Board deemed sex offender a risk years before he was accused of killing woman, child

Labelled a risk prior to arrest

Four years before a mother and her 16-month-old son were killed in western Alberta, police had warned the public that a registered sex offender would be released and there was a chance he could harm “a female, including children.”

Robert Major, 53, faces two counts of second-degree murder in last week's deaths of Mchale Busch, 24, and her son, Noah McConnell. Major has also been charged with causing an indignity to human remains.

RCMP have said the woman and her son died Sept. 16 — the day before they were reported missing — and their bodies discovered Sept. 17 in Major's apartment in Hinton, about 290 kilometres west of Edmonton.

In July 2017, Edmonton police issued a public warning that Major would be living in the community. It is unclear when he moved to Hinton.

"The Edmonton Police Service has reasonable grounds to believe he will commit another sexual offence against a female, including children, while in the community," a news release read.

This week, RCMP said in a statement that Major had not been subject to any recognizance conditions since July 2020. It's unclear whether Hinton residents were warned when he came to town.

Cody McConnell, Busch's fiancé and Noah's father, said they recently moved into the apartment building and had no idea they were living near a sex offender.

"The system failed Mchale and Noah by not letting us know we moved in next to a convicted sexual offender whom the police had reasonable grounds to believe (would) commit another offence," McConnell told media outside court in Edson, Alta., earlier this week.

The National Sex Offender Registry Database, which allows police to do searches based on information that has been collected, is not available to landlords or any other member of the public.

McConnell and his family said they want that changed, especially for those who are considered likely to reoffend.

"I feel like this should never happen to any other family ever again," McConnell said.

Three Parole Board of Canada documents from 2016 and 2017 show there were serious concerns about Major.

The board cited a 2013 psychological report that said he posed a high risk for impulsive behaviour and a high risk of sexually harming someone he deemed weaker than himself.

"The (psychological) report cites your repeated rationalization as a defence against insight, which suggests you have a limited awareness of the impact of your actions on others," the parole board documents said.

The board also noted that Major was sentenced to three years, 10 months and 30 days for an offence in 2012, in which he took a toddler from a babysitter's care for an unsupervised walk and sexually assaulted the child.

"File information indicates that you admitted to being sexually aroused by this assault and that you stated that you committed the offence for 'the thrill of it,'" the documents said

The documents indicated that Major was charged with sexual assault in 2006 and sexual interference in 2013. The first charge was stayed and the other withdrawn.

In 2015, while serving a sentence for the sexual assault on the toddler, Major was accused of inappropriately touching another inmate.

"Reports note that you have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorders, cognitive disorders, personality disorders, anti-social personality disorders, query epilepsy and low intelligence functioning," the documents said.

They also said Major completed a national moderate intensity sex offender program in 2015. He worked closely with mental health nurses, attended church and connected with pastors.

"It was noted that the pastors were aware of your criminal history and welcomed you into the parish, offering you support."

The documents said he was granted statutory release in February 2016, and some of his leave privileges were revoked in 2017.

The board said this week that it could not disclose Major's warrant expiry date, which is the conclusion of an inmate's sentence when he is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Correctional Service of Canada.

Major's next court appearance is Oct. 20.


Kovrig and Spavor touch down in Canada after nearly three years detention in China

Michaels safely back home

UPDATE: 7:20 a.m.

Two Canadians who were imprisoned in China for nearly three years are safely back in Canada.

Video from CTV shows Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeting Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor at the airport in Calgary early this morning.

The footage shows Trudeau welcoming some of the plane's passengers home with hugs on the tarmac.

The flight carrying Spavor and Kovrig, who have become known internationally as "The Two Michaels," departed for Canada late Friday just as Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou made her way back to China after resolving a legal saga that inflamed international tensions.

