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Liberals regroup in Ottawa, trying to reconcile climate action with western alienation

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is meeting with incoming and outgoing Liberal MPs in Ottawa today to talk about approaches to the issue of climate change on one hand — and to growing tensions over the stalled western energy economy on the other.

Making his way into the informal meeting in Ottawa Thursday afternoon, Trudeau said giving Alberta and Saskatchewan a voice after a Liberal electoral shut-out is a “significant” matter for him.

“I’ve been reaching out to premiers, to mayors, to business leaders, to colleagues and former colleagues,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do to make sure that we’re governing for the entire country.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is his plan to lead his party into the next election and that he has a message of gratitude to the MPs that lost their seat in the election. 2:27

Trudeau described today’s meeting as an opportunity to reflect on what they heard from Canadians during the 40-day election campaign, and to discuss how to respond to those concerns going forward. He said it’s also a chance to talk about how defeated MPs can play a continued role, and to express gratitude for their past efforts.

Trudeau’s Liberals went from third-party status to a landslide majority in 2015. This time, the party was reduced to a minority, with 157 seats.

Two top cabinet ministers were defeated on Oct. 21. Saskatchewan’s Ralph Goodale and Alberta’s Amarjeet Sohi were voted out in the two-province shut-out — a damning indictment of the Liberals’ response to growing economic uncertainty in the region.

Goodale said Trudeau is now examining every procedural and structural option for dealing with the lack of Liberal MPs in the region, but added the more important task is addressing the underlying roots of western discontent.

Former cabinet minister Ralph Goodale reflects on the challenge of satisfying the oil patch and climate change campaigners at the same time as he prepares to enter private life. 1:58

“The more critical thing is the substantive issue of understanding, clearly and deeply, what the issues were and are that are deepest concerns to western Canadians, and to make sure those issues are addressed in a conscientious way that builds Canadian unity,” he said.

Goodale said it’s crucial for the government to offer reassurance to those worried about economic security so they can “enjoy and celebrate (prosperity) just like everyone else across the country.”

A challenging ‘circle to square’

The outgoing minister acknowledged that pushing ahead with a robust climate change agenda will be challenging in the face of mounting frustrations in the West over the carbon tax and the lack of adequate oil pipeline capacity to the coast.

“There’s a very challenging circle to square here. A majority of Canadians on election night voted very clearly for the completion of the Trans Mountain expansion. A very strong majority of Canadians also voted for more vigorous ambition with respect to climate change,” he said.

“And finding the ways to bring all of that together, as the government and the prime minister [have] said for years — proper policy with respect to the economy and energy need to go hand-in-hand with proper policy with respect to the environment.”

After the meeting, Catherine McKenna, who held the environment minister when the election started, said finding that balance is possible if the country comes together.

“When we talk about the environment and the economy going together, we actually mean it. Of course we need to figure out how to bring the country together. There is no bigger issue than national unity. But we also need to tackle climate change and we can do this,” she said.

Returning Liberal MP François-Philippe Champagne said Canadians sent the Liberals a “message of humility” and they heard it loud and clear.

“We’re not here boasting. We’re here humble. We’re here listening, we’re here making sure that we plan the future together,” he said.

Jim Carr, who served as a cabinet minister in the last Parliament, talks about his health and his recent cancer diagnosis. 0:57

Another minister, Jim Carr — who was recently diagnosed with blood cancer — said the message he heard repeatedly at the doorsteps during the campaign is that Canadians are seeking unity in the country.

“There isn’t much of an appetite for division, and for division politics. People are searching for common ground and that’s a very important message,” he said. “We can have our disputes and we … are robust in the way we articulate those disputes. But there is a time for a nation to come together, and that time is now.”

Marc Garneau, the transport minister when the election began, said the reunion with outgoing MPs was an emotional one.

“It’s not easy to be a politician. And when you put your heart and soul into something and it doesn’t work out, it’s not easy to take,” he said. “But they were all very, very proud.

As McKenna left the meeting, she was asked if she expects to remain in the environment portfolio. She said that she serves at the pleasure of the prime minister and will do “whatever is required.”

