Tuesday, July 28th16.9°C

Pilot's tale of survival

A Russian helicopter pilot who spent more than 30 hours on an ice floe after ditching his small helicopter into frigid Arctic waters says he's not sure he would have survived much longer had searchers not seen his remaining warning flare.

Sergey Ananov, 49, was on a solo, around-the-world journey in his single-engine aircraft and was about halfway between Iqaluit and Greenland when his Robinson R22 helicopter went down in the Davis Strait on Saturday afternoon.

Speaking via satellite phone from the coast guard vessel Pierre Radisson following his rescue Monday, Ananov related a tale that involved quick thinking, a visit from three inquisitive polar bears and a fortunate break in the weather.

"I was on the edge," said Ananov of his condition when he was rescued. "Luckily for one or two hours the fog disappeared."

Ananov said his helicopter went down after one of two rubber belts leading from the engine to the rotor exploded. He said he was able to partially pull on his survival suit and scramble into a small life raft before the aircraft sank in a matter of about 30 seconds.

It was then a short, cold swim to an ice floe.

Ananov said the raft provided his only means of shelter as he waited to be rescued, a prospect that proved difficult with thick fog and a low ceiling in the area.

At one point he fired one of his three flares as a Canadian military Hercules aircraft flew overhead.

"It was absolutely useless because they couldn't see anything," he said.

Ananov said the same thing happened when an aircraft approached for a second time.

"So I spent another day on the ice trembling, freezing and struggling ... to think, to manoeuvre."

Ananov said at one point he was approached by three polar bears that got to within a metre of him. He said he waited and then managed to chase them off by acting as aggressively as he could to startle the animals.

"They had never seen a creature dressed with a red survival suit ... with two legs, two arms waving and roaring. It was like a red devil."

He said the bears jumped into the water and swam to a nearby floe.

As Ananov struggled with the conditions with no food and water, the search -- which had been triggered after picking up a beacon on board the helicopter -- began to close in.

Capt. Stephane Julien, commanding officer of the Pierre Radisson, said fog and ice conditions hindered progress and his vessel took 25 hours to reach the area of the crash site.

He said visibility was poor Sunday until conditions suddenly cleared and he decided to use the ship's helicopter.

It was the noise of the aircraft that alerted Ananov who set off his last flare.

"My third officer from the corner of her eye she saw a flare on the ice," said Julien. "We took a bearing and called the helicopter."

Julien said Ananov was found in "good shape" despite his 32-hour ordeal. He said he believes his vessel would have found Ananov without the flare, but probably not until sometime Monday morning.

"The flare made the difference," said Julien.

He said the Pierre Radisson was expected to sail into Iqaluit sometime Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral John Newton said Ananov's flight was risky even by military standards.

"When we fly our big Cormorant search and rescue, multi-engine helicopters over the ocean, we fly a Hercules (plane) on top to make sure our helicopter is safe," he said during an interview at the search and rescue centre in Halifax.

The admiral said the military search centre worked on the assumption that Ananov was alive throughout the rescue attempt, but knew that heaving oceans and extreme cold posed risks as the hours went by.

The Canadian Press


Ottawa's sleazy secret

Comedian John Oliver is taking the residents of Canada's capital to task for their alleged extra-marital affairs.

The host of "Last Week Tonight" chastised the inhabitants of Ottawa following a report that claimed nearly 190,000 people in the city were members of AshleyMadison.com, a Toronto-based website for people seeking affairs. It was hacked last week.

"Let me speak to Ottawa — Ottawa, you cannot let this skeezy website destroy your marriages," Oliver said on his show Sunday night. "Don't take this lying down beneath some mulleted stranger wearing a wedding band. The city council of Ottawa needs to fight back."

Oliver, who made a point to note that Ottawa was "known by locals as the city that fun forgot," expressed his surprise at reports about the apparent popularity of the site in the city.

"That's half the married population there," he said. "If you live in Ottawa, look to your left, look to your right, both of those people are on AshleyMadison.com and so are you. That's a fact."

To purportedly assist the city's residents in staying true to their spouses, Oliver's show ran an instructional video of sorts, which mercilessly poked fun at the city, describing it as a "depressing, frigid sh--hole."

"Lumberjacks turn off your chainsaws, hockey players stop skating for a second, boys, moose you just keep on moosing, this doesn't concern you. This is for the married people of Ottawa, sitting at home, thinking about having an affair. Don't," the video said.

