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In The News for May 30 : Alberta UCP wins majority government

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 May 30 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
UCP Leader Danielle Smith makes her victory speech in Calgary on Monday May 29, 2023. Alberta's United Conservative Party rode a wave of rural support Monday to win a renewed majority in the provincial election _ but not before the NDP took a big bite out of its support. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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 May 30 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says it’s time to put personal and political attacks in the “rear-view mirror” and focus on the province’s economy. 

Smith’s United Conservative Party emerged bloodied but still standing in Monday’s bitterly contested provincial election, winning a second consecutive majority government.

She has promised to keep Alberta the lowest tax regime in Canada, and says a UCP government would see the introduction of a law to mandate a binding referendum before any personal or corporate income tax hikes. 

There would also be tax changes to benefit those making more than $60,000 a year, at a cost of $1 billion annually to the treasury. 

NDP Leader Rachel Notley says she will continue to be leader of the party and official Opposition. 

Smith was dogged during the election campaign by past comments, including comparing those who took the COVID-19 vaccine to followers of Adolf Hitler.

A report that came mid-campaign from the ethics commissioner also concluded that Smith undermined the rule of law by pressuring her justice minister to end a criminal court case of a COVID-19 protester.

In her victory speech, Smith had words for those who did not vote for her. 

“I want you to know my oath is to serve all Albertans no matter how you voted," she said. 

“And though I didn’t do enough in your judgment to win your support in this election, I will work every day to listen, to improve and to demonstrate to you that I can be trusted to improve on the issues you care so deeply about.” 


Also this ...

The fire department in Slave Lake, Alta., had a long-standing plan for tackling wildfire encroaching on the community, but in May 2011, flames from a nearby forest blew over suppression efforts and destroyed several hundred homes and other buildings.

"I think that was the most shocking time of my entire career and maybe of my life, where you're so sure that something's going to work, and then it doesn't … with crushing consequences," said Jamie Coutts, the former Slave Lake fire chief.

A firefighter for more than 30 years, Coutts said wildfires have been burning "hotter, faster (and) crazier" over the last decade, and "every single person that lives in the forest is on a collision course with something disastrous happening."

Research suggests that so-called interface fires, which occur where forests and flames meet human development, are on the rise. 

An interface fire crashed into suburban Halifax on Sunday, destroying or damaging dozens of homes in the west of the city.

The Nova Scotia blaze follows early season wildfires that have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate from their homes in Alberta.

Sandy Erni, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service focusing on fire risk, said interface fires can involve either residential neighbourhoods or industrial infrastructure.

Erni is the co-author of a 2021 study that used greenhouse-gas emissions scenarios established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to model potential increases in wildland-human interface fires by the end of this century.

The study published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research concluded that interface fires are increasing in frequency, particularly in northern and central areas, and the number of people exposed to the blazes is likely to grow considerably.

Fortunately, in Canada, people are mostly escaping wildfires with their lives, said Coutts, although a fast-moving blaze killed two people and destroyed much of the village of Lytton in British Columbia's southern Interior in late June 2021.

Coutts wants to see a more widespread adoption of FireSmart guidelines, which aim to reduce wildfire risks to homes, communities and critical infrastructure, as well as changes to national and provincial building codes to address building materials, the space allowed between structures and the proximity of trees.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

NEW YORK _ Sam Bankman-Fried's lawyers made meritless arguments in a bid to convince a judge to toss out criminal charges alleging that the FTX founder stole from investors in his multi-billion dollar cryptocurrency fund, federal prosecutors said Monday.

In papers filed in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors responded to early May filings in which Bankman-Fried's lawyers insisted that the United States overreached in its case against Bankman-Fried, making federal crimes out of regulatory issues.

"These motions are meritless,'' prosecutors wrote in a nearly 100-page filing. "The charges track the relevant statutes and the defendant's alleged misconduct falls within the heartland of what these statutes prohibit.''

Bankman-Fried, 31, has been living with his parents in Palo Alto, California, after posting a $250 million personal recognizance bond after his December extradition from the Bahamas.

Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to charges that he cheated investors and looted customer deposits on FTX to make lavish real estate purchases, donate money to politicians and make risky trades at Alameda Research, his cryptocurrency hedge fund trading firm. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams has called it one of the biggest frauds in U.S. history.

In March, new charges added to the indictment alleged that Bankman-Fried violated the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by directing the payment of $40 million in bribes to a Chinese official or officials to free up $1 billion in cryptocurrency that was frozen in early 2021.

In requesting all charges be dismissed, defence lawyers said eight counts in the original indictment were too vague and non-specific to proceed to trial and that additional charges were barred by an Extradition Treaty between the U.S. and the Bahamas that prohibited charges not approved at the time of extradition. 