“Climate change is not a one-portfolio issue. It’s everything. It’s the economy, it’s transportation … It’s how we build our houses, it’s reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” she said.

“I am happy to do whatever I am asked. It is a real honour and privilege to be in this job.”

Trudeau will swear in his new cabinet on Nov. 20. He will set the date for the new Parliament to begin after meeting with opposition leaders next week.

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Yukon gold rush of 1890s photo appears lookalike Greta Thunberg

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TORONTO – The appearance of a child in a 120-year-old photo taken during the Yukon gold rush — has sparked jokes suggesting that the picture features a “time traveller.”

But not just any time traveller: the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The black-and-white photograph entitled “Three children operating rocker at a gold mine on Dominion Creek, Yukon Territory, circa. 1898,” belongs to the archives at the University of Washington.

One of the children, with braids and a stoic stare, bears a striking resemblance to the Swedish teenager and climate change activist.

The resemblance between the gold miner and Thunberg has sent conspiracy theorists into a tailspin.

Among the many tweets, one person tweeted: “So, ‘Greta Thunberg’ is in a photo from 120 years ago, and it’s my new favourite conspiracy. Greta’s a time traveller from the future, and she’s here to save us.”

In a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Wednesday, Kristin Kinsey, the digital and visual materials specialist at the university archives, called all the attention “really insane.”

But the story behind the photo is not as not as far-fetched as the jokesters suggest.

SWEDISH PHOTOGRAPHER CAPTURED THE GOLD RUSH

The photo is actually part of a large collection from Swedish photographer Eric Hegg, who documented the Alaska-Yukon gold rush as the 19th century turned into the 20th.

Kinsey says that the set was one of the first collections the school ever received. She dubbed it one of the “core collections” the university has on the gold rush.

“He, along with a lot of photographers, went up and dragged their equipment by dogsled, by boat,” Kinsey said. “He took various aspects of the gold mining — that big adventure, the big explosion of gold-seekers.”

According to the university’s page on Hegg’s life, during the summer of 1898, he and his brother Peter made their way up the Yukon River to document the stampede of prospectors.

“Before Hegg left in June, he turned the majority of his work which was produced in the British Columbia town of Bennett over to the photographer Edward Hamacher who later relocated to Whitehorse,” the site explains.

The biography adds that many of the photographs were developed under “arduous circumstances,” which included a travelling darkroom in the bow of a specially-designed small boat.

But the image featuring the Thunberg-lookalike was of note because the photos didn’t usually capture many children mining for gold, Kinsey said. And the identity and nationality of the children remain a mystery because the photographer didn’t list their names.

“It’s this kind of mini-operation and that little kid looks like he’s around five,” she laughs. “I mean, you don’t see too many families sitting around doing this.”

Since 1997, the university has been digitizing and cataloguing all of their photo collections on a searchable, public online database.

Although staff at the university are unsure how the photograph ended up on the internet’s radar, they’re delighted by all the attention it has brought to their collection.

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Alberta Government launches financial audit of CBE

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Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a statement that the CBE has shown “a clear pattern of mismanagement.” Larry Wong/Postmedia

As the Calgary Board of Education prepares to cut nearly 300 teachers on temporary contracts as a result of a “budget gap,” the province is launching an independent financial audit of the board along with a governance review.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said Wednesday that the CBE has shown “a clear pattern of mismanagement … that must be corrected.”

She described the layoffs as “reprehensible” and “reckless.”

“When you look at the fact that they have a $1.2 billion budget servicing 130,000 students and their only recourse in their decision-making is to cut teachers, it’s unacceptable,” said LaGrange.

LaGrange stated it’s “another example of this board’s inability to appropriately manage its finances and prioritize student learning in its operations.”

On Tuesday, CBE Supt. Christopher Usih said teachers affected by those cuts have received notice that their contracts will end as of Jan. 2, 2020. The teachers will be placed on the substitute teacher roster on Jan. 3 and a number of them “may be considered for future temporary contracts.”

Usih said the UCP government’s budget, tabled last month, left the CBE with a $32-million shortfall. He added the CBE was in the process of making “several other decisions to cover our budget gap,” which will be communicated to staff and parents as soon as possible.

