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‘The neighbours are going to think we’re communists’: Voting progressive in rural Alberta



Along a quiet street in Pincher Creek there’s a spattering of houses with bright orange signs that contrast the surrounding sea of blue.

Juneva Green was running errands when her husband stepped the NDP banner into their lawn.

“When I came back and he’d gotten the sign up I said, ‘Gee, Jim, the neighbours are going to think we’re communists,” she said laughing.

The Greens live in Livingstone-Macleod — a riding the NDP hasn’t won since 1966 but that houses pockets of progressive voters.


The election has broadly been a neck-and-neck race. But the NDP aren’t competitive in much of rural Alberta.

The UCP is at 65 per cent support and the NDP at 31 per cent outside Edmonton and Calgary, per polling aggregator 338 Canada. Seat projections show them as serious challengers in only a handful of the 41 ridings outside the two major cities.

The UCP’s greatest concentrations of strength continue to be in those constituencies, of which they currently hold 39.

The fewer small city and rural seats the NDP wins, the harder its path to victory. If the NDP forms the next government, it’s poised to do so largely without rural representation.

 Juneva Green, a voter in Livingstone-Macleod, says there's more support for the NDP in her community in this election than she's seen in past years.
Juneva Green, a voter in Livingstone-Macleod, says there’s more support for the NDP in her community in this election than she’s seen in past years. (Elise von Scheel/CBC)

Lately, it’s been lonely to vote progressive in small town Alberta or be a conservative supporter in NDP-held Edmonton. CBC News is featuring stories from both those groups of voters during this election.

“In the last election, we put up NDP signs on both sides of the house and realized we’re the only ones with signs,” said Sharron Toews, a resident of Nanton who has voted across the political spectrum.

Progressive voters in places like Nanton, Claresholm and the Crowsnest Pass would quietly vote for their parties in the past, but the support is more visible this time. It’s the first election in decades where Alberta has solidified into a competitive two-party system.

“We’ve been a conservative-reigned province for many years … I think maybe people are looking for more options.”

This year, orange dots a dozen lawns on Toews’s small street.

Sharron Toews, a voter in Nanton, says in the last election she was the only house on the street with an NDP lawn sign.
Sharron Toews, a voter in Nanton, says in the last election she was the only house on the street with an NDP lawn sign. (Elise von Scheel/CBC)

“The fact that we are in a two-party system where opposition to the conservatives has largely coalesced around the NDP, that’s a really big deal,” said Clark Banack, the director of the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities at the University of Alberta.

He added that political cultures in small towns have shifted in the last 20 years as government dollars pool in cities and rural residents are confronted with the changing nature of living and livelihoods outside of urban centres.

“Is it going to flip 10 seats? No, I don’t think so. Are there going to be a few races that are far closer than we would have ever seen 10, 15, 20 years ago? Absolutely.”

Tory blue, all the way through

“Other” Alberta, as pollsters sometimes call the areas outside the two metropolises, hasn’t been reliable for the NDP. In 2019, the party had only 23 per cent of the 927,000 votes cast in “otherland.”

Livingstone-Macleod elected a UCP MLA in 2019 with more than 70 per cent of the vote to the NDP’s 21 per cent. It’s a stronghold of conservative support and home base for UCP Leader Danielle Smith (the constituency was also her first choice to get a seat in the legislature last fall).

Just under 50,000 people live in the riding, where people over 45 make up the majority. The riding is a patchwork of ranchers, farmers, health-care workers, energy sector employees, retirees and young families.

“People have this sense that rural Alberta is all one thing. People think it’s Tory blue all the way through,” said Kevin Van Tighem, the NDP candidate in Livingstone-Macleod.

“And a lot of people are concerned about the same things they’re worried about everywhere else in the province.”

He’s facing a well-known rookie UCP challenger, Chelsae Petrovic. Each has encountered controversy: Petrovic proactively apologized for yet-to-be-released social media posts and Van Tighem had to clarify a comparison he made between the oil and gas sector’s impact on the environment and slavery.

Those 41 seats also include places like Red Deer and Lethbridge, which are more of a toss up. And the issues across the province are consistent: Health care and the cost of living are just as much of a preoccupation outside the cities as they are in them.