"Having an affair is downright un-Canadian," it went on. "Don't have sex with someone else's husband named Gordon. Have sex with your own husband named Gordon. Because Ottawa...is about watching your life float by like so much dirty river ice."

Ashley Madison has vowed to hold those responsible for last week's hack responsible for their actions.

The website, whose slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair,'' claims it has more than 37 million members around the world.

The Canadian Press

Long campaign favours PM

The imminent federal election campaign will see more money splashed around than ever before in Canada and the deep-pocketed Conservatives can claim a decided advantage — an edge that increases exponentially if Prime Minister Stephen Harper opts for a longer campaign than usual, new number-crunching shows.

While much as been made of the ruling party's fundraising prowess at the national level, the biggest impact of an extended campaign will be felt by candidates in local riding contests.

An in-depth analysis by The Canadian Press of financing at the grassroots level shows that Conservative candidates' riding-based war chests are flush with cash, dramatically outpacing their political rivals in efforts to raise and stash away money.

A review of the most recent financial statements filed by riding associations to Elections Canada this month show candidates for the NDP, Liberals, Greens, Bloc Quebecois and other smaller parties simply don't have the money to compete on a level playing field with Conservative contenders, whose local war chests are overflowing.

Those 2014 financial reports in each of the country's 338 constituencies shows that Conservative electoral district associations ended the year with net assets totalling more than $19 million — more than the riding associations of the Liberals, New Democrats, Greens and Bloc combined.

Liberal riding associations reported a total of about $8 million in net assets, NDP associations more than $4.4 million, the Greens at almost $1.2 million and the Bloc at about $410,000.

Under the 2007 fixed-date-election legislation introduced by Harper's government, Canadians will go to the polls on Oct. 19. While the legislation specifies that the campaign must be a minimum of 37 days, it does not specify a maximum length.

That's important because the new Fair Elections Act provides that for every day beyond the typical five-week campaign, spending limits for national parties and their candidates will increase by one-thirty-seventh, meaning extra days on the campaign trail would benefit parties with hefty bank accounts.

That means a party running a full slate of candidates is entitled to spend almost $25 million for a 37-day campaign, with every additional day worth an extra $675,000 to each party's national spending limit and an extra $2,700 for each candidate who is entitled to spend an average of about $100,000.

So, if Harper fires the official starting gun in mid-August, as widely speculated, that would boost each party's spending cap by a whopping $19.6 million and each candidate's limit by $78,300.

At the national level, the Liberals and NDP have upped their fundraising game considerably since the last election but they're still behind the Conservatives, raising $15 million and $9.5 million respectively compared to $20.1 million for the Tories, based on Elections Canada financial returns for last year. Still, for their national campaigns, the New Democrats and Liberals can borrow money if necessary to spend the maximum, or close to it.

Smaller parties, like the Greens, will have more trouble keeping up and banks are less likely to help them.

At the riding level, however, very few opposition party associations have built up war chests that would help their candidates spend the maximum for a 37-day campaign, much less for a longer one.

Conservative associations dominate the top 20 richest associations in the country, with Harper's association in Calgary Southwest on top with more than $444,000 in the bank. Only two oppositions MPs makes the top-20 list: Liberal MP Mauril Belanger in Ottawa-Vanier, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Conservative associations also had more money at the end of 2014 than even some of the best-known incumbent New Democrats and Liberals, including in Ottawa Centre, where NDP Paul Dewar is running again and has the richest NDP association according to the data; and in Toronto-St. Paul's where incumbent Liberals Carolyn Bennett lagged behind her Conservative counterpart by about $55,000.

Some of the riding-level 2014 financial returns are still trickling in to Elections Canada. Liberal Leader Juston Trudeau's Papineau association still hasn't filed, for instance.

Falling behind in the fundraising wars will be more problematic for candidates this year than in previous elections. At the local level, the government imposed new rules for loans that make it difficult for under-financed candidates to spend anywhere near as much as their flush competitors.

Conservative candidates are less likely to need loans, given their large savings. Moreover, the Conservatives have an additional advantage in that rich ridings can transfer unlimited cash to more impoverished ridings, or the national party.

Even Trudeau admitted in a recent interview that he knew the Liberals were going to be outspent this election.

