Monthly Archives:July 2019

Peace plan to weapons of war: What’s Russia doing in Syria? – National ( admin posted on July 23rd, 2019 )

As U.S. officials raise concerns about an increased Russian military presence in Syria, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning conflict negotiator claims western leaders “ignored” a Russian plan that might have seen Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad resign three years ago.

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The U.S., France and U.K. brushed aside the plan, the Guardian reported former Finnish president and 2008 Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari saying in an exclusive interview, even as the country’s civil war grew more brutal and millions of people were forced to flee their homes — contributing to what is now the greatest refugee crisis the world has seen in decades.

“It was an opportunity lost in 2012,” Ahtisaari said of the plan laid out by Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin, who also served as Russia’s ambassador to Canada from 1998 to 2003.

READ MORE: Russian forces expanding major airport in Syrian province: monitoring group

Ahtisaari said Churkin had a three-point plan to strike a peace deal between the Assad regime and opposition groups to end the civil war that has, since 2011, claimed the lives of more than 220,000 Syrians.

“He said three things: One – we should not give arms to the opposition. Two – we should get a dialogue going between the opposition and Assad straight away. Three – we should find an elegant way for Assad to step aside,” the Guardian reported him saying.

Ahtisaari claimed the U.S., U.K and France — all permanent members of the U.N Security Council along with Russia and China — weren’t interested because they felt Assad’s days were numbered.

“Nothing happened because I think all these, and many others, were convinced that Assad would be thrown out of office in a few weeks so there was no need to do anything.”

Ahtisaari’s claims were refuted by another European diplomat, whom the Guardian did not name, and by Sir John Jenkins, the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ executive director for the Middle East.

Jenkins questioned whether Churkin “was speaking with Moscow’s authority” and that he would have “wanted to hear it from [President Vladimir] Putin…

“And even then I’d have wanted to be sure it wasn’t a Putin trick to draw us into a process that ultimately preserved Assad’s state under a different leader but with the same outcome.”

READ MORE: Israeli defence chief: Russian troops already in Syria

It’s unknown whether a purported Russian plan could have ended the war and prevented the displacement of more than half of Syria’s population — more than 4 million refugees who’ve fled to other countries and approximately 7.6 million displaced internally — and prevented the rise of ISIS in Syria. Other attempts at a peace deal have fallen apart.

But on Tuesday Putin reaffirmed Russia’s military aid to the Assad regime, and its fight against rebel groups and extremists like ISIS, would continue.

Speaking in Tajikistan on, he said the situation in Syria would be “worse than Libya” without his country’s military assistance.

But now evidence appears to be mounting, showing just how much Russia is intervening to support longtime ally Assad.

“We have seen indications in recent days that Russia has moved people and things into the area around Latakia, and the airbase there,” CNN reported Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis saying Monday.

READ MORE: Obama warns Russia on helping arm Syrian government to fight ISIS

Foreign Policy on Tuesday, however, published satellite images highlighting the construction of an apparent air base near the port city.

Columnist Jeffery Lewis wrote the developments point to not just a failure of U.S. (and Western) policy regarding the war in Syria but also the grim outlook for both the bloody conflict and the humanitarian crisis spreading far beyond its borders.

“What Russia has done, however, is make it clear that it will not let Assad fall. He can’t win, but Russia won’t let him lose. That dooms Syria to what looks like endless war, as Assad fights to the last man.”

International involvement in Syria has largely focused on combating ISIS, through U.S.-led airstrikes and support for Kurdish and so-called moderate opposition groups.

But it’s the Assad regime’s forces and allied armed groups who are blamed for thousands more deaths than those caused by ISIS.

Citing numbers from the U.K.-based Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Washington Post reported last week ISIS militants killed 1,131 people in Syria in the first seven months of 2015, while the Assad regime and “pro-government militias” killed 7,894 people.

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Newfoundland Conservative candidate dropped from party after online comments ( admin posted on July 23rd, 2019 )

Blair Dale, a Conservative candidate in the Newfoundland riding of Bonavista-Burin-Trinity, has been dropped from the party, Global News has confirmed.

He appears to have been dumped after a blogger outlined posts by Dale on various social media accounts. According to the blogger, some of these posts included questionable comments on women, sex and race.

Even Dale’s OkCupid dating profile was scoured for his views on different issues, including mentions that he was pro-choice but only in cases of rape, and that he was open to dating someone who took “soft” drugs, like marijuana.

However, while the blog states that while these posts appear to have been written by Dale, they could not confirm that they actually were. Either way, Dale is no longer a candidate.

Before entering politics himself, Dale was working as an assistant to MP LaVar Payne in Ottawa, according to a LinkedIn profile.

Screenshot from Blair Dale's LinkedIn profile.

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The Conservatives are not particularly competitive in Bonavista-Burin-Trinity. Although it is a new riding, all of the former ridings it is composed of leaned strongly Liberal – electing only one Conservative between them between 2004 and 2011.

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Quebec national assembly returns after summer break – Montreal ( admin posted on July 23rd, 2019 )

QUEBEC CITY  – The Quebec legislature resumes sitting Tuesday after its summer break.

READ MORE: #LiftTheBan: Student video asks Quebec government to reconsider budget cuts

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Premier Philippe Couillard‘s governing Liberals and the Opposition Parti Québécois have promised less political partisanship during the daily question period.

