The Tuesday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories

By The Canadian Press
February 13, 2018 - 6:00pm

Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Feb. 13

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JUSTICE MINISTER DEFENDS BOUSHIE TWEET: Jody Wilson-Raybould doubled down Tuesday on her controversial reaction to the Colten Boushie verdict, saying a federal justice minister should be responsive to Canadians who speak out and protest perceived injustices in the legal system. Wilson-Raybould defended last week's comments on Twitter, which came after Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley, 56, was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Boushie, 22, a member of Red Pheasant First Nation. Earlier in the day, Wilson-Raybould met with the Boushie family and discussed various areas of improvement for the justice system, including jury selection, an ombudsman for victims of crime and the need for compassion and support for victims. She has said the government is considering changes to the way juries are selected after concerns were raised about the apparent all-white makeup of the jury in Stanley's trial. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with the Boushie family in the afternoon for what he described as a very good, very emotional meeting. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who also met with Boushie's relatives, said the civilian-led RCMP watchdog has launched an investigation after the family filed a complaint over the police's handling of the case.

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WHITE HOUSE DOWNPLAYS TRUMP TAX THREAT: The White House is downplaying a threat from U.S. President Donald Trump to impose a new import tax, following hard-to-follow comments that had some trade-watchers befuddled about what he might be planning. ''There is nothing formal in the works right now,'' a senior administration official said Tuesday. "He was simply reiterating the same sentiments he’s been saying about reciprocal trade for years.'' The president confused many trade analysts Monday with remarks about a new tax. Trump said there would be details in the coming days about something he called a ''reciprocal tax'' on imports — and he complained about the trade practices of Canada, China and other countries in making the threat. The comments were confusing for several reasons: Congress sets taxes, not the president; Congress rejected the idea of an import tax in its recent fiscal reform; the president's newly released budget proposal doesn't even mention the idea.

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PHILIPPINES FORMALLY KILLS HELICOPTER DEAL: The Trudeau government has appointed a new chair of the Crown corporation that facilitated a controversial helicopter deal with the Philippines, and ordered the organization to become less reliant on selling arms. The shake-up at Canadian Commercial Corp. was announced Tuesday by International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne as he confirmed the Philippines had formally cancelled the helicopter deal. The Philippines originally planned to buy 16 aircraft from Montreal-based Bell Helicopters for an estimated $300 million. But that was before concerns were raised that the Philippine military could use the helicopters to commit human-rights violations. The Liberals initially defended the contract, saying the aircraft would only be used for search-and-rescue and disaster relief, but ordered a review. In response to the review, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at what he described as restrictions on the use of military equipment against terrorists and rebels before ordering military commanders to kill the deal with Canada.

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SELINGER SORRY FOR FORMER MINISTER'S ALLEGED TICKLING: Former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger is apologizing after numerous women have come forward alleging one of his former cabinet ministers sexually harassed them. Several women who worked with Stan Struthers, an NDP cabinet minister from 2003 to 2014, say he tickled them, groped them or made sexual remarks. The women have said Struthers touched them in front of others, but Selinger said he never witnessed any inappropriate behaviour. Selinger said two women came forward with concerns about Struthers to his chief of staff, Jeremy Read, in 2015. Selinger said the women didn't want to take the complaints further. He said he directed his chief of staff to make it clear to Struthers that any sexual harassment had to end and a legislature committee started working on improving safe workplace policies. Selinger said he was asked by current NDP Leader Wab Kinew to resign or cancel Tuesday's media availability responding to the allegations facing Struthers. But Selinger said he's not ready to go yet. He said he's open to an "exit strategy" but will decide that in consultation with his constituents.

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FEDS TO TABLE SPRING BUDGET FEB. 27: Finance Minister Bill Morneau will introduce the federal government's next budget on Feb. 27 as the country faces persistent uncertainty around trade and competitiveness. With the future clouded by such unknowns, private-sector experts will press Morneau to keep his fiscal powder dry when they gather later this week for their annual pre-budget meeting. Morneau, who announced the budget date Tuesday in the House of Commons, sits down Friday in Toronto with leading economists at a roundtable that typically includes about a dozen experts from commercial banks, think tanks and trade associations. Finance ministers routinely call on outside economists for input and forecasts as part of the budget-writing process. Their projections are averaged to create a fiscal foundation for the budget.

