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Liberals declare victory in Mississauga-Lakeshore federal byelection

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The early results from a Greater Toronto Area byelection Monday suggested an imminent return to government for former Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa — this time as a federal member of Parliament.

With just under 20 per cent of the vote counted, Sousa arrived at a campaign event in Mississauga declaring himself the winner, to cheers from a crowd of more than a hundred supporters.

“As your voice in Ottawa, I want you to know that I am here to provide support, to work with you and the community, and to be pragmatic at finding the right solutions to those challenges that we face,” Sousa said during a victory speech.

“It is an honour to serve this big community and to join the team in Ottawa that shares those values.”

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Sousa was winning by just under 20 percentage points with nearly half of the votes counted, or 110 out of 234 polls in the riding reporting. He had 52.5 per cent of the vote to his Conservative opponent’s 33 per cent, with the NDP candidate a distant third at 6.5 per cent.

The Liberal Party also declared victory late Monday evening, saying in a news release that this leaves it “in a strengthened position” at the end of 2022.

If that dramatic lead held as the remainder of votes were counted, it would be a negative sign for new Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, said Philippe Fournier, the creator of 338Canada, a statistical model of electoral projections based on polling, demographics and elections history.

Reacting to the early results, Fournier noted that the byelection appeared to have low turnout. The first 34 per cent of votes counted only represented about five per cent of registered voters.

That’s a turnout of about 15 per cent, based on those early results. Fournier said such a low number could be a sign of either “apathy or general satisfaction.” Both are good signs for the incumbents.

He suggested that if Liberals retained a significant lead, that would mean that Poilievre was “doing worse” than his two immediate predecessors, Erin O’Toole and Andrew Scheer.

Though Fournier warned against reading too much into any byelection result, the Liberals, emphasized the win as an indictment of Poilievre.

“Tonight, voters in  Mississauga–Lakeshore rejected the reckless policies of Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives,” the party’s national director, Azam Ishmael, said in a statement.

During a campaign that saw big-name Liberals dropping by the Mississauga-Lakeshore riding and federal ministers manning the phones, Sousa sold himself as an experienced decision-maker able to work with opponents across the aisle.

The former banker had lost his seat in the 2018 election that saw the provincial Liberals fall from the governing party to one without official status in the legislature.

He thanked those who helped him on the campaign during his victory speech Monday evening, saying he couldn’t have done it alone. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Liberal MP Iqra Khalid were both by his side.

“Nothing’s gonna change in Ottawa, regardless of the outcome of this election,” Sousa said in an interview ahead of the byelection. “So who do you want to fight for you and be there for you? I’m getting a lot of positive feedback.”

At an event for Sousa on Monday evening, campaign volunteer Patti Jannetta called Sousa a visionary and said she had heard a lot of positivity from voters.

“I am feeling really confident because I think people are confident in him,” she said at the Oasis Convention Centre shortly before polls closed.

As dozens of supporters waited for the results to trickle in, they sat around tables chatting over loud blues music played by a live band, some sipping on beer or wine. Later, the crowd swelled to well over 100 and the atmosphere became more celebratory as Sousa’s lead held.

A more-modest Liberal win would simply have been “business as usual,” Fournier said before the vote. However, it would have been a very different story had the Conservative Party managed an upset.

At first glance, Monday’s federal byelection in a coveted Greater Toronto Area riding had seemed like a potential nail-biter.

It was the first contest under the Conservative leadership of Poilievre, in an area of the country crucial to his party’s chances of success in future federal elections.

And the contest, in a district the Tories won when Stephen Harper earned a majority mandate, came seven years into the tenure of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government is on its second minority stint in Parliament.

As Tories dampened expectations for their performance in Mississauga-Lakeshore, Poilievre was scarcely visible, though he tweeted his support for the Conservative candidate, Ron Chhinzer, on Monday afternoon.

Fournier said Conservatives will need to learn how to win again in the regions outside Toronto if Poilievre wants a shot at becoming prime minister.

“When you look at the riding map, the Conservatives have maxed out in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta. They could win maybe a handful more in Atlantic provinces, maybe two, three more in Quebec, maybe two, three more in B.C.,” he said.

“That doesn’t give you victory. They have to win more in Ontario. Where are the potential gains for the Conservatives? It’s into the Mississaugas and the Scarboroughs.”

