2013, but lost the popular vote for the first time to an opposition alliance.

Mahathir, who stepped down in 2003 after 22 years in power, has been quoted as saying earlier that people’s power is needed because the legal system has been violated.

Apart from Najib’s resignation, the demands being sought are institutional reforms that will make the government more transparent and accountable.

Worried that authorities may jam communications, more than 41,000 Malaysians have downloaded FireChat — the smartphone application that allows users nearby to communicate with each other when the Internet is down and which powered last year’s Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, said developer Open Garden.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed has warned police will take action if the rally turns violent or protesters break the law. He has said that protesters should show their unhappiness with the government at the ballot box, not in the streets.


Six key ridings to watch going into the federal election

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 19:28:00 EDT


OTTAWA—Personalities, party policies, local dynamics and the national tide.

Those are a few of the factors that will influence the election night outcome in the 338 ridings nationwide on Oct. 19. Some races will be decided on the strength of local candidates; others will swing on the tide of broader public opinion.

MORE AT THESTAR.COM

Canada’s federal electoral district map

The Star takes a look at some key races across the country, outside of Ontario. Interesting races in Ontario will be profiled in the coming weeks.

Whether it’s the fate of a Conservative cabinet minister in New Brunswick, Liberal and NDP aspirations in Alberta, or an arm-wrestle between Liberals and New Democrats in St. John’s, the ridings tell a tale of the ongoing campaign.

AHUNTSIC, Que.

Why it’s key:

This was one of the few ridings that resisted the NDP’s electoral sweep of Quebec in 2011, with the Bloc Québécois’ Maria Mourani winning re-election by just 708 votes. This time around, she has renounced sovereignty and is running for the New Democrats. Mourani changed political alliances after the BQ endorsed a proposed provincial Values Charter that would have banned public sector workers from wearing religious symbols.

She is facing Mélanie Joly, a Liberal candidate hand-picked by party leader Justin Trudeau. Joly seemed to emerge from nowhere during Montreal’s 2013 mayoral race to outstrip her more experienced competitors and finish a strong second. Among her team of supporters was Alexandre Trudeau, the brother of the Liberal party leader.

What the outcome could signal:

The result in this riding could give a good indication of the NDP’s true strength — and its staying power — in Quebec. The riding had no history of voting in large numbers for the left-of-centre party before nearly electing an unknown NDP candidate in the 2011 election. The result also will be a gauge of the true health of the Bloc Québécois, which was almost wiped out in the last election. Mourani has represented the riding for the BQ since 2006, before leaving the party to sit as an Independent in 2013. A Liberal party win may have more to do with the candidate than with the party. Liberals have come within 2,000 votes of victory in the last three elections.

Political history:

Ahuntsic-Cartierville covers a large swath of Montreal’s north shore. It is ethnically diverse with significant populations claiming Arabic, Creole, Greek, Italian and Spanish as their mother tongue. Going back to the 1993 election the riding has been a tight, two-horse race that has pitted the Liberals against the Bloc Québécois. That trend was turned on its head in 2011 when the NDP surge in the province nearly upset the Bloc. The sovereigntist party’s eventual victory here was the only Montreal seat that it managed to hold onto in the province.

Main contenders:

William Moughrabi is running for the Conservatives; Mélanie Joly for the Liberals; Maria Mourani for the NDP; Nicolas Bourdon running for the Bloc Québécois; and Gilles Mercier for the Green Party.

BRANDON-SOURIS, Man.

Why it’s key:

It’s unlikely that Manitoba will determine the next government since the province has only 14 federal ridings. But a collapse in the Prairie ridings would spell trouble for the Conservatives, who have dominated the region for years. And Brandon-Souris is one of the ridings where the party could have problems.

The recent byelection in this southern Manitoba riding gave the Conservatives a run for their money, with Liberal challenger Rolf Dinsdale finishing within two percentage points of Conservative Larry Maguire.

What the outcome could signal:

A loss, or even a narrow victory, for the Conservatives on Oct. 19 could indicate a weakening of support in the Prairies, especially in mostly urban ridings.

Even if the party holds their ridings in the Prairies, they’ll likely have to devote more resources than traditionally to do so, meaning fewer dollars for battleground provinces. In the byelection, Maguire’s campaign spent almost $90,000, more than double the amount the party spent in 2011.