"When the Conservative party re-wrote Canada's election laws without any input from Elections Canada, the other political parties or the voters themselves, they did so with one thing in mind: the interests of the Conservative party," says Jeremy Broadhurst, national director of the Liberal party.

Broadhurst predicts the Tories will tap the overflowing coffers of their riding associations to help their national campaign "flood the airwaves with even more negative ads." Even so, he says they'll still have enough in their local campaign kitties to spend circles around opposing candidates.

"Changes made to the financing system that make it more difficult for local campaigns to obtain legitimate financing will mean that some local candidates will have trouble keeping pace with the Conservative fear machine."

That said, Broadhurst says Liberals have improved their fundraising efforts sufficiently "to ensure that the Conservatives don't get a free ride if they do attempt to pull off this distortion of democracy."

The Conservatives make no apology for their financial dominance.

"Canadians donate more to the Conservative party because our leader, Stephen Harper, is the clear choice for prime minister," says party spokesman Cory Hann.

NDP national campaign director Anne McGrath says her party has contingency plans in place to adapt to a longer campaign if need be. That said, McGrath points out that Conservatives outspent the NDP five to one in the recent Alberta election; the NDP still managed to pull off a stunning upset.

"The truth is, money is very important in a campaign, but it's not the only thing."

The Greens are hoping that sentiment plays out on election day. The national party was strategizing with associations this week to share best practices and tips on fundraising to make sure there is enough money to last a regular campaign, and maybe have some left over for spending before the official campaign begins and spending limits are imposed.

"We want to max out what we can spend," says Paul Manly, the Green candidate in the B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

Since January, Manly says he has raised more than $60,000 and is aiming to have $90,000 in the bank for the election, but even that might not be enough to reach the maximum spending limit in the newly-created riding if the prime minister decides to start the election campaign early with a dropping of the writ this summer.

"If the writ period is extended, we're going to have to raise more money," Manly says. "We're ready to raise as much as we can spend. Why not? People are willing to give."

The Canadian Press

Canada's math genius

The name Alex Song is spoken in reverential tones in Canadian mathematical circles.

The 18-year-old won the International Mathematical Olympiad in Thailand in mid-July, achieving the rare perfect score in the two-day competition against more than 600 high school competitors from 104 countries.

Song has had an incredible run over the past six years, finishing with five gold medals and one bronze against the best in the world. Now he sits atop the all-time leaderboard, ranking first on the Olympiad's Hall of Fame.

The Olympiad is a big deal in math. Previous participants have gone on to win prestigious international awards such as the Fields Medal, given out to a few mathematicians under 40 years old, every four years. It's considered by many as the highest honour in mathematics.

For Song, the Olympiad win wasn't that big of a deal.

"I was definitely very happy at the same time," he says. "But, I mean, it was just whatever happened."

Song just graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite academic boarding school in New Hampshire. He is modest about his achievement.

"I felt like I was very lucky to solve all the problems, but at the same I'm not sure if any of the problems gave me trouble," he said from his parents' home in San Jose, Calif. He grew up in Waterloo, Ont., until moving to New Hampshire to start high school in 2011.

His coach, leader of Math Team Canada, made up for Song's nonchalance.

"The results are fantastic," said a jubilant Jacob Tsimerman, a math professor at the University of Toronto. "Alex is unique and destined for greatness."

The United States took first overall in the team competition, which was established in 1959.

Canada finished ninth overall, ending up in the Top 10 for the third time in the past four years. It's a big change from the previous 30 years when Canada regularly found itself finishing among the top 20 or 30 countries.

Tsimerman said the team decided to change the way it coached its "mathletes."

Rather than use older professors removed from the math Olympiad scene, the Canadian Mathematical Society chose to use more recent graduates of the program, Tsimerman said. Some of the country's heavy hitters in the Olympiad returned to coach.

Tsimerman is one of those heavy hitters, finishing first in the competition in 2004. Another coach, James Rickards, competed just two years ago and is now a student at Cambridge University, Tsimerman said.

Before the competition, the six-member team assembled at the Banff International Research Station for two weeks of intensive training. The team buckled down with a mock exam, lectures and lots of practice.

The International Mathematical Olympiad features six questions over two days. There are three questions on the first day for more than four hours of competition, then the same on the second day.

"The middle questions on each day were very difficult," Tsimerman said.

