Harper's riding up for grabs

Byelections will be held on April 3 to fill five vacant seats in the House of Commons, including the one formerly held by Stephen Harper.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the byelections for his Conservative predecessor's riding of Calgary Heritage, as well as Calgary Midnapore, formerly held by one-time Harper minister Jason Kenney.

Kenney is now running for the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party.

Byelections will also be held in the Montreal riding of Saint-Laurent and the Toronto-area riding of Markham-Thornhill, both of which were left vacant after veteran Liberal ministers Stephane Dion and John McCallum were named to plum diplomatic posts as part of a cabinet shuffle last month.

In addition to those four, Trudeau called an April 3 byelection for Ottawa-Vanier last weekend.

The seat has been vacant since the death last August of veteran Liberal MP Mauril Belanger from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Charges in death of 14 dogs

A charge of negligence has been laid in the deaths of 14 large-breed dogs last year at a Saskatoon boarding kennel.

Police say the charge follows an investigation done in conjunction with the Saskatoon SPCA, which found the dogs died from heat stroke and dehydration at the Playful Paws Pet Centre last September.

Investigators say the animals were left unattended overnight and were without water in a room that was dangerously warm.

A 50-year-old Saskatoon man is to appear in provincial court March 29 to face the charge under the Animal Protection Act.

A message posted on the pet centre's Facebook page after the deaths said a mechanical failure in a rooftop heating unit caused it to continuously pump warm air into one of its upstairs kennel rooms and that staff were devastated by the deaths.

Patricia Cameron, executive director of the Saskatoon SPCA, said at the time that there are no licensing regulations for kennels.

Cdn attacked with machete

Police in Thailand have arrested two men accused of slashing a Canadian man with a machete while trying to steal a gold necklace from his female companion last week.

The Bangkok Post reported in its online edition that Canadian Philip Sullivan, 68, and King Kulkaew of Bangkok had left a restaurant on foot last Wednesday in the southern city of Chumphon when they were followed by a pickup.

Then, at a quiet spot near the restaurant, police say one suspect allegedly left the vehicle and tried to snatch King's gold necklace.

Police say Sullivan intervened and was hacked on the right arm and neck and is now in stable condition. His companion suffered bruising.

Chumphon police chief, Maj.-Gen. Sonthichai Arwattanakul says the suspects fled without the necklace and were later identified through security camera footage.

The newspaper says the two suspects, Yutthana Chumworathaayee, 36, and Sarawut Katerat, 35, were released from prison only three months ago after being convicted of attempted murder and assault.

There was no immediate information on Sullivan's hometown.

No alarms in fatal fire

Ontario's Office of the Fire Marshal says there were no working smoke alarms in a Brampton home where a fire killed three members of the same family last week.

Spokeswoman Carol Gravelle says according to the Ontario Fire Code, smoke alarms must be installed on every floor and outside all sleeping areas of Ontario homes.

Gravelle says it will be up to Brampton's fire department to decide if charges will be pursued against the owner of the home that was being rented by the family.

A mother, father and their daughter died in the fire that broke out before dawn last Tuesday.

The couple's other daughter suffered severe burns when flames and heavy smoke spread quickly through the home. The girl was saved by a man in a basement apartment who kicked his way in to the main floor home to rescue the child.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

The most congested city?

Montreal was found to be the most congested Canadian city, according to new analysis of traffic congestion around the world.

Montreal drivers spent 52 hours in traffic jams during peak time periods in 2016.

Traffic consultant Rick Leckner said its largely due to the many construction projects throughout the city.

"The combination of improper planning, three major projects and regular maintenance is making congestion worse," he said. 

No shock that Toronto is Canada’s second most-congested city with 45.6 hours spent stuck in traffic. St. John’s, Ottawa and Vancouver round out the top five. 

As frustrating as their daily commutes can be, Canadians count their blessings. Commuters in L.A. spent 104 hours stuck in traffic during peak times last year, according to Inrix.

-with files from CTV Vancouver 

Dog saves kids in snow fort

A Nova Scotia man is praising the efforts of the family dog for helping save him and two young boys who were buried under a heavy mountain of snow after their fort collapsed on top of them.

Steve Bayers, his son Ben and his friend Adam Inch were building a snow fort in Lawrencetown on Saturday when the roof suddenly caved in, pinning the man's arms and legs underneath him.

"(Ben and Adam) were laying down in there taking a break inside the fort and I was shaving some snow off the ceiling with a small plastic shovel. Snow was falling on them and everybody was laughing and having a great time. And then the lights went out," said Bayers in a phone interview Tuesday.

Bayers said the two boys were just feet away from him, screaming in the pitch black, but he couldn't move under the weight of the snow to help them. He told the two 13-year-old boys not to panic and to keep breathing.