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The session will play out against the backdrop of what could well be protracted contract negotiations between the government and public-sector unions.

READ MORE: How are this year’s Quebec student protests different from 2012?

The Liberals have 70 members in the 125-seat national assembly, compared with 29 for the PQ and 20 for the Coalition Avenir Quebec.

Quebec Solidaire has three seats, there is one Independent and two ridings are vacant.

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Quebecers are expected to next go to the polls in the fall of 2018.

WATCH: Quebec politics in action

Couillard mulls legalizing Uber-type taxis

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Couillard mulls legalizing Uber-type taxis

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Mulcair meets Couillard in Quebec City

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Ontario and Quebec will take lead on climate change: Couillard

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One-on-one with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard

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RAW: Premier Couillard on Jean Béliveau

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Poll shows Quebecers would re-elect Couillard

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Couillard lays out 4-year plan




©2015The Canadian Press

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WATCH: Breaching humpback whale lands on top of kayakers – National ( admin posted on July 23rd, 2019 )

There’s whale-watching. And then there’s this U.K. couple’s close encounter with a humpback whale in Moss Landing, California.

Amazing video shows a fully grown humpback whale jump out of the water and land on top of a pair of kayakers in a tandem kayak.

Michael Sack, owner and captain of Sanctuary Cruises, was just a stone’s throw away when he and his passengers watched the enormous sea mammal leap.

“For them to jump out of water and land on somebody – that has never happened before as far I know. I would say it was just pure coincidence and the whale maybe didn’t know they were there,” Sack told Global News.

Sack’s vessel and about 20 kayakers had stopped to watch a group of whales playing and feeding on Saturday morning.

One of Sack’s passengers shot the whole thing. Sack posted the video on YouTube, where by Tuesday afternoon it had racked up more than 600,000 views.


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It looked like the whale’s pectoral fin slapped the two kayakers, knocking them out of their boat and into the water.

They emerged uninjured – just a little shaken.

“They said it was one of the scariest things that ever happened to them,” Sack said. “They were in shock all day.”

Sack said on his blog the couple’s kayak appeared to have bent under the impact.

For the record, Sack doesn’t advise whale-watching in the kayak.

“It’s pretty crazy that it happened, but somehow they were OK,” he said. “It could have been a very serious matter. It could have been a lot worse.”

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The candidate who can’t vote for himself: Expat challenges Harper in Calgary ( admin posted on July 23rd, 2019 )

A Canadian barred from voting in the Oct. 19 election because he has been abroad too long is planning to run as a candidate in a city he has never set foot in against none other than the incumbent prime minister, Stephen Harper.

Not that Nicolas Duchastel de Montrouge has any illusions about his chances of upending Harper, who has much bigger fish to fry, in Calgary Heritage.

Instead, his Independent candidacy aims to make a serious point: Every Canadian citizen should have the right to vote, regardless of where they live, but many don’t.

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“I’m kind of making a show out of it, but that’s exactly the goal,” Duchastel de Montrouge, 43, told The Canadian Press. “I’m not expecting to win.”

Like 1.4 million other expatriate Canadians, Duchastel de Montrouge was stripped of the right to vote by mail because he has lived abroad for more than five years under a law that has only been enforced under Harper’s Conservative government.

However, he said an electoral official in Calgary confirmed that the Canada Elections Act does allow any citizen to run as a candidate in any riding – as long as they meet the usual basic criteria, which include that they be at least 18 years old and not in prison.

They also need 100 signatures from people who do live in the riding.

“That’s taking a little bit longer than I thought,” said Duchastel de Montrouge, who lives in suburban Seattle.

READ MORE: Seat projections show a tight race but one thing’s (almost) certain – a minority government

Earlier this year, the Conservative government successfully appealed a court ruling that had thrown out the five-year expat rule as unconstitutional. One of the two Canadians who launched the charter challenge, Gill Frank, of Princeton, N.J., is now trying to raise money to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

So far, his crowd-funding campaign has yielded $10,500. Those who have donated expressed anger or resentment at being stripped of the right to cast a ballot.

“I feel completely disenfranchised as I have no right to vote anywhere,” said Carolyn Luce, who lives in France.

Duchastel de Montrouge said he has no plans to campaign in Calgary Heritage once his candidacy is formalized. In fact, he is actively dissuading anyone from voting for him, instead encouraging them via his website and social media to back a party that will restore the right of Canadians like him to vote.

In-Depth: Federal Election 2015

In the meantime, the engineer has taken on an auditor, appointed an official agent and opened a candidacy bank account. He’ll also have to put up a $1,000 deposit, which he said he hopes to get back.

His campaign budget, so far, is $30 – $20 from him and $10 from his official agent.

“We’re trying not to spend anything,” he said.

Still, he said he might have to spend several hundred dollars of his own to make his candidacy official – something he hopes to do this week. That may mean getting on one of the recently implemented direct flights between Seattle and Calgary to go drum up signatures for his candidacy and file his papers in person.

Spending the money will be worth it, he said, to raise awareness of what he sees as a technicality related to where he lives that has trumped his constitutional rights. Plus, he said, it’s a bit of an adventure.

“I’ve never been to Calgary,” he said. “That’s sort of the allure of it.”

©2015The Canadian Press

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