Canada briefs – August 11

Federal Liberal Leader Bob Rae says his party has to stop approaching elections as if they can start campaigning the day the writ is dropped. The interim leader was in Winnipeg for a stop on his summer nationwide tour trying to figure out a way to make the once mighty red machine relevant and appealing to voters once again.

Liberals need to campaign 24-7 to regain might: Rae

WINNIPEG — Federal Liberal Leader Bob Rae says his party has to stop approaching elections as if they can start campaigning the day the writ is dropped.

The interim leader was in Winnipeg for a stop on his summer nationwide tour trying to figure out a way to make the once mighty red machine relevant and appealing to voters once again.

Rae says that includes better organization and better fundraising.

He also says they have to stop letting the Tories define the Liberals for voters and appeal to Canadians directly.

Rae said he is buoyed to see the party is still very vibrant in certain places.

But he also acknowledges a deep-rooted frustration that “in the last couple of elections we haven’t done as well as we expected.”

Canada sending military help to Jamaica for hurricane season

TRENTON, Ont. — Canada is sending three helicopters and 65 military staff to Jamaica to help out during what is expected to be a rough hurricane season.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the military will assist with search and rescue during the season, which lasts through November.

The announcement at CFB Trenton today follows a request from the Jamaican government.

Forecasters say high ocean temperatures and atmospheric conditions point to an above-average storm season in the Caribbean.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration is predicting seven to 10 hurricanes.

Canada and Jamaica have been increasing their military ties in recent years.

“Our government is committed to ensuring that our Canadian Forces are ready to assist our allies on the world stage, if and when the call comes,” MacKay said in a news release.

“I could not be more pleased that our men and women in uniform will be working alongside members of the Jamaica Defence Force during that country’s coming hurricane season.”

Greenhouse targets long way off

A government report suggests that Canada will have to dramatically up its game to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Environment Canada’s own assessment of the country’s efforts to reduce emissions behind climate change says current measures go only one-quarter of the way to the Harper government’s announced target.

Another analysis by the environmental think-tank Pembina Institute says provincial and federal governments are only one-tenth of the way there.

It’s a big gap either way and Ottawa shows little sign of increasing its efforts to close it, said Andrew Leach, a professor of energy economics at the University of Alberta.

“The government’s been very clear: we have a long way to go,” said Leach. “It’s going to be really hard.”

Earlier this month, Environment Canada released its projection of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada based on current federal and provincial policies. The department concluded that emissions will be reduced to about 785 megatonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2020. That’s 65 megatonnes less than would be emitted if no action were taken.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper has committed Canada to total emissions of 607 megatonnes. That would require reductions of 243 megatonnes annually — nearly four times the amount the country is currently on track for.

Matthew Bramley of The Pembina Institute says the gap is more like 10 times.

He points out that federal policies have only reduced emissions so far by nine megatonnes — a 1.2 per cent cut from what would have been emitted with no action taken. Harper’s goal requires nearly 13 per cent in cuts.

Environment Canada declined to comment.

Leach said the Environment Canada data shows just how difficult the cuts are likely to be.

“You can’t just look at big industrial sources,” he said. “You have to look across the country.”

Too many Canadians still believe the country’s greenhouse gas goals can be met by greater controls on a single sector such as the oilsands, he suggested.

“The perception among the Canadian people is still that this is an oilsands problem, that the reason we’re not meeting our emissions goals is because of growth in the oilsands,” Leach said.

“It’s crucially important that people understand the oilsands is not the only thing that’s standing in the way of us meeting our emissions target.”

Even shutting down the oilsands wouldn’t reduce emissions enough to meet the country’s goals, he said.

Windsor, Ont., records hottest July ever, maybe Canadian record

WINDSOR, Ont. — Environment Canada says Windsor, Ont., recorded its hottest July ever, and may have set a national mark as well.

Senior climatologist David Phillips says the average daily temperature in July — with morning, afternoon and night averaged — was 25.8 C.

Phillips says he’s checking whether that’s a Canadian record.

Windsor has set another local record, with 46 consecutive days where the temperature has risen above 25 C.

The previous record was 42 days in 1955.

It’s touch and go whether the streak will hit 47 days, as today’s high in Windsor is forecast at 24 C.

B.C. communities of Trail, Warfield consider merging

TRAIL, B.C. — The southeast B.C. communities of Trail and Warfield are talking marriage.

Municipal councils for the City of Trail and the Village of Warfield are expected to make a decision soon about whether a proposed amalgamation will move into the second phase of a consultant study.

The two communities have been examining whether to merge, and could hold a referendum next spring if they decide to go ahead with the plan.

Residents have been asked for their input as part of the $34,000 study, and city administrator David Perehudoff says there appears to be strong support for the second phase.

The councils are asking for public feedback before they meet with the consultant and members of a municipal steering committee on Aug. 25.

Phase 1 of the study concluded that taxes would fluctuate between a $42 decrease to a $12 increase per year for a $200,000 home.

The study considered three amalgamation scenarios: business as usual, increased efficiencies and enhanced services.

It projected the business-as-usual scenario would see property taxes for business owners in Warfield increase by about $370 per $100,000 in assessed value, which would gradually be phased in.

The second part of the study would look more critically at the potential new organization, as far as the number of employees and the types of services available through city hall.

Arsons have Winnipeggers on edge

WINNIPEG — Fire and police services say they are at a loss to explain a sharp rise in the number of deliberately set fires in the Manitoba capital.

The fires show no obvious pattern and have made for a long, hot summer for investigators.

“We couldn’t even speculate what’s happening with that,” deputy fire chief Ken Sim said Wednesday.

“There doesn’t seem to be any attachment to malicious activity … it’s just random. It’s very difficult to profile the cause and the individuals that are causing it.”

There were 78 cases of arson across Winnipeg in July — double the number recorded in the same month last year. The trend has continued into August.

Early Wednesday, four suspicious fires were lit in the St. James neighbourhood west of downtown. One destroyed a residential garage. Another caused minor damage to a community centre.

So far, most of the fires have been set in dumpsters, garages and vehicles. Only one blaze was fatal — a fire set at a rooming house killed five people. Police arrested a 40-year-old woman and said she had earlier been in a dispute with someone in the home. They believe that fire is unrelated to others in the city.

The near-daily reports of fires have kept some residents awake with worry. In the Fort Rouge area, south of downtown, more than 20 suspicious fires have been set.

Police recently charged a 20-year-old man with setting 18 of the blazes, but there was another fire the morning after he was taken into custody. Since then, things have quieted down.

Police have not made any arrests in the latest fires and are concerned that the perpetrators might have been inspired by the high-profile fires in Fort Rouge.

“It is difficult for me to say for sure whether or not this is kind of a copycat scenario … until we in fact have identified these individuals and really tried to identify what the motive behind it is,” said Const. Jason Michalyshen.

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