Meng reached a deal with U.S. prosecutors Friday that saw them withdraw the extradition request that led to her 2018 arrest in Vancouver over fraud and conspiracy charges related to American sanctions against Iran.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in China on espionage charges just days later in apparent retaliation, but Beijing has consistently denied a link between the two cases.

ORIGINAL: 6:30 a.m.

Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were free and bound for home late Friday after being imprisoned in China for nearly three years, while Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was heading in the other direction, her own legal saga ending in a deal with the United States.

The pair of flights made for a dramatic end to an international battle, both publicly and behind the scenes, that began nearly three years ago with the arrest of Meng at the Vancouver airport.

Spavor and Kovrig, known around the world as "the two Michaels," left China at almost the precise moment that Meng, the chief financial officer at Huawei Technologies, was being flown out of Vancouver on her way back to China.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waited until the plane left Chinese air space before announcing the good news at a hastily called news conference Friday night on Parliament Hill.

"These two men have gone through an unbelievably difficult ordeal," Trudeau said.

"For the past 1,000 days they have shown strength, perseverance, resilience and grace and we are all inspired by that."

The pair were accompanied on the flight by Dominic Barton, Canada's ambassador to China, and were expected to arrive in Canada on Saturday morning.

Just hours earlier, Meng had walked out of a British Columbia Supreme Court, where a judge agreed to a discharge order that withdrew a U.S. extradition request against her.

The discharge followed a virtual appearance by Meng in a New York courtroom where she pleaded not guilty to all charges and the judge signed off on a deferred prosecution agreement.

The effort to settle the Meng case gained new momentum in the last two weeks, and culminated with an agreement reached in Washington on Thursday night between Huawei and the U.S. Justice Department, said a source close to the negotiations who was not authorized to speak publicly about them due to the sensitivity of the situation.

Barton had spent several weeks in Washington in the spring, meeting with Huawei lawyers, Chinese and U.S. officials and others in an attempt to carve out a solution while the case was making its way through a Vancouver court.

In August, B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes reserved her decision on Meng's extradition. The next hearing was set for Oct. 21, when Holmes was likely to indicate a date for her decision on the extradition.

The Huawei executive was originally detained in Vancouver in December 2018 at the behest of the U.S., where she faced charges related to American sanctions against Iran, and then Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in China days later in apparent retaliation.

China has publicly maintained that there is no connection between her case and the men's imprisonment but has also dropped broad hints that if she were allowed to go free, that could benefit the two Canadians.

Then on Friday, a surprise court hearing in New York delivered the long-awaited breakthrough.

Assistant U.S. attorney David Kessler told the New York court on Friday the agreement would allow for the charges against Meng to be dismissed after Dec. 1, 2022 — four years from the date of her arrest — provided that she complied with all her obligations under the terms of the deal.

"Should the offices pursue the prosecution that is deferred by this agreement, Meng stipulates to the admissibility of the statement of facts … in any proceeding against her," he said.

"Meng further agrees that she and her lawyers, and representatives authorized to speak on her behalf, will not make any statements after entry into this agreement that may contradict any of the facts in the statement of facts."

The U.S. statement of facts spells out the thrust of the allegations against Meng — essentially, that she portrayed Skycom, which operated primarily in Iran, as a separate and distinct business partner when it was for all intents and purposes a wholly owned subsidiary.

"As Meng knew, Skycom was not a business partner of, or a third party working with, Huawei," the document says. "Instead, Huawei controlled Skycom, and Skycom employees were really Huawei employees."

Huawei and Skycom were also charged with bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and violating the U.S. International Emergency Economic Powers Act — the sanctions law. The status of those charges remained unclear.

A statement from Canada's Department of Justice after the U.S. hearing said there was no longer a basis for the extradition proceedings against her.

"Meng Wanzhou is free to leave Canada," the statement said. "Meng Wanzhou was afforded a fair process before the courts in accordance with Canadian law. This speaks to the independence of Canada's judicial system."'

On Friday night, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country joined the world in welcoming the news.

