Notorious Cecil Hotel slated for demolition but sign to be saved

WATCH ABOVE: The sign from the Cecil Hotel is set to be removed on Friday morning. Jenna Freeman reports.

CALGARY – The historic Cecil Hotel in downtown Calgary will be demolished instead of being redeveloped.

Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) made the announcement on Wednesday, saying that while they were aware some Calgarians hoped the landmark could be saved, salvaging it just isn’t possible.

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“Following decades of neglect plus the ravages of fire and flood, rehabilitation and restoration simply aren’t feasible options,” said CMLC President & CEO Michael Brown in a news release.

“We will apply for a demolition permit this fall after an abatement program has been completed on the building and all hazardous materials have been properly removed.”

Local historian Harry Sanders said the hotel “filled a need” in the city when it first opened.

“It was a working man’s hotel, and always was,” he said. “It didn’t always have the reputation that it came to be known for in the later years.”

Situated on the corner of 4 Avenue S.E. and 3 Street S.E., the Cecil Hotel is one of only six pre-First World War hotels still standing in Calgary. It was built in 1912.

The CMLC is making efforts to keep elements from the building of historical value, such as the hotel’s large neon sign.

“The hotel is a landmark, but so too is the sign, and perhaps more so,” said Sanders. “As a drive-by landmark, the sign is the visible part.”

The Cecil Hotel sign was removed on Friday morning.

The sign atop the Cecil Hotel is removed on Friday, August 14, 2015.

Global News / Tom Reynolds

“It will be restored to its original colours and condition and then placed into storage until such time as a community use can be identified,” said Brown. A CMLC spokesperson on site said the sign would be used in the East Village redevelopment.

With files from Carlos Prieto

Sandals hopeful about reaching new contracts with teachers before school begins

WATCH ABOVE: Provincial Education Minister Liz Sandals says a lot of bargaining is underway to avert a province-wide September strike. Lama Nicolas reports.

TORONTO – Education Minister Liz Sandals issued a warning to Ontario teachers Wednesday while expressing optimism about reaching new contract agreements before the start of classes Sept. 8.

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    Meeting between premier and Ontario teachers’ unions leave parents of students with little assurances

  • Teachers’ unions agreed to resume stalled contract negotiations: Liberals

  • No contract talks scheduled to avert possible teachers’ strikes in Ontario

The four big teachers’ unions are, or soon will be, in legal strike positions, and that means any job actions they plan if there are no agreements by September would amount to a limited strike, not a work-to-rule campaign, said Sandals.

The unions, which represent 115,000 teachers, have talked about refusing to supervise extracurricular activities or to participate in parent-teachers meetings as possible protest actions if there are no agreements when classes resume.

READ MORE: Two Ontario teachers unions set to hold talks

They’ve been without contracts for a year now, and once they are in legal strike positions they can’t unilaterally decide on work-to-rule campaigns, said Sandals.

“The things that they’re proposing to do in the event that there are no agreements would be a partial withdrawal of services, so it is a form of strike,” she said. “The teachers can’t simply decide that as a work to rule they won’t do EQAO testing, as an example. That’s a strike action.”

However, the minister said all sides are ready to reach new agreements after negotiations resumed Wednesday with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers for the first time in three months. Talks with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation are scheduled to resume next week. The government is also in “informal” talks with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation about a resumption of negotiations.

“I really do get a sense that … everybody’s very focused on making sure that we do get agreements and there won’t be disruption in the fall,” said Sandals.

“I have a sense of a good feeling coming back from the table.”

There was already a lot of bargaining with the teachers’ unions, even if it was “in fits and starts,” and many issues have already been resolved, added Sandals.

“It isn’t like we only have a few days and we have to do everything,” she said on her way into a Liberal cabinet meeting.

Part of the difficulties in this year’s round of negotiations with the teachers is a new two-tiered bargaining process, with talks at both the local and provincial level, which Sandals said is like trying to negotiate a first contract.

READ MORE: Teachers’ unions agreed to resume stalled contract negotiations: Liberals

“There’s never ever been a central agreement with any of these organizations before, so it’s really like we’re negotiating a first central collective agreement with each and every one of the unions,” she said. “The first time you do a collective agreement is always the most difficult because you have to figure out absolutely everything as opposed to just modify a few things from the last time around.”

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association launched a website called teachersmatter杭州丝足 which lists workload, fair hiring as well as wages and benefits as key issues for the union in the talks. It notes teachers had their salaries frozen for two-years and the Liberals are insisting on a net zero increase in new contracts.

“We would all like to avoid a labour disruption, but not at any cost to public education,” said OECTA President Ann Hawkins.

©2015

Politics in print: Why candidates write their memoirs before an election

It’s not enough to be a politician these days – you also have to be a published author.

At least, that’s the conclusion you could draw from some of the titles released over the past year: Common Ground by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Who We Are by Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and the just-released Strength of Conviction by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

QUIZ: Which politician wrote it?

