Mumbai: Former India cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli on Tuesday paid tributes to their childhood coach Ramankant Achrekar on the auspicious day of ‘Guru Purnima’. Tendulkar, one of the greatest batsman of his era, took to Twitter and thanked ‘Achrekar Sir’ for making him what he is today. “Guru is the one who removes the darkness of ignorance in the student. Thank you Achrekar Sir for being that Guru & guide to me and making me what I am today #Guru Purnima,” tweeted Tendulkar, who has often spoken about Achrekar’s contribution in shaping his career. Also Read – Dhoni, Paes spotted playing football togetherRamakant Vitthal Achrekar, better known as ‘Achrekar Sir’ in cricketing circles, passed away on January 2 this year at his Shivaji Park residence in Central Mumbai. Kambli, who played 17 Tests and 104 ODIs for India, said Achrekar Sir not only taught him to be a good cricketer but also made him a good human being. “You didn’t just make me a good cricketer but more importantly you taught me to be a good human! I miss you Achrekar Sir. You will always be with me through your teachings. Happy Guru Purnima! #GuruPurnima,” Kambli wrote on his Twitter handle. Apart from the two, other notable students of ‘Achrekar Sir’ include former India players Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Chandrakant Pandit, Praveen Amre, Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar. Guru Purnima is a spiritual tradition in Hindu religion dedicated to spiritual and academic teachers.
There is a reason Chhattisgarh’s third Chief Minister, Bhupesh Baghel wants to include his state’s tribal population in the growth plan he has put together. The 57-year-old Congress politician believes that without recognising the state’s tribal population’s immense potential to boost Chhattisgarh’s growth, it is impossible for the state to achieve any real success. Baghel speaks to Abhay Singh and Abhinay Lakshman of the Millennium Post, in an exclusive interview, outlining his plan of inclusiveness and growth for his state. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ With respect to your 100-day-plan, what have you managed to achieve so far and what remains to be done? Here in Chhattisgarh, we are very quickly fulfilling the promises made to the electorate during the polls with the utmost commitment. Our biggest first step has been in the way of forgiving farmer loans. Secondly, we have made it a point to buy paddy, directly from the farmers who grow it, at an astounding rate of Rs 2,500/quintal. Thirdly, we have decided to make it a priority to give tribals their land back. The indigenous population of the area that had their land taken over in the supposed interest of building industry, have now started getting their land back. Now, we have returned 4,200 acres of land to almost 1,700 tribal farmers and this remains to be one of our top priorities. Fourthly, we are promoting tribal families who collect tendu patta (leaves), by buying it from them at a rate of Rs 4,000 per sack, which is currently the highest rate in the country. Fifthly, we have managed to find a way to halve electricity bills of houses using less than 400 units. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K What is your vision to promote education in your state? Where my government is coming from is that education should not be bolstered just for the sake of education, but with the purpose of providing opportunities and most importantly jobs and employment. Our mission here is to provide quality education in a wholesome manner and we are constantly striving towards that goal. We have also stressed the importance of vernacular languages in enhancing learning capabilities of students, which in turn, also works as a way to preserve such local languages. For example, we have started this concept of “Niji Duniya”, where children are being taught in their local vernacular languages and teachers also use animation to impart lessons. However, there were systemic problems in the way education was looked at before, which had resulted in a large number of vacancies for the posts of teachers and professors in government schools and colleges. Around 1,300 to 1,350 assistant professor posts were lying vacant in government colleges before and now we are trying our level best to fill those vacancies so that the students are afforded the best our government can provide. How do you plan to bring the tribal population in Chhattisgarh into the mainstream of society? As I’ve said before, bringing the tribal population into the mainstream of society, while still preserving their culture is extremely important to our government and to the development of the state. One of the core problems tribals have consistently faced has been the violence and disturbance that comes with living in Naxal-infested regions, as a result of which even basic amenities like a warm meal and healthcare are denied to them. We are first, looking to provide these basics to the tribals in the area so that eventually they can be fully part of our social fabric. Increasingly, wildlife and humans in the state have had