New Delhi: Utilising the opportunity of the presence of leaders from South and South East Asian nations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again will push for making BIMSTEC group of countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal more meaningful than the previous time.As India-Pakistan bilateral relation has become a major roadblock for making SAARC a success, India is now trying to give more impetus to this grouping where Pakistan is not a member. Despite the hectic schedule of hosting heads of BIMSTEC nations, Modi finds a special time for visiting dignitaries for bilateral talks and special attention is being given to Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and the Prime Minister himself will meet him for a bilateral talk in Hyderabad House on 31st May. Incidentally, BIMSTEC Secretariat is situated in Dhaka and Bangladesh was asking for more human resources for the Secretariat. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoCModi had invited his Bangladesh counterpart for the swearing-in ceremony, however, Sheik Hasina won’t be able to attend the ceremony as she would be travelling to three nations tour which was prescheduled much before the date of swearing in ceremony was announced. Earlier, Hasina had sent a proposal to South Block to meet PM Modi on her way back from Finland on 8th June, however, after knowing that Prime Minister Modi would be travelling to the Maldives on the same day, Hasina decided to send President of that country for this ceremony. This implies how both the countries give importance to their bilateral relationship. Both the countries already enjoy a relationship which is termed as “beyond the strategic partnership.’ Also Read – Two squadrons which participated in Balakot airstrike awarded citationsBangladesh President is reaching here on Wednesday evening with a large delegation of Ministers and MPs for this occasion. Other leaders will be coming from Thursday early morning till late afternoon. Last to come is Prime Minister of Nepal, KP Sharma Oli in the afternoon. Before that Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth will arrive in the morning followed by Prime Minister of Bhutan, Dr Lotay Shering. Thailand would be sending its special envoy Grisada Boonarch as Thailand new Prime Minister is taking oath at the same time. Then U Win Myint, President of Myanmar, Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, President of Kyrgyz will be reaching one after another. On his second term, PM Modi wants to give a boost to the Act East Policy by implementing the much-awaited connectivity project which will, in turn, give results for robust economic activity. During the Lok Sabha polls Indian Government already approved the 150-metre long 4-lane bridge that would connect Tripura with Chittagong port in Bangladesh, which is only 70 km away from the Indo-Bangla border, and play an important role in the proposed economic corridor through India-Bangladesh-China and Myanmar. Indian officials clarified that it’s not included in China’s Belt and Road Initiative projects. The government has approved Tripura government’s proposal to set up a second integrated Check post in the state to build better trade, commerce and bilateral relations with neighbouring Bangladesh. Recently, India’s High Commissioner Riva Das Ganguly visited Agartala and discussed with Tripura Chief Minister Biplob Dev about this project. The decision came during an Inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Secretary of Border Management of the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi. The project would be implemented by Land Port Authority of India in the lines of Akhaura Integrated Check post which was set up in 2013. For the past few years, efforts to provide access of Chittagong Port to Northeast Indian states picked momentum. Meanwhile, a bridge is being built on River Feni, which divides India and Bangladesh on the southernmost tip of Tripura with an estimated expenditure of Rs 73 crore.