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    One-on-One with Justin Trudeau

All three of these books trace the personal story of their authors, from childhood to federal politics. Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s 2013 book, A Great Game, is the exception among the political oeuvre: it covers the early history of hockey in Toronto.

But party leaders are busy people and writing a book takes time, so what are they getting out of it?

The writing process

Well to start with, they might not write everything themselves. According to Jennifer Lambert, editorial director of HarperCollins Canada, which published Trudeau’s memoir, “he had a few writers that worked with him, and his political team as well. His wife was very involved. Sophie was very involved, she read a lot of drafts and contributed.”

However, she said, Trudeau was involved in every word on the page, in both the French and English editions. “Justin was constantly revising and adding and rewriting, ensuring that it really was his voice, his choice, his words.”

And, the book went through a normal back-and-forth with the editor too, so that revisions were made.

Branding the leader

Having an autobiography on the shelf serves an important political purpose, said Alex Marland, associate professor of political science at Memorial University of Newfoundland. “It’s a way to get information out that may otherwise get missed.”

It’s all about building a leader’s brand and image control, he said. “In branding you have to have a story. You have to have a narrative. So it allows you to say well, this person is a human being, this person has an interesting story, here’s their background, here’s their values and their beliefs and where they’re coming from, but they’re ultimately a human being and a person.”

Building a brand is especially important for Mulcair, according to John Crean, national managing partner for National Public Relations. “I think for Mr. Mulcair, more than perhaps the other candidates, he’s less well-known to Canadians. And part of their broader strategy I think is going to be to introduce him and create a brand for him that will appeal to a broad swath of Canadians and perhaps be seen to be informing the policy directions and motivations that he might have for Canada.”

And so, candidates write their life stories and try to look like an ordinary, relatable person. “Ordinary is exactly what they’re trying to communicate in some ways. You’re trying to suggest you’re not an elitist,” said Marland.

Harper had different goals for his book, he said. “It still fit the brand narrative about him, in that even though it wasn’t his story, it was about hockey, which connects very much into his image. It’s kind of policy wonkish and intellectual in that respect, which kind of goes along with his image. And then there’s the conservative, traditional aspect and the potential connection to Toronto, which is all things that they want to communicate.”

Harper wanted to expand his brand, said Crean, and did it in the most Canadian way possible: by writing about hockey. “So Mr. Harper, who’s well-known to Canadians, well-established, I think they’re probably trying to broaden his brand a little bit, to demonstrate that he has interests and knowledge and abilities that transcend the political sphere.”

It’s no accident that Mulcair’s book was coming out during the early days of the campaign either, said Marland. “It’s a long campaign, they’ve got to come up with, what do we talk about today? This is a good way to show him sitting there, signing books. It’s going to take a few days of news coverage where they don’t have to make spending promises, they don’t have to make policy commitments. It can be light, it keeps the story out there. It’s kind of smart.”

Who’s reading?

HarperCollins, which published both Trudeau’s and Olivia Chow’s autobiographies, doesn’t release sales figures, said Lambert. “I can say that they’re both Globe and Mail bestsellers,” she said. “I’m very, very pleased with both of their performances.”

“I think there’s a strong market of people who are curious to know what the people are really like behind the very public face,” she said, people like diehard party supporters, people who might be on the fence, and people who buy the books as gifts for friends and family.

Marland disagrees. “The ultimate audience in many ways is journalists. Even though the publisher won’t say that, the end game, the real goal, is to try to influence how the media may report on them.”

Crean also thinks that the audience is the media, as a conduit toward reaching the broader public. “Their hope is that journalists will go through the book as part of their research to try to find snippets into his personality and his life history that in a sense informs why he’s saying the things he’s saying today.”

Maybe not a page-turner

The big question though is, are the books any good?

“I flipped through a few of the books and I find many of them, I have a hard time keeping my attention on the entire book,” said Crean. “I don’t really have a strong opinion on the quality of the books per se other than I’m not one of the many thousands who are buying these books.”

Marland was more definitive: “Usually in my experience, the better books are the ones that come out when they’re done. They write reflections once they’ve left office.”

Although you can never fully trust an autobiography, he said, those written by retired politicians are more revealing and more willing to tackle controversial topics. On Mulcair, he said, “Really what adventures does he have that are so interesting? But if Mulcair was prime minister for ten years, and produced a book after that reflecting on ten years, that would be pretty interesting.”

At least 50 dead after massive explosion rocks Chinese city of Tianjin

Please note: This story is developing and details could change as more information emerges.

Officials and state media outlets say at least 50 people have been killed and over 700 more injured after two blasts, one of which was reported to be the equivalent of 21 tons of TNT, shook the Chinese port city of Tianjin late Wednesday night.

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The explosions, which lit up the sky with a fireball and sent a shockwave across the area, happened just after 11:30 p.m. According to the BBC, the Chinese Seismological Network registered magnitude 2.3 and 2.9 tremors.