avoidable encounters. How do you plan to minimise such incidents? See, the most recent example of what we are doing to address this problem is the Lemru Elephant Reserve, which has been established with the intention of minimising human-elephant conflict, that has become common in the state over the last few years. Spanning over 450 sqkm, the reserve will provide a huge protective area for the conservation of wild elephants. While we plan to increase the area of the reserve to almost 2,000 sqkm, we still need to work with all state agencies and other resources at hand to make sure we create an environment where these animals feel safe and drawn towards the reserve. How do you plan to put the youth in the state to work? We have now finally been able to make farming in our state profitable. So many people are now choosing to produce crops in the state because of our efforts to make it feasible. In fact, people who had left the villages to go to the cities are now returning to farm their lands and make profits out of it. More than 3 lakh people have come back to farming because of this. We are also trying to set up small industries for people who are working on minor forest produce, boosting jobs and allowing farmers to make more out of what they sell. Are you planning to grow industry in the state in a bid to boost employment? Look, maximum employment is created by medium and small enterprises and we will have more of an advantage if these industries somehow transform to include agriculture-based products and services. We can use food processing units to incorporate and make farmers in the state a participating stakeholder of Chhattisgarh’s economic progress. This will help farmers increase their revenue and in turn, will also increase the state’s revenue. So, a start would be to simply set up such food processing units in each block and then take it from there. What about Chhattisgarh’s Public Distribution Scheme? What was the driving force behind the scheme? Our vision under this scheme was a simple idea that no one should fall short of food. So, we came up with this scheme where everybody gets “anaj” and no family is left behind in this attempt. We are also giving out specific ration cards for people Above Poverty Line and Below Poverty Line in addition to specifically providing essentials like grams, salt, and jaggery so that citizens can at least have access to the basics. How are you looking to deal with corruption? Previously, people used to decide their commissions before even deciding to work on a file. But the way we are looking at it is from a people-based view. We want to transform the governance system into one that can benefit every single person, be it in the sphere of health, education or socio-economic progress. What is your masterplan for healthcare policy in Chhattisgarh? As far as cities are concerned, it is usually easy for people to get to a hospital and get the treatment they need. But in tribal areas, people often second-guess the need to visit a doctor and it becomes difficult to get the proper treatment to them. The recently announced Chief Minister’s Haat Bazaar Clinics are solving this problem creatively. This is the first time we have done something like this and it works because tribal people always find a way to visit these haat bazaars, be it for social or practical purposes. So we have these mobile medical clinics at these locations which give tribals access to basic healthcare. The vans have a doctor, nurse, staff, and basic medical equipment. And the numbers do look very promising, with the number of tribals visiting the clinics having increased by up to 4 to 10 times. People are getting treated now and getting the required medication. How do you plan to address urban development issues in the state? I agree that certain areas in the urban parts of the state need to be looked at. A large problem was that the urban population was not being able to get their small plots registered. As a result, plot-related formalities and paperwork used to be put on hold. But, we have decided to address this. After we took up the matter, we got around 60,000 such small plots registered by eliminating the massive red tape that existed. Under the new system, we have provided for plot owners to declare their land use and accordingly visit the Sub-Divisional Magistrate to get their diversion paperwork cleared and proceed as they please. You have often spoken about the need to curb the vice of “fake news”. How do you see your government go about this? On the one hand, we are making laws to protect journalists, but on the other hand, we also need to take action against fake news because of its detrimental effects on society. If someone is disseminating wrong information, then action must be taken against them. But we are also making sure that there is legislation to protect journalists from misuse of prosecution under fake news charges. The way we want to go ahead is to use the cyber cell of our police force. Every police district has a cyber cell and it will be responsible for collecting the data on fake news and we will prosecute cases accordingly.