"The U.S. government stands with the international community in welcoming the decision by People’s Republic of China authorities to release Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig after more than two-and-a-half years of arbitrary detention. We are pleased that they are returning home to Canada," he said in a statement.

Meng appeared in person in the B.C. Supreme Court on Friday afternoon where Holmes signed the order discharging her, vacating her bail conditions and officially closing the Canadian case against her.

"Thank you, my lady," Meng told Holmes.

In a statement outside the court, Meng thanked Crown lawyers and the Canadian people for their tolerance.

"Sorry for the inconvenience," she said.

Meng also noted how her life has been turned "upside down" by the case. She said she appreciated the court for its professionalism and the Canadian government for upholding the rule of law.

"It was a disruptive time for me as a mother, a wife and a company executive," Meng said. "But I believe every cloud has a silver lining. It really was an invaluable experience in my life. The greater the difficulty, the greater the growth."

The Huawei executive's arrest three years ago saw relations between Canada and China deteriorate and a cascade of effects including the arrest of the two Canadian men.

Kovrig is a Canadian diplomat on leave to the International Crisis Group, a peace-building non-governmental organization. Spavor is an entrepreneur who tried to forge people and business ties to North Korea. They were detained on Dec. 10, 2018.

Comfort Ero, the vice president of the Crisis Group, offered effusive thanks that the 1,020-day ordeal of Kovrig had ended.

"To Beijing: We welcome this most just decision. To Ottawa: Thank you for your steadfast support for our colleague. To the United States: Thank you for your willingness to support an ally and our colleague. To the inimitable, indefatigable, and inspiring Michael Kovrig, welcome home," said Ero.

Earlier this year, Kovrig and Spavor were both convicted of spying in closed Chinese courts — a process that Canada and dozens of allies said amounts to arbitrary detention on bogus charges in a closed system of justice with no accountability.

Spavor received an 11-year sentence, while Kovrig had yet to be sentenced.

Election results unveil worrisome divide between urban and rural Canadians: experts

Urban and rural divide

The results of the federal election have shown a deepened divide between Canadians living in urban areas who mostly chose Liberal candidates and those living in rural areas who voted for the Conservative party, experts say.

Allan Thompson, the head of Carleton University's journalism program, said the results of Monday's election have revealed increasing polarization between rural and urban Canadians.

The division was very clear in Ontario where the Liberals picked up almost all the seats in the urban ridings and the Conservatives flipped some rural ridings and increased their lead in ridings they'd held before.

"What worries me is just the polarization, that it seems to be more and more split, more of a division where it's virtually automatic what the outcome is going to be," Thompson said.

"I think parties do start to make that part of their strategy. I'm concerned that they're not really even making a serious effort to appeal to voters in the ridings that they have decided are unwinnable, and that's just a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Before returning to his non-partisan position as a university professor, Thompson led a task force for the Liberals to propose ways to better connect with rural voters. He also ran as a Liberal candidate in Ontario's rural riding of Huron-Bruce twice, losing to Conservative MP Ben Lobb by about 3,000 votes in 2015 and by about 9,000 votes in 2019.

On Monday, Lobb was re-elected over the Liberal candidate by a margin of more than 15,000 votes.

Conservative Michelle Ferreri defeated incumbent Liberal gender equality minister Maryam Monsef in the largely rural riding of Peterborough-Kawartha and Conservatives Anna Roberts also defeated Liberal seniors minister Deb Schulte in King–Vaughan on the outskirts of Toronto.

The Conservatives also flipped the riding of Bay of Quinte in Ontario, Miramichi–Grand Lake in New Brunswick, Cumberland–Colchester and South Shore–St. Margarets in Nova Scotia and Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame in Newfoundland and Labrador, while maintaining or extending their leads in most of Canada's rural ridings.

