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Leaders battle over economy while battering an absent Trudeau at first debate

Michael Talbot | posted Friday, Sep 13th, 2019

Justin Trudeau was glaringly absent when the first National Leaders’ debate hosted by Citytv and Maclean’s got underway on Thursday night, but within minutes the Liberal Leader was the centre of attention.

Trudeau may have declined his invitation to the debate at the CityNews building near Yonge and Dundas Square in downtown Toronto, but it quickly became clear that he wouldn’t evade stinging criticism from his political rivals.

The state of the economy was the first topic up for discussion and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer didn’t waste any time pinning the country’s fiscal woes on Trudeau.

Ignoring Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s somewhat tepid defence of a costly guaranteed livable income plan, Scheer quickly attacked his absent, and more significant rival.

“Justin Trudeau promised that the budget would balance itself this year, instead we see massive deficits as far as the eyes can see, years into the future,” Scheer sneered.

“That puts a huge strain on our social services like health care and education.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh piled onto the Trudeau bashing, while making sure he didn’t give Scheer a pass.

“Governments in Ottawa whether they have been Conservative, or particularly with Mr. Trudeau … have always made decisions that seem to make life easier for the richest and hardest for everyone else and we’ve got to change that.”

“He (Scheer) would certainly cut taxes, he would cut taxes for the wealthy and he would cut services for families and that’s exactly what Conservatives do.”

Trudeau wasn’t the only non-present politician to wade into the discussion.

Singh made sure to align Scheer with Ontario Conservative Premier Doug Ford, whose early tenure has been marked by controversy and dismal poll numbers.

“We’ve seen it here in Ontario, Mr. Ford promised to cut taxes, he did — he cut taxes for the wealthiest, and then he cut services for families, autism funding, education funding, all the thing that families rely on,” Singh said.

Scheer denied it while craftily swaying the conservation back to Trudeau.

“I have made a firm commitment that under a Conservative government I will ensure that funding for health care and social services continue to increase.”

“We can see that Justin Trudeau is trying to do Canada what Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals did to Ontario when they ran massive deficits that put strains on our public services and led to higher taxes.”

May suggested finding money by “increasing taxes on the wealthy (and) eliminating loopholes that overwhelmingly only benefit the top one per cent.”

“We don’t tax Google or Facebook,” she noted. “They take billions out of this economy.”

Stench of SNC-Lavalin

Justin Trudeau’s shadow, and biggest scandal, hovered over the debate.

Scheer accused Trudeau, who was found guilty of violating the Conflict of Interest Act, of trying to obstruct an RCMP probe into the SNC Lavalin affair.

“He is the only Prime Minister that has ever been convicted of breaking the law and he lied about it, and now we find out that the RCMP is looking into this case with a view to possible obstruction of justice charges and he is obstructing their attempts to get the truth.”

“I want to use this opportunity to call on Justin Trudeau to do the right thing and waive full cabinet privilege and cabinet confidence to allow people to testify to the RCMP so we can get to the bottom of this issue.”

Singh quickly interjected, insinuating that both the Conservatives and Liberals are vulnerable to corporate influence.

“Whether we have Mr. Trudeau in government, a Liberal government, or Mr. Scheer in government, at the end of the day both these parties continue to make it easier for the rich to get ahead. That’s their priority, so it wouldn’t have been much different. The PMOs office, if it was Mr. Scheer’s office, would have got the call directly from SNC, all the wealthiest corporations know to donate to either Conservatives or they donate to the Liberals because they know it’s either of those parties that have their back.”

Scheer quickly fired back, alleging that Singh met with SNC Lavalin on May 10, 2018.

“That’s not true and you know it, Singh barked.

May then provided a rare moment of levity, quipping: “I think I’m so incorruptible, SNC Lavalin never asked to meet me.”

“He’s scared”: Scheer mocks Trudeau

Last week Trudeau said he would only participate in debates organized by the Leaders’ Debates Commission.

Both Scheer and Singh derided Trudeau upon their arrival at the debate.

“I’m exciting that we are going to have an opportunity to talk about our priorities and our plans,” Scheer said. “I just wish that Justin Trudeau had taken the time to show up, it’s obvious that he’s afraid of his record but we’ll carry on without him.”

Singh’s rebuke was even more searing.

“We’ve got to hold Mr. Trudeau to account,” he said after stepping off his campaign bus. “He’s let down people a lot in the four years, and he’s not here to defend his track record. His track record is pretty abysmal when it comes to things like climate crisis, Indigenous rights, when it comes to fighting for health care, the housing crisis, we want to make sure we hold him to account.”

May was the only one to avoid the topic of Trudeau upon her arrival. Instead she put the focus on her party’s climate action plan, dubbed Mission Possible.

“I’m just looking forward to having a chance to put forward our ideas, our positive vision for the country,” May stressed “Our approach, Mission Possible, is the most ambitious plan of any party and the only one consistent with the science.”