Kevin Van Tighem is the NDP candidate in Livingstone-Macleod, a riding the UCP won by 50 points in 2019.
Kevin Van Tighem is the NDP candidate in Livingstone-Macleod, a riding the UCP won by 50 points in 2019. (Elise von Scheel/CBC)

“The small scale family farm has really withered away thanks to kind of broader economic shifts. Same with other industries that tended to be rural have been kind of corporatized to a degree,” Banack said.

“This has kind of created a bit of an opening for new forms of rural identity to kind of sprout out.”

In the Crowsnest Pass, longtime residents say the demographics have shifted in the last five years. Younger families have moved into communities like Bellevue and Blairmore. An uptick in mountain biking has brought people with environmental leanings to the region. A vibrant arts and tourism scene has emerged.

The NDP campaign is aiming for some gains outside the cities. Five rural seats would be the goal, flipping 10 would be the ceiling.

Don’t expect to see the majority of efforts focused in rural areas, a senior strategist said, but do expect the NDP to “take a few nibbles of their territory here and there.”

Van Tighem is trying to defy the odds and be one of the 10, using a perhaps counterintuitive strategy. He’s asking “light” blue conservatives to — just this once — put the UCP in the penalty box for four years and loan the NDP their vote.

“We’ve got a lot of the same beliefs except we drive on gravel roads, we’ve got longer driveways and we have far more grass to cut,” Karen Shaw said. She was raised in a conservative family, ranching in the northern half of Alberta. She’s now the NDP’s candidate in Morinville-St. Albert.

Shaw’s riding is a tighter race but still a bit of a toss up, polling aggregates say. The orange wave that swept the NDP to power in 2015 included a win in that region. No such luck four years later, in the 2019 election. She’s working to convince undecided voters the NDP should get another shot at government.

The candidates running in Livingstone-Macleod hold a forum in Claresholm on May 15, 2023.
The candidates running in Livingstone-Macleod participated in a forum in Claresholm on May 15. (Elise von Scheel/CBC)

Orange is the new blue?

The UCP is working to convey the opposite.

“There is nothing conservative or moderate about the NDP or its leader,” Edmonton-South West candidate Kaycee Madu wrote.

The party notes Notley’s record on economic issues, and Smith has poked at her attempt to appeal to more voters.

“She wants to portray herself as some kind of progressive conservative. She’s even wearing blue these days, you may have noticed,” the UCP leader said.

Jean Pultz voted NDP for the first time in 2019, and while she may not be a lifetime convert to the centre-left of the spectrum, she says Alberta needs to give something different a try.

“I think people are fed up.”

Pultz says she’s taking a chance on the NDP again but is skeptical of the party’s ability to deliver on its promises.

“Are they going to carry through once they get in? I don’t know.”

That hesitation voters may have on both major parties is what the Alberta Party would like to capitalize on.

“There’s the true and true blue that are going to vote blue no matter what,” said Kevin Todd, the candidate in Livingstone-Macleod.

“And I want them to just go for better representation.”

Ridings like Banff-Kananaskis, the two Lethbridge seats and Edmonton’s more rural ‘doughnut’ constituencies are opportunities for the NDP, but the odds don’t favour them for most of these 41 otherlands.

That isn’t much of a deterrent for some of these progressive voters.

“Every vote counts, my vote is just as important as anyone else’s,” said Tahvo Laukkanen, an NDP supporter in Grand Prairie.

“It’s politics. We always have a chance.”

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Air Canada issues: Passengers to be compensated – CTV News




Air Canada says it made a mistake in rejecting some compensation claims from the thousands of travellers affected by delayed flights due to computer malfunctions.

In messages to some customers, the airline initially said the information technology fumble was out of its hands, relieving it of obligations to pay them compensation.


“In this instance, the compensation you are requesting does not apply because the disruption was caused by an event outside of our control. This flight is delayed due to an unforeseen technology issue, impacting one of our suppliers, which is impacting our operations,” the airline said Thursday in an email to passenger Douglas Judson.

Judson said he arrived more than three hours late after his June 1 flight from Winnipeg to Toronto was delayed due to the IT defect.