Bayers said it seemed impossible to get out until his five-year-old golden retriever, Zoose, began digging him out of the snow.

"I heard a bark and felt a tugging on my jacket, so I knew it was my dog," said Bayers, adding that he's not sure how long he was trapped under the dense snow.

"He was trying to pull me out. So at that point, I got my bearings and I knew my back was close enough to an exit that if I could free my limbs up and get my leg untangled, there was a chance I could get out."

Bayers managed to free himself and began calling for help, alerting a neighbour and three friends, who ran over and started shovelling through the heaps of snow to find the two boys.

He says they were buried in the pile for about 10 minutes.

Bayers described it as a "near-fatal incident." He wanted to tell his story to warn others about the dangers of snow forts and tunnels.

Slain bus driver laid to rest

Family, friends, and bus drivers gathered to say goodbye to a Winnipeg Transit driver brutally killed on the job.

The service for 58-year-old Irvine Jubal Fraser was held Tuesday at Calvary Temple.

He was stabbed at the University of Manitoba during the last stop of his shift in the early hours of Feb. 14 as he tried to get a lone passenger off the bus.

Brian Kyle Thomas, 22, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Winnipeg Transit drivers observed a moment of silence in honour of their slain colleague and those not at the service pulled over at safe locations and stopped their buses for one minute of silence.

The signs on the front of Winnipeg buses said “Rest in Peace #521" — Fraser’s operator badge number.

Buses in Regina also showed support for Fraser by putting black ribbons on the driver's side mirror.

“I think it’s more of a brotherhood and supporting that, again, we have a Canadian operator in service that was killed and again, just showing our support for that,” said Brad Bells, the City of Regina's director of transit.

Fraser’s son Tristan called his father the best man he knew, and said 'he’d never tell you no.’

Friends also shared fond memories of Fraser, known to many by his middle name Jubal.

He was remembered as a talkative, kind person who loved playing cards.

The pastor presiding over the service told the crowd Fraser’s life mattered, calling on the crowd to grieve together during this difficult time.

John Callahan, president of the union that represents Winnipeg bus drivers, said he was to meet with city Coun. Marty Morantz to discuss how to increase safety for drivers.

The union has called for dedicated transit cops, shields to protect operators, and it doesn’t want drivers to be responsible for fare collection anymore.

Cops say they're bullied

A group of Calgary Police Service employees plans to submit formal bullying and harassment complaints to the chief to push for changes they say are desperately needed.

Const. Jennifer Magnus, who publicly resigned at a Calgary Police Commission meeting last month, and 12 other employees say the culture of the service protects those who are involved in abusive behaviour in the workplace.

Now Magnus says she's not resigning, because she hopes the complaints will change the culture at the police service.

Magnus told a Calgary radio show that she's holding off on resigning until she speaks further with Chief Roger Chaffin.

The group says that in some cases complainants were told by their superiors that nothing would be done if they filed a grievance, while in others the police union advised some employees it would not take on blue-on-blue complaints.

Lawyer Rachel West says Magnus had a positive meeting with Chaffin last week, and says he's committed to investigating the complaints.

"They cannot turn to the individual and say, 'Look, if you make a complaint, your complaint not only will not be heard, nothing will happen and this is a career-limiting move, do you really want to do this?' That can't be the culture," West said.

Magnus, a 14-year veteran of the force, broke down in tears at the Jan. 31 public Calgary Police Commission meeting over sexual harassment and bullying she says she faces on the job.

She tendered her resignation, and after her presentation, police Chief Roger Chaffin came over, put a hand on her shoulder, and said he would not accept it.

Magnus read from a statement outlining how she had decided to stand up for other members as well as civilian staff who were trying to seek "equality and justice."

She and another officer went to former chief Rick Hanson with their concerns, which led to a human resources audit in 2013.

She said she thought the CPS would hear their concerns and complaints and act to remedy the problem, but instead she told the meeting she was "blamed and disliked for taking a stand for what was right.''

Wrong time to call 911

Police say a teen ticketed for speeding in eastern Ontario apparently couldn't wait to go to court to contest the charge — he called 911.

Ontario Provincial Police say the 19-year-old was stopped early Sunday afternoon on Highway 401 in Leeds and the Thousand Islands Township.

After the traffic stop, police say the driver promptly called 911 to dispute contents of the ticket.

They say an officer went to see him, addressed his concerns and "educated him on the proper use of the 911 system."

Const. Sandra Barr says "option number three on the back of your ticket" — going to court — is the way to fight a charge.

Acting Insp. Mike Francis says non-emergency or prank 911 calls defer operators from answering real emergency calls.