"This year, even if you did solve them both, there wasn't much time left over to solve the final questions on each day, so you saw much fewer people solving those because they didn't have the time."

But Song was in the zone, cruising on both days, finishing with an hour to spare on Day 1 and 30 minutes the next.

He kept celebrations to a minimum.

"I didn't do too much — it was Thailand. We mostly just stayed in the hotel, talked to the other teams, played some games with them and went on some excursions."

The champ will start his collegiate career at Princeton University next month. He said he hopes to focus on pure mathematics and "needs to get prepared for mathematical research."

Tsimerman said Canadians should remember Song's name.

"He is destined for greatness," Tsimerman said. "But let's not forget he's already achieved greatness in his short career."

The Canadian Press

Missing chopper pilot found

Search and rescue officials say a helicopter pilot who was missing near Baffin Island has been found safe.

Joint Task Force Atlantic says on its Twitter feed just before 7 a.m. that the Russian pilot was spotted on an ice floe, "alive and well."

They say the Canadian Coast Guard ship Pierre Radisson picked up the pilot and was headed to Iqaluit, Nunavut.

The small Robinson R22 two-seater helicopter disappeared Saturday afternoon over the Davis Strait while flying from Iqaluit to Nuuk, Greenland.

The pilot was flying solo.

A Hercules aircraft, Transport Canada, the coast guard, fishing vessels and the civilian agency CASARA were helping in the search.

The Canadian Press

Record haul at Pan Ams

The true north strong and free is basking in glow of its most successful Pan Am performance in Canadian history.

Going in to the games – that were held in Toronto - Canada set a goal of finishing second in the medal standings, and brought the team to do it by fielding the most athletes ever for the Pan Ams.

The host nation amassed 217 medals, 78 gold, 69 silver, and 70 bronze, second only to the Americans who took home 265 medals -103 gold, 81 silver and 81 bronze.

Brazil came in third in the medal standings with 141.

Many view the Pan Am Games as a preview to the Olympics which will be held in Rio next year.

The games also made stars out of relatively unknown athletes such as Kia Nurse, the 19-year-old who led Canada's women's basketball team to its first ever gold medal.

Nurse also had the honour of carrying the Canadian flag at the closing ceremonies Sunday.

Sprint phenom Andre De Grasse won both the 100 and 200 metres, shattering his own Canadian record in the 200. He would have won a third gold in the 4x100 relay had Canada not been disqualified for a lane violation.

The closing ceremonies also provided entertainment for the thousands in attendance.

Welcomed with a hearty roar, Kanye West ran through a career-spanning collection of his hits to close out a Pan Am Games headlined by a harder, better, faster, stronger Canada — until a faulty microphone didn't let the rapper finish.

Nearly 40,000 spectators packed Toronto's Rogers Centre to raise a toast to Canada's athletes at the Pan Am Games closing ceremony, and West's surprisingly long performance would have put an exclamation point on the evening, already marked by a flamboyant fireworks display lighting up the CN Tower like a rainbow-leafed palm tree, if not for the sound gaffe.

West tried in vain for a period of time to overcome the error, before tossing his mic high into the air and letting it smash while he stalked offstage. The crowd chanted "Kanye!" in his absence.

Although the closing ceremony was otherwise perhaps less knowingly grand than the opening, it was still an expansive production best-explained by some of its staggering statistics: 510 volunteers in the cast, 500-plus costumes from 3,000-plus yards of fabric and roughly 3,235 athletes, who flooded the venue's floor as one fully integrated contingent.

- with files from Canadian Press

Soldier dies while training

SHILO, Man. - A Canadian soldier in the reserves has died while training at a military base in Manitoba.

The military issued a news release saying that Pte. Kirby Tott died suddenly Saturday afternoon at Canadian Forces Base Shilo.

The release provides no details on the circumstances, but notes Tott was taking his basic reserve infantry training at Shilo with the 3rd Canadian Division Training Centre.

It says the death is under investigation and that an autopsy will be conducted.

The release says Tott joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a reservist with the Rocky Mountain Rangers in Prince George, in 2012.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement offering his condolences to Tott's family.

The Canadian Press

Former cabinet minister dies

Flora MacDonald, who served as a senior cabinet member in two Conservative federal governments and made a run for the party's leadership in 1976, died Sunday. She was 89.

