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Five-year-old life saver

She's only five years old, but Lexi is being hailed as a hero.

The B.C. girl helped save the lives of her mother and baby brother following a car accident in which she hiked barefoot up a steep embankment to flag down a passerby for help.

Angela Shymanski, Lexi's mom, said she, Lexi and and four-month-old Peter, were driving home to Prince George from a vacation in Alberta last month when she began to feel drowsy.

She told herself she would pull over once she reached Jasper, to get some rest, but about 15 kilometres outside of the city, her SUV left the road and went down a 12-metre embankment, crashing into a tree.

Angela was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken back and internal injuries.

Lexi woke up to her baby brother’s cries, and somehow knew she needed to get help.

The little girl managed to unclip the harness on her car seat, which was lodged up against the seat in front of her, open the smashed car’s passenger door, and climb up the rugged embankment without any shoes.

Lexi then flagged down a vehicle and told the driver what had happened.

The first passerby to stop hiked down and took baby Peter out of the vehicle, but was unable to pull Angela to safety on his own, so he went back up to the road to flag down another driver. Angela said the next person to stop was a paramedic who knew to not try to move her.

Her broken back had caused a bone fragment to lodge inside her spinal column, about half a centimetre from her spinal cord.

“If they would have jostled me a little bit, I might have been completely paralyzed,” she told Metro News. “It’s hard to know.”

After the crash, the family was taken by ambulance to a health-care centre in Jasper, and later airlifted to hospital in Edmonton. Peter was also injured, suffering a serious brain bleed. The infant was rushed into surgery and seems to be recovering, his mom said.

Angela said Lexi’s only injury appeared to be a small scratch, but she's now complaining of neck pain that appears to be the result of soft tissue injury. 

Six weeks later, Angela still has significant pain and spends most of her time resting in a hospital bed in the family living room. 

She was told the location where she crashed wasn't visible from the highway, and things could have been a lot worse if not for the heroic actions of her daughter.

Angela had also told her husband she'd be taking a different route home. So, if not for Lexi going for help, search and rescue crews may not have figured out where they were for a long time.

“It was only because she came up and flagged people down that anybody would have stopped,” said the proud mother.





Dead-of-summer campaign

Canada faces a "critical decision" about its best way forward, Stephen Harper said Sunday as he triggered what promises to be one of the longest, most expensive and most bitterly fought election battles in the country's political history.

As tourists swarmed Parliament Hill and blinding summer sunshine bathed Rideau Hall, Harper emerged to confirm that Gov. Gen. David Johnston had indeed dissolved Parliament, launching the longest campaign in Canada since 1872.

He wasted no time trying to frame the so-called ballot-box question.

"Canadians will make a critical decision about the direction of our country, a decision with real consequences, a decision about who has the proven experience today to keep our economy strong and our country safe," Harper said.

"I will be asking Canadians for their support to continue to deliver sound economic management and to take the difficult decisions necessary to protect our country's security."

A national election "is not a popularity contest," he added — presumably a reference to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who now has just 11 weeks to silence those critics who have long accused him of being more sizzle than steak.

Heading into the campaign, the Conservatives find themselves lagging behind Tom Mulcair and the NDP in the polls, with the Liberals running third. But make no mistake: for the first time since anyone can remember, all three main parties have a legitimate shot at forming a government after Oct. 19.

Across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Que., with the emblematic Peace Tower looming in the distance, Mulcair called for change on Parliament Hill after nearly a decade of Conservative rule.

"Wages are falling, incomes are stagnant and household debt is skyrocketing ... middle class families are working harder than ever but can't get ahead," Mulcair said.

"The economy has shrunk in each of the last five months and many are claiming that Canada is already in another recession ... clearly, Mr. Harper, your plan isn't working."

In Vancouver, Trudeau accused the Conservatives of planning to grow the economy by making "wealthy people wealthier." The election, he said, is about which party can give middle class Canadians a real and fair chance to succeed.

"You want change that works for you," Trudeau said.

In addition to being the longest campaign in more than a century, it promises to be the costliest ever, with taxpayers contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to help Elections Canada oversee the vote, and rebates to the parties for every dollar they spend.

Combined, the parties could spend more than $53 million on their national campaigns, and candidates on average about $214,000 — more money than they've ever been allowed to spend before.

