Search and rescue planes and LNG pipeline protest; In The News for Dec. 24
Posted Dec 24, 2019 04:15:04 AM.
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 24.
What we are watching in Canada …
The Canadian military has accepted the first of 16 new search-and-rescue planes despite outstanding issues with the aircraft’s manuals.
The new plane was officially handed over by European manufacturer Airbus to the Royal Canadian Air Force in Spain last week.
It was supposed to have delivered on Dec. 1, but that date was pushed back due to disagreements between the company, the Air Force and the Department of National Defence over the contents of the aircrafts’ manuals.
The manuals are thousands of pages thick and provide pilots, aircrew and technicians with necessary instructions and references for safely operating and maintaining the aircraft.
Despite the plane’s successful delivery, Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier says the government is reviewing the manuals with the company to ensure they meet the military’s requirements.
He adds that the plane will remain in Spain until the middle of next year as Air Force members train on the aircraft and test it before flying it to Canadian Forces Base Comox in British Columbia.
“The acceptance of the first aircraft is one of many steps in this complex program to replace the current fixed-wing search and rescue fleets,” Le Bouthillier said in an email.
“We will continue to work with Airbus to ensure the acceptability of remaining work, including revision of technical manuals, completing training for the initial RCAF crews and conducting initial operational testing and evaluation in Spain in the first half of 2020.”
Also this …
The director of fundraising for the federal Conservatives has taken over as acting executive director of the party as it continues to grapple with the fallout from the resignation of leader Andrew Scheer.
Jaime Girard is replacing Dustin Van Vugt, who left his job as executive director earlier this month over questions about party funds used for Scheer’s personal expenses.
Girard’s appointment marks the first time a woman has been at the helm of the party, and she’ll be part of the team implementing the race to select Scheer’s replacement.
Scheer announced on Dec. 12 that he will step down as leader as soon as a new one is chosen, a move that came after weeks of intense criticism of the way the party fared in the fall election, despite the fact it increased its overall seat count and share of the popular vote.
Campaigns to oust Scheer reached a fever pitch in the days leading up to his announcement, including word circulating that his children’s private school tuition was paid for with party money — details that surprised some members of the party’s main fundraising arm, the Conservative Fund.
Girard has spent more than a decade serving as director of fundraising for the Conservative party, a position that would have placed her into close contact with the Fund’s board.
ICYMI (in case you missed it) …
The federal public safety minister’s office says it has spoken to the RCMP over concerns about language reportedly used by the agency in planning how it would deal with First Nations protesters blockading natural gas pipeline construction in northern B.C.
A spokesman for Bill Blair says they are concerned by a report by British media outlet The Guardian allegedly outlining the RCMP’s strategy to remove the blockade.
“We are committed to protecting the constitutional right to peaceful protest and are concerned by the unacceptable words and phrases that The Guardian reported were used,” Blair’s spokesman Scott Bardsley said in an email.
“Our office has raised this matter with the RCMP.”
In late 2018, Wet’suwet’en members set up checkpoints preventing pipeline project workers from accessing a work site for LNG Canada’s $40 billion liquefied natural gas project.
Though TransCanada had said it has signed agreements with all First Nations along the pipeline route, some members of the Wet’suwet’en argued their hereditary chiefs had not agreed and blocked a forest service road leading to the project.
Still, a court injunction allowing the company’s work to continue was granted, and the RCMP were called in to enforce it, dismantling one checkpoint early in January 2019 and arresting 14 people.
What we are watching in the U.S. …
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he was not ruling out calling witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial — but indicated he was in no hurry to seek new testimony either — as lawmakers remain at an impasse over the form of the trial by the GOP-controlled Senate.
The House voted Wednesday to impeach Trump, who became only the third president in U.S. history to be formally charged with “high crimes and misdemeanours.” But the Senate trial may be held up until lawmakers can agree on how to proceed. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is demanding witnesses who refused to appear during House committee hearings, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and former national security adviser John Bolton.
McConnell, who has all-but-promised a swift acquittal of the president, has resisted making any guarantees, and has cautioned Trump against seeking the testimony of witnesses he desires for fear of elongating the trial. Instead, he appears to have secured Republican support for his plans to impose a framework drawn from the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
“We haven’t ruled out witnesses,” McConnell said Monday in an interview with “Fox and Friends.” “We’ve said let’s handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.”
That trial featured a 100-0 vote on arrangements that established two weeks of presentations and argument before a partisan tally in which Republicans, who held the majority, called a limited number of witnesses. But Democrats now would need Republican votes to secure witness testimony — and Republicans believe they have the votes to eventually block those requests.
In a letter Monday to all Senators, Schumer argued that the circumstances in the Trump trial are different from that of Clinton, who was impeached after a lengthy independent counsel investigation in which witnesses had already testified numerous times under oath. Schumer rejected the Clinton model, saying waiting until after the presentations to decide on witnesses would “foreclose the possibility of obtaining such evidence because it will be too late.”
What we are watching in the rest of the world …
A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death for the killing of Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi, whose grisly slaying in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul drew international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Three other people were found guilty by Riyadh’s criminal court of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison, according to a statement read by the Saudi attorney general’s office on state TV.
In all, 11 people were put on trial in Saudi Arabia over the killing. The names of those found guilty were not disclosed by the government. Executions in the kingdom are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public. All the verdicts can be appealed.
A small number of diplomats, including from Turkey, as well as members of Khashoggi’s family were allowed to attend the nine court sessions, though independent media were barred.
The trial concluded the killing was not premeditated, according to Shaalan al-Shaalan, a spokesperson from the attorney general’s office. That finding is in line with the Saudi government’s official explanation, which has been called into question by evidence that a hit team of Saudi agents with tools was sent to dispatch Khashoggi.
While the case in Saudi Arabia has largely concluded, questions linger outside Riyadh about the crown prince’s culpability in the slaying.
Amnesty International pronounced the outcome a “whitewash.” Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations, condemned the trial as a “mockery of justice,” saying, “The fact that that the chain of command and the state have not been investigated means that the system that made it possible for Jamal Khashoggi to be killed has not been touched.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 24, 2019.
The Canadian Press