Paris: Novak Djokovic’s dream of becoming just the second man in history to hold all Grand Slam titles at the same time twice was crushed by Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros on Saturday. Thiem downed the world number one 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 to set up a repeat of last year’s final against 11-time winner and defending champion Rafael Nadal. Djokovic, who was second best to Thiem when it came to mastering the gloom, wind and damp of Paris, was bidding to join Rod Laver in the Grand Slam history books. Also Read – We don’t ask for kind of tracks we get: Bowling coach ArunHowever, it’s 25-year-old Austrian fourth seed Thiem who goes on to face Nadal where he will be buoyed by having defeated the 17-time major winner four times on clay in his career. He will also attempt to become just Austria’s second Grand Slam men’s champion after Thomas Muster won in Paris in 1995. Thiem did it the hard way, squandering a 4-1 final set lead and two match points before he sealed his place in the final. “It was an amazing match. It was my first five-set match at Roland Garros so it was a good one to have,” said Thiem after the four hour 13-minute match which was played over two days. Also Read – Bastian Schweinsteiger announces retirement, could join Germany set-up”To be in the semi-finals with the three best players of all time (Nadal beat Roger Federer in the other semi on Friday) is really amazing.” On the challenge of facing Nadal, who has had a day more to recover, he added: “It seems that anyone who gets to the final here plays Rafa. “He will be the favourite but I hope to just leave it all out on the court again and we will see.” The semi-final had been controversially suspended overnight Friday with Djokovic complaining about the ‘extreme wind’ in the stadium. When play was halted, with the top seed trailing 1-3 in the third set, there was still around two hours of daylight remaining. However, tournament organisers defended the decision after winds of up to 80km/h were forecast throughout the evening in Paris. “I congratulate Dominic, he played great, especially in the important moments,” said Djokovic. “Obviously, when you’re playing in hurricane-like conditions it’s hard to play your best.” On the resumption Saturday, Djokovic retrieved the break in the seventh game but slipped behind again in the match when Thiem converted a fourth set point. For his pains, the Serb picked up a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct having already been slapped with a time violation. Djokovic broke for a 2-1 lead in the fourth set only for the Austrian to level courtesy of an outrageous net cord which flew over the stranded Serb’s head. The top seed broke again for 3-2, held for 4-2 but the dogged Thiem would not relent and brought the set back on serve at 4-4. However, Djokovic prevailed to send the match into a decider. With the bulk of crowd support behind him, Thiem dug deep and stretched to a 4-1 lead in the decider as Djokovic’s error count at the net piled up. Rain then forced the players off for just over an hour. Djokovic rallied to break for 3-4 but handed the initiative right back, allowing Thiem to serve for the match. The Austrian had two match points but choked as Djokovic went to 5-5. There was one final twist as Djokovic’s 53rd unforced error on a wild forehand set up a third match point which the Austrian gobbled up with his 52nd winner. Nadal had powered past Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 as the 33-year-old booked a 12th appearance in the championship match.
Mumbai: Actress Sayani Gupta will be making her singing debut with Anubhav Sinha’s “Article 15”, and says she always wanted to sing for her films. She will lend her voice to the song, “Kahab toh”. “I have always wanted to sing in my films. It was like a dream waiting to get fulfilled,” the actress said in a statement. “I have grown up singing Bengali folk songs. And when I read about the song that my character sings in the film, I jumped! I told Anubhav Sinha and Anurag, the music director, that I sing and I sang for them in a corridor outside their office. It was almost like an impromptu singing audition. “They immediately were convinced that I should sing for myself! I could not thank Anubhav sir and Anurag enough for letting me do this. It’s the most exciting part for me,” she added. Gupta will be seen in a de-glam avatar in “Article 15”, which also stars Ayushmann Khurrana, Manoj Pahwa, Isha Talwar, Kumud Mishra and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub. The film aims to remind people about Article 15 of the Constitution, which prohibits any discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and how its value has been forgotten. Based on “shocking true events”, the film releases on June 28.
Kolkata: The West Bengal government is working on developing an infrastructure and allied eco-system for creation of content which would drive the economy in future, a senior official said on Wednesday. “Content will be in demand in the future. The government is trying to create an infrastructure and the required eco- system for creation of content as well as product development”, Additional Chief Secretary (IT and Electronics), Debashis Sen said at a seminar organised by ICC here. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellers He said the West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation (Webel), a nodal agency for the state government for the Electronics & IT industry, has also tied up with an animation academy which is in existence for one year and the first batch will pass out on July 19. They have learnt content creation during the period, he said. “The next billion users will move the economy in the fields of leisure, games, movies, entertainment and other things,” he said. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja Mentioning that IT professional from West Bengal residing elsewhere such as Bangalore and abroad were doing wonders, Sen said, “In this context, the West Bengal government has now decided to create cluster-based development in the form of Silicon Valley hub, Fintech hub and IT parks.” The government had also decided to introduce IT and digital education from Class 1 for the creation of an environment and an eco-system which would bring back the glory of the state, Sen added.