Police in Tianjin said an initial blast took place in shipping containers at a warehouse for hazardous materials owned by Rui Hai International Logistics Limited, a “large transit distribution centre” that handles the transport of hazardous and dangerous goods.

Twelve of the dead were from among the more than 1,000 firefighters sent to fight the blaze set, the official Xinhua News agency said. It said over 520 people were being treated in hospitals, 66 of them with serious injuries.

The shockwaves were felt kilometres away, according to local media, knocking out windows in several buildings.

“I thought it was an earthquake, so I rushed downstairs without my shoes on,” Tianjin resident Zhang Siyu, told the Associated Press. “Only once I was outside did I realize it was an explosion. There was the huge fireball in the sky with thick clouds. Everybody could see it.”

Reports on social media sites such as Weibo indicate the doors and windows on homes and buildings kilometres away from the blast site were blown or shaken off, while power to many high-rise buildings in the area was knocked out. Meanwhile, Tianjin Public Security reported the East China Sea Road light rail station was damaged in the explosion.

“At the time of the explosion the ground was shaking fiercely, nearby cars and buildings were shaking, a few buildings’ glass all broke and everyone started to run,” BBC reported an eyewitness identified as Ms. Yang saying. “Now all the residents are gathered in the street.”

“Lu Yun, head of the nearby Taida Hospital, said they have received more than 50 wounded people, and more are coming. The injuries were mainly from broken glass or stones. Some of the injuries are serious,” Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Videos and still images circulating on social media show a massive fireball filling the night’s sky followed by a shockwave seconds after the initial explosion.

A plume of flames and smoke rose several dozen metres into the air and was reportedly caught on a Japanese weather satellite.

Ruihai Logistics said on its website – before it was shut down – that it was established in 2011 and is an approved company for handling hazardous materials. It said it handles 1 million tons of cargo annually.

Tianjin, with a population of about 15 million, is about 120 kilometres east of Beijing on the Bohai Sea and is one of the country’s major ports. It is one of China’s more modern cities and is connected to the capital by a high speed rail line.

-With files from The Associated Press.

©2015

No arrests made during second night of peaceful protests in Ferguson

FERGUSON, Mo. – St. Louis County Police say no arrests were made after a group of protesters returned to West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson.

A statement from police spokesman Shawn McGuire says protesters demonstrated peacefully from around 8 p.m. Wednesday into early Thursday morning.

McGuire says protesters and officers talked throughout the night, and officers didn’t have to wear the riot gear of the past several nights or remove protesters from the roadway. He says there were no reports of injuries, shots fired, burglaries or looting.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports several clergy members joined the small crowd of demonstrators.

It marked the second peaceful night in the St. Louis suburb after protests marking the anniversary of the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown earlier in the week turned violent.

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US Olympic Committee optimistic Los Angeles will bid for the 2024 Summer Games

U.S. Olympic leaders are now looking to Los Angeles as a bidder for the 2024 Olympics – a city that actually wants to host the games.

Encouraged by 81 per cent support in a recent poll and a supportive mayor who shows no signs of changing his mind, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Wednesday it is close to making L.A. its candidate to try to bring the games back to U.S. soil for the first time in a generation.

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USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said he hoped the decision would be official by the end of the month. The International Olympic Committee’s deadline to nominate a city is Sept. 15. The United States hasn’t hosted the Summer Games since 1996 in Atlanta.

“There are some complicated issues in the discussion,” Blackmun said. “But I’m very optimistic we’ll get to a good place for both of us.”

The news comes slightly more than two weeks after the USOC dropped a Boston bid that was short on support and long on controversy. So far, Los Angeles isn’t showing any signs of those problems. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he’d have no problem signing the host city contract that the mayor in Boston said he would not.

“The L.A. Olympics would inspire the world and are right for our city,” Garcetti said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Blackmun revealed results of a USOC-commissioned poll of Los Angeles residents from earlier this month. It showed 81 per cent support for hosting the Olympics. Boston was in the 40s.

“That’s remarkable and very encouraging,” Blackmun said.

Earlier this week, L.A. officials said the proposed budget for the Summer Games would be $4.1 billion, plus a $400 million contingency. The Boston budget was around $4.6 billion. Those numbers, of course, are only estimates, and have, for decades, consistently run over.

But because Los Angeles has the Memorial Coliseum – centerpiece of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles – and at least a dozen more Olympic-ready venues (plus a new NFL stadium that could be built by then), the USOC is optimistic it can keep costs down. Because there won’t be as many large projects, chairman Larry Probst feels a Los Angeles bid is more in line with the less-extravagant Olympic model IOC President Thomas Bach outlined in his recently released Agenda 2020 reforms.

Probst also suggested the positive feelings from the successful ’84 Games still resonate in Southern California.

“People remember that time,” he said. “It left a great legacy for the city.”

Those Olympics, boycotted by the Soviet Union, put Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton on centre stage and, in many ways, transformed the games into the mega-billion-dollar event they are today.