MacDonald's long-time executive assistant Margit Herrman says MacDonald died in Ottawa _ the cause of death was not immediately available.

MacDonald was the first woman to hold the foreign affairs portfolio, handling the job in Joe Clark's short-lived government in 1979 and early 1980.

She headed the department during the Iranian hostage crisis when Canadian diplomats gave shelter to six Americans who escaped capture when their embassy was overrun by student demonstrators.

She was among the first to hear that Canada's ambassador in Iran, Ken Taylor, was hiding the diplomats. MacDonald pulled Clark out of the House of Commons to brief him.

Over following weeks, she and Clark worked to manage the carefully guarded secret and handle the rising tensions at home while overseeing plans to spirit them out of Iran, which occurred 79 days later.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who was in office during the affair, mentioned MacDonald's role in the affair during a 2012 speech at Queen's University in Toronto.

Carter said he called Clark "and thanked him and Flora MacDonald for having orchestrated one of the most remarkable rescue operations in history."

MacDonald was born in 1926 in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

She first appeared on the Conservative Party scene in the 1950s as a secretary for one of John Diefenbaker's party organizers. Her former colleagues, however, said her determination and ambition marked her as someone likely to rise much higher.

She was first elected to the House of Commons in 1972, after successfully running as the Progressive Conservative party candidate in the Ontario riding of Kingston and the Islands. She held the riding until her defeat in 1988.

Hugh Segal, Brian Mulroney's former Chief of Staff, describes MacDonald as an early feminist who was unafraid to take on the male-dominated world of politics despite her humble Cape Breton roots.

"She made it perfectly clear that women had an absolute right to participate as individuals who were not in any way diminished or limited by gender," he said.

MacDonald also served in the government of Brian Mulroney, where she held the posts of Minister of Employment and Immigration and later Minister of Communications.

Reached by phone, Mulroney said MacDonald's "incredible determination" allowed her to succeed with the "very sensitive" portfolios she held.

"She was disciplined and focused and hard working, and she rose," he said.

MacDonald ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party in 1976. Although she was thought to have a good chance of winning, Clark became leader.

Nevertheless, her former Progressive Conservative colleagues remember her candidacy as a turning point for the party.

"For a single woman from North Sydney to accomplish what she did in the highly competitive male-oriented world in those days is remarkable and she did it on her own," Mulroney said.

"Hard work, determination, the capacity to understand the nature of politics and how one get ahead, and how one promotes ideas that benefit the country... Flora was extremely good at that," he said.

MacDonald retired from politics after her election defeat in 1988 and concentrated on humanitarian work.

She toured the developing world as a human rights observer, hosted a television series on Third World Development and made at least 12 visits to Afghanistan with the organization Future Generations.

She received the Order of Canada in 1992, where she was cited for her "distinguished leadership in federal politics" and her humanitarian work.

A number of politicians have expressed their condolences on Twitter, including Clark.

"I mourn the passing of Flora MacDonald, whose compassion, leadership & example changed lives across our country & around the world," he wrote.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also posted his condolences on Twitter as did former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair also expressed their condolences.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt saluted MacDonald as a trailblazing female politician and fellow Nova Scotian. "Min. MacDonald demonstrated that any career was possible," she tweeted. "She cleared our path and I am grateful."

The Canadian Press

Kia Nurse to carry flag

Kia Nurse, who led Canada to a historic basketball gold medal, will carry the country's flag into the closing ceremonies of the Pan American Games.

The 19-year-old from Hamilton exploded for 33 points in the Canadian women's thrilling 81-73 victory over the United States — the first basketball gold medal for Canada in any major international Games.

After the victory, Nurse credited her athletic family for her big-game poise.

Her brother is Edmonton Oilers prospect Darnell Nurse. Her dad Richard was a wide receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, while her mom Kathy played basketball at McMaster University.

Her uncle is NFL legend Donovan McNabb.

The Canadian women went undefeated through the Pan Am Games tournament, recording wins over Venezuela, Argentina and Cuba, before knocking off Brazil in the semifinal before their gold-medal win.

They now head to Edmonton, where they open the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament on Aug. 9.

Boxer Mary Spencer carried Canada's flag into the closing four years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The Canadian Press

Refloating historic wreck

The tough oaken vessel that took famed explorer Roald Amundsen on his second Arctic voyage is about to rise again.