The byelection was announced after Sven Spengemann, the former Liberal MP, announced earlier this year that he would resign to pursue a new job at the United Nations.

Final results in Monday’s contest will not be tabulated until local special ballots are added to the tally, beginning on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2022.

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey after earthquake

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey

A senior government official says a Canadian assessment team is on its way to Turkey to determine how Canada can contribute to earthquake relief efforts.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan was expected to formally announce the deployment of the Canadian Disaster Assessment Team this evening.

The senior official, who spoke on background pending Sajjan’s official confirmation, said the team consists of a handful of military and Global Affairs officials.

The official underscored that the deployment of the team does not automatically guarantee a further deployment of Canadian resources to the country.

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The earthquake, which razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria on Monday, is one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade and the federal government is facing criticism that the window to help with rescue efforts is closing.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of local emergency personnel and Canadian humanitarian aid workers with charitable organizations were arriving Wednesday

Defence Minister Anita Anand said late Tuesday that the federal government had not ruled out sending a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the recovery effort, but that it was working to figure out what would be most useful.

The assessment team would recommend whether to send additional support, such as a DART.

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match funds donated to Canadian Red Cross relief efforts up to $10 million on top of an initial aid package of $10 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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Canadian soccer player describes the horror of the earthquake in Turkey

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Canadian soccer player

Canadian soccer player Sam Adekugbe is one of the lucky ones. He managed to escape earthquake-ravaged Antakya in Turkey.

Some of his teammates and staff at his club Hatayspor are still missing.

The 28-year-old from Calgary is now safe in Istanbul with Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson, who plays in the Turkish Super Lig for Besiktas. But in a Zoom call Wednesday sitting next to Hutchinson, a sombre Adekugbe told a harrowing tale of being caught in the quake — and the horror of what he saw in the aftermath.

“Unfathomable. Something you never really expect,” said Adekugbe, who looked shell-shocked.

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Adekugbe was relaxing at home with some teammates after a 1-0 win over visiting Kasimpasa in a Turkish league game Sunday evening. The quake began as he started cleaning up his home when they left.

He started shaking, which initially made him think he was having a panic attack. Then the furniture and TV began to tip over and cups and dishes smashed in the kitchen.

He went outside to find the road split and people yelling amid freezing rain and lighting strikes. After witnessing the damage around his home, he drove the 20 minutes to the team training ground, seeing the devastation along the way.

“It just felt like a movie. You’re seeing collapsed buildings, fires. People yelling, people crying,” he said. “People digging through the rubble. Broken pieces of houses. Just things you never really expect.”

It got worse the closer he got to the centre of the city, which is located 1,100 kilometres southeast of Istanbul in a region bordered by the Mediterranean and Syria.

“Roads split. Bridges broken. Twelve-storey highrises just completely collapsed. Families looking for loved ones. Parents looking for their kids. Kids looking for their parents. It was just something unfathomable. Something you never really expect.”

Adekugbe says people are still missing, including the team’s sporting director, Taner Savut. There is confusion over the whereabouts of Ghana international Christian Atsu, who was at Adekugbe’s home that night.

Reports of Atsu being rescued are now in doubt, said Adekugbe, who joined the search for survivors after getting to the training ground.

“It’s also people who work around the team,” Adekugbe said.

He says one of the team’s equipment men died in the quake. So did the daughters and mother of a woman who works in the team kitchen.

The wife of another equipment man needs urgent medical attention, facing having her arm amputated if she doesn’t get it.

“Of course I’m thankful that a lot of my teammates have been found. But the people that do help the team, the people who work around the club, they still have loved ones that are missing and unaccounted for. Really it starts to hit home when you just see the agony, the desperation on their faces,” he said.

In the light of day, the horror grew.

“You’re looking through rubble trying to find your teammates. You’re trying to yell for them in like darkened spaces of apartments that used to be standing,” Adekugbe said. “It’s just something you never find yourself doing. People coming back with broken bones. People still missing to this day. It’s something you can’t really explain.”

Adekugbe and some of his teammates managed to get out thanks to his coach, Volkan Demirel, who used to play for Fenerbahce, another Turkish club based in Istanbul. He called the Fenerbahce president who organized a plane departing from a city about a 150-minute drive away.