“We want Canadians brought together like a family because that’s what we are.”

The two-hour debate in English centred on four major themes: the economy, foreign policy, Indigenous issues and energy and the environment.

Former OPP deputy commissioner to break silence after firing

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Sep 13th, 2019

TORONTO — A former deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police will speak publicly today for the first time since he was fired by the province.

Brad Blair is holding a news conference in which he’s expected to outline the next steps in his legal fight with the Progressive Conservative government.

The veteran officer was fired in March after a high-ranking public servant alleged Blair had contravened his “legal and ethical responsibilities.”

Blair had asked the courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate government attempts to hire a longtime friend of Premier Doug Ford as OPP commissioner.

He has also launched a defamation suit against Ford himself, alleging the premier damaged Blair’s reputation when he accused him of breaking the Police Services Act.

Blair’s lawyers say he will also speak about his efforts to “safeguard the independence and credibility” of the provincial police service.

Woman killed in apparent machete attack in Scarborough, suspect in custody

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Sep 12th, 2019

A woman in her 30s has died after an apparent machete attack in Scarborough, Toronto police confirm.

Earlier, Toronto police tweeted that a man was seen running around with a machete in the Morrish and Ellesmere roads area.

He reportedly struck a woman who lived in the area several times in the driveway of a home and then fled in a silver car.

The victim’s injuries were initially described as “very serious” but in an update police said she was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Insp. Stacey Davis said the victim and suspect are known to each other and they had a “previous domestic relationship.”

The suspect, also in his 30s, drove to 42 Division and turned himself in shortly after the incident. There are no other suspects being sought and no further danger to the public.

The homicide unit has been called in to investigate.

Any witnesses are asked to come forward with information or video footage.

Citytv and Maclean’s to host first National Leaders’ debate

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Sep 12th, 2019

Citytv and Maclean’s are hosting the first National Leaders Debate of the 2019 election calendar on Thursday, September 12 starting at 8 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. PDT).

The two-hour debate in English will centre on four major themes: the economy, foreign policy, Indigenous issues and energy and the environment.

After the main segment of exchanges, each leader will have 90 seconds for a closing statement.

The event will take place in Toronto while airing live on Citytv, Macleans.ca and Facebook, as well as on Rogers news talk radio stations (NEWS 95.7, 1310 NEWS and 570 NEWS).

Online, it will be live-streamed on CityNews.ca in all regions and 680News.com and other Rogers news radio websites (660citynews.com and citynews1130.com).

CPAC will carry the debate with a French translation, while OMNI Television will air it with interpretation into Mandarin and Cantonese (in broadcast) and Punjabi (online).

“We are continuing our tradition of early debates after the 2015 federal leaders’ debate ignited a cross-country conversation and set the agenda for election day,” says Maclean’s editor-in-chief Alison Uncles. “We are looking forward to a civil, spirited discussion of ideas, moderated by the extraordinary Paul Wells.”

The leaders of the Conservative Party, the Green Party and the NDP have confirmed their attendance. The Liberals have not yet confirmed Justin Trudeau’s participation but an invitation remains open.

“I have interviewed all four of the party leaders we’ve invited, one-on-one, for the Maclean’s In Conversation series in the last year and a half,” says Wells. “I’m looking forward to welcoming them again at our debate. If three show up, that’s enough. If four do, so much the better.”

Citytv and Maclean’s will have post-debate coverage, including analysis and viewer reaction.

Motorcyclist killed in single vehicle crash in Markham

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Sep 12th, 2019

A male motorcyclist is dead following a crash in Markham.

York Region Police were called to the area of Esna Park Drive and Alden Road shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday.

They say it appears the motorcyclist went off the roadway and struck a telephone pole. It’s uncertain at this time what caused the bike to leave the roadway.

Police are asking for witnesses or anyone with dash cam video to contact police.

Federal election campaign officially underway

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Sep 12th, 2019

Justin Trudeau began his bid for re-election Wednesday by framing the next 40 days as a time for Canadians to make a choice: whether they want more of his sunny ways or a return to the gloomier days he says are characteristic of life under a Conservative government.

But clouding over his optimism was the SNC-Lavalin scandal, given fresh life by a Globe and Mail report that the RCMP’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice in the matter has been limited by the shroud of cabinet confidence.

Moments after emerging from Rideau Hall, where he asked Gov. Gen. Julie Payette to dissolve Parliament, Trudeau faced a barrage of fresh questions on the affair.

Asked what his government is hiding, Trudeau said his office gave the largest waiver of cabinet confidences in Canadian history but would not add anything more.

He also declined to address what personal mistakes he might have made in the saga, which saw the ethics commissioner declare Trudeau broke the law by trying to influence a decision on whether the Quebec engineering firm should go to trial on charges related to alleged corrupt dealings in Libya.

