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Canada  

Record iceberg season

About 673 icebergs have drifted into shipping lanes off eastern Newfoundland so far this year.

That's almost as many as were counted during the whole ice season last year, ending in late September.

Gabrielle McGrath of the U.S. Coast Guard's International Ice Patrol says it could still be a record season, but numbers are starting to come down and many bergs have melted.

She says a big question is whether winds will bring several more icebergs farther south from where they were seen earlier this week off northeastern Newfoundland.

Thick sea ice in the region and in the Strait of Belle Isle is affecting ferry travel and nearby fisheries.

The International Ice Patrol was formed after the Titanic disaster in 1912 and works with Canadian partners to track icebergs.



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Spring vote in Nova Scotia?

A campaign video posted to the Nova Scotia Liberal Party's website today appears to confirm a spring election is in the air.

The video, which is no longer available, showed Premier Stephen McNeil posed next to a campaign slogan and the message "on May 30th vote Liberal."

It is the strongest hint yet that an election will be called in the coming days.

The Elections Nova Scotia website says an election period is "not less than 30 days" from the date the writ drops.

The Liberal government would have to call an election by this Sunday in order for Nova Scotians to go to the polls May 30.

The campaign video also misspells the party's slogan — "Building on a Stronger Nova Scotia" — spelling it as "Bulding."

On the heels of a weeks-long spending spree, the provincial government tabled a balanced budget Thursday, further fuelling speculation that an election is around the corner.



Weeding out bad apples

Military officials say they have moved this year to force out 77 service members found guilty of sexual misconduct.

Many of the cases are older and none of the members have been released yet, as their files go through what the military says is due process. But the figure is being touted as a solid step toward defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance's promise of eradicating sexual misconduct in the Forces.

"I'm encouraged by some of the steps being taken to eliminate inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces," Vance said in a statement.

"We still have more work to do and we will continue to promote cultural change so we can rid our institution of this abhorrent behaviour."

Officials also say military police plan to review more than 150 old cases of sexual misconduct reported between 2010 and 2016 but deemed unfounded.

At the same time, officials say the number of cases deemed unfounded has dropped from more than one in four between 2010 and 2015 to less than one in seven last year.



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Lost home, won lottery

Between May and December of last year, Chris Flett went through two life-changing events: his house burned down and he won the lottery.

Flett, 34, recalls fetching his daughter from school and rushing home to grab some of his belongings as a forest fire began to threaten his hometown of Fort McMurray.

The fire forced 88,000 people from their homes and destroyed almost 2,600 dwellings.

Flett went back in early June with some friends to take stock of the damage.

"It was incredibly tough to watch everything you worked for in your life to be sitting there and be nothing but ashes."

Flett's fortunes shifted six months later when he won more than $400,000 in the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation Mighty Millions Lottery 50/50 jackpot.

"Disbelief, probably a little bit of fear, happy, sad," Flett says of his reaction to the win. "It was a roller-coaster of emotions, it really was."

With the cash infusion, Flett didn't have to make concessions as he planned the rebuild of his home. He was also able to help out his mother, whose home was under-insured, and his younger brother, who had no insurance for the place he was renting with friends.

So far, he's given $35,000 to $40,000 to charities that helped out with the disaster and intends to donate more.



An engineering marvel

Somewhere off Newfoundland's southwest coast, a Norwegian ship has begun spooling out a massive, thick cable that will connect the island with Nova Scotia, a 170-kilometre voyage that, once completed, will create North America's longest subsea electricity link.

The cable-laying ship CS Nexans Skagerrak started rolling out the black-and-orange cable across the Cabot Strait late Wednesday, a process that began just off Cape Ray, N.L., where the cable has already been anchored.

The slow-moving ship, operated by Nexans SA of France, is expected to arrive off Point Aconi, N.S., by May 8, if the weather holds.

"It looks like we've got a pretty good weather window to work with," said Rick Janega, president and CEO of Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, a subsidiary of Halifax-based Emera Inc.

A second cable is expected to be deployed by early June. Final connections and testing are expected to wrap up by the end of this year.

The two cables, each the width of a two-litre pop bottle, will be part of the $1.6-billion Maritime Link project, which will enable Newfoundland and Labrador's Crown-owned Nalcor Energy to provide privately owned Nova Scotia Power Inc. with renewable energy from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador.

The cables will also enable the two provinces to trade and sell electricity. Each can carry up to 250 megawatts of electricity.



Trekkie plate 'offensive'

Manitoba Public Insurance has revoked a Star Trek fan's personalized licence plate after receiving complaints that its message — ASIMIL8 — is offensive to indigenous people.

Nick Troller has been driving around with the plate for two years.

It's held within a Star Trek licence frame that also bears the quotes, "We are the Borg," and "Resistance is Futile."

Troller tells CTV Winnipeg that on his favourite show, an enemy race of aliens called the Borg travel through the galaxy trying to assimilate other cultures into their own.

He says he thought the plate was funny and notes strangers and other Trek fans have complimented him and asked to take photos with the plate.

But Troller got a phone call Wednesday from a staff member at Manitoba Public Insurance who told him two people had complained that the word “assimilate” is offensive to indigenous people.

He also received a letter from MPI on Thursday demanding he "surrender" the plate immediately, telling him he can either get a new plate or a refund on the $100 charge.



Nothing could save victim

A neurologist says there was nothing doctors could do to save a Calgary gas station employee brought to hospital after a hit-and-run.

Maryam Rashidi, 35, was trying to stop a driver from leaving the Centex gas station in Calgary without paying in June 2015. She chased the vehicle into traffic and climbed on the hood of the truck to get the driver to return and pay his $113 bill.