If the riding were to swing either to the New Democrats or the Liberals, it could be a byproduct of the parties’ poll position — whoever has the momentum going into Oct. 19.

Political history:

Brandon-Souris has been a solidly Conservative riding since the separate ridings of Brandon and Souris were amalgamated in 1953. Since that time, the riding has returned only one MP from another party — Liberal MP Glen MacKinnon, elected when the Progressive Conservatives collapsed in 1993.

The largely white, English-speaking riding is concentrated around the town of Brandon. Sales and the service industry is the largest employer, followed by government, education and community services.

Main contenders:

Larry Maguire is running for the Conservatives; Jodi Wyman for the Liberals; Melissa Wastasecoot for the New Democrats; and David Neufeld for the Green Party.

EDMONTON GRIESBACH, Alta.

Why it’s key:

Rachel Notley led her provincial New Democrats to power in Alberta in May, a stunning victory that ended a four-decade long reign by the Progressive Conservatives.

The NDP’s success provincially has both the federal New Democrats and Liberals hoping they can break through into Alberta, which has been a fortress for the Tories, holding all but one seat. Indeed, the NDP fortunes nationally began rising after Notley’s win, suggesting that Canadians were taking a serious look at leader Thomas Mulcair and his party. In the last Parliament, New Democrat Linda Duncan was one of only two MPs from Alberta not in the Conservative party. Duncan’s riding abuts Edmonton Griesbach to the south.

What the outcome could signal:

An NDP win here would signal that Notley’s win was not a flash in the pan and that the political landscape in Alberta, long a bastion of conservatism federally and provincially, might be undergoing a deeper transformation. A similar dynamic is playing out in Calgary Centre, where Conservative Joan Crockatt is facing Liberal Kent Hehr.

Political history:

The riding was born of redistribution and includes parts of the former ridings Edmonton East, held by Conservative Peter Goldring, and Edmonton-St. Albert, held by Conservative-turned-Independent Brent Rathgeber.

Main contenders:

Kerry Diotte is running for the Conservatives; Brian Gold for the Liberals; Janis Irwin for the New Democrats; and Heather Workman for the Green Party.

MADAWASKA-RESTIGOUCHE, N.B.

Why it’s key:

Conservative fortunes have not exactly been high in Atlantic Canada, but the party has rewarded those ridings that went blue with some cabinet ministers. Bernard Valcourt, who most recently served as minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, is one of two of those cabinet ministers running again.

A defeat for Valcourt would likely come as part of a larger collapse of the Conservative vote in the region. While the Conservatives could manage a minority or even majority government without a single Atlantic Canadian seat, losing the veteran politician Valcourt and what little ground they have in the region would not be a great start to election night.

What the outcome could signal:

The Conservatives have lost regional cabinet ministers Peter Penashue to scandal and Peter MacKay to retirement, with only Valcourt and P.E.I.’s Gail Shea running for re-election in 2015. A loss of one or both of those ministers would leave the party with few experienced hands east of Quebec.A shift back to the Liberals would be the most likely outcome, but if the NDP were to steal the seat it could signal momentum for the New Democrats felt beyond Atlantic Canada.

Political history:

The Liberals have had more luck in the northern New Brunswick riding than the Conservatives. Created in 1997, the riding has sent Liberal MPs to Ottawa four times, a Progressive Conservative once, and Valcourt in 2011.

The two ridings that were amalgamated into Madawaska-Restigouche have also been solidly Liberal for most of their history.

Main contenders:

Bernard Valcourt is running for the Conservatives; René Arseneault for the Liberals; Rosaire L’Italien for the New Democrats. The Green party has yet to name a candidate in the riding.

SAKATOON WEST, Sask.

Why it’s key:

The federal New Democrats have been shut out of Saskatchewan since 2004, which is ironic because the Prairie province is the birthplace of the party. Yet the New Democrats had been hampered by riding boundaries that mixed urban neighbourhoods, where the NDP would poll strong, and surrounding rural areas, generally held by the Conservatives. The recent redrawing of the riding boundaries has more clearly defined urban and rural areas. Saskatoon West is now predominantly an urban riding, taking in the city neighbourhoods west of the South Saskatchewan River.