Addressing a gathering of Indian diaspora in Paris Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an apparent reference to the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, said that there is no scope for anything ‘temporary’ in India. “There is no scope for temporary in India. You would have seen that a country of 1.25 billion people, the land of Mahatma Gandhi, Gautam Buddha, Ram, Krishna, took 70 years to remove what was temporary,” the Prime Minister said while addressing Indian community at the UNESCO headquarters in the French capital after inaugurating a memorial in honour of the victims of two Air India crashes in France in the 1950s and 1960s. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c detailsWhile speaking at the event, PM Modi stated that the resounding mandate of 2019 Lok Sabha polls was not just for a government, but for building a ‘new India’ that focuses on ease of doing business while ensuring ease of living. Asserting that India is developing rapidly, PM Modi said, “When I come amongst you today, I can say that not only did we embark on that journey, but with the collective efforts of 130 crore Indians, India is moving ahead on the path of development at a rapid pace. This is the reason that once again the countrymen have supported our government by giving a more powerful mandate.” Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from ThursdayThe Prime Minister also assured the Indian diaspora that most of the climate change goals which are set for 2030 shall be achieved by India next year and a half. PM Modi also said that in ‘new India’ action is being taken against corruption, nepotism, the loot of people’s money and terrorism. On the issue of triple talaq, on which the central government recently passed a law, PM Modi said, “We did away with the practice of triple talaq; injustice cannot be done to Muslim women in new India.” Speaking on Indo-French relations, PM Modi underlined that both the countries have a looming threat of terrorism surrounding them. “In combating cross-border terrorism, India has received valuable support from France. We have decided to enhance our cooperation in areas like counter-terrorism and security relations,” he said.(Inputs from The Indian Express)
Kolkata: Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO) has given two acres of land to the School Education department to set up an integrated government school in New Town. The school will come up at AD-28 of New Town and will house students from pre-primary to Higher Secondary level. The Planning Wing of HIDCO will take necessary steps for designing the school building. A boundary wall will also be made by HIDCO’s engineering wing soon. The target is to start classes from 2021. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaArchitectural design for a government health centre is also being undertaken. A plot near the New Town Business Club has been identified and the Health department has already placed Rs 22.50 lakh for preliminary expenses in favour of North 24-Parganas district health authority. It may be mentioned that a government health clinic has already been open since the past several months. The timings are 9 am to 3 pm every day, on Tuesday-Saturday. It is located at DPS-5, DG block, AA-ID, near DPS School/Biswa Bangla Convention Centre. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayNew Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA), in its meeting held on August 16, has decided that it will develop eight simple neighbourhood playing fields, where local children can play football or cricket. HIDCO has finalised the layout plans for the same. These fields will have a drainage system, a perimeter road, two goal-posts and a shed with benches behind/near each goal-post. New Town has several sports facilities, including a football ground with stadium and LED floodlights in Action Area 1 and a similar Cricket ground in Action Area 2.
Lucknow: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday said the alleged harassment of a woman student by ex-Union minister and BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand in Shahjahanpur appears to be a repetition of the Unnao case.In a tweet, she alleged that in Uttar Pradesh, if a woman registers a complaint against a BJP leader her security is not guaranteed. Gandhi was referring to the rape charge made by a 19-year-old woman from Unnao against MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who was expelled from the BJP recently. In Shahjahanpur, Chinmayanand was booked on Tuesday under IPC sections related to abduction in order to murder, and criminal intimidation. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s media advisor Mrityunjay Kumar was quick in his retort advising the Congress general secretary not to create confusion and the police have taken all the steps in this regard. The Shahjahanpur police on Tuesday lodged an FIR against Chinmayanand after the student went missing following her allegation in a video clip that he had been harassing her. Her father had filed a complaint with the police accusing Chinmayanand of sexually harassing her, a charge refuted by the BJP leader’s lawyer who claimed it was a “conspiracy” to blackmail him. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KThe woman’s father alleged that she has gone missing at the behest of the 72-year-old BJP leader, who heads Mumukshu ashram. She is a post-graduate student in one of the colleges run by the ashram. “In Uttar Pradesh, this matter appears to be repetition of the Unnao case. If a woman complains against a BJP leader, then she is not guaranteed justice, even her own safety is not guaranteed,” Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi with hashtag ‘EnoughIsEnough’. The 19-year-old rape survivor from Unnao and her lawyer suffered critical injuries in a car-truck collision in Rae Bareli district in Uttar Pradesh on July 28. Her two aunts died in the incident. The girl’s family alleged that the accident was an attempt to eliminate her. In another tweet, Gandhi said, “Not a single day passes in Uttar Pradesh when the BJP government manages to assure women that you are safe and you will get justice if anything happens with you.” She also tagged new reports of the case involving Swami Chinmayanand in support of her tweets. “Last year, the BJP government had withdrawn a rape case against accused (Chinmayanand). It’s clear where the government is standing. UP girls are watching,” Gandhi said in the microblogging site. “The girl, who raised voice is missing or deliberately being taken away. What is happening with her nobody knows. Till when this will continue?” she posed in another tweet. Reacting on Priyanka Gandhi’s comments, Mrityunjay Kumar took to the same platform to say, “Dont create confusion Priyankaji. UP police has taken all steps.” “FIR has been registered and the family has been assured of their security. Read newspapers and know truth and stop playing politics by showing sympathy. People know all. Your veil has slipped and the real face is out,” he said.