The increase in spending limits — up from about $25 million for parties and $101,000 on average for candidates — is a result of the Conservative government's Fair Elections Act, which upped the spending limits for every day a campaign runs beyond the traditional campaign period of 37 days.

Harper said he called the campaign earlier than usual because his rivals were already campaigning, and doing it on the public dime.

It's important, he said, "that the money come from the parties themselves, not from the government resources, parliamentary resources or taxpayer resources."

He also acknowledged that his party was on the best financial footing to run an extended campaign, sitting on significantly more cash than the NDP, Liberals, Greens or Bloc Quebecois.

"In terms of the advantages this party has, in terms of the fact that we are a better financed political party, a better organized political party and better supported by Canadians, those advantages exist whether we call this campaign or not," he said.

"What we do by calling this campaign is making sure we are all operating within the rules and not using taxpayers' money directly."

Green party Leader Elizabeth May, speaking in Sidney, B.C., chastised Harper for setting up an unfair system that would cost taxpayers "tens of millions of dollars" and give the Tories an unfair advantage.

Canadians "deserve MPs who put Parliament ahead of party" and can set aside "hyper-partisanship for citizenship," May said.

Harper stands to become the first prime minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1908 to win four consecutive elections.

His party has used its bulging war chest to deliver attack ads against Trudeau for months, including ever-present radio and TV spots that describe the Liberal leader as "just not ready" to be prime minister. Liberal insiders admit they've been effective, contributing to the Liberals' slow decline in the polls to third place from their front-running status over the previous two years.

NDP insiders have also suggested they were happy for Harper to focus on Trudeau, hoping it would push voters to the official Opposition, which has set it sights on improving on its breakthrough electoral performance in 2011.

Late Friday, the Conservatives suddenly turned their sights on Mulcair with similar attack ads depicting him as an unethical, opportunistic "career politician." Having helped drive Liberal support to the NDP, they've now evidently decided they need to blunt Mulcair's momentum as well.

The Canadian Press


Fahmy verdict postponed

An Egyptian court postponed announcing a verdict in the much criticized case of Mohamed Fahmy once again on Sunday — a move the Canadian journalist described as "crippling."

The delaying of the verdict to Aug. 29 marks the latest of several postponements in the long-running legal saga that has been denounced by press freedom advocates and human rights activists.

"It's crippling our lives," a frustrated Fahmy said of the postponement.

Fahmy spent more than a year in prison before a successful appeal of an earlier conviction resulted in his current retrial.

The 41-year-old's troubles began in December 2013 when he was working as the Cairo bureau chief for Qatar-based satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English.

Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed were detained and charged with a slew of offences, including supporting the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, a banned organization affiliated with ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, and with fabricating footage to undermine the country's national security.

After a trial which was decried as a sham, they were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms before their appeal led to a fresh trial being ordered.

Greste was suddenly allowed to leave Egypt before their retrial began, under a law which allows for the deportation of foreign nationals convicted of crimes.

Fahmy gave up his dual Egyptian citizenship while behind bars in the hopes that he could follow the same path, but that didn't happen. He was, however, granted bail in February shortly after his second trial got underway.

Fahmy's brother, Adel, told The Canadian Press from Cairo that Sunday's latest postponement of the verdict has added to the suffering of not only his brother, but the entire family.

"I know he's suffering very much, and not able to sleep well, or eat well. And now he has a teaching job at UBC in British Columbia starting in September and you know his whole life, and ours, has been crippled," he said.

Adel Fahmy said no official reason was given for the postponement — that the judge who usually presides over the case didn't show up and that another judge came in and simply announced, without explanation, that the verdict had again been delayed.

Fahmy's high-profile lawyer Amal Clooney noted that the postponement of Fahmy's verdict now meant it would be delivered after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped a visit to Egypt, and after the country celebrated the opening of a new Suez Canal waterway

"The verdict may be coming later; but the world will still be watching," she said. "In a case where even Egypt’s Supreme Court (and the Supreme Court prosecutor) have admitted that there is no evidence to support the charges, the only just conclusion that can be reached by the judges is a full acquittal."

If Fahmy wasn't acquitted, Clooney said Egypt's president must "promptly intervene to rectify this injustice."

Throughout the proceedings Fahmy has pointed out that his case had been complicated by politics in the Middle East, referring to himself as a "pawn" in a rift between Egypt and Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera.

Egypt and Qatar have had tense relations since 2013, when the Egyptian military ousted Morsi amid massive protests.