Adekugbe and other Hatayspor players and staff were bused to the waiting plane, which took them to Istanbul.

“We were very lucky,” Adekugbe said.

“I just grabbed what I could … I have three suitcases and my dog.”

Hutchinson was waiting to take him in. Adekugbe had called him in the aftermath of the quake, showing him the damage via FaceTime.

He called his parents when he got to the training ground.

Antakya is renowned for its cuisine, which has many Middle Eastern influences. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has designated Antakya as a “city of gastronomy.”

Adekugbe, who joined Hatayspor in June 2021 from Norway’s Valerenga Fotball, has won 37 caps for Canada and saw action in all three of Canada’s games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Born in London, England, he was three when his family moved to Manchester and 10 when it came to Calgary.

At 16, he moved to Vancouver to join the Whitecaps residency program. He signed a homegrown contract with the MLS team in 2013 but made just 16 appearances for the team over the next four seasons, spending much of the time out on loan.

Adekugbe had loans stints with Brighton in the English Championship and Sweden’s IFK Goteborg before joining Valerenga in January 2018.

While Istanbul escaped quake damage, Hutchinson’s concern for Adekugbe grew when internet connection was lost and a second quake hit.

Both players urged Canadians to donate to relief organizations to help the region and its people.

“There’s a lot of people that are still under the rubble,” Hutchinson said.

“People are just really in bad conditions right now,” he added. “It’s really cold here. Just making it through the day and the night, it’s extremely difficult.”

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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How much money is needed to retire in Canada

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Canadians now believe they need $1.7 million in savings in order to retire, a 20 per cent increase from 2020, according to a new BMO survey.

The eye-watering figure is the largest sum since BMO first started surveying Canadians about their retirement expectations 13 years ago. It’s also a drastic increase from the $1.4 million in savings Canadians expected to need for their nest eggs just two years ago.

The results reflect Canadians’ concerns about current economic conditions, particularly inflation and higher prices, said Caroline Dabu, head of wealth distribution and advisory services for BMO Financial Group.

“If you look at the average Canadian, they’re feeling the rising inflation costs,” said Dabu.

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“And so, not surprisingly, we are seeing that Canadians are feeling they absolutely will need more to retire.”

Canada’s annual inflation rate hit a four-decade high of 8.1 per cent in the summer of 2022 and has since fallen to 6.3 per cent as of December 2022. BMO Economics expects the country’s CPI to decline to around three per cent by the end of the year.

The sharp increase to Canada’s inflation rate in 2022 exceeded wage gains, eroding purchasing power for most families and heightening fears about the future. The BMO survey found that just 44 per cent of Canadians are confident they will have enough money to retire as planned — a 10 per cent decrease from 2020.

But while the $1.7 million figure may sound overwhelming to working-age Canadians, Dabu said the number says more about the economic mood of the country than it does about real-life retirement necessities.

“Certainly when we’re working with clients, we find that many overestimate the number that they need to retire,” she said.

“It really does have to be taken at an individual level, because circumstances are very different … But $1.7 million, I would say, is high.”

While rising inflation may require tweaks to a retirement plan — such as contributing slightly more to savings each month if you’re a young worker, or making cash flow adjustments if you’re nearing the end of your working career — Dabu said these changes don’t necessarily have to be drastic.

When it comes to retirement planning, Dabu said, knowledge is power. By working with a professional financial advisor and making a plan that encompasses individual circumstances and goals, Canadians can come up with their own retirement savings number.

“In the survey, we note that 53 per cent of Canadians didn’t know how much they will need to retire,” Dabu said.

“That increased confidence comes from knowing the exact number that I need to save for, and how I’m going to get there.”

The BMO survey also found that approximately 22 per cent of Canadians plan to retire between the ages of 60 and 69, with an average age of 62.

Millennial and generation z Canadians are the most nervous about their ability to save and invest right now, the survey found. However, all age groups — 74 per cent of survey respondents — said they are concerned about how current economic conditions will affect their financial situation, and 59 per cent said economic conditions have affected their confidence in meeting their retirement goals.

The BMO survey was conducted between Nov. 4 and 7, 2022 by Pollara Strategic Insights via an online survey of 1,500. The survey’s margin of error is plus/minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

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