Ice cream, corn flakes, bottled water and toothpaste have an unlikely thing in common. A consumer purchasing these items must pay a Goods and Services Tax (GST) Law in India at 18 per cent. Other goods to which the 18 per cent rate is applied include pasta, kajal pencil sticks, hair oils or eucalyptus/other essential oils, matchboxes, guns, nuclear reactors and machines for separating isotopes. The apparent reasoning for the taxation of packaged and processed foods at a higher rate of GST is that these goods are ‘luxuries’ relative to essential food items (such as vegetable, fruits and grains) or are consumed by a smaller and wealthier group of taxpayers as opposed to other food items (such as natural honey and meats or seafood of various categories) – the latter categories are taxed at a nil or low rate under the GST. Similar reasoning is extended to the levy of 28 per cent GST on items that are perceived to purchased by taxpayers with more disposable income or exclusively during festivities such as chocolates, cocoa powder, video games, fireworks, pan masala, lottery tickets and vacuum cleaners. Also Read – A special kind of bondHowever, the above logic of categorisation of goods under different rates of tax is subject to debate. The GST is not only a revenue-raising mechanism but also a fiscal measure to discourage certain forms of consumption considered harmful. Economic policies are based on ‘consumer sovereignty’, or the idea that a consumer is the best judge of his/her welfare, as long as their preferences do not actively harm other individuals. A government that seeks to encourage consumption and market development should have a strong basis under public health considerations in order to interfere with consumer choice of food items. Vulnerable communities that suffer from income insecurity are susceptible to the consumption of harmful products such as alcohol and tobacco. In the same manner, if certain taxpayers do not have sufficient access to clinical health or appropriate medical advice, imposing an external cost on unhealthy food items is a useful measure. Also Read – Insider threat managementIt is not apparent whether all goods that are taxed are ‘harmful’ and warrant a corrective tax or ‘luxuries’ when consumers who are not necessarily wealthy may purchase such items. Is bottled water equally harmful to a nuclear reactor, especially when government agencies distribute them to victims in relief operations during natural disasters or warfare? Is the taxation of diabetic foods mixes at 28 per cent an implicit penalty on citizens who suffer from a lifestyle disease? If the government wishes to espouse the well being of all citizens under the Fit India Movement, why does gym equipment continue to be taxed at an exorbitant rate of 28 per cent? The case for levying a higher tax rate on such items appears to be based also on government greed. Even though these items are ideologically understood as luxuries, the consumption of these items is ubiquitous. In other words, consumers of all income levels choose to purchase such items (and are sometimes compelled to purchase such items, such as diabetic mixes). But a higher GST collects public revenue from taxpayers regardless of their ability to pay, merely because of their choice to purchase goods that are ideologically considered as ‘luxuries’. If the government wishes to address healthier food choices as a public health concern, it must have objective data of the health concerns that citizens face. A policy addressing junk food consumption in a diverse population cannot be based on the conjecture that unhealthy food is consumed only by wealthier taxpayers, as was the case with the fat-tax levied by the government of Kerala in 2016 on fast food. It is not correct to assume that poor households only eat rice and dals in order to satisfy their minimum calorie requirements. Data is likely to indicate that the choice of food with higher fat or sugar content may be prevalent among food-insecure households that are subjected to aspirational advertising, or taxpayers who work long and demanding hours to earn meagre wages or salaries. Policymakers must then evaluate whether patterns of consumption of unhealthy food present a sufficiently serious case of government failure so as to impose an excessively regressive tax. Prolonged abuse of tobacco and alcohol adds significant healthcare costs in the later years of a user’s life, thus straining the financial resources and welfare of the user’s family. However, taxpayers who are otherwise healthy and aware of the elements of a healthy diet also purchase food that has high sugar or fat content. Despite comprehensive evidence of food consumption patterns, it may not be easy for a tax system to differentiate between serious cases of junk food reliance and healthy households with modest means that occasionally chose to indulge in a cheat meal. Further, the higher prices that consumers must pay for packaged goods may discourage the entry and continuation of domestic manufacturers in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) industry, thus making a noticeable dent in nation-wide economic development and industrial growth. A value-added tax is an inappropriate mechanism in controlling an individual’s diet compared to intrinsic motivation. The Fit India Movement is a cultural movement with a laudable objective of creating soft incentives for individuals to lead a healthier lifestyle. If the government is keen on securing revenue through ‘luxury’ food items, it ought to be forthcoming in its intention by levying a turnover tax on luxury brands (i.e., a tax on the sales made by luxury brands) of chocolates, ice creams and other delicacies. Such a move will undoubtedly be met with severe criticism from domestic and international suppliers in the FMCG industry as violating tax neutrality. Hence, the best design of an indirect tax is one that does not act like a dietician by imposing an unfair burden on a taxpayer for the occasional snack. (The author is an advocate and the Assistant Professor of Tax Law at National Law School of India University, Bangalore. The views expressed are strictly personal)
