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Canada  

Troops may go on mission

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is not ruling out sending troops on a peacekeeping mission this year, even though Canada has not yet told the United Nations what it is up to.

Trudeau says the Liberal government is still looking "very carefully" at ways to make good on last summer's pledge to allot up to 600 troops and 150 police officers for UN peacekeeping operations, plus $450 million over three years on peace and stability projects.

The CBC is reporting the UN has yet to receive formal notice of that contribution, but Trudeau says he would not draw any conclusions from that.

Trudeau says he knows Canada needs to play "a strong and effective role on the world stage," but that this must be done in a way that suits its "capacities" and he wants to make sure they get it right.

The prime minister says Canada has "a difficult history" as blue helmets in Africa, and he is not going to "fast-track" a decision without studying the impact it will have — both overseas and on Canadians back home.

Trudeau is on Parliament Hill today for a rare weekend Liberal caucus meeting, where MPs are discussing the budget and the how to make the most of their remaining time in Ottawa before they go home for the summer.



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Special Olympics shine

After years of training and competition to reach the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, the members of Team Canada from British Columbia delivered.

Special Olympics Team Canada’s 16 athletes, eight coaches, and one mission staff member from B.C. did their province proud as they competed with skill and determination on the world stage.

Competing in alpine skiing, cross country skiing, figure skating, snowshoeing, and speed skating, all of the B.C. athletes medalled, collectively earning 11 gold, 10 silver, and five bronze.

“We are very proud of this province’s members of Special Olympics Team Canada 2017. They trained so hard to be able to perform at their best on the world stage, and they showed such inspiring dedication, sportsmanship, and skill,” said Lois McNary, Special Olympics BC Vice President, Sport.



Budget defers to Trump?

This week's federal budget leaves Canada in a state of uncertainty as Ottawa waits to see what U.S. President Donald Trump will do south of the border, say Fraser Institute analysts. 

The think tank called the budget “status quo,” saying it “punts major policy decisions into the future,” creating an uncertain economic climate.

In a blog post Charles Lammam accused the government of “essentially deciding not to decide until President Trump decides,” a tactic that “leaves taxpayers, entrepreneurs and businesses guessing about what Canada’s economic policies will be.”

The Trump administration is hammering out details of what could be significant policy and tax changes in the U.S, including NAFTA, a border tax and others.

Lammam and Jason Clemens say those changes could make our southern neighbours a much more attractive destination for investment and skilled workers.

The budget could mean loss of competitive edge against the U.S., they warn.

“Critically, the budget does not provide a definitive answer on whether some of the rumoured tax hikes, particularly with respect to capital gains, will or will not materialize in the coming year. This uncertainty impedes decisions by entrepreneurs and investors,” Lamman writes.

Lammam and Clemens also point out non-residential business investment in Canada has gone down in eight of the last nine quarters, and “should be cause for alarm for a government committed to encouraging innovation and economic growth since investment is a key engine powering both."



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Calgary man convicted

A Calgary man who was found guilty along with his wife of murder in the death of their diabetic teenage son has joined her in filing an appeal of his conviction.

Emil and Rodica Radita of Calgary were convicted of first-degree murder last month in the death of their 15-year-old son Alexandru.

Justice Karen Horner of Court of Queen's Bench heard the trial without a jury and was told the boy was so neglected, he weighed just 37 pounds when he died in 2013 of complications from untreated diabetes and starvation.

Horner sentenced the parents to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Earlier this week, Rodica Radita filed an appeal notice and on Friday, her husband did the same.

Rodica asserted in her appeal that the judge showed bias by crying during the trial.

"I am not guilty of murdering my son and the judge finding that I am shows that she did not look at all of the evidence," she said in a handwritten from that shows her address as the federal women's prison in Edmonton.

When Horner handed down her verdict, she said the couple was in gross denial of Alexandru's disease.

"Children in Canada rarely die from diabetes, but proper treatment requires due diligence,'' the judge said.

Horner said it appeared that Alexandru had not received proper care for years, even though the Raditas were fully trained on how to look after him.



Pee-pee on po-po a no-no

A southwestern Ontario man is facing charges after allegedly relieving himself on a police cruiser.