Joshua Cody Mitchell, 22, is on trial for a number of charges including second-degree murder.

Court has heard the driver swerved, causing her to fall to the ground where she was run over by the front and rear dual tires of the vehicle causing devastating injuries.

Dr. Phillippe Couillard, an expert in critical care neurology at Foothills Medical Centre, told court Rashidi was brought in by air ambulance and examined by the emergency team.

He said scans and X-rays showed the bone at the base of her skull and the first vertebrae in her neck both had fractures. Couillard said there was bruising on her lung and some cuts.

Couillard said she also remained in a deep coma and a CT scan revealed three out of four blood vessels going to the brain were damaged.

He said one of the blood vessels was blocked with a blood clot.

"That clot went to the main blood vessel into the brain on the right and caused a very large stroke on that side," Couillard testified.



Border agent drug charges

Two Canadian border agents are among five people arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling.

RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency say the agents worked out of Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Authorities allege the pair facilitated the importation of more than 30 kilograms of cocaine between January last year and April this year.

They also seized cocaine shipped from Colombia and Jamaica to Toronto.

Charged with offences including breach of trust, conspiracy, and importing a narcotic are CBSA agents Patrick Ruddy, 37, of Toronto, and Brano Andrews, 41, of Barrie, Ont.

Facing similar charges are Roberto Leyva, 32, of Niagara Falls, Ont., and Keith Hamid, 41, and Rennie Escoffery, 57, both of Brampton, Ont.

"Allegations of improper or illegal behaviour by CBSA employees are taken very seriously," Goran Vragovic, CBSA regional director general, said in a statement. "These allegations in no way reflect upon the true professionalism, dedication and integrity displayed each and every day by our CBSA staff."



Bernier 'wouldn't quit'

But O'Leary says he was the ultimately the one to leave because Bernier had the better argument — the seats needed in Quebec for a parliamentary majority could only be delivered by a Quebec-based leader.

O'Leary says while he's now gone from the race, he doesn't intend to be forgotten.

Instead, the reality TV star and businessman said his campaign team and Bernier's are merging in order together deliver Bernier the leadership and then the federal election in 2019.

O'Leary insists that his decision to drop out of the race wasn't motivated by the concern that losing it would tarnish his personal brand.

He told The Canadian Press he'll prove that by campaigning for the Conservatives from now until the next election to fulfil his original promise to unseat the Trudeau Liberals.



Officers felt 'outgunned'

A senior RCMP officer says he warned superiors about the lack of firepower for front line officers long before the 2014 Moncton shooting rampage that left three Mounties dead.

Supt. Troy Lightfoot told the RCMP's trial on labour code charges Thursday he became concerned about officer and public safety after various active shooter incidents including the 2005 attack in Mayerthorpe, Alta., that killed four Mounties.

"We felt at the time that we were basically outgunned," Lightfoot said of active shooter incidents. "I felt that we needed new tools."

The allegations against the RCMP stem from its response to Justin Bourque's shooting rampage in Moncton, N.B., in which he killed three officers and wounded two others. Bourque was armed with a semi-automatic rifle.

Police use of C8 carbine rifles became a central focus in the fallout from the shootings, with some Moncton officers complaining they were outgunned because they did not have carbines. The high-powered weapons have a greater range than the officers' standard-issue pistols.

Lightfoot told Moncton provincial court Judge Leslie Jackson he contributed to a briefing note in 2006 that recommended looking at carbines for Mounties, and was told his team should continue researching the issue.

The national police force ultimately approved the C8 carbine rifles in September 2011, but the rollout took time.

Earlier this week, Supt. Bruce Stuart testified that the carbine purchasing, training and rollout was a highly complicated process with many people involved, and one that was not to be rushed.

Alphonse MacNeil, a retired assistant commissioner with the RCMP, has said the carbines should be rolled out faster. His 2015 report on the Moncton shootings concluded the high-powered weapons could have made a difference in that incident.



She did it for thrills

A young woman stranded for hours after scaling a construction crane in the middle of the night is a thrill seeker, a friend said Thursday.

Marisa Lazo, 23, appeared in court Thursday to face six counts of mischief by interfering with property.

Lazo was granted bail for $500 with several conditions, including staying away from construction sites and rooftops. The dual Canadian-American citizen also had to surrender her U.S. passport and attend "suitable counselling."

Lazo's perilous climb and the dramatic hours-long rescue operation that followed on Wednesday made headlines around the country.

Her friend, Sara Burton, called her a "really good girl" and an "adventure-seeking" person.

"When I saw it, I knew that it was maybe not the best decision, obviously, maybe some logic was not playing into place," Burton said outside court. "But the fact that she did it was not a shock to me — or that she had the ability to do it."

Firefighters said Wednesday they believed Lazo climbed up the crane, crawled out along the boom, and slid down a cable to a large pulley, where she was stranded.



Dive team joins search

A team of scuba divers was being called in Thursday to help in the search for four hunters missing in northeastern Alberta.

The RCMP dive team from British Columbia was to arrive in the area north of Fort Chipewyan in the afternoon.

Police said the divers would work with boats equipped with sonar to search beneath the surface of the Rocher River.

On Wednesday, RCMP and Parks Canada shifted their efforts to a recovery operation after failing to find the men in the rugged bush.

The hunters left Fort Chipewyan on Sunday night in a boat, which was later found in the river that flows through Wood Buffalo National Park.

Earlier this week, more than 70 people took part in the search which included three helicopters and volunteers from the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations.



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