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DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY RESTRICTS VP SEARCH TO 'RACIALLY VISIBLE': Dalhousie University says its search for a new senior administrator will be restricted to "racially visible" and Indigenous candidates, part of its efforts to increase underrepresented groups on the Halifax campus. In a memo to the university community, provost and vice-president academic Carolyn Watters said the prerequisite is in line with the principles of Dalhousie's employment equity policy. Jasmine Walsh, Dalhousie's assistant vice-president of human resources, said Tuesday Dalhousie has been "deliberate and proactive" in its recruitment so students will be able to see themselves reflected throughout the university's ranks. The search comes after incumbent Arig al Shaibah announced she would be leaving the university at the end of March after less than two years in the role. She became the public face of the university's high-profile decision to consider disciplinary action against student leader Masuma Khan who criticized "white fragility."

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ALBERTA LAUNCHES PETITION IN PIPELINE FIGHT: Alberta is ratcheting up the public relations fight over the Trans Mountain oil pipeline by launching a website and online petition. Premier Rachel Notley is asking Albertans to sign the petition, which will be sent to her B.C. counterpart, John Horgan. Notley and Horgan have locked horns over a proposal by British Columbia to refuse an expansion of oil imports until it is sure safety plans are in place to handle any spills or other environmental catastrophes. The move would effectively kill the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. pipeline, a project that would triple the amount of oil now being shipped from Edmonton to terminals in Burnaby. Ottawa has already approved the expansion, and Notley says the project is desperately needed so that Alberta can get better prices for its oil. Notley says Horgan is stepping on Ottawa's jurisdiction and Alberta has halted electricity purchase talks and imposed a ban on B.C. wine in retaliation.

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CANADIANS ON MEDS HAVE LESS MONEY FOR FOOD, STUDY FINDS: A recent study suggests nearly one million Canadians taking prescription drugs are cutting back on food and electricity to afford them. The pan-Canadian review was conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, McMaster University and the University of Toronto and published Tuesday in the online version of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The study indicates 968,000 Canadians reduced their spending on basic necessities to pay for medication — with 730,000 cutting their food bills and another 238,000 skimping on heating. Lead author Michael Law from UBC says while it was already known that people had difficulty paying for prescription drugs, the analysis shows the extent to which people are eliminating necessities to purchase them. Quebec had the lowest percentage of people not filling a prescription due to the costs. The worst was British Columbia.

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CYBERSPIES DEFEND PROPOSED NEW POWERS: A senior official from Canada's cyberspy agency says proposed new powers would allow it to stop a terrorist's mobile phone from detonating a car bomb, block the ability of extremists to communicate, or prevent a foreign power from interfering in the country's democratic process. Shelly Bruce, associate chief of the Communications Security Establishment, tells a House of Commons committee a Liberal bill would help the agency counter cyberaggression by foreign states and violent extremism. A December report by leading Canadian cybersecurity researchers said there is no clear rationale for expanding the CSE's mandate to conduct offensive operations. It said the scope of the planned authority is not clear, nor does the legislation require that the target of the CSE's intervention pose some kind of meaningful threat to Canada’s security interests. Bruce stresses the proposed legislation contains safeguards that would prohibit the agency from directing active cyberoperations at Canadians.

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KIM CAMPBELL SAYS BARE ARMS NOT OK FOR FEMALE BROADCASTERS: Kim Campbell is admonishing female news anchors who wear sleeveless dresses on the air, calling the bare-armed attire "demeaning." The former prime minister tweeted her displeasure with the fashion choice on Tuesday morning by saying "bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas." She faced quick criticism and one tweeter pointed out that former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama frequently wore sleeveless dresses. Campbell replied that she was specifically referring to female broadcasters. She pointed to an essay by U.S. speaking coach Nick Morgan for back-up, who asserts in a blog post that "if you show up in front of us with skin exposed, we're going to think about your body." He also takes issue with men who wear an "expensive, cool-looking casual T-shirt" for an important speech. On her verified Twitter account, Campbell said: "I am struck by how many women on television news wear sleeveless dresses — often when sitting with suited men."

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