“I find the dishonesty and disrespect of it the most galling,” he said in a phone interview. “Some really interesting logic puzzles at Air Canada as to when something is actually their fault.”

While denying his compensation request, Air Canada offered him a 15 per cent fare discount on any upcoming flight as a “goodwill gesture.”

When contacted by The Canadian Press on Friday, the Montreal-based airline said the response stemmed from an error.

“Air Canada is offering compensation in line with APPR (Air Passenger Protection Regulations) compensation levels for flights which were affected by the IT outage. Some passengers had received erroneous responses from us, and we are in the process of re-contacting them with the correct responses,” spokeswoman Angela Mah stated.

The country’s largest carrier has struggled with intermittent computer problems over the past few weeks.

On May 25 it delayed more than half its flights due to a “technical issue” with the system that the airline uses to communicate with aircraft and monitor their performance. On June 1 it delayed or cancelled more than 500 flights — over three-quarters of its trips that day, according to tracking service FlightAware — due to “IT issues.”

That same day, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra stressed the carrier’s compensation responsibilities to its guests.

“Air Canada has obligations to passengers who are impacted because it is caused by things that the airline has control over,” he told reporters June 1, hours after the IT issues resurfaced.

Alghabra spokeswoman Nadine Ramadan said in an email Friday the minister’s office had been in touch with the company, which assured them it will compensate the affected passengers.

Gabor Lukacs, president of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group, said the airline’s response “rings hollow.”

“We are hearing about too many of these ‘errors’ to believe that it was a genuine error,” he said in an email.

Lukacs suggested Air Canada’s response — including the discounted fare offer — marked “an attempt to make passengers go away and not pursue their rights.”

It was not clear whether the thousands of passengers whose flights were delayed or cancelled the day after the June 1 computer problem — Judson’s included — due to what the airline deemed “rollover effects” would receive compensation.

“They said in their official communications to passengers that it was maintenance. I do not believe it was maintenance. I think it was a direct consequence of their IP issues,” Judson said, noting that his return flight to Winnipeg landed more than three hours behind schedule.

Air Canada’s Mah said the airline would “investigate to determine the root cause of the cancellation and handle accordingly.”

At least 144 of its flights, or 27 per cent of the airline’s scheduled load, had been delayed as of late afternoon on June 2, along with 33 cancellations, according FlightAware.

In April, Alghabra laid out measures to toughen penalties and tighten loopholes around traveller compensation as part of a proposed overhaul of Canada’s passenger rights charter.

If passed as part of the budget bill, the reforms will put the onus on airlines to show a flight disruption is caused by safety concerns or reasons outside their control, with specific examples to be drawn up by the Canadian Transportation Agency as a list of exceptions around compensation.

“It will no longer be the passenger who will have to prove that he or she is entitled to compensation. It will now be the airline that will need to prove that it does not have to pay for it,” Alghabra said on April 24.

Currently, a passenger is entitled to between $125 and $1,000 in compensation for a three-hour-plus delay or a cancellation made within 14 days of the scheduled departure — unless the disruption stems from events outside the airline’s control, such as weather or a safety issue including mechanical problems. The amount varies depending on the size of the carrier and length of the delay.

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

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What started Canada’s wildfires and are they under control?



Canada is seeing its worst-ever start to wildfire season, with blazes ravaging much of the country and creating hazardous smoky conditions across the continent and beyond.

After reaching New York earlier this week, on Thursday it blanketed Washington, DC, in an unhealthy haze, prompting many residents to stay indoors.

Here is what we know about the wildfires, their trajectory and climate change.

What started the Canadian wildfires?

Atlantic Canada received low snowfall this winter, followed by an exceptionally dry spring.


Nova Scotia’s capital Halifax received just 120mm of rain between March and May, roughly a third of the average, according to The Weather Network meteorologist Michael Carter.

A scorching late May heatwave pushed temperatures in Halifax to 33C (91.4 F) on Thursday, about 10 degrees Celsius above normal for this time of year.

The wildfires are believed to have been caused either by lightning, as in the case of Quebec, or accidentally by human activity.

Ellen Whitman, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, said there is also speculation that trees felled during Hurricane Fiona, which hit Atlantic Canada in September 2022, or killed by an infestation of forest pests may be providing more fuel than usual for wildfires, but that theory requires further investigation.