Qatar is a strong backer of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and Cairo accuses Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for Morsi's supporters — charges denied by the broadcaster.

The Canadian government has said it has raised Fahmy's case with Egyptian officials "at the highest level" and called for his immediate return to Canada ahead of Thursday's verdict.

Fahmy moved to Canada with his family in 1991, living in Montreal and Vancouver for years before eventually moving abroad for work, which included covering stories for the New York Times and CNN.

The Canadian Press


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It's official - election on

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has asked Governor General David Johnston to dissolve Parliament, touching off an 11-week campaign in advance of an election Oct. 19.

Harper made the announcement today outside Rideau Hall, square in the middle of the August holiday weekend, ending months of speculation and conjecture about when the campaign would begin.

He was quickly peppered with media questions about why he was subjecting Canadians to a campaign that promises to be the longest in more than a century and the costliest in the country's political history.

Simple, Harper replied: Conservative rivals are already campaigning, and they're doing it on the public dime.

"If we're going to begin our campaigns and run our campaigns, that those campaigns need to be conducted under the rules of the law, that the money come from the parties themselves, not from the government resources, parliamentary resources or taxpayer resources," he said.

"In terms of the advantages this party has, in terms of the fact that we are a better financed political party, a better organized political party and better supported by Canadians, those advantages exist whether we call this campaign or not.

"What we do by calling this campaign is making sure we are all operating within the rules and not using taxpayers' money directly."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was scheduled to launch his party's campaign moments after Harper's event; Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is scheduled to make a statement later in Vancouver, where he is attending that city's Pride parade.

Harper stands to become the first prime minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1908 to win four consecutive elections.

The very rarity of that feat goes a long way towards explaining his real reasons for choosing to formally call Canada's 42nd election in the middle of a holiday weekend in the dead of summer, triggering a gruelling, 11-week marathon rather than the five-week sprint that's typified federal campaigns in recent times.

The unusually long campaign activates an obscure provision in the Harper government's overhaul of election laws last year, allowing parties and their candidates to spend more than double the spending limits of $25 million and $100,000, respectively, that would have applied for a minimum 37-day campaign.

Having amassed vastly more money than any other party, the increased spending limits give the Conservative party and its candidates a huge advantage over their more impoverished rivals.

It's been clear for weeks how the ruling party intends to use its financial advantage: to carpet bomb the air waves with attack ads.

Conservative ads trashing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as "just not ready" to be prime minister have been ever-present on radio and television for more than two months already. Liberal insiders admit they've been effective, contributing to the Liberals' slow decline in the polls to third place from their front-running status over the previous two years.

Late Friday, the Conservatives suddenly turned their sights on NDP Leader Tom Mulcair with similar attack ads depicting him as an unethical, opportunistic "career politician." Having helped drive Liberal support to the NDP, they've now evidently decided they need to blunt Mulcair's momentum at the outset of the campaign.

The shifting targets of the Tory ads reflect the tricky two-front war facing the governing party.

At a time when the economy has tanked and polls suggest two-thirds of the electorate are looking for a change, the Conservatives risk driving change seekers to coalesce behind the NDP if they attack the Liberals too hard, and vice versa. They'll attempt to strike a balance, attacking both and warning that the economy is too fragile to risk putting it in the spendthrift hands of either Mulcair or Trudeau.

But Mulcair and Trudeau also face two-front wars — with each other as much as with Harper. Each will be attempting to prove that his party is the vehicle that can defeat the Conservatives and provide real change. And in doing so, they'll be fighting not just to win the election but, potentially, for the very survival of their respective parties.

Should Harper win a minority, the two opposition parties will come under pressure to form a coalition to snatch power from him. Should he win another majority, they'll come under pressure to merge outright and stop splitting the progressive vote.

In either scenario, the opposition party that emerges strongest on Oct. 19 will have the upper hand; the weaker party could face possible extinction.

The Canadian Press


Harper election campaign

Stephen Harper has an appointment at Rideau Hall today, where he's expected to trigger an 11-week election campaign in advance of an Oct. 19 vote.

An advisory from the Prime Minister's Office says Harper is scheduled to meet with Governor General David Johnston at 10 a.m. ET.

If Harper indeed asks Johnston to dissolve Parliament, it would touch off a rare summer campaign that promises to stretch nearly three months — the longest in more than a century.

It's also expected to be the costliest campaign ever, as well as the first in which three parties all have a legitimate shot at winning — a sure formula for a vicious, no-holds-barred battle.