What the outcome could signal:

A win for the NDP here would be strategically and symbolically important. It would demonstrate that the riding redistribution was a winner for the party, allowing it to capitalize on its strength among urban voters. It would give the party a toehold in one of the two provinces where they didn’t previously hold a seat. (P.E.I. is the other.) And it would allow the party to replant a flag in the province where Tommy Douglas, the first leader of the NDP, was once premier.

Political history:

Saskatoon West was represented in the House of Commons from 1979 to 1988, represented by Progressive Conservative MP Ray Hnatyshyn, who was appointed Governor General in 1990. The riding has been resurrected, formed from portions of Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar and Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, both held by Conservatives in the last Parliament.

Main contenders:

Randy Donauer is running for the Conservatives; Lisa Abbott for the Liberals; Sheri Benson for the New Democrats; and Glendon Toews for the Green Party.

ST. JOHN’S SOUTH-MOUNT PEARL, N.L.

Why it’s key:

Newfoundland and Labrador is a dead zone for the Conservatives with just one candidate named in the province’s seven ridings. This could be the continuing fallout, perhaps, of former premier Danny Williams’ “Anyone But Conservative” campaign launched in 2008 during a fight over equalization.

Whatever the reason, it’s left the Liberals and New Democrats fighting over the spoils. This riding is a good example of the arm-wrestling going on across Atlantic Canada between the two parties in those ridings where the Conservatives are not competitive. This particular riding is a fight between two journalists: Liberal Seamus O’Regan is best known as the former host of CTV’s Canada AM morning show, and New Democrat Ryan Cleary worked as a print and radio journalist before making the leap into politics.

What the outcome could signal:

O’Regan is one of several high-profile candidates running for the Liberals. This vote will be a test of star power over incumbency and whether the Liberals can tighten their hold on this Atlantic province.

Political history:

This riding has done the merry-go-around in recent elections, from Conservative Loyola Hearn in 2006 to Liberal Siobhan Coady in 2008 to New Democrat Ryan Cleary in 2011.

Main contenders:

Seamus O’Regan is running for the Liberals and Ryan Cleary for the NDP. The Conservatives and the Green Party haven’t yet named their candidates for the riding.


This time, Bay St. joins Toronto‚??s anti-Olympics team

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 18:46:33 EDT


Almost 30 years after Bread Not Circuses, Bay St. is getting behind Toronto’s latest anti-Olympic movement.

Ahead of a potential bid, opponents are gathering under the banner NoTO2024. For many of the group’s core leadership, it’s their first time carrying a banner.

“There’s no full-time activists or anything on this. There’s no professional protester here, this is just, you know, taxpayers and citizens,” said David Wilson, who directs operations for the group.

Wilson, who works in finance (for what he calls a large downtown institution, but declined to offer a name), is one of a dozen volunteers, by his estimate, currently working daily to get the group going and spread their message.

They range from “Bay Street professionals to social welfare advocates to retirees,” he said. “It’s a mix of everybody.”

The big tent approach is a departure from the city’s past anti-Olympic movements.

The Bread Not Circuses Coalition, started in 1988 to oppose Toronto’s bid for the 1996 Summer Games, was led by union leaders, human-rights lawyers, and activists.

They celebrated the failed bid in the Regent Park living room of leader and affordable housing advocate Michael Shapcott.

Then-city councillor Jack Layton also had ties to the group.

“If to win you need a socially irresponsible bid, then perhaps it’s better to lose,” Layton told Royson James after Toronto lost to Atlanta in a 1990 vote.

This time around the opposition is less about social justice, and more about sound business practices.

“It’s not the same argument as 1996,” Wilson said. “We’ve got 20 more years of proof that the Olympics don’t make sense. This is a business deal that’s a bad deal for the cities.”

The group argues that the costs will outweigh the benefits to the city, onerous contracts will leave taxpayers on the hook for any overruns, and the process is being held behind closed doors.

“It’s not a left-right issue. It’s a transparency issue,” he said. “(Council) voted no on this and all of a sudden this is slipping in through the back door. The entire thing is being run in the best interest of bid promoters and not in the best interest of Torontonians.”

The Games would do little for the city’s needs, according to the group.

“It’s right in the contract that not a single penny of Olympic revenue is allowed to be spent on infrastructure,” he said, citing Beijing’s contract for the 2022 Winter Games.

“We shouldn’t be held hostage by saying you can only get money for subways if you host an Olympic Games.”

Though the current leadership for NoTO2024 doesn’t include vocal anti-Olympics organizers of the past, they are coming into the fold.

