Highlights from the news file for Friday, Sept. 22———PROVINCES CHALLENGE FEDS’ TAX REFORM: Provincial pressure is intensifying against the Trudeau government’s controversial tax-reform proposals, which have angered business owners, doctors and farmers across Canada. On Friday, provincial leaders representing different political stripes spoke out about tax reforms recommended by Ottawa’s Liberal government. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, flanked by business owners and a farmer, held an afternoon event in Winnipeg where he aired his frustration over the federal tax proposals. On the East Coast, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil expressed concern that the changes could hurt his province’s physician recruitment efforts and hamper the ability of small businesses to create financial cushions as protection during downturns. Out west, British Columbia Finance Minister Carole James said she didn’t think Ottawa had consulted enough on an issue that has spread fears of the “unintended consequences” on small business owners. The comments by the provincial leaders added to waves of complaints that have come from a range of sectors — as well as backbench Liberal MPs. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball has also said he thinks the tax changes would hurt his province. At issue are Ottawa’s plans to eliminate several tax incentives designed for private corporations.———PRINCE HARRY SETS STAGE FOR INVICTUS GAMES: Dozens of onlookers gathered outside a building in Toronto’s financial district Friday morning hoping to catch a glimpse of Prince Harry as the royal founder of the Invictus Games set the stage for the multi-sport competition that gets underway in the city this weekend. The royal, however, appeared determined to keep the focus on the Games, and didn’t stop to interact with fans who cheered and called out to him. The Games for wounded and sick soldiers, including current and veteran members of the forces, runs until Sept. 30 and marks the first time Canada hosts the event. Harry attended a symposium on veterans’ issues Friday morning, arriving at the event under tight security. He smiled as he greeted and posed for photographs with athletes and their families. On Saturday, Harry will visit Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health before meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Later in the evening he will attend the Games’ opening ceremony at the Air Canada Centre, which will feature performances by Sarah McLachlan, Alessia Cara and the Tenors. Harry founded the Invictus Games in 2014 as a way to inspire and motivate wounded soldiers on their paths to recovery.———VETERANS WAIT ON PENSIONS AS INVICTUS GAMES START: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will join hundreds of disabled veterans from across Canada and more than a dozen other countries in Toronto on Saturday to help open the Invictus Games. Yet even as those veterans prepare for a week of intense athletic competition, many others are anxiously waiting for Trudeau to make good on a major promise to them — reinstating lifelong disability pensions. During a preview event in Ottawa earlier this week, Trudeau spoke of the importance of the Games and supporting Canada’s “wounded warriors.” But some disabled veterans say Trudeau’s government has not lived up to such ideals. Many have since grown frustrated as the government has dragged its feet on the issue and fear that rather than bring back the old pensions as promised, the government will simply offer to dole out the lump sum over a veterans’ lifetime. Aaron Bedard, one of six disabled Afghan veterans who have filed a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa, doesn’t want to take away from the importance of the Games to many veterans. But he’s worried the Liberals will use the Games to suggest the government is completely behind Canada’s injured ex-soldiers.———DAMAGE DELAYS HELP FOR CANADIANS IN DOMINICA: The devastation wrought by hurricane Maria is hampering plans to evacuate more than 150 Canadian students from the storm-ravaged Caribbean island of Dominica. Damaged infrastructure, non-functioning airports and a lack of communication are frustrating efforts to get the students home, said Omar Alghabra, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs. About 150 Canadian students are stranded at the Ross University School of Medicine, with about a dozen more at a different post-secondary institution on the island, Alghabra said. The Liberal government is in constant contact with school officials, he added. “The universities are arranging for boats to transfer these students to St. Lucia, where our consular officials are waiting for them there,” Alghabra said. “We will offer services or assistance when they arrive and then arrange for their return home.” Even that plan is taking some time, he noted, because debris around the island is making it difficult for boats to reach it. Maria struck Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in over 80 years.———CANADA IMPOSES SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELAN REGIME: Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada has imposed sanctions against key figures in the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Freeland says the targeted sanctions are aimed at 40 officials and individuals — including Maduro himself — who are helping to undermine the security, stability and integrity of democratic institutions in Venezuela. The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals may have in Canada and bans Canadians from engaging them in business dealings. Canada has accused Maduro of moving his country toward dictatorship and has repeatedly spoken out against him. Maduro, who assumed office in 2013, was a close associate of former president Hugo Chavez. For most of his presidency, Maduro has ruled by decree and has sidelined the elected national assembly. During his tenure, the Venezuelan economy has teetered near collapse. Freeland said Canada supports democracy in Venezuela. “Canada will not stand by silently as the government of Venezuela robs its people of their fundamental democratic rights,” she said in a statement. “Today’s announcement of sanctions against the Maduro regime underscores our commitment to defending democracy and human rights around the world.”