Are the wildfires under control?

Not yet.

As of early Friday, there were 427 active wildfires, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center; of those, 232 were out of control.

In the West Coast province of British Columbia, authorities reported 81 active wildfires – 28 out of control – while in the province of Alberta, authorities reported 72 active wildfires.

Quebec, on the country’s eastern side, has 128 active fires.

The fires have spread across about 4.3 million hectares (10.6 million acres), roughly 15 times the annual average of the past decade.

Where are the Canadian wildfires?

The forest fires started in late April in British Columbia and Alberta, displacing more than 30,000 people at their peak, and shutting down oil and gas production.

They have now opened new fronts, spreading to the eastern provinces of Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.

Currently, Canada is receiving international help to battle the wildfires. Help has come from the United States, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. In Europe, France, Portugal and Spain were also sending more than 280 firefighters to Canada.

canada wildfires

How are the fires affecting air quality?

On Thursday, authorities in Washington, DC, issued a “Code Purple” air quality alert, warning of “very unhealthy air conditions for the entire public, not just those with respiratory illnesses”.

New York again had the worst air quality on Thursday morning, with an unhealthy Air Quality Index reading of 185, according to a website operated by IQAir.

Readings over 100 are classified as “unhealthy”, and those exceeding 300 are “hazardous”.

On Wednesday, authorities in Canada said Ottawa’s air quality was among the worst.

Experts have noted that acrid clouds of smoke and ash could continue to affect daily life for people in the US and Canada for the next several days.

Why is the smoke reaching so far away?

Strong winds high in the atmosphere can transport smoke long distances, and it is common for large, violent fires to create unhealthy conditions hundreds of kilometres away from where forests are burning.

In Canada, air is circulating counterclockwise around a low-pressure system near Nova Scotia. That sends air south over the fires in Quebec. There the air picks up smoke, and then turns east over New York state, carrying smoke to the eastern seaboard.

The smoke has now also been detected thousands of kilometres away in Norway, the Scandinavian country’s Climate and Environmental Research Institute NILU said on Friday.

“Very weak” concentrations of smoke particles have been detected since Monday, in particular at the Birkenes Observatory in southern Norway, researcher Nikolaos Evangeliou told AFP news agency.

Residents wear masks under an orange sky as New York City is enveloped in smoke
Residents of New York City wear protective masks as the city experienced its worst air quality on record due to a cloud of ash and smoke from the Canadian wildfires [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

What is the outlook?

Warm, dry conditions are forecast to persist for months across Canada though occasional rains and cooler temperatures are expected to bring short-term relief.

The Weather Network’s longer-term forecast expects Nova Scotia temperatures to be slightly warmer than normal for the rest of the summer.

What role is climate change playing?

Whitman of the Canadian Forest Service, said it is difficult to determine the effect of climate change on a single fire season. Atlantic Canada has been much hotter than usual and scientists expect temperatures in the region to continue to rise in the coming years.

For coastal regions, climate change is expected to bring more rain, which should reduce the risk of wildfires, but a warmer atmosphere is more efficient at pulling moisture out of soils, a factor that increases fire risk.

Widespread spring fires across the whole of Canada are also unusual, and research shows fire seasons across North America are getting longer.

A warming planet will produce hotter and longer heatwaves, making for bigger, smokier fires, according to Joel Thornton, professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.



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1 arrested after stabbing at Olive Garden restaurant in Winnipeg




Police officers went to the Olive Garden at the corner of Reenders Drive and Lagimodiere Boulevard in the Transcona neighbourhood to investigate a stabbing around 7 p.m. Thursday night.

A black and white police cruiser sits parked in front of the windows of a restaurant at night.
A police cruiser sits outside the Olive Garden in Transcona on Thursday night. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

A person has been arrested after a stabbing at an Olive Garden restaurant in Winnipeg Thursday night.


Police officers went to the Olive Garden at the corner of Reenders Drive and Lagimodiere Boulevard in the Transcona neighbourhood around 7 p.m.

One person was arrested but police would not provide any additional information.

They provided no information about injuries.

More details are expected to be released later in the day, police said.



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