Harper stands to become the first prime minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1908 to win four consecutive elections.

He's expected to get the Conservative campaign underway at a rally later Sunday in Montreal, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will be in Vancouver to attend that city's Pride parade.

So far, the New Democrats have said little about their plans, other than on Friday, when they made it clear they would not take part in any leaders' debates that didn't include Harper.

Such an unusually long campaign would allow parties and their candidates to spend more than double the spending limits of $25 million and $100,000, respectively, that would have applied for a minimum 37-day campaign.

Having amassed vastly more money than any other party, the increased spending limits give the Conservative party and its candidates a huge advantage over their more impoverished rivals.

It's been clear for weeks how the ruling party intends to use its financial advantage: to carpet bomb the air waves with attack ads.

Conservative ads trashing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as "just not ready" to be prime minister have been ever-present on radio and television for more than two months already. Liberal insiders admit they've been effective, contributing to the Liberals' slow decline in the polls to third place from their front-running status over the previous two years.

Late Friday, the Conservatives suddenly turned their sights on NDP Leader Tom Mulcair with similar attack ads depicting him as an unethical, opportunistic "career politician." Having helped drive Liberal support to the NDP, they've now evidently decided they need to blunt Mulcair's momentum at the outset of the campaign.

The shifting targets of the Tory ads reflect the tricky two-front war facing the governing party.

At a time when the economy has tanked and polls suggest two-thirds of the electorate are looking for a change, the Conservatives risk driving change seekers to coalesce behind the NDP if they attack the Liberals too hard, and vice versa. They'll attempt to strike a balance, attacking both and warning that the economy is too fragile to risk putting it in the spendthrift hands of either Mulcair or Trudeau.

But Mulcair and Trudeau also face two-front wars — with each other as much as with Harper. Each will be attempting to prove that his party is the vehicle that can defeat the Conservatives and provide real change. And in doing so, they'll be fighting not just to win the election but, potentially, for the very survival of their respective parties.

Should Harper win a minority, the two opposition parties will come under pressure to form a coalition to snatch power from him. Should he win another majority, they'll come under pressure to merge outright and stop splitting the progressive vote.

In either scenario, the opposition party that emerges strongest on Oct. 19 will have the upper hand; the weaker party could face possible extinction.

The Canadian Press


Monitoring pot advertising

Health Minister Rona Ambrose ordered a crackdown on groups that illegally advertise marijuana and re-stated the Conservative party's pledge to keep storefront dispensaries illegal Saturday on the eve of the expected launch of a federal election campaign.

"Today I directed Health Canada to create a task force to crack down on illegal marijuana advertising," Ambrose said in a statement.

"This task force will ensure that those who engage in such illegal activities are stopped, and should these illegal activities continue, promptly referred to law enforcement."

Health Canada issued a statement saying it will begin actively monitoring marijuana advertising instead of acting mostly on the basis of complaints.

Under current law, only regulated parties such as licenced producers are allowed to advertise basic, non-promotional information.

Ambrose's pre-campaign statement made multiple references to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and described his stance on marijuana as "irresponsible."

"While Justin Trudeau wants to legalize marijuana making it easier for youth to buy and smoke, this Conservative Government does not support making access to illegal drugs easier," she said.

The Liberals countered that the Conservatives' approach to marijuana is an "unmitigated failure."

Liberal MP Hedy Fry said in an emailed statement that a 2013 UNICEF study found that Canada has the highest level of cannabis use among teenagers of all the countries in the developed world.

"Ms. Ambrose’s ideology fails Canadians," Fry said.

Although medical marijuana can be legally obtained with a prescription, the Conservative government has made no secret of the fact that it disapproves.

"The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a healthcare practitioner," Health Canada's statement read.

Ambrose has been especially vocal on the issue, saying marijuana has not been proven safe nor effective as a medicine.

She rebuked the City of Vancouver in June for its decision to regulate the dozens of marijuana dispensaries that have flourished despite laws preventing pot from being sold online or in storefronts.

Ambrose said she ordered a more proactive approach to enforcing the advertising rules due to the rise of such dispensaries in cities across Canada.

"Dispensaries, whether they are online or a store-front, are illegal and they should not be allowed to advertise these illegal services," she wrote.

Marijuana advocate Jodie Emery said the government's opposition to advertising marijuana was based on "an ideological...rather than a scientifically health-based approach."