New Delhi: Differences between the promoters of the country’s largest airline IndiGo came into public on Tuesday with Rakesh Gangwal alleging serious governance lapses by co-founder Rahul Bhatia who had earlier termed his demands as unreasonable. With the issues brewing for nearly a year, Gangwal has sought markets regulator Sebi’s intervention to address the problems. In a filing to the stock exchanges, InterGlobe Aviation, the parent form of IndiGo, said its board of directors has received a letter from Gangwal and Sebi has also sought a response on the letter. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in SepThe markets regulator has been probing the matter since reports surfaced about differences between the promoters in May, sources said. “Sebi has in the meantime asked the company to give its response to this letter by July 19, 2019, with which the company will comply,” the filing said. Alleging that the company has “started veering off” from the core principles and values of governance, Gangwal has said that even a “paan ki dukaan” (betel shop) would have managed matters with more grace. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to CustomsFlagging concerns about certain questionable Related Party Transactions (RPTs), Gangwal said the shareholders’ agreement provides his long-time friend Bhatia unusual controlling rights over IndiGo. “Beyond just questionable Related Party Transactions, various fundamental governance norms and laws are not being adhered to and this is inevitably going to lead to unfortunate outcomes, unless effective measures are taken today,” the letter said. Gangwal and his affiliates have around 37 per cent stake in InterGlobe Aviation while Bhatia and his affiliates (IGE Group) have about 38 per cent.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Ayodhya mediation panel to continue negotiations to develop a consensus between Hindu and Muslim parties on the temple dispute issue. The apex court also urged the mediators to continue the court-monitiored process confidentially till July 31, as it would apparently enable the top court to pass further orders. The report will be submitted in the apex court on August 1. If required, the Supreme Court will tentatively fix the hearing of appeals on Ayodhya issue from August 2.
New Delhi: It was in July 1998 that the Supreme Court directed the Delhi government to augment its fleet of buses to 10,000 by April 2001, but over 20 years and six governments later, the total buses in the Delhi Trasport Corporation (DTC) cluster fleet stands at 5,576. According to the government data, till March 2019, the total functional buses in Delhi were 5,576 — 3,897 DTC buses and 1,679 cluster buses. The orange buses are operated under the cluster scheme, which was introduced in 2011 to replace the erstwhile blue line buses. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), however, is aiming to roll out about 4,000 more buses to make the count cross 9,500 by May 2020 — although its tenure is ending in February. Of the 4,000 new buses to be added, 1,000 will be standard floor cluster buses and 1,000 will be low floor cluster buses. Apart from clusters, 1,000 CNG low floor buses by DTC and 1,000 electric buses will also be added. In its manifesto in 2015 Assembly polls, the AAP said it will expand the bus services in the city. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings “We will expand bus services in the city on a massive scale, adding at least 5,000 new buses to the city fleet in five years. This will reduce the cost of transportation and pollution in the city,” party’s manifesto read. In February 2015, Arvind Kejriwal became the Chief Minister when the AAP swept the elections and bagged 67 of the 70 seats. But the promise to give 5,000 new buses could not be fulfilled in 4.5 years. The Kejriwal government has blamed non-availability of land for new depots and repeated failure of tenders issued by the DTC for procurement of buses. In July 2018, the Delhi government filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court saying the city is far from its total required 11,000 buses having just 5,554 operational buses. It said there were 1,275 low floor AC buses, 2,506 low floor non-AC buses, 101 green standard floor non-AC buses and 1,672 cluster buses. The data from the Transport Department claimed that there are 58 bus depots in the city till March, having a capacity to park 5,561 buses and are fully utilized. “By March 2020, the department is aiming to increase the number of depots in the city to 70 having a capacity to park 9,500 buses,” a Transport Department official said. Although the data from the Transport Department says the total buses by March were 5,567 in the city, another data released by the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi earlier this year claimed that there are 5,884 buses functional. It stated that there were 5,847 buses functional in Delhi in 2013-14, which went up to 6,118 in 2014-15. The number reduced to 5,659 in 2015-16 and in the next year it went up to 5,826 buses. The number fell to 5,884 in 2017-18 and remained constant for the last financial year 2018-19. It claimed that the city will get additional 3,000 buses by the next year and the count will be 8,884 functional buses. “Every year, a number of buses are scrapped when they were not found fit for usage, so the number may vary from time to time,” the Transport Department official added. The average daily ridership for DTC buses was 33 lakh between 2018-19, while that of cluster buses was 12.24 lakh. After Delhi Metro, the public buses are the most used public transport in the city. Collectively, the average daily ridership of the two buses is more than that of the Delhi Metro — 22.85 lakh.