Meanwhile, the Liberals held onto their strongholds in Canada's largest cities, wining 22 out of 24 ridings in the Montreal area and all of Toronto's 25 ridings, including Spadina–Fort York where Kevin Vuong emerged victorious even after being disavowed by the Liberal party.

The party dropped Vuong as a candidate two days before election day over the revelation that he'd been charged in 2019 with sexual assault, a charge that was later withdrawn. His name remained on the ballot, however, and the party now says he'll have to sit as an Independent MP.

The Liberals also won nine out of 10 seats in the Ottawa-Gatineau area and flipped three ridings in the Vancouver area. They also won all the ridings in the Halifax area and picked up a riding in each of Calgary and Edmonton.

Thompson said the Liberals and Conservatives have become so entrenched in their respective strongholds that "you start to wonder are they satisfied with devoting their resources and campaign strategy to those communities where they feel they have the best chance of winning?"

Carleton University political science professor Jonathan Malloy said the pattern of Liberals winning in urban areas and Conservatives winning in rural areas is not new. It emerged about three decades ago when the Conservative party splintered with the creation of the Reform Party, which later morphed into the Canadian Alliance before reuniting under the Conservative banner.

That drew the Conservatives more towards rural areas while the Liberals became more entrenched in the cities, Malloy said.

"Toronto used to be quite a Tory center of voting, that's like 50, 60 years ago," he said.

"The trends we have today have been growing, accelerating, particularly in Ontario, I would say, for the last 20 or 30 years."

Malloy said it's hard to determine when this trend started exactly, partly because some communities have grown so much in last few decades.

"Brampton, (Ont.) used to be a fairly small town, maybe 50 years ago you would maybe call it mainly rural and a small town. Now of course Brampton is the city of about 600,000 people," he said.

Malloy said the polices each of the two parties propose during their campaigns play a role in increasing the divide.

For instance, the Liberals' promise of $10-a-day childcare was more appealing to people living in the cities where the cost of child care is more of a concern than the availability of the service.

"It really plays out differently in different areas and for a lot of rural and suburban areas, ... and remote areas, it's just about the capacity of supply of government services not the cost," Malloy said.

There was also a very clear distinction between the Liberals and the Conservatives on the issue of guns that played out differently between urban and rural populations, he added.

"No one has a need for a gun in a Canadian city. And so, the Liberals tend to be fairly restrictive on firearms, because most urban people don't own firearms, they have no need for firearms and so they're happy to support strong restrictions on them.

"In rural areas, firearms are more practical, whether for hunting or for protecting your farm animals. There's practical reasons to have guns in rural areas."

Malloy said both the Liberals and Conservatives are aware of these differences and they tend to build their policies to appeal to their bases.

Whether voters view the party leader as a city or a rural person also plays a role in their choice, he believes.

"Urban voters view Mr. (Andrew) Scheer and Mr. (Erin) O'Toole as relatively rural even though they are properly kind of urban or suburban," he said. "Mr. (Justin) Trudeau, fair to say, is identified with urban. I don't think anyone would disagree with that."

While both parties try to attract voters from one another's bases, Malloy said they do so only after making a strategic calculation on whether attracting new voters might potentially cost them some of their existing support.

Thompson said the pattern of division between rural and urban Canadians is jeopardizing the effectiveness of democracy in Canada and parties should put more effort into bridging the gap.

"It's as if you live in a particular riding you don't get a chance to consider the other point of view, and that's not healthy," he said.


PM Trudeau says Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on way home to Canada

2 Michaels on way home

Two Canadians detained in China on spying charges have been released from prison and flown out of the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday, hours after a top executive of Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies resolved criminal charges against her in a deal with the U.S. Justice Department.

Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested in China in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, on a U.S. extradition request. Many countries labeled China's action “hostage politics.”

The deal with Meng calls for the Justice Department to dismiss fraud charges late next year in exchange for Meng accepting responsibility for misrepresenting her company’s business dealings in Iran. Trudeau called a news conference Friday night about an hour after Meng’s plane left Canada for China.

