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NATO holding armoured-gun competition in Latvia to test abilities of tank units

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RIGA, Latvia — Although tanks have shown their limits in the war in Ukraine, they remain the centrepiece of the battlefield, Capt. Antonio Cornacchi of the Italian armed forces told The Canadian Press Thursday.

Cornacchi is in charge of the armoured-gunnery competition involving troops from 13 NATO countries — including Canada — that is taking place over four days at the Adazi base, located about 200 kilometres from the Russian border and a 45-minute drive from Riga, the capital of NATO member Latvia.

The military exercises — dubbed Iron Spear — involve multinational NATO battle group eFP Latvia, which serves both as a dissuasion and a shield in the event of an attack.

Thirty-four crews from 13 NATO armies are testing the striking force and manoeuvrability of tanks, as a debate rages about the relevance of armoured vehicles, following the setbacks incurred by Russian tank units in the invasion of Ukraine.

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Cornacchi said tanks are “highly competitive” during exercises involving firing in motion or from fixed positions.

“The light infantry are also important for our army, but tanks … remain the focus,” Cornacchi, commander of an Italian battle company, said in an interview.

On Thursday, the NATO crews competed for who had the most precise tank-fired shots across a field of a few square kilometres made up of mounds and paths. The shots from tank guns larger than 100 millimetres produced deafening blasts in a viewing bunker where a jury — composed of Italians and representatives from other NATO countries — judged the exercises.

The jury is there to “test in a highly professional way the ability of each crew,” Cornacchi said. So far during the competition, he added, the Estonian, Danish and Canadian soldiers “are doing very well.” But he said there is more competition to go.

“This is just the first step, and we’ll see what happens.”

British and Polish soldiers on Thursday morning manoeuvred on the perimeter and fired shots, some while moving and others from fixed positions. Members of other NATO countries watched their colleagues from the roof of the bunker, braving the damp and bitter cold.

The Canadian unit competed with its German-made Leopard tanks, a model the Canadian Forces used during the war in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, tank combat is common, but new weapons are threatening the tank’s supremacy on the battlefield, including from drones and an arsenal of anti-tank missiles supplied by Ukraine’s western allies. Among the weapons is the Javelin — which has become a symbol of the Ukraine war — a formidable American-made anti-tank missile. Javelins are small, easy to use and they are wreaking havoc on Russian tank units.

The Ukrainian army has published several videos of turrets from Russian tanks blasting in the air like champagne bottle corks, from the impact of Javelins and other anti-tank missiles: Nlaw, Himars or Carl Gustavs. Canada, for its part, has donated 100 M2 Carl Gustavs to the Ukrainian forces.

Just over 100 years after its invention, the heavy, expensive and cumbersome tank — highly visible and sometimes vulnerable on the battlefield — still plays a critical role in NATO’s defence arsenal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

— Patrice Bergeron is a Quebec-based journalist with The Canadian Press. In addition to two decades of political and general news experience, he was a CP war correspondent in Afghanistan in 2009.

 

Patrice Bergeron, The Canadian Press

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NDP says Alberta premier’s prosecutor review flawed, calls for outside investigation

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Alberta premier's prosecutor

Alberta’s Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith’s assurance of a thorough investigation into allegations of interference with Crown prosecutors is “an empty talking point” given new details on the search itself.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said that while the Smith-directed email search covered the four-month period in question, any deleted message was erased from the system after just a month, meaning the relevant time period for those emails was likely missed.

“It is outrageous that Danielle Smith is really naive enough to think that Albertans would trust an internal investigation that has not been transparently conducted, that has been conducted by people who answer to her, and that only considered deleted emails that go back 30 days,” Notley said Thursday in Calgary.

“This is an empty talking point and nothing else,” she added, renewing a call for an independent, judge-led inquiry into whether Smith and her office interfered in the administration of justice.

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Smith ordered an email review last weekend after CBC News reported allegations that a staffer in the premier’s office sent a series of emails last fall to Crown prosecutors questioning their assessment and direction in cases related to the blockade at the Coutts, Alta., U.S. border crossing in early 2022.

The CBC did not specify precisely when the emails were sent and said it has not viewed the emails in question.

RCMP laid charges against several people involved in the three-week blockade at Coutts to protest COVID-19 restrictions. The charges range from mischief to conspiracy to commit murder.

On Monday, the Justice Department reported that a review of almost a million emails — incoming, outgoing and deleted — sent over a four-month period last fall turned up no evidence of any communications between prosecutors and the premier’s office.

However, Alberta Justice, in a statement to media outlets Wednesday, stated that deleted emails are only kept for 30 days, meaning the search for deleted emails would only capture those from around Dec. 22 onward and perhaps not capture deleted emails during the time frame in question.

Alberta Justice, along with Ethan Lecavalier-Kidney, who speaks for Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, declined to respond to requests Thursday for that statement or explain why the statement was now being withheld.