She said the strict ban on advertising did a disservice to Canadians who wish to inform themselves.

"Many patients, especially seniors in Canada's aging population need information about marijuana and medical marijuana," she told The Canadian Press. "It prevents the ability of Canadians to get information that they are interested in and require."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to launch the federal election campaign as early as Sunday.

The Canadian Press


Hitchhiking robot damaged

A hitchhiking robot that captured the hearts of fans worldwide met its demise in the U.S.

The Canadian researchers who created hitchBOT as a social experiment told The Associated Press that someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair on Saturday, ending its first American tour after about two weeks.

The kid-size robot set out to travel cross-country after successfully hitchhiking across Canada in 26 days last year and parts of Europe. It is immobile on its own so gets from place to place by relying on the kindness of strangers.

It started in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on July 17 with its thumb raised skyward, a grin on its digital face and tape wrapped around its cylindrical head that read "San Francisco or bust."

It bounced around the Boston area and was briefly taken to sea. One day, it took in a Red Sox game. But hitchBOT never made it off the East Coast.

The creators were sent an image of the vandalized robot Saturday but cannot track its location because the battery is dead. They said they don't know who destroyed it or why. But co-creator Frauke Zeller said many children who adored the robot are now heartbroken.

hitchBOT was designed to be a talking travel companion and could toss out factoids and carry limited conversation. A GPS in the robot tracked its location, and a camera randomly snapped photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels.

During past travels, the robot attended a comic convention and a wedding, and it had its portrait painted in the Netherlands. It once spent a week with a heavy metal band.

The Canadian Press


Feds monitoring pot ads

Health Minister Rona Ambrose is ordering a crackdown on groups who illegally advertise marijuana.

Health Canada issued a statement saying it will actively monitor marijuana advertising instead of acting mostly on the basis of complaints.

Under current law, only regulated parties such as licenced producers are allowed to advertise basic, non-promotional information.

The statement says violators will receive compliance letters, and repeat violators could face legal action.

Ambrose says she ordered a more proactive approach to enforcement due to the rise of illegal online and storefront marijuana dispensaries.

Although marijuana is legal when authorized by a health care practitioner, Ambrose has previously said it has not been proven safe nor effective as a medicine.

The Canadian Press


Topless issue won't cover up

A rally and march organized by three sisters who were stopped by a police officer for biking topless a week ago is planned today in Waterloo, Ont.

The sisters say they're hoping their "Bare With Us" rally at Waterloo Town Square will educate people — and police — about women's right to be topless if they so choose.

Juno-nominated musician Alysha Brilla says she and her sisters were not wearing shirts while cycling in Kitchener, Ont., on July 24 when a male officer drove up beside them and told them to cover up because it is the law.

Brilla says told the officer he was wrong, adding that when she started filming the interaction on her cellphone, the officer said he had only wanted to check if the women had proper bells and lights on their bicycles.

Ontario women have had the right to go topless in public since 1996.

A post on Facebook says people of all genders are invited to attend — revealing as much or as little of their torso as they feel comfortable with — to support the right of women right to be topless in public.

"This event is a celebration of all body shapes and types. Individuals who are not supportive of all bare-chested folk will be asked to leave," the posting says.

A similar incident in June garnered headlines after eight-year-old Marlee McLean was told by city staff in Guelph, Ont., to cover up while she was in a wading pool wearing only a swim bottom.

And in Kelowna, the issue recently flared up when a young mother was told to cover up by police on a local beach. The story has been one of the most commented on at Castanet for more than a week.

The Canadian Press


Campaign will be a doozy

Stephen Harper is set to launch the country Sunday into a federal election campaign that promises to rewrite Canadian history books.

Costliest campaign ever. Longest campaign since 1872. First campaign in which three parties all have a legitimate shot at winning as they line up at the starting gate.

And given those unique circumstances and high stakes, it's an almost certain bet it will also be the most vicious, no-holds-barred campaign Canadians have ever witnessed.

What's more, if Harper can pull off a victory on Oct. 19, he'll become the first prime minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1908 to win four consecutive elections.

The very rarity of that feat goes a long way towards explaining why Harper has chosen to formally call Canada's 42nd election in the middle of a holiday weekend in the dead of summer, triggering a gruelling, 11-week marathon rather than the five-week sprint that's typified federal campaigns in recent times.