The arrangement with Meng, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, resolves a yearslong legal and geopolitical tussle that involved not only the U.S. and China but also Canada, where Meng has remained since she was arrested at Vancouver's airport in December 2018.

The deal was reached as President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have sought to tamp down signs of public tension — even as the world’s two dominant economies are at odds on issues as diverse as cybersecurity, climate change, human rights and trade and tariffs. Biden said in an address before the U.N. General Assembly earlier this week that he had no intention of starting a “new Cold War,” while Xi told world leaders that disputes among countries “need to be handled through dialogue and cooperation.”

Residents of Saugeen First Nation given expired COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine for weeks

A month of expired vaccines

Indigenous Services Canada gave residents of an Ontario First Nation 71 expired doses of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 between Aug. 9 and Sept. 15.

According to a statement from the Saugeen First Nation, nurses from the federal department administered doses based on the expiry date on the vials, not realizing the doses had already expired because they were not refrigerated.

The First Nation says the shipment was received in July and was originally set to expire in October.

But because the vials were thawed, they were good for only 31 days — until Aug. 9. The new expiry date was noted on the box but not on the individual vials, in accordance with Indigenous Services protocol.

While the expired doses don't pose a health risk, the Saugeen First Nation COVID-19 response team said the mistake could affect the livelihood of some residents while they await another dose.

In a brief statement during a teleconference with reporters, Indigenous Services' chief medical officer said the government is working with public health officials in Ontario to figure out when to administer the new doses.

While some people might have received their dose a day after it expired, others might have received theirs weeks later.

Now health workers need to assess each person's situation and their medical conditions to determine when they should be re-vaccinated, chief medical officer Dr. Tom Wong explained.

So far there has been at least an attempt to contact each person affected, he said.

Wong would not answer follow-up questions and said more information would be available next week.

Canada's chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam did not have direct knowledge of the incident, but said any undertaking as massive as Canada's vaccine rollout is bound to encounter issues.

Still, she encouraged members of the community and Indigenous Services to sit down together and discuss what went wrong.

"It's true that sometimes these incidences do lead to a lack of trust, which is already very difficult to build," Tam said at a press briefing Friday. "I think everyone should come to the table with an open mind to look for prevention measures for the next time."

Fade to blue: Mountain lakes lose unique colour due to climate change, says study

Mountain lakes lose blue

The distinctive milky turquoise of mountain lakes is going the way of the glaciers that feed them, according to new research.

"A lot of the turquoise glacial lakes in the Canadian Rockies are clearing up," said Rolf Vinebrooke, who studies such lakes at the University of Alberta. "They're turning more the blue colour that people think of as normal lakes."

The delicate, translucent celadon that says "alpine" to mountain-lovers everywhere comes from glacial meltwater. Even small glaciers are massive rivers of ice that can pulverize rock into flour-fine particles and it's those particles that tint the lakes.

"The sunlight reflects off these white particles," said Vinebrooke, who published his finding in the latest State of the Mountains report for the Alpine Club of Canada. "Because of the scattering of the light as it hits these particles, the lake takes on this turquoise colour."

Glaciers, though, have been hard hit by climate change. And not just the big ones.

"Between the '70s and the '90s, when nobody was talking about global warming, a lot of these smaller glaciers had already melted and disappeared."

Vinebrooke took archival pictures of many lakes shot in the middle of the last century and compared them to modern images. Even in the black-and-white of the earlier pictures, the change was evident.

Then, the researchers took sediment cores from the bottom of the lakes. Sediment cores reveal a lake's history much like the layers of growth in a tree trunk.

"We were looking for clear blue mountain lakes," Vinebrooks said. "We found them, then we realized when we took these sediment cores that they had only been a clear blue colour for the last couple decades.

"We found a lot of lakes that are clear now, but just a few decades ago were turquoise. Their small glacier had melted."