New Delhi: India’s energy demand is projected to grow by 4.2 per cent through 2035, an expansion faster than all major economies of the world, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said Tuesday as he sought investments in the country’s energy chain. Speaking at the eighth Asian Ministerial Energy Roundtable in Abu Dhabi, he said the share of world’s third-largest energy consumer in total global primary energy demand is set to double to 11 per cent by 2040. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal”The projected energy demand growth is 4.2 per cent per annum up to 2035. This makes India’s energy demand growing faster than all major economies of the world,” he said. “We are preparing for such a growth path of energy demand in the country.” Pradhan said the per capita energy consumption of the country with 1.3 billion people is lower than the global average. The projected energy demand expansion calls for making matching investments in the energy sector, he said adding at $85 billion India recorded the highest growth of foreign energy investments anywhere in the world. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year declared that “energy justice” is a top priority for India. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boost”This encompasses a renewed commitment of India to advance inclusive access to secure, affordable and sustainable energy services,” he said. Pradhan said India is significantly expanding its energy infrastructure — be it power generation, more renewables and gas-based infrastructure — pipelines, city gas network and LNG terminals. “We launched a major campaign to improve access to clean cooking fuel under the Ujjwala Yojana scheme three years back,” he said adding the target of 8 crore connections was achieved just a couple of days back. The scheme has ensured that LPG coverage reaches more than 90 per cent from 55 per cent five years ago, he said. “India attained universal electrification in all villages. This year, India aims to achieve 100 per cent electrification of households.” In World Bank Ease of Getting Electricity ranking, India improved its ranking from 111 in 2014 to 29 in 2018. The minister said India is jumping from BS-VI emission compliant fuel to BS-VI fuel by April 2020. This is the equivalent of EURO-VI standards. “India is moving towards a gas-based economy by increasing the share of gas from 6 per cent to 15 per cent in the energy mix by 2030,” he said. “We have constructed over 16,000 km of gas pipeline and an additional 11,000 km is under construction. We have covered over 400 districts and 70 per cent of our population.” Also, the country is on the way to achieving the target of adding 175 GW of renewable energy sources by 2022, he said.
PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. – A report of a suspicious man with a gun led to some tense moments in central Manitoba early Tuesday.Mounties in Portage la Prairie say they were called to a home in the community shortly before midnight and when the tactical team tried to enter, it discovered barricades had been set up.Four people inside refused to come out for negotiators, so police used tear gas to flush out a 25-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl.The tactical team then forced its way in and arrested two men, both 27.Police say the woman and teen, who were released from custody, are being treated as witnesses or possibly victims.One of the men arrested is a suspect in an earlier car theft from the same home where the takedown occurred.Police say all four people suffered minor injuries, but no officers were hurt.Police had asked the pubic to stay away from the home while officers were making arrests and not to post police movements on social media.“The RCMP thanks the public for their co-operation in staying clear,” Const. Sean O’Keefe said in a statement. “Public safety is our priority.”
OTTAWA – The country’s highest court has ruled that the federal government can rely on the National Energy Board (NEB) to fulfil its duty to consult Indigenous communities about development projects in their traditional territories, but only if the process is robust.In unanimous decisions in two separate appeal cases, which were heard together because of their similar issues, the court found the NEB did indeed fulfil the duty properly in one case but did not in the other.The cases go to the heart of how Indigenous consultation is required when resource development projects are proposed on their territories.The court sent a sharply worded message to the government and the NEB that proper consultation ahead of time is always better than asking the courts to undo it later.In the first case, involving the Inuit Hamlet of Clyde River in Nunavut, the court found the NEB failed miserably at fulfilling the duty to consult the Inuit regarding proposed seismic testing in and near marine areas where they have treaty rights.In the second case however the court found the NEB did properly consult the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation about an Enbridge pipeline project expansion in its territory.