Probst and Blackmun declined to get into details about what specifics might hold up a bid from Los Angeles, though they believe Garcetti will honour his commitment to sign the host-city contract. That became a major sticking point as the Boston bid disintegrated. The city’s mayor, Marty Walsh, said he didn’t want to put taxpayers on the hook for any potential cost overruns.

Agent Casey Wasserman is also a player in a bid from Los Angeles, which would join Rome, Paris, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany, in the contest. Other cities may declare soon, as well. The winner will be decided in 2017.

At meetings earlier this month, Bach said that despite the Boston debacle, he was expecting the United States to bid.

Blackmun said a failure to bid would be “a lost opportunity.”

“On the summer side, there’s a whole generation of Americans who haven’t seen the games on American soil,” Blackmun said. “We want to address that, and make sure the games come to the U.S. on a regular basis.”

Sunshine Coast moves to Stage 4 water restrictions on Aug. 13

WATCH: Sunshine Coast forced to implement Stage 4 water restrictions. Nadia Stewart looks at how the region is coping.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District will be moving to Stage 4 water restrictions on Thursday, Aug. 13.

This will affect all residents south of Pender Harbour.

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“The community’s water conservation efforts during this period of drought have been remarkable” says Bryan Shoji, SCRD general manager of Infrastructure Services. “Water use has decreased by approximately 40 [per cent] since going to Stage 3. Unfortunately, this unprecedented hot and dry weather has resulted in drier conditions within the watershed, which is causing our available water supply to deplete more rapidly as time goes on. As these weather conditions are forecasted to continue into the fall, Stage 4 restrictions are necessary in order to extend our available water supply into the fall when the probability of rain increases.”

Stage 4 outdoor water use restrictions apply to all users, both residential and commercial, with the exception of commercial food growers with farm status and water metres.

It does include a ban on all outdoor tap water use.

READ MORE: Full coverage of the drought around B.C.

DO NOT:

Use tap water for any outdoor water use, this includes tap water through garden hoses, watering cans, irrigation systems or laid sprinklersFill residential swimming pools, hot tubs, wading pools, garden ponds and fountainsWash driveways, sidewalks, vehicles, boats or other equipmentUse power washers

DO:

Conserve water with every opportunity inside your homeUse clean grey water (e.g. water from a bathtub or sink) for watering outdoor plants and vegetables

“Right now in this time of water scarcity, we encourage all people to only use water for essential uses” says Garry Nohr, SCRD Board Chair.

The district says in addition to water conservation measures, the SCRD is working to deploy an emergency backup system to access water in lower reaches of Chapman Lake.

Violators will be fined and enforcement staff will be increasing patrols.

To report violators contact the SCRD at 604-885-6806 or the Town of Gibsons 604-886-2274.

©2015

Hold it! San Francisco tests pee-repellant paint in battle against public urination

SAN FRANCISCO – Public urination has gotten so bad in San Francisco that the city has painted nine walls with a repellant paint that makes pee spray back on the offender.

It’s the latest effort to address a chronic problem in a city where the public works director calls himself Mr. Clean: Walls are coated with a clear, liquid repellant material that goes on much like paint. Hit with urine, it splashes back on a person’s shoes and pants.

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Mohammed Nuru, director of San Francisco’s public works department, says offenders will need to make the mistake only once to get the idea.

“If you have to go,” he said, “go in the right place.”

Nuru got the idea from Germany, where walls in Hamburg’s St. Pauli quarter are painted with the material to encourage late-night beer drinkers to find a bathroom rather than an alleyway.

Public urination has long been a problem in San Francisco, where a light pole corroded by urine recently fell on a car. The city appears to be the only one in the nation using Ultra-Ever Dry from a Florida-based company, and it’s already receiving a stream of queries about the product’s success.

“We are getting calls from all over the place: Washington, D.C., Hawaii and Oakland,” said Nuru, who Tweets under the handle @MrCleanSF.

Potential offenders get fair warning about the consequences of urinating on the coated walls that sit on public and private property around the city.

Signs hanging above some walls read: “Hold it! This wall is not a public restroom. Please respect San Francisco and seek relief in an appropriate place.”

Other efforts also are underway to stop or curb public urination.

Solar-powered toilets roll through city streets several afternoons a week, attendants are manning public toilets to encourage people to use them, and city crews will check thousands of light posts to make sure they won’t topple.

Public urination is a health concern, and keeping the city clean is a 24-7 battle, said Kevin Sporer, superintendent of the building repair bureau.

The new paint is paying off.

“There’s a lot less activity, and the result is noticeable,” Sporer said.

Public urination is illegal, but a fine of up to $500 passed in San Francisco in 2002 has seen little success.

On a recent weekday, resident Jon Kolb was in a public transit plaza in the Mission district, where crews recently painted a low wall with the liquid repellant paint.

Kolb said he believes the idea is a good one. He has seen people who sleep in the plaza become visibly upset when others do their business on the walls.

