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Questions abound In The News for Dec. 10; Is the accused a Santa or a Scrooge?

Christmas lights on a wreath glow above Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he speaks to supporters at the Laurier Club Holiday Reception, an annual donor event held by the Liberal Party of Canada, in Ottawa, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 10.

What we are watching in Canada …

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are set to meet face-to-face today for the first time since voters in that province threw out all of its Liberal MPs.

Kenney had made the case for months leading up to the federal election that the Liberals were — at their peril — ignoring the concerns of the West but the election result brought the reality of that anger to the fore.

Now Kenney is seeking to channel it for good, bringing Trudeau a list today of five demands he says must be met to get the Alberta and Canadian economies back up to speed.

They include changes to a federal payment program that tops up provincial revenues, amendments to environment regulations and a firm deadline to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion up and running.

Kenney’s meeting with Trudeau will cap off a two-day trip that included eight provincial cabinet ministers all meeting with their federal counterparts and industry officials.

He says while federal-provincial relations have been tense, he wants to be able to find common ground with the Trudeau government.

Kenney pointed to last week’s meeting of provincial and territorial premiers, and the consensus they arrived at on issues including pipelines and federal funding, as proof there is room for Trudeau to harness existing goodwill.

Also this …

Ontario’s public elementary teachers will ramp up their work-to-rule campaign today as they continue contract talks with the government.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario says educators will not plan any new field trips or distribute letters or memos from schools and boards.

The union says it is introducing the new phase of its job action to increase pressure on the government because of the slow pace of negotiations.

Meanwhile, the union representing the province’s public high school teachers is planning a one-day strike in nine school boards on Wednesday.

That job action follows a province-wide strike last week that shuttered every public high school and some elementary schools.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has called on the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation to enter third-party mediation in a bid to reach an agreement.

On Monday, the province’s Financial Accountability Officer said if the province were to follow through on its original plan to increase the average high school class size to 28 students from the current 22, it would save $900 million a year.

ICYMI (In case you missed it) …

OTTAWA — German auto giant Volkswagen appears ready to strike a plea deal with Canada after being charged for allegedly importing cars into this country that company executives knew violated emissions standards.

Environment and Climate Change Canada announced the company had been charged with 60 violations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. All but two of the charges relate to the 128,000 vehicles imported into Canada between 2008 and 2015 that had illegal emissions. The other two charges are for providing false information.

Canada’s case against Volkswagen comes more than four years after the company admitted to installing software on 11 million cars worldwide to trick emissions-testing equipment into concluding the cars ran more cleanly than they actually did.

The company issued a statement saying it has co-operated fully with Canadian investigators and that a deal is prepared ahead of the company’s first court appearance in Toronto on Friday.

The company pleaded guilty in U.S. court in 2017 for violating American laws and was fined $4.3 billion. In 2018, German prosecutors fined the company one-billion euros for the emissions cheating case, which some dubbed “dieselgate” because it involved Volkswagen’s diesel engines.

Several Volkswagen executives and managers involved in the deception were charged in the U.S. and Germany, and some have already been sent to prison.

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What we are watching in the U.S. …

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is to meet American and Mexican officials in Mexico City on Tuesday amid reports a deal to revise the new North American free-trade agreement is close to completion.

The federal government revealed Freeland’s itinerary late Monday following a day of furious speculation about the state of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal — and concerns from Canada’s aluminum sector about what the agreement could mean for the industry and workers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump talked directly about the deal Monday, Trudeau’s office reported, without details.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was signed by the three countries last year, but U.S. ratification has been stalled for months as congressional Democrats and organized labour have bickered with Mexico over labour rights as well as the agreement’s treatment of steel and aluminum.

There were concerns the agreement, which aims to update the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, would not be approved before Congress disperses until 2020 and its focus shifts to next fall’s presidential election.

Freeland was cautious Monday amid chatter of an imminent deal.

“In the lives of ordinary Canadians, there is perhaps no issue in our relationship with the United States that matters more than trade,” she said in question period.

“The prime minister raised the ratification of the new NAFTA and other trade issues in his meeting last week with the president and we have been working intensively, including many conversations over the weekend and this morning with our American partners, on getting the deal finalized.”

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

A volcano off the New Zealand coast erupted Monday with a towering blast of ash and scalding steam as dozens of tourists were exploring its moon-like surface, killing five people and leaving eight others missing and feared dead, authorities said.

Helicopter crews landed on White Island despite the danger and helped evacuate the dozens of survivors, some of them critically injured.

Hours after the disaster, authorities said the site was still too dangerous for rescuers to search for the missing. But aircraft flew over the island repeatedly, and “no signs of life have been seen at any point,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

The missing and injured included New Zealanders and tourists from Australia, the U.S., China, Britain and Malaysia, the prime minister said. Some of those who were exploring White Island volcano were passengers from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas, docked on neighbouring North Island.

“My god,” Michael Schade tweeted as he posted video of the eruption. “My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.”

Weird and wild …

BRANDON, Man. — Spreading a little Christmas cheer has landed a Manitoba man a theft charge.

Police say a man stole a dozen ornamental Christmas trees from an outside display at a grocery store in Brandon on Sunday evening.

The trees and ornaments were stuffed into a shopping cart, taken away and left on various properties nearby.

Sgt. Kirby Sararas says police were able to follow the trail of holiday clues, retrieve the trees and make an arrest.

A 33-year-old man has been charged with theft under $5,000.

Sararas says the suspect was highly intoxicated, and appeared to be doling out the trees as he made his way through the area.

Know your news …

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is in Ottawa this week pushing Alberta issues with the minority Liberal government. While Kenney is Alberta’s most vocal defender, he wasn’t born in the province he now leads. Where was he born?  

On this day in 1957 …

Liberal MP Lester Pearson received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. While serving the previous year as Canada’s external affairs minister, he led efforts at the United Nations to set up an international peacekeeping force and end the attack by Israeli, British and French forces on Egypt.

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Entertainment news …

TORONTO — An engineer who signed off on a Radiohead concert stage that collapsed and killed a man six years ago will face a professional misconduct hearing despite his argument that he has since retired.

Domenic Cugliari faces professional misconduct charges in the June 16, 2012, stage collapse ahead of an outdoor concert in Toronto that killed drum technician Scott Johnson and injured three other members of the band’s road crew.

Cugliari filed a motion Monday to have the charges stayed, saying the Professional Engineers Ontario disciplinary panel did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because he is no longer an engineer.

The five-member panel denied the request.

A coroner’s inquest into Johnson’s death last spring heard that plans for the stage were riddled with mistakes, the wrong building components were used in key areas and the construction was running behind schedule.

Cugliari testified he did not check to see if the correct parts were used because he trusted the contractor.

Know your news answer …

Kenney was born in Oakville, Ont., and raised in Wilcox, Sask.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 10, 2019.

 

The Canadian Press