MONTREAL – Montreal police officers have voted in favour of a new contract to put an end to a long-running dispute over pension reforms.The Montreal Police Brotherhood says more than 80 per cent of its members cast ballots and more than 95 per cent voted approved the new six-year deal running from Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2021.No details of the new contract were announced.The dispute had seen police officers wearing camouflage pants since July 2014 to protest the lack of a contract and imposed changes to their pension plans.The switched back to their proper uniform pants earlier this summer when it appeared the union and the city were inching closer to a new contract.Police did occasionally wear proper attire for events like funerals after receiving heavy criticism for wearing camouflage pants and jeans at the funeral for former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau in June 2015.“It’s a good deal for both parties, a negotiated agreement, a win-win agreement,” said union president Yves Francoeur in a statement.Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre called the agreement “good news for Montrealers. “
CALGARY – The future of the Energy East pipeline has been thrown into question after TransCanada Corp. announced it wants to suspend for now its application to build the $15.7-billion project.In a statement Thursday, Calgary-based TransCanada (TSX:TRP) says it filed a letter to the National Energy Board asking for a 30-day suspension for the proposed the 4,500-kilometre pipeline which would carry crude from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada.The company says it wants to study how the NEB’s decision last month to consider the Energy East’s contribution to upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions will affect “costs, schedules and viability.”TransCanada is calling the changes to the regulator process “significant,” and warns that the entire project and related Eastern Mainline pipeline project could be cancelled.The NEB decision was cheered by environmentalists but considered a setback by the oil industry.It’s another blow to the massive project after a review was derailed last year when members of the regulatory panel overseeing the NEB hearings resigned amid questions about a potential conflict of interest.In January, the NEB invalidated nearly two years of decisions made by the previous panel and a new panel was appointed.The Energy East review is taking place at the same time that the government considers a sweeping overhaul of the NEB following a report in May that said the system is broken and the NEB should be split into two agencies.TransCanada had pitched Energy East as a “Canadian solution to a Canadian challenge.”It said the 1.1 million barrels of crude that would be delivered across the country each day would displace hundreds of thousands of barrels of foreign oil currently imported into Eastern Canada daily.
HALIFAX – The crime-fighting potential of police street checks must be weighed against the possible negative impact on racialized communities, says an independent expert examining the practice in Halifax.“It might be a double-edged sword,” Scot Wortley told a board of police commissioners meeting Monday. “Street checks have potentially very detrimental impacts on certain populations and we’ve got to weigh those consequences with the possible crime-fighting potential.”The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has hired Wortley, a University of Toronto criminology professor and author on race and crime, to review street checks in Halifax after data showed black men were three times more likely than whites to be subjected to the controversial practice.Advocates of police street checks say it helps law enforcement gather intelligence and improve public safety, while opponents say it targets black people and violates human rights.Halifax police say street checks are used to record suspicious activity. Although police stop and question people, the checks can also be “passive” with information recorded based on observations rather than interactions.“This is by no means a problem that is isolated to Halifax,” Wortley said. “The issue of policing and how different minority communities are policed is probably one of the most contentious and controversial issues in law enforcement.”Wortley will conduct a detailed analysis of street check data, hold town hall-style meetings in the community, identify gaps in the data, evaluate the potential for racial bias and make recommendations.He said a final report should be ready in about two months.“I think the issue is determining what proportion of that overrepresentation (of black people in street check data) is potentially due to bias and what proportion is due to what might be called legitimate police activities,” Wortley said.He said he first became aware of racially-biased policing in Nova Scotia after a human rights inquiry in 2003 found police discriminated against Kirk Johnson.The former professional boxer claimed during the inquiry that Halifax police stopped his car dozens of times over a five-year period because of racial profiling.“The issue of racially-biased policing has existed for a long time,” Wortley said. “We’ve historically had a lot of denial … we go through a crisis cycle where the issue will disappear for a few years and then there will be a shooting or an event captured on video that creates the entire crisis again.”However, he said that it’s starting to change as provinces like Ontario become more open to collecting race-based data.“For many years in Ontario, the mantra from law enforcement was this is not a problem, this is not an issue, these are unfounded allegations,” said Wortley, who has worked with the Ontario government’s Anti-Racism Directorate to develop standards for the collection and dissemination of race-based data within the public sector.“The release of data now has made a difference at the policy level because it’s harder to ignore the realities.”Earlier this year, Ontario banned police carding, a controversial practice also known as street checks.However, Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais said the street checks conducted in Halifax differ from carding.“Carding is a totally different thing. It’s based on a geographical area,” he said. “Carding is something that really we just don’t do.”Still, Blais acknowledged that “there are community members who view the interactions with police as being less than optimal.”