“People will actually get violent about it,” Kolb said.

But will the paint really be a deterrent?

“It would be to me,” he said.

The paint and the labour to apply the material have cost the city only a few hundred dollars, opposed to the $80 an hour to steam clean walls and sidewalks.

Since January, there have been 375 requests to steam clean urine from sidewalks and other areas. But that’s a 17 per cent drop in the past year.

Another addition is attendants in a few of the 25 green Pit Stop public bathrooms around San Francisco. They clean and restock supplies and make sure people don’t use drugs or sleep inside the restrooms.

“We want people to have clean and safe bathrooms, so having an attendant there has made all the difference in the world,” Nuru said. “We want everyone to become educated. Don’t unzip. Hold it, and use the bathroom that is available.”

Meanwhile, the public utilities commission is checking the city’s 25,000 light posts for corrosion and other problems and replacing the ones that need it. This comes amid a recent tumble of a three-storey-tall light post that was old, corroded with a likely mix of human and dog urine, and weighted down by a large banner.

©2015Associated Press

Truck bombing kills at least 62 at Baghdad market, Islamic State group claims responsibility

WATCH ABOVE: ISIS has claimed responsibility for a bombing in Baghdad that killed dozens and injured hundreds more. Jonathan Vigliotti has the latest from London.

BAGHDAD – A massive truck bomb ripped through a popular Baghdad food market in a predominantly Shiite neighbourhood in the early morning hours on Thursday, killing at least 62 people, police officials said.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it targeted a gathering place of Shiites and vowed more attacks

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The truck detonated in the Jameela market in the Iraqi capital’s crowded Sadr City neighbourhood shortly after dawn, according to two local police officers. They also said that at least 125 people were wounded in the attack. The market is the main one for produce and food in the Iraqi capital.

Residents of the Shiite community rushed to help the victims, carrying corpses in garbage bags and sending the wounded to local hospitals in ambulances or personal cars. The blast incinerated much of the market, leaving charred wooden market stalls and scattering fruits and vegetables far around it.

Fire trucks and ambulances were at the scene and fire men were dousing the still-smouldering complex with water long after the explosion.

WATCH ABOVE: Aftermath shows just how brutal the blast was – scrap metal frames are left where buildings once stood.

“On Thursdays the market is especially crowded because people come from the other provinces to stock up on food for the weekend,” one of the officers said.

He said the truck that set off the explosion was a refrigeration truck, so it was impossible to distinguish it from other trucks delivering produce to the market.

A minibus driver, Hassan Hamid, said he driving not far from the area when the force of the explosion threw his vehicle about 10 metres (yards) off onto the sidewalk.

“This is the strongest explosion I ever saw in my life,” said the 37-year old father of three, speaking from his hospital bed where he was being treated for shrapnel injuries. “I saw some cars were thrown into the sky and a fire erupted all over the place.”

Four hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

In a message posted on an IS-affiliated 桑拿会所 account, the Islamic State said the attack was carried out by a parked, explosives-laden truck. The claim says the Islamic State seeks to have the “rejectionists (Shiites) experience the same harm as their bombardments cause to our Muslim people.”

The Sunni militant group, which currently holds territory in about a third of Iraq, views Shiite Muslims, as well as other religious minorities, as apostates.

It often targets military checkpoints or predominantly Shiite neighbourhoods such as Sadr City, with the goal of sending a message to the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. Commercial and public areas are also among the militants’ favourite targets as they seek to undermine the people’s confidence in government efforts to maintain security.

While near-daily attacks are common in the capital, death tolls have rarely reached this level for a single attack since the height of the country’s brutal sectarian bloodletting in 2006 and 2007.

When they launched their major onslaught across northern Iraq last year, the IS vowed to continue on to Baghdad. But a mobilization of volunteer Shiite fighters deterred any significant attacks on the capital.

Last month, the militant group targeted a popular market in the eastern province of Diyala, killing more than 115 people in one of the worst-single attacks to tear through the country in a decade.

Associated Press writers Murtada Faraj and Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this report in Baghdad.

©2015Associated Press

Trudeau focuses on Aboriginal issues during Sask. tour

REGINA – As part of his campaign to the province, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said federal politicians need to focus more on Aboriginal issues.

Trudeau is the first party leader to bring his campaign to Saskatchewan.

Beginning the morning in Regina, he told residents at the Downtown Farmer’s Market about his party’s plan to bolster the middle class.

“As middle class jobs in Saskatchewan and across Canada disappear, folks struggle to make ends meet. And Mr. Harper still has no plan to help,” he said.

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Trudeau traveled to communities in northern Saskatchewan later in the afternoon to survey just how close wildfires came to destroying the town of La Ronge.

But it’s in the northern part of the province, in a large riding roughly 70 per cent aboriginal, where Trudeau said politicians from Ottawa need to step up their game.

“It’s about time representatives in Ottawa understand challenges and opportunities in this part of the country,” said Trudeau.