The unusually long campaign activates an obscure provision in the Harper government's overhaul of election laws last year, allowing parties and their candidates to spend more than double the spending limits of $25 million and $100,000, respectively, that would have applied for a minimum 37-day campaign.

Having amassed vastly more money than any other party, the increased spending limits give the Conservative party and its candidates a huge advantage over their more impoverished rivals.

The campaign "will be unlike anything we've ever seen," predicts Jeremy Broadhurst, the Liberal party's national director.

All parties will have to figure out how to build momentum, keep volunteers motivated and voters engaged over such an extended period, he says. The poorer ones will have to find creative ways to stretch their budgets.

And, given the tone already set by the Conservatives, Broadhurst adds the campaign has "certainly got the potential to be the nastiest" in Canadian history.

It's been clear for weeks how the ruling party intends to use its financial advantage: to carpet bomb the air waves with attack ads.

Conservative ads trashing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as "just not ready" to be prime minister have been ever-present on radio and television for more than two months already. Liberal insiders admit they've been effective, contributing to the Liberals' slow decline in the polls to third place from their front-running status over the previous two years.

On the eve of Sunday's election launch, the Conservatives have suddenly turned their sights on NDP Leader Tom Mulcair with similar attack ads depicting him as an unethical, opportunistic "career politician." Having helped drive Liberal support to the NDP, they've now evidently decided they need to blunt Mulcair's momentum at the outset of the campaign.

The shifting targets of the Tory ads reflect the tricky two-front war facing the governing party.

At a time when the economy has tanked and polls suggest two-thirds of the electorate are looking for a change, the Conservatives risk driving change seekers to coalesce behind the NDP if they attack the Liberals too hard, and vice versa. They'll attempt to strike a balance, attacking both and warning that the economy is too fragile to risk putting it in the spendthrift hands of either Mulcair or Trudeau.

But Mulcair and Trudeau also face two-front wars — with each other as much as with Harper. Each will be attempting to prove that his party is the vehicle that can defeat the Conservatives and provide real change. And in doing so, they'll be fighting not just to win the election but, potentially, for the very survival of their respective parties.

Should Harper win a minority, the two opposition parties will come under pressure to form a coalition to snatch power from him. Should he win another majority, they'll come under pressure to merge outright and stop splitting the progressive vote.

In either scenario, the opposition party that emerges strongest on Oct. 19 will have the upper hand; the weaker party could face possible extinction.

The Canadian Press


Attack ads turn to Mulcair

The federal Conservatives are training their sights on NDP Leader Tom Mulcair just as Prime Minister Stephen Harper is about to plunge the country into an 11-week election on Sunday.

After carpet-bombing the airwaves for weeks with ads asserting that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is "just not ready," the ruling party is poised to start the official campaign with two new television ads targeting Mulcair.

The ads portray the NDP leader as an unethical opportunist who looks out for himself at taxpayers' expense, a "career politician" the country can't afford.

The new ads feature the same group of supposedly ordinary Canadians perusing resumes who trash Trudeau's work history in the ubiquitous "just not ready" ads, only this time it's Mulcair's resume that's being dissected.

The Tories have been running the Trudeau attack ads relentlessly, long after opinion polls suggested Liberal support had sagged into third place, largely to the benefit of the NDP, which heads into the campaign with a slim lead over the Conservatives.

Liberal strategists say they believe the Tory obsession with Trudeau reflects the fact that the Liberals remain the biggest threat to Conservatives in the crucial suburban swing ridings ringing Toronto, where all three parties agree the Oct. 19 election will be won or lost.

However, the Conservatives have apparently decided it's time to burst the NDP's bubble, although it remains to be seen whether they'll run the anti-Mulcair ads with the same frequency as the anti-Trudeau ads.

The Conservatives offered a "sneak peek" at their new anti-Mulcair ads in a fundraising email missive sent out to supporters late Friday.

In the email, Tory campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke asserts that the NDP "would wreck our economy," that Mulcair's "dangerous schemes would mean higher taxes for all Canadians and would drive us back into deficit."

Yet the ads the email is promoting don't mention the economy or Mulcair's policies. They focus squarely and personally on Mulcair.

The panellists perusing the NDP leader's resume note that Mulcair was first elected to Quebec's National Assembly in 1994 — "as a Liberal," one of the group says in a shocked voice.

"Hmm, he's no fresh face," comments another.