OTTAWA – Northwest Territories Premier Robert McLeod says it is offensive and patronizing for southern Canadians to tell northerners they can’t benefit from oil and gas development because it’s time to save the planet.McLeod is in Ottawa this week hoping to start a national debate about the future of the North, a year after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at least a five-year ban on new oil and gas development in the Arctic because an oil spill in the region would be “cataclysmic.”McLeod has criticized the decision as one-sided and ill-informed from the start and says, with that one decision, “everything we have built is in jeopardy.”This week, he said southern Canada has benefited for years from resource development that polluted the air and is causing the North significant environmental grief and yet it now wants to tell the territories they can’t develop their own fossil fuels while the South keeps pumping out oil and gas.“The rest of Canada needs to realize we have people that live in the North as well with dreams and aspirations and hope for a better future and we shouldn’t be penalized because of where we live,” he said.“We shouldn’t have to stop our own development so the rest of Canada can feel better.”McLeod said pollution from decades of developing oil and gas reserves in places like Alberta and British Columbia and the ensuing pollution from burning those fuels to drive cars and heat homes, has wreaked havoc on the North. The Bathurst caribou herds in the 1980s had 450,000 animals and latest count has them at less than 20,000, which means almost no hunting happens anymore.Permafrost is melting, affecting roads and buildings and rivers. The Beaufort Sea used to be ice-free for just five weeks a year, said McLeod and now it’s ice-free for more than three times that, causing coastal erosion and more storms. Forest fires are more common and more devastating.McLeod said $2.6 billion in planned investments in offshore exploration disappeared with the onset of Trudeau’s moratorium and yet Canada hasn’t come to the table with any aid to replace that.He said welfare rolls grew in the time since and the population is declining as young people in particular head south to find jobs that don’t exist in the Northwest Territories.Resources and the energy sector account for about 40 per cent of the economy of the Northwest Territories.McLeod said climate change has changed how the North lives and northerners deserve to be able to develop their resources if they can prove it can be done sustainably. Instead Alberta will continue to increase its oil production and the North has to sit it out without even getting a chance to be part of the discussion.“We need jobs. We need work. You want us to leave the North because we can’t work there. You want us to live in a large park. That’s essentially what’s happened.”— follow @mrabson on Twitter.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had an incorrect number for the size of the Bathurst caribou herds
TORONTO – Two men accused of killing a young Toronto woman more than five years ago have chosen not to take the stand in their defence, their trial heard Wednesday.Dellen Millard and Mark Smich have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the presumed death of 23-year-old Laura Babcock, whose body has not been found.“I’m not calling any further evidence your honour,” Millard, who is representing himself, said in court.Smich’s lawyer followed suit.“We will not be calling any evidence,” Thomas Dungey said.Justice Michael Code, who is presiding over the trial, told jurors hearing the case that Millard is scheduled to give his closing arguments on Tuesday, followed by Smich’s defence lawyer and then the Crown.“I’ve agreed to a fairly luxurious schedule I would call it, and not what I would normally like to do, but the parties have persuaded me as it has been a long trial with six weeks of evidence, some of it is quite complex, and Mr. Millard is self represented,” Code said.The trial began Oct. 23 with Crown lawyer Jill Cameron giving her opening address to the jury.The Crown alleges Millard, 32, and Smich, 30, killed Babcock in the summer of 2012 because she became the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend, Christina Noudga.Prosecutors also allege the accused burned Babcock’s remains a few weeks later in a massive animal incinerator — named The Eliminator — at Millard’s aircraft hangar near Waterloo, Ont.Court has heard about animosity between Babcock and Noudga, who were both sleeping with Millard at the same time.But Millard took efforts during the trial to paint himself as someone who didn’t care much about the women in his life, and noted that he was sleeping with multiple women at the same time.He also called an archeologist as a witness who testified about a photograph found on Millard’s phone of what appears to be bones burning inside an animal incinerator. The witness said the bones appeared to belong to an animal but later, under cross-examination, admitted they could also be human bones.The trial has also heard from a forensic anthropologist called by the Crown who said the objects in the image appear to be bones from a human arm.Code told the jury he will read them his own instructions after closing arguments are complete and said deliberations would likely begin the week of Dec. 11.