“My job as prime minister is to be there to stand up for and defend Canadians’ jobs,” he said.

“I will always defend the public interest.”

Before jumping on his own campaign plane this morning, a fired-up Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the SNC-Lavalin story showcases his belief that Trudeau has lost the moral authority to govern.

“Over the next five weeks I will be explaining the reasons why Justin Trudeau has lost that authority and our alternative plan,” he said in French.

Scheer will spend Day 1 of the campaign in Quebec and Ontario, while Trudeau will head for Vancouver, the same place he launched his bid for election in 2015.

“We’ve done a lot together these past four years but the truth is we’re just getting started,” Trudeau said.

“So Canadians have an important choice to make — will we go back to the failed policies of the past or will we continue to move forward?”

Polls suggest the Liberals and Conservatives are running neck-and-neck, while the NDP and Greens are fighting for third.

The NDP launched its campaign Wednesday in London, Ont., one of the regions of the province where New Democrats think they’ll be able to hold onto seats.

Leader Jagmeet Singh accused Trudeau and Scheer of failing to live up to promises to help Canadians, saying the costs for everything are getting out of control.

“I believe we can do better,” Singh said. “But we can do that only if we have the courage to take on the powerful interests at the very top.”

The Greens began in their own comfort zone of British Columbia, where Elizabeth May launched her campaign in Victoria.

“This is the most important election in Canadian history,” May told about 200 cheering supporters. “We are going to stand firm. We will tell Canadians how serious the climate emergency is.”

Later Wednesday, People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier is to appear for his own campaign debut in Toronto, alongside candidate Renata Ford, wife of the late populist Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

At the dissolution of Parliament, the Liberals hold 177 seats, the Conservatives 95, the NDP 39, the Bloc 10 and the Greens 2. There are eight independents — including former Liberal cabinet ministers Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould. The People’s Party of Canada has one seat and former New Democrat Erin Weir sits as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Five seats are vacant.

The election is Oct. 21.

U.S. to commemorate 9/11 as its aftermath extends and evolves

JENNIFER PELTZ, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 11th, 2019

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with mournful ceremonies, volunteering, appeals to “never forget” and rising attention to the terror attacks’ extended toll on responders.

A crowd of victims’ relatives is expected at ground zero Wednesday, while President Donald Trump is scheduled to join an observance at the Pentagon. Vice-President Mike Pence is to speak at the third attack site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Former President George W. Bush, the commander-in-chief at the time of the 2001 attacks, is due at an afternoon wreath-laying at the Pentagon.

Eighteen years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath at ground zero, in Congress and beyond. The attacks’ aftermath is visible from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan. A rocket exploded at the U.S. embassy as the anniversary began in Afghanistan, where a post-9-11 invasion has become America’s longest war.

“People say, ‘Why do you stand here, year after year?’” Chundera Epps, a sister of Sept. 11 victim Christopher Epps, said at last year’s ceremony at the World Trade Center. “Because soldiers are still dying for our freedom. First responders are still dying and being ill.”

“We can’t forget. Life won’t let us forget,” she added.

The anniversary ceremonies centre on remembering the nearly 3,000 people killed when hijacked planes rammed into the trade centre, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001. All those victims’ names are read aloud at the ground zero ceremony, where moments of silence and tolling bells mark the moments when the aircraft crashed and the trade centre’s twin towers fell.

But there has been growing awareness in recent years of the suffering of another group of people tied to the tragedy: firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after exposure to the wreckage and the toxins unleashed in it.

While research continues into whether those illnesses are tied to 9/11 toxins, a victims compensation fund for people with potentially Sept. 11-related health problems has awarded more than $5.5 billion so far. Over 51,000 people have applied.

After years of legislative gridlock, dwindling money in the fund and fervent activism by ailing first responders and their advocates, Congress this summer made sure the fund won’t run dry. Trump, a Republican and a New Yorker who was in the city on 9/11, signed the measure in July.

The sick gained new recognition this year at the memorial plaza at ground zero, where the new 9/11 Memorial Glade was dedicated this spring.

The tribute features six large stacks of granite inlaid with salvaged trade centre steel, with a dedication “to those whose actions in our time of need led to their injury, sickness, and death.” No one is named specifically.

Some 9/11 memorials elsewhere already included sickened rescue, recovery and cleanup workers, and there is a remembrance wall entirely focused on them in Nesconset, on Long Island. But those who fell ill or were injured, and their families, say having a tribute at ground zero carries special significance.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Monday that its 9/11 memorial will close next week for electrical and lighting work. The project, expected to take until late May, includes repairs to lighting glitches in the shallow reflecting pools under the memorial benches.

Sept. 11 is known not only as a day for remembrance and patriotism, but also as a day of service. People around the country continue to volunteer at food banks, schools, home-building projects, park cleanups and other charitable endeavours on and near the anniversary.

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