"An emergency is any situation when the safety of people or property is at risk and requires immediate assistance," Francis said Tuesday in a news release.

Roblox warning issued

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is warning parents following reports of sexually suggestive messages being sent through the popular Roblox children's gaming environment.

Roblox is a user-generated gaming environment where children are encouraged to create adventures using their avatar, play games and connect with friends in a multiplayer environment that claims to more than 44 million active users.

The centre said Tuesday it has received reports about requests to meet in person and sexually suggestive chat messages being sent to children under the age of 12 within Roblox.

Children can easily be exposed to inappropriate conversations or redirected to inappropriate content on other sites through the chat feature, it said.

"The safety of our community is a top priority and we're constantly assessing and improving our trust and safety measures," Roblox said in an email.

Spokesman Brian Reinert said Roblox has instituted chat filtering software created specifically to find offensive language and flag it.

"All accounts for users that are under the age of 13 are set to only communicate with friends," Reinert said.

And he said the company has a moderator network to "review every image, audio, and video file" that is uploaded to the Roblox site or into any of its games.

The centre suggests that before allowing children to start playing a particular game, parents should explore it themselves first and possibly turn off the chat component.

Parents should teach children to check with them before using new apps or games or sharing any information online, and not to respond or click on messages or links from someone they don't know, the centre said.

Wacky frozen hair contest

Think of the frost fairy on a really bad hair day.

Those are the prospective winners at the Takhini Hot Pools hair-freezing contest that have captured the attention of many through the Internet.

Andrew Umbrich, owner of the hot pools just outside of Whitehorse, says the competition started off in 2011 as a small event that took place over a few weeks every February during the annual Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival. But things got a bit hairy in 2015 when a few people from France and one person from Quebec submitted a video of some fantastic frozen hair.

Before then, the coiffure competition would only see about 10 contestants a year, but so far this year they've had 35 photo submissions and Umbrich said they expect many more.

Conditions need to be just right, he said. While the hot springs are always around 42 Celsius, the air has to get at least minus 20 to get the right ice sculpt.

"It's still possible to freeze your hair at (warmer) temperatures, but it just takes a lot longer."

Beards and long locks are best for sculpting, he said, because they allow for ice-covered hair styles that can resemble anything from a Mohawk to Medusa with a frosted coating.

Getting the exact coif take some skill and a bit of experimentation, Umbrich said.

"When you're sitting in 42-degree water, there’s a lot of steam coming up. And when its minus 20, 30, 40, the steam is even more pronounced.

"First you wet your hair and all that steam gathers on your wet hair and it freezes very quickly when it meets the minus-40 air."

In the right conditions it takes from 10 to 15 minutes for hair to freeze.

"Some people even use a bit of snow to accelerate it," he added.

Umbrich said he's never heard complaints of hair breaking or getting damaged, and the frosty coating disappears the moment it's dunked back in the water.

Of course, the disadvantages are that it can be cold out of the water, especially for your ears, he said.

"But all they do is just dip their ear in the water. Other than that, you're in 42-degree water. If anything, you might be too hot."

The first-place winner gets $750 and a complementary 30-soak membership, while second and third place get $200 and $100 respectively, along with complementary passes.

Former PM on current PM

Canada should work to strengthen its ties with China and other countries while ensuring it maintains a good relationship with the United States, former prime minister Paul Martin said Tuesday.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sought to deepen Canada's ties to China, he's also building a relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump who has taken an anti-China stance in many of his comments.

"The Trudeau government should do exactly what it's doing, which is to look to our needs," Martin said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"And our needs require, obviously, that we have good relationships with the United States and, obviously, that we should establish sound relations with other countries — including China."

Martin said pension reform is one of the areas where Canada and China have common interests, because each faces the challenge of a retirement population that's growing faster than its workforce.

"We have an aging population and we, obviously as a country, have to deal with it," he said.

Canada and China will each have only about 2.5 workers per retiree by 2046 — compared with Canada's current ratio of four-to-one and China's ratio of about seven-to-one as of 2016, according to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Martin made his comments following the official launch of a Chinese-language edition of "Fixing The Future," a 380-page book about the creation of the CPPIB in 1997 while he was federal finance minister.

The CPPIB's fund has since grown to nearly $300 billion — making it the biggest retirement fund in Canada — although it shares the world stage with retirement funds managed by Quebec's Caisse de depot and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

Martin said the CPPIB's collaboration with China's pension reform efforts is the "kind of thing we should be doing."

"At the same time," he added, "we should be establishing the best relationship we can with our largest trading partner, which is the United States."

Asked if he had advice for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Martin replied: "I think the prime minister is doing very well."

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