After four years of negotiation and preparation, a Norwegian team expects to refloat the Maud this week, 85 years after she was scuttled in shallow waters off the coast of Nunavut.

"We're quite confident," said Jan Wanggaard, who's heading the crew hoping to return the last ship of a Norwegian national hero to its homeland.

The Maud was built in 1917 in Vollen for Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole. He also made groundbreaking expeditions in the Canadian Arctic, including the first successful transit of the Northwest Passage.

Amundsen intended to use the specially strengthened Maud to drift across the North Pole while frozen into moving sea ice. After two failed attempts, she was sold to the Hudson's Bay Co. in 1925.

Three years later, the ship sank while moored in shallow water just off Cambridge Bay. Parts of the hull still protrude above the waves.

Since June, Wanggaard and his colleagues have been slipping ropes and straps under the Maud's 40-metre hull. Sometime this week, they'll attach flotation balloons to the ropes and gently ease the vessel off the seafloor.

The Maud can take it, said Wanggaard.

"This boat was built as one of the strongest ships ever of wooden construction," he said. "It was made to take the pressure from the ice."

Once the Maud is afloat, the team will sink a barge it has brought from Norway and position it beneath the hull. Flotation tanks in the barge will be reinflated, and the barge will hoist the old vessel right out of the water.

There's little left to her. Although she originally sported both sails and a then-innovative diesel engine, she was stripped long ago.

The barge, with the Maud strapped on top, will probably spend one more winter in Cambridge Bay, drying out and solidifying for the long journey back to Norway.

"On the technical side, it's quite basic," Wanggaard said.

The politics, however, have been anything but.

The Norwegian efforts initially met resistance from the people of Cambridge Bay, who thought the ship should stay where she was. Then the Canadian government would not give the group's members an export permit, even though they have legal title to the hulk.

They finally got the permit by default when no Canadians presented a salvage plan.

And there's nothing simple about Amundsen's stature back home. Norway had just split from Sweden in 1905 and the explorer's exploits in harsh polar seas gave his countrymen a hero just when they needed one, said Wanggaard.

"Amundsen was a special man. We were a completely new nation and he was one of the key figures building the national identity or the pride of being a nation."

Two of Amundsen's other ships are already in Norwegian museums.

Although Maud is about to leave Canada forever, something of her will remain behind. She was the model for one of Canada's most famous Arctic ships, the fabled RCMP schooner the St. Roch.

Using the Maud's innovations, the St. Roch became the first ship to completely circumnavigate North America. She was the second sailing vessel to sail the Northwest Passage and the first ship to complete the passage west to east.

The St. Roch now sits in drydock at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

The Canadian Press

Fahmy awaits verdict

Mohamed Fahmy's long-running legal battle is about to hit its climax.

A Cairo court is expected to deliver a verdict Thursday for the Canadian journalist being tried on widely denounced terror charges and as the day approaches, Fahmy is hoping for the best but bracing for the worst.

"In order to survive I have to think positively," he told The Canadian Press. "But the uncertainty is just horrible."

Fahmy was the Cairo bureau chief for Qatar-based satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English when he and two colleagues were arrested in December 2013.

They were 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.

The trio maintained their innocence, saying they were just doing their jobs, but after a trial which was internationally decried as a sham, they were convicted and sentenced to prison terms. A successful appeal resulted in a retrial which is set to end this week.

Fahmy, who was granted bail in February after more than a year in prison, is fervently hoping for a verdict that won't send him back to prison, but notes that his case is complicated.

"As much as we know we are completely innocent, we also know this trial is politicized and that factors other than evidence are going to be game changers," he said. " I am a pawn in Egypt and Qatar's rift."

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 the state-owned Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for Morsi's supporters — charges denied by the broadcaster.

Fahmy said there are a number of possible outcomes for him on Thursday — incarceration, a suspended sentence, a sentence that credits him for time already spent in prison, or a not-guilty finding, though he said "it would be naive" to expect one.

In his favour is the fact that a technical committee tasked with examining work by him and his colleagues found there had been no fabrication in their reporting. Fahmy also hopes his legal team convinced the judge that he and his colleagues had nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood.

But evidence that Al Jazeera didn't have the necessary licences for its journalists in Egypt — something which led Fahmy to launch a lawsuit against the broadcaster — is extremely worrisome, he said.

