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

The Canadian Press
Published on January 10, 2017

Chrystia Freeland is sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) looks on during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Jan. 10

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FREELAND UP, DION OUT IN CABINET SHUFFLE: Justin Trudeau made cabinet cornerstone Chrystia Freeland his new foreign affairs minister and promoted a trio of up-and-coming MPs on Tuesday as part of an inner-circle shakeup aimed in part at preparing for a Donald Trump presidency. Freeland, a former economics journalist with extensive contacts in the United States, leaves the trade portfolio to replace veteran Liberal MP Stephane Dion, who announced Tuesday that he plans to leave active politics. Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-born rookie MP first elected in 2015, is one of several new faces in cabinet that include Quebec MP Francois-Philippe Champagne, named international trade minister, and Karina Gould of Burlington, Ont., who takes Democratic Institutions from Maryam Monsef. Patty Hajdu, a strong performer who shone as status of women minister, is taking over the labour portfolio from MaryAnn Mihychuk, who is being dumped from cabinet altogether. Hussen is taking over the immigration portfolio from John McCallum, who is also quitting politics in order to become ambassador to China.

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FEDS WORKING ON RULES FOR ARMING KURDS: Canada wants "adequate controls" in place before sending arms to Kurdish forces in Iraq, as human rights groups warn that weapons supplied by the U.S. and other countries are contributing to war crimes. The Liberal government said last February that Canada would give the Kurds small arms, ammunition and optical sights as part of its revamped mission to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Defence officials indicated last month that the final obstacle to actually delivering the weapons had been cleared, after the central Iraqi government in Baghdad signed off on the plan. National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier says the government is working with potential suppliers to determine the best method to buy the weapons, with an eye to signing contracts soon.

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TRUDEAU MEETS CONGRESS OF ABORIGINAL PEOPLES: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett met Tuesday with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples — the first of what will be yearly meetings to ensure the government is focused on indigenous priorities. Trudeau says the meetings will ensure the group's leaders and members are heard and their concerns are reflected in the Liberal government's much-vaunted "renewed relationship" with indigenous peoples. Trudeau says he's looking forward to working with Robert Bertrand, the newly elected national chief of the congress. Late last year, Trudeau also promised to meet First Nations, Metis and Inuit leaders at least once a year to address shared priorities. Members of Trudeau's cabinet will also meet separately with representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, the Metis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami at least twice annually to develop and implement policies.

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PBO SAYS FEDERAL SPENDING PLAN SLOWER THAN EXPECTED: The federal budget watchdog says the Trudeau Liberals may end up following a previous pattern of slower-than-expected government plans to spend on infrastructure. A new analysis by the parliamentary budget office says last year's federal budget promised to transfer $3.5 billion in new money to other levels of government for infrastructure in the current fiscal year. But it says federal transfers made by the Transport and Infrastructure departments over the first half of 2016-17 dropped by $100 million compared with the year before. It adds that since Ottawa's planned infrastructure investments did not materialize in the first half of the year, there's a growing risk the spending will have to be pushed into 2017-18.

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NOVA SCOTIA DOCTOR SAYS HOSPITAL DID NOT TURN AWAY ANYONE: A senior medical official in Nova Scotia is challenging allegations that a former soldier who killed his family before committing suicide was turned away from an Antigonish hospital in the days before the killings. Dr. Amit Minoli issued a statement Tuesday, saying no person was refused services or turned away from St. Martha's Regional Hospital. Minoli was responding to a comment made last week by a relative of Lionel Desmond, the former infantryman who fatally shot his wife Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah and his mother Brenda before turning the gun on himself last week in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. Rev. Elaine Walcott said she couldn't understand why Lionel Desmond was refused treatment. Walcott said Desmond was told there were no beds available at the facility. Minoli, a senior medical supervisor at St. Martha's, said the hospital's emergency room has never been closed, and hospital staff routinely work through bed shortages to provide care to anyone seeking help.

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B.C. UPS HOMEOWNER GRANT AS ASSESSMENT VALUES JUMP: Relief is on the way for British Columbia homeowners concerned that their soaring home values will exclude them from an annual grant and hike property taxes. Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced Tuesday the eligibility threshold for the province's homeowner grant program will increase by a third this year, to include properties with an assessed value of up to $1.6 million. The $400,000 jump from last year's limit will ensure that 91 per cent of homes across the province are eligible to receive a basic grant of $570, he said, adding the program will apply to 83 per cent of the homes in Metro Vancouver. The province's latest policy was in response to the hot real estate market in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, despite sales having tempered in recent months. De Jong told a news conference that the new program is aimed at people such as seniors who may have bought their home decades ago and seen a dramatic rise in the assessed value of their property and who would suffer if they no longer qualified for the homeowner grant.

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CONVICTED DRUNK DRIVER MUZZO SEEKS TO REDUCE DAMAGES SOUGHT BY FAMILY: A drunk driver who killed three children and their grandfather in a collision north of Toronto in 2015 says he is liable for the crash, but argues the amount of damages sought by the family of his victims is too high. The Neville-Lake family is seeking more than $25 million from Marco Muzzo and his family's drywall company, Marel Contractors. The suit argues their negligence caused the crash that killed nine-year-old Daniel Neville-Lake, his five-year-old brother Harrison, their two-year-old sister Milly and the children's 65-year-old grandfather, Gary Neville. Muzzo says in a statement of defence that the Neville-Lake family's damages should be reduced because he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison and therefore they are not entitled to punitive, exemplary or aggravated damages. The children's grandmother, Neriza Neville, and great-grandmother, Josefina Frias, were also seriously hurt in the September 2015 collision in Vaughan, Ont.

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GROUPS FILES LEGAL MOTION ON ENERGY EAST REVIEW: Environmental groups are calling for the Energy East pipeline review process to start from scratch now that the National Energy Board has formally appointed new members to the review panel. Transition Initiative Kenora filed a notice of motion Tuesday arguing that all decisions made by the prior panel members have been put into question after they stepped down because of questions about a potential conflict of interest last year. The Energy East hearings were stalled last fall after NEB chairman Peter Watson and vice-chair Lyne Mercier were accused of a conflict of interest for meeting privately with Jean Charest, who was a paid consultant at the time for the pipeline's backer, TransCanada, to discuss public opinion around the controversial project. "There's no way to remedy that, to fix that, by adding in a new panel and starting midway through the process. The only way to fix the problem is to start all over again from the beginning," said Teika Newton, executive director of Transition Initiative Kenora.

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JANE FONDA SAYS LISTEN TO FIRST NATIONS ON DEVELOPMENT:  Actor and longtime environmental activist Jane Fonda says Canada should listen to aboriginal people when they express concerns about resource development. Fonda is in the oilsands hub of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta on Tuesday to meet with local First Nations. She says she backs their opposition to new pipeline development from the oilsands. Fonda says she sympathizes with workers who are concerned about losing their jobs and supports the desire of some First Nations for greater prosperity. But she says renewable energy developments offer much greater economic spinoffs than what she calls a fossil fuel industry on its way out. Fonda is the latest in a long string of prominent people who have visited the oilsands, including musician Neil Young, Hollywood director James Cameron and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  

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The Canadian Press