The colour change didn't happen everywhere, but it happened frequently. It also appears to have happened fairly quickly.

"In the span of a few years, it shifts over and the lake goes clear," said Vinebrooke.

He said it's happening right now in places like Geraldine Lakes, a series of alpine lakes in Jasper National Park.

"We've got multiple lines of evidence that show all that pretty convincingly."

Vinebrooke said a clear blue lake admits much more sunlight into depths than a lake clouded with glacial flour. That's likely to bring in a much different local ecology, he said

"You increase the potential for that lake to be more productive because there's more microscopic algal growth in those lakes."

But there are winners and losers.

Organisms adapted to the low light of milky waters are unlikely to survive what would be to them a harsh new glare of ultraviolet radiation. The problem is especially acute because of the speed of the transition.

"If you take that sunscreen away, some organisms may not be able to tolerate that increase in UV radiation. It doesn't give organisms time to adapt."

Vinebrooke suspects some lakes, at least temporarily, may be left "biologically impoverished" -- especially since so many are remote and in austere settings.

Ultimately, he said, it's one more example of climate change already working to alter familiar touchstones.

"It captures the here and now effects of global warming."

Canadian Catholic bishops 'apologize unequivocally' for residential schools

Catholic bishops apologize

Catholic bishops in Canada are apologizing "unequivocally" to Indigenous Peoples for the suffering endured in residential schools, just as Pope Francis prepares to meet with Indigenous leaders at the Vatican later this fall.

They are also promising to provide documents that may help "memorialize" students buried in unmarked graves, work on getting the Pope to visit Canada, and raise money to help fund initiatives recommended by local Indigenous partners.

The church has been heavily criticized for refusing to provide all documents requested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and for raising less than one-sixth of a $25-million fund promised for reconciliation and healing as part of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The bishops' apology is the latest expression of remorse from the Canadian arms of the Catholic Church but still falls short of the TRC call to action for the Pope himself to apologize in Canada.

National Indigenous leaders, elders, youth and survivors of residential schools are to travel to Rome in mid-December for four days of meetings, which some hope will be the final precursor to that apology.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appealed directly to the Pope for the apology during a visit to the Vatican in 2017, but months later Pope Francis sent word through Canadian bishops that he could not personally respond to the call.

Police looking at new Calgary MP after video appears to show flyer swap on doorstep

MP caught swapping flyer

Calgary police are investigating a newly elected Liberal member of Parliament after he was captured on a doorbell camera appearing to remove his opponent's campaign flyer.

George Chahal, a former city councillor, won the only non-Conservative seat in Calgary, edging out Conservative Jag Sahota in the riding of Calgary Skyview.

The doorbell video, posted to social media, appears to show Chahal removing Sahota's flyer in exchange for his own at a home on the eve of Monday's federal election.

Calgary police say they have received a report related to the alleged pamphlet removal.

It has been directed to their anti-corruption unit, which handles investigations involving public officials.

Police say the investigation could also be transferred to a federal body, such as Elections Canada or the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

Chahal could not immediately be reached for comment.

School disruption, 'long COVID,' all factors in choice to vaccinate young kids: Tam

Vaccinate kids or not?

Canada's top doctor says safety data won't be the only factor public health officials and parents will have to consider when deciding whether or not to vaccinate young kids against COVID-19.

There are no COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in children under 12 in Canada right now, but Pfizer announced earlier this week positive results in its trial for kids aged five and up.

Dr. Teresa Tam says Health Canada will be looking at the data carefully to determine if the vaccine is safe for children, but that's not the only factor parents will have to weigh up.

Children's risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 are low compared to the rest of the population, but Tam warned rare incidents can become more common as the virus spreads.

She also points to the impacts of "long COVID," which is still being studied, and the importance of limiting disruptions to school as things to consider.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization and the Public Health Agency of Canada will provide more official advice when they receive and analyze the safety and efficacy data from Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers.