"I explained to the judge that we had no clue," Fahmy said. "I told the judge he should separate between the responsibilities of the journalists and the responsibilities of the network."

Buoying Fahmy's hopes, however, is a sense that the Canadian government is now in his corner.

The federal government's support for Fahmy had been called into question after one of his co-accused — Australian Peter Greste — was allowed to leave Egypt 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.

"I feel that the Canadian government and my lawyers this time around have a very solid plan and strategy," he said, adding that Ottawa has agreed to endorse a deportation request and a pardon request prepared by his lawyers in case he's ordered back to prison.

Canada's minister of state for consular affairs said the government, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has raised Fahmy's case with Egyptian officials "at the highest level" and would continue to do so.

"Canada calls on the Egyptian government to use all tools at their disposal to allow for the resolution of Mr. Fahmy’s case and allow for his immediate return to Canada," Lynne Yelich told The Canadian Press. "Canada continues to advocate for the same treatment of Mr. Fahmy as other foreign nationals have received."

Fahmy's high-profile lawyer, Amal Clooney, said she hoped her client's "nightmare" would end in the delivery of his verdict, but noted that she was ready to work on his immediate release if he was sent back to prison.

"He has already been subjected to an unfair trial," she said in an email. "If the new panel of judges again sends an innocent journalist to prison, it will be a dark day for Egypt."

To get through the next few days, Fahmy is focusing on his return to Vancouver, where he hopes for a fresh start.

Part of that new life will include an appointment as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia's school of journalism, as well as a book he is writing about his experiences.

"I'm trying to move on with my life," he said." I want to pick up the pieces and continue with my career."

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

Search for missing chopper

A search for a missing helicopter is underway in the Davis Strait between Baffin Island and Greenland.

The small Robinson R22 two seater was reported missing yesterday afternoon after it failed to arrive in Nuuk, Greenland on a flight from Nunavut's capital of Iqaluit.

The pilot was flying solo.

Louise Matheson, a spokesperson at the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, says one Hercules aircraft is on site and second Herc, along with a Cormorant helicopter have been dispatched from Nova Scotia's 14 Wing Greenwood airbase to join the search.

She says a fishing vessel and a Transport Canada patrol plane are also involved in the search, which she adds is currently being hampered by heavy fog.

A Russian pilot who's trying to become the first person fly around the Arctic Circle in a small helicopter arrived in Iqaluit in a Robinson R22 the day before the search began, however, Matheson said officials could not yet confirm whether it's the same chopper that's missing.

The Canadian Press

Olympic bid discussed

The man who helped Vancouver land the 2010 Winter Games has some advice for Toronto if it wants to be Canada's next Olympic host city — strike while the iron is hot.

With "euphoria" for the Pan American Games set to reach a fever pitch this weekend — fuelled by Canadian athletes' unprecedented success at the multi-sport event — it will be easier to rally public support for an Olympic bid, said John Furlong, who co-led Vancouver's bid and oversaw the Games organizing committee.

Mobilizing various levels of government and stakeholders before Sept. 15, the deadline for would-be host cities for the 2024 Summer Games to register their interest with the International Olympic Committee, may prove challenging but it can be done, Furlong said.

"I do think that the timing may be right," Furlong told The Canadian Press this week. "If the community decided this was the time to go for it, I think they'd have a pretty good shot.

"Because of the timing of the bids for 2024, if the city has this feeling, then it will probably have to move along fairly quickly and decide."

Toronto has unsuccessfully bid for the Olympics twice, most recently when it lost to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Games.

The IOC rated Toronto's 2008 bid favourably on infrastructure and technical ability, but raised concerns about its commitment to supporting sports in the community.

The Pan Am Games, which saw ticket sales surpass one million, has stirred talk of another attempt. Several published reports have estimated a bid would cost at least $50 million and a source confirmed that figure to The Canadian Press.

Some experts say local and international changes that occurred since the last bid could play in the city's favour.

Toronto mayor John Tory has said the city now has the facilities to host international competitions and that "nothing is off the table" when it comes to a possible bid.

"We have to sit down right after these Games and prepare every bit of analysis — on the finances, on the benefits to the city, on the amount of publicity it will give us from the point of tourism," Tory told The Associated Press this week.

The IOC recently changed its rules to encourage bidding cities to use existing or temporary facilities and to focus on sustainability and community-building.