Gurugram: Death of workers due to manual scavenging does not seem to cease despite various governments announcing that there will be the usage of technology to deal with the challenge.In Gurugram alone, as many as 10 workers lost their lives in the last two years while cleaning sewers. The data collected by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) shows that at least 50 workers died cleaning sewers in the first six months of 2019. This data, according to the commission, is a gross underestimate and includes figures of only eight states — Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Despite officials of MCG insisting that manholes are cleaned with machines, the situation on the ground paints a different picture.
CORNER BROOK, N.L. – One of Newfoundland’s oldest residents has died at the age of 108.An obituary says Mary Catherine Power died in Corner Brook on Wednesday.Power was born Mary Kelly in the northeastern Newfoundland town of Gambo in 1909, and her obituary says “she lived each day to the fullest” in the 108 years that followed.She was known as a successful businesswoman who operated a tourist home well into her late 80s.Power is survived by a daughter, three granddaughters and a large number of other relatives and friends.A funeral was held for Power on Friday in Corner Brook. (VOCM)
MONTREAL – Ex-ski coach Bertrand Charest is appealing his conviction on 37 sex-related charges, with documents filed Tuesday seeking an acquittal or a new trial.A lawyer for the former high-performance trainer has gone to the Quebec Court of Appeal, alleging a lengthy list of legal errors made by the trial judge.Quebec court Judge Sylvain Lepine called Charest a sexual predator when he convicted him last month on charges involving nine of the 12 women who’d accused him of crimes dating back more than 20 years.The judge said Charest’s actions constituted an unequivocal abuse of trust and power and said the victims, young aspiring skiers under Charest’s guidance, were all credible and reliable.In his appeal, defence lawyer Antonio Cabral took issue with the description of Charest as a “veritable predator.”“No evidence, no complainant, no expert came to establish this fact (that he was a predator) during the trial that took place before him,” he wrote.Cabral has raised nearly 20 legal issues in the appeal, including the credibility Lepine assigned to the victims.“In effect, there were numerous contradictions raised in cross-examination on essential elements of the infractions,” Cabral wrote, noting they were outlined in the defence’s 162-page final arguments.The 57 initial charges against Charest included sexual assault, sexual exploitation and one of sexual assault causing bodily harm. All but one was under the age of 18 at the time of the offences, with the youngest victim being 12.Charest, who didn’t testify at his trial, was acquitted on 18 of the charges, while the court said it didn’t have jurisdiction over two other counts related to incidents that occurred abroad.Some of the victims testified they had sexual relationships with Charest. Others said he touched them inappropriately.Some also said they felt they were in love with Charest at the time but eventually came to believe they had been manipulated.He was described as controlling and manipulative toward the athletes whose careers he managed.One former pupil testified she had to have an abortion when she was about 15 after getting pregnant following unprotected sex with Charest.The encounters continued afterward, with Charest purchasing contraceptives for her and getting a prescription from his own father.She testified she was young and in love with her coach and that Charest advised her to keep their relationship quiet because he would go to prison if it became known.Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions acknowledged Tuesday an appeal had been filed, but declined further comment.Some of the offences took place both before and during Charest’s stint with Alpine Canada’s women’s development team between 1996 and 1998. The national ski organization said in a statement after the verdict was rendered that it sent a message that abusing authority has no place in sports or in society in general.Charest has been detained since March 2015 arrest and the sentencing phase of his case is set to begin Aug. 23.