He added he also supports a national wildfire strategy.

Trudeau’s campaign will make a stop in Saskatoon Thursday.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper is expected to visit the province on Thursday.

With files from Global’s Mike McKinnon

Metro Vancouver water restrictions pose challenge for city crews

WATCH: The Vancouver Park Board takes extraordinary measures to save trees that are threatened by current heat wave. Elaine Yong has the latest.

Stage 3 water restrictions have created a challenge for Metro Vancouver crews.

From 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Vancouver Park Board staff water newly-planted trees in an effort to keep them alive through this year’s unprecedented drought.

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Crews on the Park Board’s five trucks are running double shifts, pumping 40,000 litres of water into the soil daily. In an effort to reduce potable water use, trucks are filling up from the underground aquifer at Langara Golf Course, whenever possible.

Trees have been showing signs of stress and dropping their leaves, something that usually doesn’t happen until October.

“At that time [we] just started getting those water bags,” said Howard Normann, manager of urban forestry, with the city. “We wrapped them all, and we are continuously filling those bags, and those trees have made a quick recovery.”

At the beginning of June, Metro Vancouver reservoirs contained approximately 260 million cubic metres of water. A month later, levels were down to 225 million cubic metres and today it’s at 170 million cubic metres, or 60 per cent of maximum capacity.

But Metro Vancouver says if residents and businesses continue following the restrictions, there should be enough water until the fall rains.

Local gardeners are turning their attention to drought-resistant plants and better ways to water plants by hand. Even if a plant or tree looks beyond hope, experts say you shouldn’t give up yet.

“Some plants will just go into dormancy quicker, and hopefully with the moisture in the fall, it will bring back a bit of life into them and in early spring next year, you can prune back all the dead plant material and it will come back,” said Peter Fitzmaurice of GardenWorks.

But just imagine if your backyard was 22 hectares. At Van Dusen Gardens, 25 garden employees now spend most of their day hand-watering.

“We need that three or four days of a good steady flow of rain,” said Normann. “It needs to have a slow saturation. Two or three days would really help.”

– With files from Elaine Yong

NDP lead continues to hold across Canada, according to latest seat projections

TORONTO – It’s been a little over a week since the start of Canada’s federal election campaign and the latest seat projections continue to show a tight race with the NDP, led by Tom Mulcair, holding a small lead over Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

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The new numbers, provided to Global News by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP), see the NDP winning 128 seats, Harper and the Conservatives at 121 and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals at 86, if an election were held today.

READ MORE: Tories lead on the economy, NDP on health care, cost of living

The seat projections from LISPOP are similar to their previous numbers that saw the NDP with 129, the Tories with 118, and Liberals with 85. Elizabeth May’s Green Party continue to remain at one seat. And little has shifted looking at the voting breakdown across Canada.

»

Click to explore the latest seat projections in your riding

Conservative
Leaning Conservative
Liberal
Leaning Liberal
NDP
Leaning NDP
Bloc Québécois
Leaning Bloc Québécois
Too Close to Call
Independent

Note: “Leaning” indicates a 5% to 10% lead. “Too Close to Call” indicates a difference under 5%. Courtesy of Lispop杭州丝足.

LISPOP’s projections are based on a blended sample of polls between July 22 and August 10, among approximately 8,000 new respondents.

“Public opinion isn’t always changing dramatically. Now we have had two months where things haven’t changed,” said Barry Kay, a politics professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. “It’s really a pick in between the NDP and the Conservatives in terms of seats.”

WATCH: Weighing in on the federal election so far

Kay said one thing the numbers do show is that none of the three major parties are approaching majority territory of forming government.

“It’s a very uneven election in terms of what the measurement of victory is,” said Kay. “Normally one thinks that coming first in terms of seats is a victory, but Harper can’t just come first. He needs a majority.”

The NDP and the Liberals could defeat a Harper minority government just as the Liberals, NDP and Bloc tried to defeat Harper’s newly elected Conservatives in 2008 when they brought in a budget the opposition felt failed to deal with the global economic crisis. Harper avoided a confidence vote by convincing the Governor General to prorogue Parliament.

“The goal for the conservatives is to get 170 seats and they are nowhere near that,” said Kay. “If I was inclined to bet, I don’t think anyone is going to be at a majority unless there was a dramatic breakthrough in someone’s comfort area.”

One issue that has yet to play out is how the trial of disgraced Senator Mike Duffy will affect the minds of voters during the marathon 11-week campaign.

The trial resumed Wednesday with Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright taking the stand to answer questions about whether Harper knew about a $90,000 cheque Wright paid Duffy to cover his dubious expense claims.

READ MORE: Leaders’ debate, attack ads and a week of campaigning have little effect on voters, Ipsos poll shows

“Anything about the Duffy trial is bad for the Conservatives. How bad? It’s not so clear,” said Kay.

“The problem with the Duffy trial is that it reminds the public of an area the Conservatives haven’t done well on and that’s Senate appointments.”