Chatham-Kent police say an officer was sitting in his fully marked cruiser in Ridgetown, Ont., early Friday morning when a man came out of a nearby bar.

It's alleged the man walked over to the cruiser, looked at the officer and proceeded to urinate on the police vehicle.

The 20-year-old man was arrested and charged with being intoxicated in a public place.

He's also charged with causing a nuisance in a public place under a Chatham-Kent bylaw.

Police say the man was housed at the Chatham-Kent Police Service headquarters until he sobered up.



Looking into stripper joke

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a "process is now properly underway" to look into a Liberal MP's allegedly sexist comment to a Conservative MP.

The Conservatives have been pressuring Trudeau to take action against Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio, who is accused of making a stripper-related joke about Conservative MP Dianne Watts while they were both at a closed-door committee meeting earlier this month.

According to the National Post, which first reported the story, when Di Iorio heard the colourful ring tone as Watts received a call on her cell phone, he said: "Where's your pole to slide down on?"

This happened March 8, International Women's Day.

Trudeau was asked about the remark during a news conference Friday in Boisbriand, Que.

"One of the things that we brought in a number of years ago around issues such as this, as a part of my commitment to gender equality, to a harassment-free workplace, is ... an actual process that will be there to deal with issues of this sort," Trudeau said.

"That process is now properly underway."

Any further questions about what that means were referred to Chief Government Whip Pablo Rodriguez, whose office emailed a statement saying Di Iorio did not mean any offence but has twice offered Watts an apology.

"Mr. Di Iorio offered an apology to Ms. Watts and explained no word that he himself uttered was intended to offend. He offered that apology again earlier this week," his chief of staff, Charles-Eric Lepine, said in the statement.

"All members agree that any form of inappropriate language or behaviour is unacceptable. Every member of Parliament has the right to a safe and respectful working environment and we take this responsibility seriously".

Di Iorio has not responded to a request for comment.



Name offensive to women

The Nova Scotia government has withdrawn a man's eponymous personalized licence plate, saying Lorne Grabher's surname is offensive to women.

Grabher says he put his last name on the licence plate in 1991 as a gift for his late father's birthday, and says the province's refusal to renew the plate late last year is unfair and discriminatory.

Transport Department spokesman Brian Taylor says he understands Grabher is a surname, but notes this context isn't available to the general public who view it.

In addition, he says the department received a complaint in December from a citizen who described it as being hateful towards women and promoting violence against women.

Taylor says licence plate applications include a notice to applicants that the province can refuse the personalized plates on the basis that the wording is socially unacceptable, offensive or not in good taste.

Grabher says that he is pursuing possible legal options.



Good sign in the oilpatch

There was tentative optimism Thursday night following the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon canvas auction, considered an economic bellwether for the oilpatch.

The annual event raised $2.4 million, a notch above the $2.3 million pledged last year, when Alberta was deep within the throes of the crash in crude prices.

"We're starting to see the economy come around and this is very positive news as we start to enter into our ad campaigns and our launch," said Dave Sibbald, president of the Calgary Stampede board of directors.

Still, the auction results were far off the record year of 2012, when bidders pledged just over $4 million at a time when oil prices were hovering above US$100 per barrel, more than double what they're trading for now.

"I said if we raised the same amount of money as last year we'd be very lucky, because I think a lot of companies even this time last year were just thinking it would be short-lived," said Kelly Sutherland, a 12-time racing champion whose chuckwagon drew the top bid of $110,000.

"To me, it's 2018 and 2019 before we turn the corner."

Driver Jason Glass bought the rights to advertise on his own chuckwagon for $95,000, the same price he paid last year, and said he plans to resell it to a group of advertisers who will split up the rights.

"With the economy, everyone is struggling," Glass said.

"They're cutting corners and trying to take care of their families and their business. It is what it is. You can't sugarcoat what's going on in Western Canada."

The auction gives bidders the right to advertise on tarps on the 36 chuckwagons that compete at the Calgary Stampede, which is scheduled to run from July 7-16.



Uber angry over tax

Uber is crying foul over new tax measures announced in the federal government budget that would see the company subject to the same sales tax rules applied to taxi drivers.