CHURCHILL, Man. – A ship has arrived in Manitoba’s northern port of Churchill, bringing fuel to heat the town through the winter and also carrying away a train that’s been stranded there since the rail line to the community washed out in the spring.Churchill mayor Mike Spence says the Nunalik arrived early Sunday and began offloading 2.2 million litres of propane in large cylinders, which were ordered by the Manitoba government.The town usually gets its heating fuel by rail, which is its only land link to the rest of Manitoba, but the track hasn’t been fixed and its owners are in a battle with the federal government over the responsibility for repairs.A Via Rail train was in Churchill when the floods hit and hasn’t been able to leave.For months, Via said it was deliberating options for what to do about the two locomotives and five passenger cars, but said in a news release earlier this month that it would take the train by ship to Montreal for maintenance.Some people in the town had discussed forming a blockade to prevent the train from leaving by ship, but the town issued a request on Friday asking people to allow workers to get the train loaded.“While the town’s desire was to see these rail cars be removed on a repaired rail line, we recognize that is not possible at this time,” the statement read.“Via Rail is an important partner in our community and will remain so well into the future.”Spence said people are disappointed the train is leaving by sea lift, but have not obstructed work to get the rail stock to the ship.He said they understand the train would be damaged if it sat all winter.“The community respects the fact that Via Rail is not the culprit here,” Spence said, noting the train would be loaded onto the Nunalik once the incoming cargo is on shore.The ship also brought other items, including a tundra buggy for a local tour operator.Via noted the train is already getting rusty, and that recovering it now will save time and money that would be needed to get it running again for when the line is repaired and service to Churchill can safely resume.“Should the equipment remain exposed to the elements much longer, it would require a comprehensive overhaul to ensure its safe return to operation,” Via said in a news release.The town of 900 is known for its polar bears and beluga whales, but has seen a drop in tourism numbers and goods and people have had to be flown in at high cost since the train stopped running.The 250-kilometre track is estimated to require $43 million in repairs.A recent report from independent engineering firm AECOM predicted that 60 days would be needed to get the track fixed well enough to handle lighter loads.Ottawa issued an ultimatum last week to Omnitrax, the Denver-based owners of the broken line, ordering the company to make the necessary repairs within 30 days of face an $18.8-million lawsuit.Omnitrax, which has been in talks to sell the rail line, responded by saying the rail line is no longer economically viable.—by Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton
QUEBEC – A crucifix that is prominently displayed in the room where members of the Quebec national assembly hold their regular sittings is staying put.The Liberal government has reaffirmed its unshakable attachment to the religious symbol which was placed there in the 1930s by then-premier Maurice Duplessis.It is located on the wall directly behind the Speaker’s chair in what’s known as the legislature’s Blue Room.The decision to keep the cross comes just days after the Liberal government adopted controversial legislation on religious neutrality.Quebec solidaire, a small opposition party, tabled a motion last week that would have left it up to the office that manages the legislature to decide the fate of the religious object.But the Liberal caucus decided after meeting Tuesday to reject the motion and the idea of taking down the crucifix.Caucus chair Filomena Rotiroti says there was a consensus among Liberal members, with many saying the cross is an intrinsic part of Quebec’s history.Francois Legault, the leader of the Coalition for Quebec’s Future, agreed the crucifix should stay.“We have a Christian heritage in Quebec and we cannot decide tomorrow that we can change our past,” he told reporters.“I don’t seen any problem keeping it.”
HALIFAX – Police in Halifax are investigating two separate cases of straight pins being found in Halloween chocolate bars, adding to a number of candy-tampering incidents across the region.Investigators said Wednesday officers were called to a home in Dartmouth last Wednesday after a parent found a straight pin inserted inside the wrapper of a chocolate bar.The next day, a 14-year-old girl was going through her Halloween candy when she also found a straight pin inserted inside the wrapper of a chocolate bar, police said.The children in those incidents had been trick-or-treating in the Crichton Park area and on Russell Street, Wyse Road and Victoria Road in Dartmouth.“The Forensic Identification Section will examine the candy bars for any evidence and continue with the investigations,” Halifax police said in a release Wednesday.“Police encourage parents and children to be vigilant in continuing to check all Halloween candy gathered and to report any incidents of candy tampering to police.”Candy-tampering incidents have also been reported in Timberlea, Eastern Passage and Kings County — and involved needles, a piece of metal, and a paper clip.“Nova Scotia RCMP continues to ask parents and caregivers to inspect treats that children have received this past Halloween. If you find a treat you feel has been tampered with, please contact your nearest detachment and keep the treat as evidence for the investigator,” RCMP said Tuesday.Meanwhile police in Fredericton and Bathurst, N.B., also reported foreign objects being found in Halloween candy in those cities.Ontario police forces have also reported multiple cases of tainted candy this year.In the Waterloo region, police said Friday that an 11-year-old Cambridge, Ont., girl underwent surgery after eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that contained a metal object.