Notley’s comments came a day after Smith faced a second CBC story, quoting unnamed sources alleging she pressured Shandro and his office to intervene in COVID-related cases.

Smith reiterated in a statement: “All communications between the premier, her staff, the minister of justice, and ministry of justice public servants have been appropriate and made through the proper channels.”

In the statement, Smith also accused the CBC of publishing “a defamatory article containing baseless allegations” referring to the original email story.

Chuck Thompson, the CBC head of public affairs, said in a statement Wednesday: “We stand by the story which transparently attributes the allegations to trusted sources and provides context to the allegations.

“As is our practice, we gave the premier and her office an opportunity to react and we included that response prominently in the story, including the sub-headline.”

Smith has given multiple versions in recent weeks of what she has said to justice officials about COVID-19 cases.

She has not taken questions in a general news conference with reporters since the affair took off two weeks ago when Smith announced that she was talking to prosecutors about the COVID-19 cases.

Smith has said she talked to prosecutors directly and did not talk to prosecutors directly. She has said she reminded justice officials of general prosecution guidelines, but at other times said she reminded them to consider factors unique to the COVID-19 cases. She has also suggested the conversations are ongoing and that they have ended.

She has attributed the confusion to “imprecise” word choices.

In her statement Wednesday, Smith delivered a sixth version, now saying she met not only with Shandro and the deputy attorney general, but also with other unnamed “ministry officials” to discuss the possibility of legal amnesty to those charged with “non-violent, non-firearms pandemic-related violations.”

The statement added: “The premier and her staff had several discussions with the minister of justice and ministry officials, requesting an explanation of what policy options were available for this purpose.

“After receiving a detailed legal opinion from the minister to not proceed with pursuing options for granting amnesty, the premier followed that legal advice.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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B.C. to install earthquake warning sensors to give life-saving notice

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B.C. to install earthquake warning

Up to 50 earthquake early warning sensors are being installed around British Columbia as part of a larger plan to protect people and infrastructure in a big quake.

The sensors will be connected to the national Earthquake Early Warning system that’s expected to be in operation by 2024.

A joint federal and provincial government announcement today says the sensors will give seconds, or perhaps tens of seconds, of warning before the strongest shaking arrives, helping to reduce injuries, deaths and property loss.

Bowinn Ma, B.C.’s minister of emergency management, says in a statement that an early warning system is critical to helping those in the province mitigate the impacts of a seismic event.

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When the full system is operational next year, more than 10 million Canadians living in the most earthquake-prone areas of the country will get early warning alerts, giving them precious seconds to take cover.

There are over 5,000 earthquakes in Canada every year, most of them along B.C.’s coast, although about 20 per cent of the quakes are along the St. Lawrence River and Ottawa River valleys.

On Jan. 26, 1700, a magnitude-9 megathrust earthquake hit North America’s west coast, creating a tsunami that carried across the Pacific Ocean and slammed into Japan.

The statement says if a similar quake happens when the early warning system is operating, it could give up to four minutes’ warning before the strongest shaking starts in coastal B.C. communities.

It says the system could also be used to automatically trigger trains to slow down, stop traffic from driving over bridges or into tunnels, divert air traffic, automatically close gas valves, and open firehall and ambulance bay doors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

This is a corrected story. A previous version said the earthquake warning system is expected to be operational in 2023. In fact, it is expected to be operational in 2024.

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Renters in Canada are facing the toughest market since 2001: CMHC report – Global News

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Renters in Canada are facing the toughest market in decades with low vacancies, higher prices and surging demand, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

The housing agency released its annual rental market report Thursday, which showed that the national vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartments declined to 1.9 per cent last year — the lowest level since 2001.

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Meanwhile, the demand for rentals outstripped supply due to higher net migration, the return of students to on-campus learning and a rise in homeownership costs.

“Higher mortgage rates, which drove up already-elevated costs of homeownership, made it harder and less attractive for renters to transition to homeownership,” CMHC said in a statement.

CMHC data also showed that the average rent for two-bedroom units that were occupied by a new tenant rose by 18.3 per cent — well above the average rent growth for units without turnover. This made it difficult for Canadians trying to enter the rental market or find new housing to rent, the agency said.

“Lower vacancy rates and rising rents were a common theme across Canada in 2022,” Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, said in a statement.

“This caused affordability challenges for renters, especially those in the lower income ranges, with very few units in the market available in their price range.”


Click to play video: 'How will housing market look in the next year?'

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How will housing market look in the next year?


The average rent for a two-bedroom rental condominium apartment saw a significant increase to $1,930 from $1,771, about nine per cent year over year, according to CMHC.

Canada is also facing a housing crunch with a shortage of both homes and construction workers to build new units.

Another CMHC report released last week found that the annual rate of new home building had slowed by five per cent in December 2022 compared with November.

Last month, in a bid to help tackle skyrocketing rents across the country, the government of Canada opened applications for a one-time top-up as part of the Canada Housing Benefit (CHB) program — an initiative that would put $500 in the pockets of low-income renters.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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