One ad recounts that the NDP has been "caught breaking the rules by directing $2.7 million of taxpayers' dollars to their political offices." And it recalls a decades-old libel suit in which Mulcair was ordered by a judge to pay $100,000 "for malicious and abusive behaviour" — a tab the ad asserts he wanted taxpayers to pay.

"Politicians like him never care when it's our money," one man grouses.

The other ad recounts how Mulcair, as a provincial politician, was once offered a bribe by a "disgraced Quebec mayor" which he didn't accept but also didn't report to police for 17 years. It also claims that Mulcair joined the federal NDP only "after he cashed out his $135,000 severance," to which he was entitled after retiring from provincial politics.

"Looks out for himself," comments one of the group.

The Canadian Press


Rowdy Roddy Piper dies

Canadian wrestling legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper has died.

The WWE posted the news on its website, Friday.

Piper's real name was Roderick Toombs. He was 61.

There was no immediate word on the cause of his death.

“Roddy Piper was one of the most entertaining, controversial and bombastic performers ever in WWE, beloved by millions of fans around the world,” said WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon.

“I extend my deepest condolences to his family.”

Piper was born in Saskatoon and rose to prominence in the 1980s, battling the likes of Hulk Hogan in what was then the World Wrestling Federation.



No Harper, no Mulcair

The NDP says Tom Mulcair won't participate in any leaders' debates during the election campaign if they don't include Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In laying down that condition, the NDP has likely driven the final nail in the coffin of the traditional debates hosted by a consortium of the country's largest broadcasters.

The Conservative party has already ruled out Harper's participation in the consortium debates — one French, one English, proposed to take place less than two weeks before the Oct. 19 vote.

And unless Harper changes his mind, now Mulcair won't take part either.

It's doubtful the consortium will press ahead with its proposal without two of the three main party leaders.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May reacted furiously Friday to the NDP's debate conditions, accusing Mulcair of colluding with Harper to kill off the debates that would have the widest audience. And she said it's all aimed at keeping her off centre stage throughout the campaign.

"This stinks to high heaven," she said in an interview.

"Tom Mulcair has just killed the best opportunity that Canadian voters had to get accountability from a sitting prime minister from opposition party leaders in the forum that reaches the most Canadians."

According to May, all opposition parties agreed to stick together supporting the consortium debates, in hopes of eventually pressuring Harper to show up or face having the Conservatives represented by an empty podium. The NDP's "shameful betrayal" has now let Harper off the hook, May said.

So far, Harper has agreed to participate in only four debates, starting with one hosted by Maclean's magazine next Thursday.

The other three, scheduled throughout the fall, are being hosted by Quebec television network TVA, the Munk Debates and the Globe and Mail-Google Canada.

"Thanks to Mulcair's doublecross," May said she will now be allowed to take part in only the Maclean's debate. She has not been invited to the others.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the fact Mulcair is considering dropping out of the consortium debates shows he's "behaving a little too much like Mr. Harper, for the Canadians who want change."

The only scheduled French-language debate, hosted by TVA, won't reach francophones all across the country, Trudeau added.

"If Mr. Mulcair decides to pull out of the debates we will have only one debate in French across the country — and it won't even be available across the country, because TVA doesn't go everywhere."

The Conservatives have said Harper will participate in five debates but has not so far identified the fifth.

The NDP said Friday that Mulcair would participate in an equal number of French and English debates. But that would require either Harper agreeing to participate in two more debates or Mulcair pulling out of at least one of the four already agreed upon.

In an apparent attempt to force a speedy decision, the NDP set a deadline, saying it will consider debate proposals until 5 p.m. ET on Aug. 7.

The Canadian Press


Good karma pays off

An Alberta couple and their adult son say karma may have played a part in their $17.3 million lottery win.

Gerald, Elizabeth, and Dean Fritsma of Grande Prairie won the millions on the June 17 draw of Lotto 6-49.

Elizabeth says they've helped so many family and friends over the years that the win must be some sort of payback.

They bought their winning ticket at Mountview Grocery in Grande Prairie.

The Fritmas don’t have any big plans for their winnings yet, but plan on investing the majority of their windfall as soon as they can.

Gerald says they live a quiet life and will probably continue doing so.

“Elizabeth came to the shop to tell me the news,” said Gerald. “I saw her walking up and just hoped it wasn’t bad news. It was some amazing news!”

There was no news conference for the three because they weren't comfortable having one, said a lottery spokeswoman.

The Canadian Press




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