TORONTO – Ontario’s plan to introduce legislation allowing retaliation against states that adopt Buy American policies is coming under fire from the Opposition, who says it’s nothing but a “last-ditch election ploy” from the governing Liberals.Vic Fedeli, the Progressive Conservatives’ interim leader, says the Liberals are responsible for the province losing its competitive advantage and their latest plan is just an attempt to deflect the blame.He says it’s a reckless move, particularly at a critical time in the negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement.Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Tuesday night that her cabinet would table a bill that would reduce procurement opportunities for states that adopt Buy American provisions by allowing provincial officials to write regulations targeting individual states.Wynne, who was in Washington, said the size of each punishment will be proportional to the size of the Buy American exclusion to avoid setting off escalating reprisals.She said the move was inspired by a recent infrastructure bill from the state of New York.
The Canadian government has issued a safety and security warning for travellers visiting Playa del Carmen in Mexico.The advisory notes that the United States issued an alert on Wednesday warning American citizens that information had been received about a security threat in the coastal resort town.U.S. government employees are currently not allowed to travel to the area until further notice.The warning comes in the wake of an explosion last month on a tourist ferry in Playa del Carmen, which injured more than 20 people.Another explosive device was found on a ferry last week, but did not detonate.The Canadian notice, which comes as many are preparing for spring break vacations, warns travellers “to exercise a high degree of caution in Playa del Carmen” and avoid taking tourist ferries.
OTTAWA – A quick look at May unemployment (previous month in brackets):Unemployment rate: 5.8 per cent (5.8)Employment rate: 61.5 per cent (61.6)Participation rate: 65.3 per cent (65.4)Number unemployed: 1,151,600 (1,155,000)Number working: 18,596,200 (18,603,700)Youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate: 11.1 per cent (11.1)Men (25 plus) unemployment rate: 5.2 per cent (5.3)Women (25 plus) unemployment rate: 4.8 per cent (4.6)
OTTAWA – As grisly details of the rape and death of eight-year-old Tori Stafford were being recounted by a Conservative MP during question period Wednesday, some MPs reacted with gasps of revulsion.But it wasn’t the specifics of the crime that upset members of Parliament. Rather it was the fact these details were being shared in the House of Commons that made politicians and others watching the debate recoil.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted by pleading with the Opposition Conservatives for more decorum.“I would ask them, please do not continue to increase the level of graphic detail read into the official record here,” he said.“This is not the way this house should be engaging.”It was the latest episode in what has been a week of heightened levels of rhetoric and vitriol that has even devolved into swearing and name-calling among MPs, both in the House of Commons and online.On Tuesday, New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash was asked to apologize shortly after using the F-word during question period. Saganash used the word as he accused Trudeau of not caring about Indigenous rights when it comes to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.All week, Conservatives have engaged in heated debate over concerns that Veterans Affairs Canada was funding PTSD treatment for Christopher Garnier, who was convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in 2015. The Conservatives have repeatedly cited details of the case, calling the payments “disgraceful.”These debates have spilled into social media, with several MPs regularly engaging in particularly caustic exchanges. In one such Twitter debate this week over the Garnier payment issue, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel called Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan a “ridiculous coward” and a “disgrace.”Concerns have been raised about the level of decorum in the House of Commons time and again, but there seems to be no consensus on how to improve things.Results from a recent survey of MPs, conducted in May and June by the Samara Centre for Democracy, found lawmakers from across the political spectrum were dissatisfied with the tone of debate. But no agreement could be found on possible reforms.MPs indicated they often don’t know what mechanical fixes are available, but as soon as one side or another offers an option, it becomes “infected with partisan politics,” said research director Mike Morden.“In part, I think it happens in the life cycle of a Parliament that you get to a point where frustration is starting to peak, and I think it’s often the case in the latter stages of a Parliament,” he said.But he says he has heard several close observers of federal politics who have remarked the events of the last week do not often “get this bad.”For his part, Trudeau has tried to stay above the fray.On Thursday, the prime minister took a measured and low-key tone to his voice when answering questions about the Stafford case. He also apologized to the speaker for his back bench getting too loud.He has not been blameless. Trudeau apologized last week for saying the word “damn” during question period as part of his response to a question.But a senior government official says Trudeau feels it is important to approach tragic cases like the Stafford murder and Garnier case with sensitivity.