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

Last Updated Feb 20, 2018 at 4:00 pm PDT

Ontario PC Interim Leader Vic Fedeli addresses the media at Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Tuesday February 20, 2018. The rift between Ontario's Progressive Conservative party factions continued to widen today as Fedeli said he had informed the executive of his lack of confidence in Patrick Brown hours before the ousted politician launched a bid to reclaim his job.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Feb. 20

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BROWN CLAIMS ‘INSIDERS’ WORKING AGAINST HIM: The former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives warned Tuesday that accounts questioning his integrity are likely to emerge in the coming weeks, claiming a small group of insiders is trying to derail his efforts to reclaim his old job ahead of a spring election. Patrick Brown, who stepped down last month amid sexual misconduct allegations before being booted from Tory caucus, has been fending off accusations of mismanagement and corruption during his time as leader. The 39-year-old Barrie, Ont., politician accused unnamed insiders of attempting to stop the party from moving forward — comments he made in a Facebook post that came shortly after the party’s interim leader voiced his lack of confidence in Brown as a candidate. Brown denied a story published by the Globe and Mail that said he discussed a $375,000 deal for a share of a restaurant he owns in Barrie and an unspecified number of Aeroplan miles with a man who would be acclaimed as a Progressive Conservative candidate in Brampton, Ont., five months later. The Canadian Press has not independently verified the allegations. Brown accused party staffers of leaking information to media.

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FORMER MANITOBA PREMIER GREG SELINGER TO RESIGN: Former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger says he will resign his legislature seat on March 7. NDP Leader Wab Kinew asked Selinger last week to step down following allegations that Stan Struthers — a cabinet minister when Selinger was premier — had inappropriately touched some female employees years ago. Selinger apologized but said he was unaware at the time that anything had happened. Some of the women said they raised their concerns with people within the government but their complaints were not dealt with. Selinger says he is sorry he became part of the focus of the complaints last week. He says people should have been concentrating on what the women had to say. “The focus properly should have been on hearing their voices,” he said in a release Tuesday. “It wasn’t, and I want to apologize for contributing to that.” He said he plans to retire after representing the constituency of St. Boniface since 1999. Selinger served as Manitoba premier between 2009 and 2016.

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DEFENCE SAYS THERE IS DOUBT IN TINA FONTAINE CASE: A defence lawyer is arguing that justice for a 15-year-old girl whose body was found dumped in a Winnipeg river shouldn’t mean injustice for the man charged with murder in her death. Tony Kavanagh says there is no DNA evidence linking 56-year-old Raymond Cormier to Tina Fontaine or the duvet cover her body was concealed in when it was found in August 2014. Kavanagh says the Crown can’t prove that Tina didn’t die from a drug overdose or naturally in what he called the “underbelly of the city.” He says that alone is enough to create reasonable doubt, and Cormier shouldn’t be convicted just because of his rough lifestyle. The Crown argues Cormier’s own words prove his guilt. He was recorded by police in a bugged apartment telling a woman that he would make a bet that Tina was killed because “I found out she was 15 years old.” In another, Cormier was heard arguing with a woman and saying that there was a little girl in a “grave someplace screaming at the top of her lungs for me to finish the job. And guess what? I finished the job.”

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PIPELINE CONSTRAINTS TO COST $10.7B IN 2018: Delayed oil pipeline construction is causing a steep discount for Canadian crude prices that is costing the economy roughly $15.6 billion a year, according to Scotiabank. “Pipeline approval delays have imposed clear, demonstrable and substantial economic costs on the Canadian economy,” said bank chief economist Jean-Francois Perrault in a report Tuesday. The discount, however, is expected to ease through the year as more rail capacity becomes available to ship oil, bringing the expected cost to roughly $10.7 billion or 0.5 per cent of GDP for 2018 and then to $7 billion or 0.3 per cent of GDP a year until more pipeline capacity comes online. The costs of the discount are increasing as delays continue for all three major proposed oil pipelines to export more oil from Western Canada, including Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement, and TransCanada’s Keystone XL. Canadian producers would need Line 3 and at least one of the other pipelines to go forward or face indefinite pipeline constraints that would have an impact on Canada’s well-being with consequences that extend well beyond Alberta, said Perrault.

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ALBERTA SHRUGS OFF B.C. TRADE CHALLENGE: Alberta’s economic development minister is shrugging off a legal challenge filed by British Columbia over Alberta’s ban on B.C. wine. Deron Bilous says the potential fine Alberta faces for violating free trade rules is a pittance when set against the stakes of the Trans Mountain pipeline issue. “Let’s compare the (maximum) $5 million in a fine versus the billions of dollars of investment and the thousands of jobs,” Bilous told reporters at the legislature Tuesday. “We know what our priority is, and that’s getting this pipeline built.” B.C. upped the ante Monday in its cross-boundary trade dispute with Alberta, by invoking the dispute settlement process over the wine ban under Canada’s free-trade agreement. Under the agreement, the two sides have four months to resolve the dispute before an arbitration panel kicks in. Bilous said Alberta won’t even come to the table unless B.C. reverses its decision to refuse additional oil from Alberta while it studies spill safety.