Emergency doctor says key parts of health triage have begun in Alberta

COVID triaging begins

The head of emergency medicine for the Alberta Medical Association says major components of triage have already begun in Alberta.

Dr. Paul Parks says that in recent days some critically ill COVID-19 patients who should be on ventilators are not getting them.

He says that's on top of previously announced mass cancellations of surgeries, along with patient transfers as doctors balance medical need with available space.

Parks says it's not at the point where doctors must make on-the-spot, life-and-death decisions.

But he says that's not far away and, when it comes, the second stage of triage will follow quickly, including making those same decisions about children.

Parks says Alberta Health Services is doing everything it can, but he says the government has failed to lead by imposing lax health restrictions and by allowing mass gatherings, including in schools and at sports events.

Alberta is seeing well over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases a day.

Parks says there needs to be an immediate response, including mandatory mask mandates everywhere and shutting down schools and mass gatherings.

Dr. Verna Yiu, head of Alberta Health Services, said this week one key reason that intensive care wards have not been overwhelmed is because enough COVID-19 patients are dying to free up bed space.

Federal deficit hit $48.5 billion over first four months of fiscal year

Deficit down to $48.5B

The federal government ran a deficit of more than $48 billion over the first four months of its fiscal year, about $100 billion less than the treasury pumped out during the same period one year earlier.

The Finance Department's regular fiscal monitor says the budgetary deficit between April and July was just under $48.5 billion, down from the almost $148.6 billion recorded over the same months in 2020 when COVID-19 first struck.

Friday's fiscal monitor says the deficit to date now reflects current economic challenges caused by COVID-19, including ongoing public health restrictions.

Program spending, excluding net actuarial losses, between April and July was $154billion, a decline of about $58.1 billion, or 27.4 per cent drop, from the $212.1 billion in the same period one year earlier.

The fiscal monitor says the decline largely reflects lower amounts paid in emergency benefits to individuals and businesses.

Year-over-year, wage subsidy payments dropped to $12.5 billion from $30.6 billion and emergency benefits to workers fell to $10.2 billion from $29.9 billion.

The government announced in late July that it was extending emergency benefits given economic conditions. They will now last until Oct. 23.

Revenues between April and July reached over $118.5 billion, which was a $44.6-billion, or 60.3 per cent, increase from the $73.9 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal year, driven primarily by higher tax revenues.

Public debt charges were $7.8 billion, up $1 billion or 14.5 per cent, compared to the $6.8 billion recorded between April and July of 2020, which largely reflects higher consumer price index adjustments on real return bonds.

Calls mount for new defence minister as Trudeau to choose new cabinet

Has Sajjan lost credibility?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being urged by several experts on sexual misconduct in the military to name a new defence minister as he sets about building a new cabinet following Monday’s federal election.

The calls are based on a belief that Harjit Sajjan has lost credibility when it comes to addressing what senior commanders themselves have described as an existential crisis within the Canadian Armed Forces.

“It’s just not imaginable,” Maya Eichler, head of the Centre for Social Innovation and Community Engagement in Military Affairs at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, said of Sajjan returning to the position he has held since 2015.

“It would show the government to be completely out of touch with how people feel about the issue and the kind of bold action that is needed.”

Yet while Eichler believes it is time for a woman to take over as Canada’s next defence minister, she and others warn such an appointment must include the right person and the necessary support to help them succeed in the role.

“Like any discussion about picking someone for a position of power based on their sex, it is crucial to ensure that the person selected is set up for success and not failure,” Eichler said.

Among the names being bandied around as possibilities to succeed Sajjan are Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough and Public Procurement Minister Anita Anand, both of whom have played key roles in Ottawa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The only woman to have served as Canada’s defence minister was Kim Campbell, who held the post for six months in 1993 before serving for five months as Canada’s only female prime minister to date.

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