Previously, the committee preferred to see facilities and the athletes village clustered around an Olympic stadium, which Toronto pledged to build on its waterfront for 2008.

"In many ways, what we've done for the Pan Ams — spread the major facilities across the region based on need — could very well be the exemplar for the new way going forward for the IOC," said the University of Toronto's Bruce Kidd, an expert on Canadian sport and the Olympics.

"My preference would be to bid for 2028, but a number of people say life's too short. There are some very favourable factors right now. And maybe with all the turmoil, the IOC will be looking for stability and certainly Canada can provide stability and a guaranteed wonderful Games."

Toronto's competition for the Games must also be considered, said Bob Richardson, the chief operating officer for the 2008 bid and one of the leaders behind the Pan Am bid.

Paris, Rome, Boston, Budapest, Hungary, and Hamburg, Germany, have indicated they will apply. The winning city will be chosen in 2017.

None of the prospective 2024 cities are applying after recent failed bids, Richardson said, although Paris (1900) and Rome (1960) have both hosted in the past.

The IOC sometimes rewards cities who keep trying, he added.

Should Boston be chosen as the 2024 host city, it's unlikely the IOC would choose another North American city for the 2028 Games. Boston, however, has been struggling to gain public support.

Canada has only hosted the Summer Olympics once, in 1976 in Montreal. Calgary in 1988 and Vancouver are the only other Canadian cities to have won Olympic bids.

"I'll be honest. I don't want to be the mayor that presides over some kind of modern-day record for bidding and losing," Tory said. "We want to make a decision — to do it or not — and then campaign our little hearts out, and campaign to win."

A Toronto Olympic bid won't happen without a stamp of approval from the Canadian Olympic Committee.

COC president Marcel Aubut said Toronto's leadership for the Pan Am Games is "very close to Olympic calibre."

He recently hosted IOC president Thomas Bach in Montreal, and Bach made two trips to Toronto at the beginning of the Pan Am Games.

"I don't think there are many IOC presidents who gave so much attention to the Pan American Games," Aubut said.

Rio de Janeiro could be an example for Toronto to follow. The Brazilian city hosted the 2007 Pan Am Games and landed the 2016 Summer Olympics two years later.

An Olympic bid also requires support from the federal and provincial governments, which each poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.

Bal Gosal, minister of state for sport, said Ottawa would "look at the economic situation, the feasibility of the Games, what does it do for the country, then we can make a decision."

Even with the momentum of the Pan Am Games, some factors could hinder a Toronto bid, said Kidd.

Despite having new and "breathtaking" facilities, Toronto hasn't made much progress in fostering sports in the community, which was an issue flagged in its previous bid, he said.

"People have been preoccupied with building facilities and staging the Games and we really haven't put in place a realistic, sustainable plan to enhance sport and physical activity, particularly for the disadvantaged in our society," he said.

Kidd said the IOC will also want proof that Canadians want the Olympics.

Virginia Tech assistant professor Robert Oliver has studied Toronto's failed bids and said residents may be feeling some "bid fatigue."

"Toronto may have improved its stock of infrastructure, expertise, volunteer base, et cetera, but I don't get the sense (particularly when reading newspaper comment sections) that the citizenry are all that enthusiastic about pursuing the Olympics and this is telling," he said in an e-mail.

Vivian Sampson, who moved to Toronto two months ago, said she's on board for the Olympics after seeing the city embrace the Pan Am Games.

"Why not? Because if we're able to handle this we can handle pretty much the bigger scale of it. Let's do it!"

Others said the city can't lose sight of practical concerns.

"I think we have to be very careful. I think at the end of the Pan Am Games we have to go through the budget and see what we spent and see what the city has brought in," said Chris Giuliani, another Toronto resident. "If the Pan Am Games work out well for us and bring in a lot of money, then fine, let's go for the Olympics."



The Canadian Press

Rogers network disruption

Problems with the Rogers wireless network left customers across the country without cellphone and text messaging service on Saturday afternoon.

Many frustrated clients went online to report service disruptions, with the majority of calls coming from Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Alberta.

A spokesman for Rogers confirmed that customers may have experienced "intermittent disruption in service."

The spokesman said in an e-mail sent at 5 p.m. that service was being restored and the company has apologized for the inconvenience.

Rogers did not specify the cause of the service disruption or how many customers were affected.

The Canadian Press

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