Other embattled Senators include Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Sen. Don Meredith, who became another blemish on Harper’s record when allegations of sexual relations with a minor surfaced in June.

©2015

Canadian swimmers earn 15 more medals in the pool on Day 5 of Parapan Am Games

TORONTO – The fatigue is beginning to show after a long week of swimming but that didn’t stop the flow of gold medals for Canada’s swimmers at the 2015 Parapan American Games Wednesday.

Aurelie Rivard earned her fourth gold of the Games, Tess Routliffe won two races on the day and the men swept the S11-13 400-meter freestyle.

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READ MORE: Parapan Am promotion offers $5 tickets in final events

In the most anticipated race of the night Benoit Huot finished second in the S10 200 individual medley, while Alec Elliot was third.

It wasn’t the result Huot wanted after winning the 400 freestyle the previous evening.

“I was favoured to get the gold,” said the native of Longueuil, Que., who was timed in two minutes, 14.32 seconds. “It wasn’t my greatest performance.”

READ MORE: Canada’s Michelle Stilwell and Benoit Huot race to Parapan Am gold

Brazil’s Andre Brasil won in 2:12.22. That was a Parapan Games record but well off Huot’s world record of 2:10.01 set at the 2012 London Paralympics.

“I’m disappointed,” said Huot, who was born with club feet. “I have to congratulate Andre because he went the best time.”

Elliot, of Kitchener, Ont., took bronze in 2:17.45. Isaac Bouckley, of Montreal, was fourth in 2:22.38.

Canadian swimmers won 15 medals Wednesday (five gold, five silver, five bronze), bringing their total to 66 (18-27-21). Brazil leads in the pool with 68 (24-20-24).

Rivard, of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., won the S9-10 200 IM in a Parapan Games record 2:30.89 for her fifth medal. Katarina Roxon, of Kippens, N.L, was second in 2:39.45.

The Parapan Ams follow last month’s IPC Swimming World Championships and the toil is beginning to show on Rivard.

“It’s been a long summer,” said the 19-year-old, who was born without a left hand. “I’m getting tired.”

READ MORE: Mark Ledo wins Canada’s 1st Parapan Am gold medal in cycling road race

It was a golden day for Routliffe, who climbed on top of the podium twice while setting two Parapan records.

During the morning the 16-year-old from Caledon, Ont., won the S7 100 freestyle in 1:15.46 seconds. Teammate Sarah Mehain took silver in 1:19.48.

In the evening Routliffe won the S7 100 breaststroke in 1:39.55 while Camille Berube, of Gatineau, Que., was third in 1:46.97.

“It gives me confidence to know I can perform under pressure,” said Routliffe.

After winning two silvers in backstroke, Devin Gotell won his first gold, leading a Canadian sweep of the S11-13 400 freestyle. His time of 4:27.46 broke the Parapan record of 4:32.35 he set in the morning heats.

Gotell was pleased to finally reach the top of the podium in the race for the visually impaired.

“It felt great to be able to come and do this. It was the icing on the cake,” said the Montreal native.

Nicolas Turbide, of Quebec City, was second in 4:28.68 while Tyler Mrak, of Aldergrove, B.C., took bronze in 4:43.09.

Justine Morrier, of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, won the S14 100 breaststroke in 1:27.94. Placing third in the race for the intellectually challenged was Kirstie Kasko, of Okotoks, Alta., in 1:29.54.

Gordie Michie, of St. Thomas, Ont., was third in the men’s S14 100 breast in 1:14.36.

Jean-Michele Lavalliere earned his third silver with a time of 1:09.16 in the S7 100 freestyle. The Montreal native, who has cerebral palsy, was the fourth fastest in qualifying.

“It’s all about the process,” he said. “It’s not a best time but I think it showed character.”

Canada has 37 gold and 113 total medals through five days of competition at the Games, which is good for second. Brazil is ahead with 69 gold and 166 medals overall.

Also Wednesday, Priscilla Gagne of Sarnia, Ont., took silver in the women’s under-52-kilogram judo event, beating Argentina’s Rocio Ledesma in her final match to finish second in the rankings behind Brazil’s Michele Ferreira.

In athletics, Pamela LeJean, of Cape Breton, N.S., won the gold medal in F53-55 women’s shot put with a Parapan Am Games record throw of 4.22 metres.

Toronto’s Jason Roberts earned gold in F32-34 men’s shot put with a personal-best toss of 10.33 while Kyle Pettey, from Brampton, Ont., claimed the bronze (8.93).

Vanessa Murby, of Salt Spring Island, B.C., won the bronze medal in F11-12 women’s discus with a throw of 27.02.

Calgary’s Jennifer Brown won the gold in F20/37/38 women’s shot put with a throw of 10.42 and Renee Foessel, Mississauga, Ont. won the silver at 10.14. The two flipped spots in the F37/38/44 shot put, with Foessel taking gold at 30.75 and Brown claiming silver with 28.06.