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B.C. BUDGET TRIES TO EASE FINANCIAL PINCH: British Columbia moved to ease the province’s housing crisis Tuesday with a new tax on property speculators and higher taxes on foreign homebuyers with a budget that plans to create 114,000 affordable housing units over the next decade. Finance Minister Carole James said the tax measures are part of the government’s aim to improve housing affordability in markets where some seniors are forced to live in their vehicles and young professionals are refusing to take jobs in B.C. because they can’t find a place to live. The minister defended the new and increased taxes in her budget as the right path to restore affordability. Easing the financial pinch felt by families was a recurring theme in the first full budget brought in by the NDP since it came to power last summer. B.C.’s housing crisis was a major issue in last year’s provincial election that saw the New Democrats form a minority government with the backing of the three-member Green caucus, ending the Liberals’ grip on power after 16 years in what was largely seen as a rebuke of its tight-fisted fiscal management that neglected spending on social programs.

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TRIP TO INDIA LANDS $1B IN INVESTMENTS, TRUDEAU SAYS: Some of India’s biggest companies say they will invest more than $250 million in Canada, in everything from pulp mills to pharmaceuticals and the IT sector. Canadian companies, meanwhile, plan to invest $750 million in India. The news came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent his third morning in India meeting six of the country’s most influential business tycoons, making deals that he says will create more than 5,800 new jobs in Canada. Trudeau initially said the entire $1 billion was money coming into Canada but his officials later corrected that it was a two-way trade number, with one-quarter coming from India into Canada, and the rest going the other way. More than half the $750 million Canadian investment in India comes from Toronto’s Brookfield Asset Management, which is spending $480 million to buy a 1.25 million-square foot office complex in Mumbai. Another $200 million comes from Fairfax India Holdings Corp. of Canada, which acquired a 51 per cent stake in the Catholic Syrian Bank in Kerala, India.

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LAWYER ADMITS HE LIED TO MUELLER’S FEDERAL AGENTS: A lawyer linked to a former Trump campaign official admitted Tuesday he lied to federal investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller. Alex van der Zwaan, who worked at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom until he was fired last year, appeared at the federal courthouse in Washington where he formally pleaded guilty to a single charge of making false statements. The charge does not involve election meddling or relate to the Trump campaign’s operations, but stems from a part of the special counsel’s investigation into Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair, and Rick Gates, a former campaign aide and longtime business associate of Manafort. Van der Zwaan is accused of lying to investigators about his interactions with Gates during an interview with the FBI late last year, according to court papers. His plea comes on the heels of an extraordinary indictment from Mueller last week that charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies in a hidden social media effort to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by denigrating Democrat Hillary Clinton and boosting the chances of Trump.

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SAFETY BOARD NOTES JUMP IN AVIATION INCIDENTS: The number of incidents involving commercial aircraft flew above the average last year, raising calls from an airline pilots’ association for the Liberals to boost spending on safety oversight. Figures released Tuesday from the Transportation Safety Board showed there were 94 incidents in 2017 involving commercial aircraft operators, a jump from the 63 recorded in 2016 and higher than the five-year average of 79 incidents. Large passenger airliners were involved in nine of those incidents last year. In 2016, the figure was one. The board also said the first known collision between a commercial aircraft and a drone was among the 921 overall aviation incidents last year. A complete statistical report on 2017 accident rates will be released this spring. The Transportation Safety Board said the increase in airline incidents overall last year is partly due to a higher number of flight training accidents. There was also the first fatal accident in six years: One passenger died after a December crash in Fond-du-Lac, Sask., the first such death involving a Canadian aircraft since 2011 when a First Air flight crashed in Resolute Bay, Nunavut.

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OTTAWA TO UNVEIL E-VEHICLE STRATEGY IN 2018: Electric car advocates are hoping to get a signal in next week’s federal budget that the government is prepared to support sales across the country even as Ontario overtook Quebec for selling the most electric vehicles last year. Cara Clairman, CEO of electric vehicle advocacy group Plug’n Drive, says Transport Minister Marc Garneau has received a wide range of recommendations from an advisory committee, including the adoption of national financial incentives. Electric Mobility Canada has recommended that Ottawa eliminate the GST on electric vehicle sales, which it estimates will cost about $50 million a year. Delphine Denis, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Marc Garneau, declined to indicate if any such measures will be unveiled in the budget. With transportation accounting for about 24 per cent of Canada’s emissions, she said the government’s zero emission vehicle strategy to be unveiled this year will help accelerate commercialization and support efforts to bring new technologies to market.