Budget reductions discussed at a board meeting last week included cutting the overall funding allocated to 246 schools by $22 million, or 2.5 per cent. Officials said that will mean some temporary employee contracts will be eliminated and some central and area-based staff will be redeployed to schools.

“This budget decision impacts many of our schools, classrooms, and students,” Usih said.

LaGrange said the CBE “has a history of questionable, irresponsible decision-making when it comes to its finances,” pointing to the 20-year lease of a downtown building in 2010-11.

“I have been extremely clear that I expect all boards to minimize impacts on front-line staff and teachers, and to prioritize the educational experience of our students. Alberta Education offered the Calgary Board of Education assistance in achieving this, assistance that the board refused,” she stated.

But NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said LaGrange was warned repeatedly that the UCP budget would lead to layoffs.

“Of course it’s because the UCP government said that they were going to fund enrolment growth — they didn’t. They said they were going to protect education — they’re cutting it,” she said. “And now here we are mid-year dealing with those consequences and kids are paying the price and teachers are losing their jobs.”

When asked by reporters whether the review could result in “firing” or “disbanding” the school board, LaGrange did not rule it out.

“I am looking at a governance review and an independent financial audit and all my options,” she said.

In 2017, the former NDP government also launched a review of the CBE’s finances. The review found that the board’s per-student spending was comparable to Alberta’s other three metro boards but that it could look to find efficiencies through busing services.

LaGrange said the province has no plans to audit the Calgary Catholic School District or other school boards.

The Calgary Catholic School District says it’s facing a $17-million deficit following October’s provincial budget.

But board chair Mary Martin said the shortfall won’t mean fewer teachers working at its schools across Calgary and Rocky View County. Martin said the board asked its administration to come up with a recommendation “to preserve classroom conditions and our staff.”

“One of the things that makes this budget along with some of the grant reductions and eliminations challenging is the midyear nature of it,” she said.

“At this point in time we’re comfortable that we will be not laying off anyone. We’ll be using reserves. One of the challenges is it’s not a good long-term measure.”

Martin said the school board is looking for other efficiencies, but wouldn’t go into detail on what options are on the table. She said some vacant positions at the school board’s central office would not be filled.


Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s statement released on Wednesday, Nov. 20:

—With files from Janet French and Lisa Johnson

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Justin Trudeau 2019 New cabinet list

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The full list of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s new cabinet being sworn in Nov. 20 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa:

-Chrystia Freeland becomes Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
-Anita Anand, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Public Services and Procurement.
-Navdeep Bains becomes Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
-Carolyn Bennett remains Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
-Marie-Claude Bibeau remains Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
-Bill Blair becomes Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
-Bardish Chagger becomes Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth.
-Francois-Philippe Champagne becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs.
-Jean-Yves Duclos becomes President of the Treasury Board.
-Mona Fortier, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance.
-Marc Garneau remains Minister of Transport.
-Karina Gould becomes Minister of International Development.
-Steven Guilbeault, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Canadian Heritage.
-Patty Hajdu becomes Minister of Health.
-Ahmed Hussen becomes Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
-Melanie Joly becomes Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.
-Bernadette Jordan becomes Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
-David Lametti remains Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
-Dominic LeBlanc becomes President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.
-Diane Lebouthillier remains Minister of National Revenue.
-Lawrence MacAulay remains Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.
-Catherine McKenna becomes Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.
-Marco E. L. Mendicino, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
-Marc Miller, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Indigenous Services.
-Maryam Monsef becomes Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development.
-Bill Morneau remains Minister of Finance.
-Joyce Murray becomes Minister of Digital Government.
-Mary Ng becomes Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade.
-Seamus O’Regan becomes Minister of Natural Resources.
-Carla Qualtrough becomes Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
-Pablo Rodriguez becomes Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
-Harjit Sajjan remains Minister of National Defence.
-Deb Schulte, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Seniors.
-Filomena Tassi becomes Minister of Labour.
-Dan Vandal, a new entry to cabinet, becomes Minister of Northern Affairs.
-Jonathan Wilkinson becomes Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
-Also, Jim Carr will serve as the prime minister’s special representative for the Prairies.

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