Kenneth Trudgeon, of London, Ont. won the bronze in F46 men’s discus with 37.12.

On the track, Brent Lakatos, from Dorval, Que., won the gold medal in the T53 men’s 800 with a time of 1:54.14. Mitchell Chase, of Pickering, Ont. took the gold in the T38 men’s 1500 at 4:34.68. Guillaume Ouellet, from Victoriaville, Que., earned gold in T13 men’s 1500 with a time of 4:07.27 and Alexandre Dupont, of Clarenceville, Que., claimed a gold medal in T54 men’s 400 at 49.77.

Leah Robinson, of Kitchener, Ont., found a spot on the podium in the T37 women’s 200, taking the bronze in 31.94.

David Eng had 20 points and nine rebounds as Canada’s men’s wheelchair basketball team beat Puerto Rico 73-34 in the quarter-finals. They will face Brazil on Friday in the semis.

Canada lost 60-59 to the U.S. to conclude the preliminary round of wheelchair rugby and will play Brazil in the semifinals on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Canada lost 8-0 to Brazil in seven-a-side soccer, and Brazil beat Canada 12-2 in men’s goalball.

©2015

Toronto Blue Jays take AL East lead with 10th straight win

TORONTO – Chris Colabello knew from the beginning that this Toronto Blue Jays team was a special one.

Now he’s just glad to be helping them out regularly.

Colabello was 2 for 4 with a home run and four RBIs on Wednesday to help lift the Blue Jays into first place in the American League East with a 10-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

The game – Toronto’s 10th straight win – was Colabello’s 72nd of the season with the big league club after starting the year at triple-A Buffalo.

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“I remember being so happy that first week of (spring training), even after they sent me down,” Colabello said. “I went in there and told (general manager) Alex (Anthopoulos) and (manager John Gibbons): ‘I commend you guys on the group you’ve put together because it’s special.’

“I told them I look forward to being a part of it and I’m thankful to be a part of it.”

READ MORE: Blue Jays fan receives a birthday surprise with signed Justin Smoak home run ball

Colabello, who’s been getting more playing time with slugger Edwin Encarnacion nursing a sore left finger, is on a nine-game hitting streak and batting .328 with 11 home runs on the year.

“The more you’re in there the more comfortable you start getting,” Colabello said of his hot streak. “You start making adjustments and things like that, slowing things down.”

Justin Smoak also hit a three-run homer, Josh Donaldson had two hits and drove in a pair and Russell Martin had an RBI for Toronto (63-52), which scored seven runs in the second inning and leaped into a half-game lead over New York in the division with the Yankees’ 2-1 loss to Cleveland.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (7-10) fought off the wind to fan four batters and scatter three runs, six hits and two walks over six innings.

While impressed with the team’s performance over the last two weeks, the 40-year-old downplayed the significance of the their second 10-game winning streak of the year.

READ MORE: Fans react after ESPN calls Toronto Blue Jays a ‘beer league softball team’

“I don’t know if I would say I’m amazed,” Dickey said. “You know the potential of the individual guys in here, it’s collectively what’s so fun to be a part of. When you’ve got Chris Colabello doing what he’s doing and you’ve got great defence … I feel like we’re capable of consistently winning ball games.”

Dickey also downplayed the significance of snagging first place in the division with seven weeks still left in the season.

“You can’t put the cart before the horse,” he said. “We want people to get excited about it, we want people to really enjoy what’s happening because it’s a long time coming for this city and this team and this country, but we can’t afford to do that.

“We’ve got to keep things in perspective. We’ve got 10 more games against the Yankees, we’ve got games against the Orioles, people trying to catch us, so we’re going to have to consistently be good.”

Bo Schultz and Liam Hendriks pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings and Aaron Loup – in his first appearance since July 31 – worked around a lead-off single in the ninth to close it out.

Former Blue Jay Danny Valencia hit a solo shot for the A’s (51-64) and Mark Canha and Eric Sogard drove in a run apiece.

Aaron Brooks (1-1) lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up eight runs and six hits while walking two and striking out two.

“A lot of balls in the middle of the plate,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of his starter’s outing. “You’ve got a pretty hot hitting team and when you miss in the middle of the plate, you end up paying.”

Colabello got the Blue Jays on the board in the bottom of the first inning with his three-run blast to left field, but the A’s scored two in the top of the second on Valencia’s solo homer and Sogard’s RBI ground out.

Then Toronto’s potent offence went to work in the bottom of the frame.

Donaldson’s bases-loaded single scored two to restore the three-run cushion, Colabello singled home another run to end Brooks’ outing, and Martin’s RBI base hit off former Blue Jay Felix Doubront scored Jose Bautista for a 7-2 lead.

Smoak added to the wreckage with a three-run home run to the delight of the 44,597 in attendance.

Canha hit an RBI double off Dickey in the fourth to cut the A’s deficit to 10-3.

©2015