The Liberal government's budget Wednesday included amending the definition of a taxi business to include ride-hailing services such as Uber and subject them to the same GST and HST rules as taxis.

Ian Black, the company's regional general manager for Canada, called it a "tax on innovation" that would hurt driver and travellers.

Black called for consultations on the proposal and said the company hopes to work with the government on solutions that support innovation.

The amended taxi business definition will be effective as of July 1.



Not enough to help vets

Veterans advocates in Nova Scotia are blasting the federal government for its inaction on a promise to re-introduce life-long pensions for those injured in uniform, and say the provinces aren't doing enough to fight for needed health care resources.

Disabled veteran David MacLeod called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to keep a 2015 promise to restore life-long pensions that were replaced by a lump-sum payment.

MacLeod says this week's federal budget did not address systemic problems veterans face in dealing with Veterans Affairs, including a lack of access to benefits and services.

He says that has left veterans turning to the provinces to obtain what services they can, including health care.

Kim Davis, whose husband Blair has PTSD after serving in Bosnia, says many veterans are struggling to find help from the provincial health system for such things as mental health services.

Davis says provinces have to push Ottawa for additional veterans funding in order to relieve the strain on an already stretched health system.



From child porn, to lawyer

A Canadian-born man who was jailed in Florida for viewing child pornography has been granted permission to practise law in Ontario.

The tribunal of the Law Society of Upper Canada ruled in a written decision last week to grant Ronald Ori Davidovic's application to be licensed as a lawyer, saying he has demonstrated he is now "of good character."

The document says Davidovic, who was born in Montreal and moved to Miami with his family as a child, was working as general counsel for a telecommunications company in Florida when he was arrested in early 2004 following a police search of his home.

The decision says investigators seized his computers, where they found images and videos of children and teenagers as well as regular pornography.

Davidovic pleaded guilty to one count of receiving images containing a visual depiction of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct and was sentenced to five years in prison, which was later knocked down to three years. He is also registered as a sex offender in Florida.

He resigned from the Florida bar but would have been allowed to reapply in 2010. Instead, the tribunal's decision says, he applied to practice in Ontario, saying he planned to move to Toronto, where he has family.

Two members of the three-person tribunal panel ruled that Davidovic should be licensed, saying he has taken responsibility and expressed remorse for his actions, and has not reoffended since his arrest.

Davidovic, who is in his 40s, has completed more than 300 hours of mandated therapy and more than 500 hours of additional therapy, and started volunteering with an organization that educates media, legislators and the public about issues relating to sex offenders, they said.

"It has been over 13 years since the commission of the offences, and nine years since the applicant completed his sentence. He has tried to reinvent himself, with a significant measure of success thus far, to make a new life," Raj Anand and Jan Richardson wrote.

"The applicant's conduct in the years preceding 2004 was reprehensible, but it is not an automatic or permanent bar to his admission, given the evidence and positions of the parties, and in light of the applicant’s determination to be an ethical and productive lawyer."



Fight over how gov't works

The customary grilling of government that follows the tabling of a federal budget was all but shoved aside Thursday as opposition MPs pressed the Liberals not on their fiscal balance, but their work-life one.

Government House leader Bardish Chagger spent more time on her feet in question period than did the finance minister as she was forced again and again to defend Liberal proposals to change the rules that govern the operations of the House of Commons.

Chagger released a discussion paper last week, proposing ideas including abolishing Friday sittings, allowing electronic voting and creating a special question period in which MPs would direct all their questions to the prime minister.

The goal of the changes, she said Thursday, is to modernize the way the Commons works.

"The more hours I sit in the House, the more I believe that we do need to do things better," she said.

But the debate that's ensued since her paper was introduced has consumed the Commons and even contributed to a half-hour delay Wednesday in the tabling of the budget.

The issue for Opposition MPs is both the proposed changes and the way the government is trying to implement them. Commons' committees are supposed to be free to set their own agendas, yet Chagger wants her paper discussed by the procedures committee, which some view as an abuse of her power.

Chagger said all she's trying to do is start a conversation.

The Opposition claims that Chagger's paper lays the groundwork for the prime minister to only have to show up in the Commons once a week



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