———KIM FIRES OFF INSULTS AT TRUMP AND HINTS AT WEAPONS TEST: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un lobbed a string of insults at U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday, calling him a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and hinting at a frightening new weapon test. It was the first time for a North Korean leader to issue such a direct statement against a U.S. president, dramatically escalating the war of words between the former wartime foes. Trump responded by tweeting that Kim is “obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.” In a lengthy statement carried by state media, Kim said Trump would “pay dearly” for his recent threat to destroy North Korea. He also called Trump “deranged” and “a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire.” Kim said his country will consider the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history,” a possible indication of more powerful weapons tests on the horizon, but didn’t elaborate. His foreign minister, asked on a visit to New York to attend the UN General Assembly what the countermeasure would be, said his country may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean. “I think it could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Ri Yong Ho said, according to South Korean TV. “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”———UBER TO LOSE LICENCE TO WORK IN LONDON: Uber’s licence to operate in London won’t be renewed because its practices endanger public safety and security, the local regulator said Friday, in a blow to a company already facing big questions over its corporate culture. Transport for London says the company, whose app is used by 3.5 million passengers and 40,000 drivers in London, isn’t “fit and proper” to hold a licence to operate a private-hire vehicle service. Uber was first licensed to operate in the city in 2012 and will see its current license expire on Sept. 30. The company said it plans to appeal the regulator’s decision, and can continue to operate until the appeals process is exhausted. For its part, Uber accused the city of caving in to special interests “who want to restrict consumer choice.” In its decision, Transport for London singled out Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences and how it conducts background checks on drivers. TfL also took issue with Uber’s explanation of software that could be used to block regulators from gaining full access to the app and “prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he supported the decision, saying any operator of taxi services in the city “needs to play by the rules.”———QUEBEC RENEWS UBER DEAL FOR ONE YEAR: Ride-hailing company Uber will be allowed to operate legally for another year in Quebec under more strict rules, Transport Minister Laurent Lessard said. He said Friday he’ll extend the pilot project under which Uber had been operating for the past 12 months, contingent on the company being subject to the same rules as traditional taxis regarding training and background checks. Uber called the new rules “challenging” and said they threaten the company’s ability to continue offering its services to Quebecers. Under the new rules, Uber driver background checks must be conducted by the police and no longer by private companies. Additionally, Lessard said all Uber drivers will be required to undergo the same number of training hours as do drivers of traditional taxis, which is 35 hours. Under the terms of the original pilot project, Uber drivers were only forced to take 20 hours of training. “For the government, there cannot be two standards of security,” Lessard told reporters. Uber spokesman Jean-Christophe de le Rue said the new regulations “favour old policies instead of incorporating the benefits of new technology.”———ENERGY MAY BE FIRST DEAL IN NEW NAFTA TALKS: An agreement that would see Mexico sign on to a NAFTA clause governing oil exports may be one of the first significant products of the renegotiation talks this weekend in Ottawa. When NAFTA was originally signed 23 years ago, Mexico rejected parts of the energy chapter because its oil industry was entirely owned and operated by the government. However, President Enrique Pena Nieto is looking to solidify the reforms he started making in 2013, opening up the Mexican oil industry to international investment and participation. As a result, Mexico is now keen to become a full participant in NAFTA’s energy chapter and a deal to make it happen could come together in the third round of talks, which begin Saturday. The changes would see Mexico sign Article 605, which limits government interference in oil exports to any of the participating NAFTA countries. Pena Nieto wants to prevent any future Mexican government from undoing the oil industry changes he has made, while the U.S. and Canada want to provide certainty and access for their producers in the Mexican oilpatch.———NOVA SCOTIA MAKES ABORTION PILL AVAILABLE FOR FREE: Nova Scotia is overhauling its abortion policies, making the abortion pill available at no cost and removing the requirement for a physician’s referral to obtain a surgical abortion. The province has been criticized as having some of Canada’s biggest abortion-access barriers, and Premier Stephen McNeil said Friday the changes are about providing women with the health care options they deserve. McNeil, who is Roman Catholic, said he is comfortable with the decisions as a parent of a daughter who “deserves to have access to health care.” The government’s announcement was made by Kelly Regan, the minister responsible for the status of women, who said the province would make Mifegymiso available by prescription starting in November. The drug combination can medically terminate an early pregnancy of up to 49 days. Women with a valid health card and prescription will be able to get the $350 drug for free at pharmacies, at a cost to the province of between $175,000 and $200,000 per year.
October 17, 2019