Prosecutors, though, asked Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to let all charges proceed. They said the claims against the original charges were legally sufficient and that permission is being sought from the Bahamas to permit the newest charges.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

YILAN, Taiwan _ Typhoon Mawar lashed Taiwan's eastern coast with wind, rains and large waves Tuesday but largely skirted the island after giving a glancing blow to the northern Philippines. The storm was moving slowly toward southern Japan.

With waves crashing on the shoreline, residents of the Taiwanese fishing town of Yilan secured boats and homes against the stormy conditions.

Although the slow-moving typhoon has lost some of its ferocity since smashing into Guam last week, forecasters in the Philippines said Mawar remained dangerous with maximum sustained winds of 155 kph and gusts of up to 190 kph.

"I'm on the roof, but I'm not being blown away by the wind,'' Juliet Cataluna, a Batanes provincial official in the coastal town of Ivana told The Associated Press by cellphone. "I wish we'll really be spared from damages, our livelihood, our agricultural produce and our houses.''

After seeing earlier forecasts that Mawar would be stronger, townspeople in Ivana placed sandbags on their tin roofs and covered glass windows with wooden boards. Cataluna added that she wrapped her avocados with sack cloth so they would not be blown off trees.

Town leaders used motorcycles to deliver constant typhoon updates and fortunately only light rains and occasional wind gusts have hit Ivana, she said.

The typhoon is offshore about 350 kilometres east of the Batanes capital, Basco, and is projected to shift northeast by Wednesday toward southern Japan. Strong winds were still forecast for Taiwan, and authorities in the Philippines warned against complacency, saying the risks from dangerous tidal surges, flash floods, landslides and typhoon-enhanced monsoon rains remain until Mawar has safely blown away.

More than 3,400 villagers remained in emergency shelters in northern provinces, flights to and from Batanes remained suspended and classes have not resumed in more than 250 cities and towns in the north, according to the Office of Civil Defense.


On this day in 2005 ...

The Canadian Red Cross pleaded guilty to a single charge arising from the tainted-blood scandal and publicly accepted responsibility for the disaster that left thousands of people with HIV and hepatitis C. Criminal charges were dropped in exchange for the plea. The charity said it would pay a $5,000 fine and dedicate $1.5 million to a scholarship fund and research project aimed at reducing medical errors.


In entertainment ...

MONTREAL _ Quebec actor Michel Cote, who captivated audiences with his roles in the theatre piece "Broue'' and films such as "Cruising Bar'' and "C.R.A.Z.Y.,'' has died at 72, his family said Monday.

Cote retired from public life just over a year before his death to undergo treatment for a bone marrow disease.

The actor was a favourite in Quebec, and received a lifetime achievement award in 2013 at the Jutra awards.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault paid tribute to Cote on social media, describing him as one of Quebec's great actors.

"I still laugh out loud at Broue, Cruising Bar, La petite vie, but I also remember his touching role in C.R.A.Z.Y.,'' Legault wrote on Twitter. He added that Cote was set to receive the National Order of Quebec in the coming weeks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described Cote on social media as one of Quebec's most revered and most talented actors, adding that "his passing is an extraordinary loss for Quebecois culture and for our entire country.''

Cote's career began in 1983 with a role in Andre Forcier's film "Au clair de la lune,'' starring Guy L'Ecuyer.

He appeared in at least 25 films and some 20 television series. In between shoots, he appeared on stage in the evenings to perform in the theatre piece "Broue'' with his friends Marc Messier and Marcel Gauthier _ which he did for 38 years until 2017.

His last film role was in "De pere en flic 2,'' which came out in 2017. More recently, he gave an emotional tribute to the director Jean-Marc Vallee, who died suddenly on Christmas Day in 2021 and who cast Cote in a memorable role in the 2005 film "C.R.A.Z.Y.''

He was honoured in January 2022 during an emotional special on the Radio-Canada program "Les Enfants de la tele,'' where he appeared with his partner Veronique Le Flaguais and their son Maxime, who are both also actors.


Did you see this?

OTTAWA _ Parks Canada Minister Steven Guilbeault says the federal government has designated the 1923 ban on immigration by people of Chinese origin as an event of historical significance.

July marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Immigration Act, which banned Chinese people from entering Canada.

Speaking at a reception for Asian Heritage Month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the ban was immoral and unfair.

In a press release, Parks Canada says the legislation was the result of anti-Asian racism, and lasted for 24 years.

The act also required all Chinese persons living in Canada to register with the government and carry certificates with photo identification, or else risk fines, detainment or deportation.

Trudeau says the government plaque that will be commissioned to recognize those events will serve as a reminder of how far Canada has come.

"Whether it's the Chinese Exclusion Act or other similar examples from our past, we know that diversity in Canada hasn't always been seen as a source of our strength,'' Trudeau says.

"It took a lot of work and determination to change this.''


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2023.

The Canadian Press