“I think there’s a line between partisan rhetoric and getting into details that don’t necessarily need to be read into hansard,” the official said on condition of anonymity.“The prime minister and even minister (House Leader Bardish) Chagger have said they are focused on raising the level of debate so that it’s fact-based, that’s it’s actually engaging debate on a variety of issues, and I don’t’ think that’s what we saw today or what we’ve seen in recent months.”— Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter
CALGARY — A lawsuit filed by a former firefighter and paramedic against Syncrude Canada claims the oilsands giant wrongfully denied him benefits and fired him after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder related to his job.Mike Swan is seeking damages for lost compensation and benefits, improper paycheque deductions and in lieu of reasonable notice, says a statement of claim filed Dec. 19 in Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.The suit is also asking for “moral or aggravated damages for bad faith throughout the employment relationship” as well as punitive damages.Swan has also complained to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.The allegations against Syncrude have not been proven in court and the company has not yet filed a statement of defence.Swan, 44, began working for Syncrude in 2002 as a heavy equipment operator at its vast mining operation north of Fort McMurray, Alta. In 2007, he joined the company’s fire department, which sometimes responds to calls in the surrounding community.“I was really good at it and loved it,” Swan said in an interview, a black lab named Jack who he’s training to be a service dog, at his feet.Swan said his PTSD built up over time and there was no single event that triggered it. On the job he had to deal with anything from injuries and illnesses to an explosion on site, he said.He said his adrenaline would ramp up every time and it was like flipping on a light.“But if you flip that switch that many times, it gets stuck on and you’re always at that level of agitation or awareness.”Swan was on his day off in Kelowna, B.C., in May 2016 when he got a call from work telling him to get back to Fort McMurray, where a fierce wildfire was rapidly spreading.Unbeknownst to him at the time, his PTSD was in full force.Swan was assigned to watch over a pharmacist who stayed behind during the city-wide evacuation to fill prescriptions. Swan said he would have been better off keeping busy fighting the blaze.“I remember feeling like I was vibrating, like there was nothing worse to me than not actually fighting the fire, and sitting in that parking lot just breathing smoke in.”Swan said the tipping point was when his then-fiancee left him, telling him she never knew what would set him off. His captain found him crying by an ambulance at work and suggested he get help through a company program.“It was useless. They wanted me to eat a salad and get some sleep.”His own psychologist, saying he’d likely had it for years, diagnosed Swan with severe PTSD in March 2017.At first, Swan thought he’d be back on the job after a few weeks.But the following May, his psychologist recommended he get full-time treatment, so he went off work.The statement of claim says Swan received the proper benefits and compensation until October 2017, when a mix-up at the Workers’ Compensation Board led to him losing a week of benefits and top-up pay.Then, in February of 2018, Syncrude told Swan he had to return to work within a week, even though his care team and the WCB did not think he was ready, the lawsuit claims. The statement of claim alleges his benefits and top-up payments were again suspended and improper deductions were made from his paycheque.The suit is seeking a declaration that Syncrude’s actions amounted to constructive dismissal.Syncrude fired Swan on Sept. 20 in what the lawsuit claims was wrongful dismissal.Company spokesman Will Gibson declined to comment on Swan’s specific case, but said “Syncrude values and supports its employees.”Swan said his disputes with Syncrude have worsened his mental health at a time when he should have been focused on getting better.He said he’ll never work as a firefighter or paramedic again because of his condition and he’s exploring retraining options through the WCB.The ordeal has ruined him financially, he added. His sister, with whom he’s been living in Calgary, has set up a GoFundMe page to help with legal and medical bills.“Think about every mental-health campaign that’s going on right now. What are they telling us? Put your hand up. Ask for help,” he said.“I asked for help. I’m still asking for help.”Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press OTTAWA — Jagmeet Singh’s political fate — and the fortunes of the New Democratic Party as a whole — are in the hands of voters today in a British Columbia riding.The NDP leader is running for a seat in the House of Commons in Burnaby South, one of three federal ridings holding byelections today.Many New Democrats believe it’s a do-or-die contest — that Singh cannot lead his party in this fall’s general election if he can’t get himself a seat in Parliament.Singh is hoping a victory tonight will give him much-needed visibility in the Commons in the run-up to the national vote in October, and put to rest grumbling within the NDP about his underwhelming performance since being chosen leader almost 18 months ago.But Singh’s problems go well beyond his lack of visibility on the main stage of federal politics. The former Ontario provincial politician has faced criticism about his seeming unfamiliarity with federal issues and his handling of internal caucus matters — particularly his decision to kick Saskatchewan MP Erin Weir out of caucus for alleged misconduct, which has infuriated many NDP stalwarts in the province seen as the cradle of the party.Under his leadership, the NDP has plunged to its lowest standings in public opinion polls since 2000, when it won just 13 seats. The party is mired in debt and its fundraising is sluggish. At least 11 of the 44 MPs who won seats for the party in 2015 have announced they won’t seek re-election this fall.While many NDP eyes will be glued to Burnaby South tonight, an arguably better gauge of the party’s election-year viability will be going on in Outremont — the Montreal riding vacated last summer by Singh’s predecessor, Tom Mulcair.The riding had been a Liberal stronghold until Mulcair scored an upset in a 2007 byelection. His victory turned Outremont into a beachhead for the NDP, which helped to launch the so-called orange wave that swept the province in 2011 and boosted the party to official Opposition status for the first time in its history. While the party held onto just 16 Quebec seats in 2015, Quebec MPs still make up more than a third of the NDP caucus.The betting among political insiders is that the Liberals will retake Outremont, which would be a welcome boost for the governing party’s morale in the midst of the SNC-Lavalin controversy — and a particularly bitter loss for the NDP. The symbolism of losing their erstwhile beachhead would only reinforce polls suggesting New Democrats are in danger of being wiped out altogether in Quebec this fall.But the blow would be softened, at least, if Singh is able to capture Burnaby South.It’s no sure thing. The B.C. riding is not a natural home for Singh, who formerly represented Brampton in the Ontario legislature. Nor is it a safe NDP riding: New Democrat Kennedy Stewart, who resigned to become mayor of Vancouver, took the riding in 2015 with just over 600 votes more than his Liberal opponent, with the Conservative candidate not far behind.While the byelection is thought to be a three-way race, being a party leader should give Singh an edge. The fact that the Green party has chosen not to run a candidate should also help.Moreover, the Liberals did themselves no favours by dumping their original candidate amid controversy over her suggestion that Singh being of “Indian descent” could help her win. The current Liberal contender, Richard T. Lee, could face headwinds of a different kind, created by the ongoing furor over allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould — who represents a nearby Vancouver riding — to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.The third byelection is being held in the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe, left vacant by the retirement of Peter Van Loan, who had held the seat for the Conservatives since 2004. He won with a healthy 50 per cent of the votes in 2015, and the Tories are expected to easily hang on tonight.All three contests will give the Conservatives a glimpse of what, if any damage, they might sustain from the advent of the breakaway People’s Party of Canada, formed by one-time Tory leadership contender Maxime Bernier. The byelections mark the first time Bernier’s fledgling party will actually be put to an electoral test.
Montreal’s new Samuel De Champlain Bridge will open to traffic on June 24, roughly six months behind schedule.Federal Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced the date today.The $4.2-billion bridge over the St. Lawrence River will open first to traffic headed to Montreal, and a week later, on July 1, the lanes headed off the island will open.But Ottawa and the consortium in charge of construction have still not resolved what penalty will be paid for the late completion of a project initially scheduled to be ready last December.Under the contract with the consortium, Signature sur le Saint-Laurent, penalties were set at $100,000 a day for the first seven days, then $400,000 a day for subsequent days, with a ceiling of $150 million. Analysts have said the penalty could hit $75 million.The 3.4-kilometre span will open in two phases to ensure a smooth, safe transition of traffic from the crumbling bridge it replaces, which was built in 1962.Champagne said in an interview there will be a price paid for the delay.“I have always said that if there are delays, there will be consequences,” he said. “The discussions are going to continue, because in a project of this size, there will always be demands.”If the two parties are unable to resolve their differences, it will be up to a court to decide, he added.The Canadian Press