Academic Helen Lenskyj counts herself as a Bread Not Circuses activist. She has joined anti-Olympic movements from Toronto to Boston to Vancouver since 1998, and is mobilized for this fight.

For her the social-justice issues still resonate, but the purely economic argument has been gaining steam across the globe, according the researcher and former University of Toronto professor.

Questions started in the early 2000s, she said, and spiked when the budget for Sochi (a record $51 billion in U.S. dollars) was revealed.

“When you see very conservative business sources coming out with these recommendations like ‘Don’t touch the Olympics with a 10-foot pole,’ you know that it’s not the sort of golden egg that it used to be, or that it was perceived to be in the past,” Lenskyj told the Star.

For his part, Mayor John Tory still has not made any decisions about Toronto’s bid ahead of the Sept. 15 deadline to declare interest.

The mayor’s office echoed comments made earlier this week when asked about the progress.

“Toronto just finished hosting the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, the largest sporting event in Canadian history. We are now in the process of analyzing how the Games went, collecting information on the Olympic bid process, and consulting members of Council, the business community, the public and both levels of government.”

Ultimately a broad base of support is better for a strong opposition, Lenskyj said.

“We had several influential business people who were extremely supportive who moved in their own circles to join in solidarity with the sort of more radical lefties amongst us,” she said.

“Some situations create strange bedfellows.”


Christine Elliott quits as Progressive Conservative MPP

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:52:00 EDT


Christine Elliott, runner-up to Patrick Brown in the May 9 Progressive Conservative leadership election, has quit provincial politics.

“Today, I am resigning as the MPP for Whitby-Oshawa, effective immediately,” Elliott said in a 123-word statement emailed to reporters Friday by her son, Galen Flaherty.

“While I put my name forward to lead our party, party members made a different choice. I fully respect our members’ decision and I wish my colleagues and the party every success in the future,” her statement said.

“This decision was not easy. I entered public life in 2006 to advocate for the rights of vulnerable people and their families. Although my role will change, I remain committed to advocating for a fully inclusive Ontario where all people can live lives of purpose and dignity,” said the co-founder of Whitby’s Abilities Centre.

“It has been an honour to represent the people of Whitby-Oshawa. I would like to thank all the voters, colleagues, friends, and family who have supported me throughout the years.”

Elliott — widow of former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, who died on April 10, 2014, and mother of grown triplet sons — is well-respected in all three caucuses at Queen’s Park.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said Elliott “acted in the best interests of the people she represented and would work with anyone, regardless of political stripe, to bring positive change to her community and province.

“In the legislature, Ms. Elliott could be the fiercest of adversaries in debate. She was passionate, but never personal. Her regard for Queen’s Park and its elected members made her one of the most respected MPPs in the house,” the premier said in a statement.

Wynne praised her “as a fervent defender of our strong public health-care and education systems, and an ardent advocate for persons with disabilities.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she would “miss the presence of such a strong fellow female voice in the legislature.”

“Although we didn’t always agree on politics, I have tremendous respect for her efforts in the legislature and in her community, particularly to empower Ontarians with disabilities,” Horwath said in a statement.

“Christine always conducted herself with dignity and intelligence. By her example she inspired young women to get involved in politics.”

Elliott’s departure, however, is hardly a surprise. She finished third in the 2009 PC leadership won by Tim Hudak and was the heavy favourite going into last spring’s race.

And this spring, 37-year-old Brown won the leadership by a decisive margin of 61.8 per cent to 38.2 per cent — despite her having the overwhelming support of Tory MPPs in the divisive 10-month contest.

The 60-year-old never returned to the legislature after his victory.

“I am confident that Progressive Conservatives will unite behind Patrick’s leadership,” the centrist Elliott had said in a statement on May 9.

While Brown, seen as more right wing, had reached out to her numerous times this summer, sources said the two rivals communicated only by text or email, not in person or by phone.

Her exit comes as the former Barrie MP is hoping to win a seat in the legislature in Thursday’s Simcoe North byelection.

In a separate statement, Brown thanked Elliot “for her years of service to her constituents of Whitby-Oshawa and for her contributions to the party.”

“Christine has been a tireless advocate for her constituents and Ontario and an esteemed member of our caucus,” he said.

“We appreciate her well wishes and in turn wish her the best as she embarks on this next chapter of her life.”