OTTAWA – Although the cost to build solar power has plummeted over the last decade, a new report suggests Canadians aren’t rushing use the sun to make electricity.The National Energy Board today released its annual look at the state of renewable energy in Canada and it says solar energy accounts for just 0.5 per cent of all Canada’s generated electricity.And almost all of that exists entirely in Ontario, the report notes.NEB chief economist Shelley Milutinovic said the trend in Canada is that renewable energy sources like wind and solar are replacing coal as Canada moves to eliminate that as a source of electricity by 2030.Between 2005 and 2016, non-hydroelectric renewables — wind, solar and biomass — grew from 1.5 per cent of total electricity generation in Canada to 7.2 per cent.During that same period coal fell from 16 per cent to 9.3 per cent as a source of power. Canada intends to eliminate coal as a source of power by 2030 and only four provinces still get any power from the fossil fuel.The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released a review of Canada’s environmental policies this week which gave the country a rough ride for its energy-intensive, high-emitting, resource-based economy, but did point to Canada’s electrical supply as a positive.Only about 20 per cent of Canada’s electricity comes from fossil fuels now — divided almost equally between coal and natural gas. Nuclear energy accounts for 15 per cent of Canada’s electricity supply.The rest comes from renewables. Hydro is the big beast in that, responsible for almost 60 per cent of Canada’s power in 2016. While actual hydro power generation has grown about seven per cent in the last decade, other renewables are exploding.The amount of electricity generated by the wind is 20 times what it was in 2005, and wind as a percentage of total power grew from just 0.2 per cent in 2005 to 4.7 per cent in 2016.Solar didn’t exist as a source of power for utility companies in Canada a decade ago. By 2016, solar capacity was 2,310 megawatts, almost all of it in Ontario.Outside of Ontario, solar installations are mostly quite small. The largest solar farm in western Canada is a two-megawatt one on the Green Acres Hutterite Colony east of Calgary.Milutinovic said the costs of solar and wind are now very comparable to other sources of power which are making them more and more attractive.The cost to install a solar panel is about one-tenth of what it was in 2000, at about 95 cents per watt, according to the International Energy Agency.Despite that, Canada is outmatched in solar on the international scene.While Canada’s biggest solar farm is about 100 megawatts, India this year unleashed one 10 times as big. The Kunrool Ultra Mega Solar Park is the biggest in the world with 1000 megawatts of installed capacity.India had just 17 megawatts of installed solar capacity in 2010. It now has 12,000 megawatts.China is the world’s solar leader, both in the manufacturing of solar panels and their installation. In 2005, China had 70 megawatts of installed solar power. In 2016, it had 78,000.Canada is 13th in the world in the amount of installed solar capacity. Where Canada gets just 0.5 per cent of its power from solar, Italy gets 7.5 per cent, Germany gets 6.7 per cent, Japan 4.9 per cent, the United States 1.4 per cent and China 1.07 per cent.Milutinovic says the one thing not measured in this report however is the capacity for solar installations on private homes and businesses. She said some of the Ontario solar generation numbers include those, but elsewhere that is simply not being tracked.So there is no good data on how many individuals now have solar panels on their roofs or how many farms have them in their fields.She said it is one area governments should be looking at to get a better picture of what is actually happening on this front.— follow @mrabson on Twitter.
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Police say they’ve arrested a suspect wanted in connection with the beating of an autistic man at a Mississauga Ont., bus station, but are still seeking two others.Peel regional police say a 29-year-old man with autism was sitting at the bottom of a stairwell at the Mississauga Square One bus terminal on March 13 when three men began punching and kicking him.Investigators say Windsor, Ont., police helped them arrest 25-year-old Parmvir Singh Chahil on a charge of aggravated assault on Friday.Officers say they also charged a 44-year-old Windsor woman and an 18-year-old Windsor man with accessory after the fact in connection with the case.Earlier this week, police identified another suspect in the case as 25-year-old Ronjot Singh Dhami. His lawyer, Jag Virk, has said Dhami is not guilty but will turn himself in to police.Police say their warrant for Dhami is still outstanding, and say they’re also still seeking another man in the case who may go by the first name of Jason.
MONTREAL – If current polling projections hold, Canadians could be reintroduced to a political reality in Quebec not seen since the late 1960s — a party other than the federalist Liberals or the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois running the province.With the Oct. 1 election now six months away, Francois Legault’s nationalist Coalition Avenir Quebec is riding high in public opinion polls.Recent surveys have suggested the Coalition would have formed a minority government or obtained a slim majority if the election had been held when they were conducted.The Liberals have been in power since 2003, aside from a brief PQ minority government between 2012 and 2014, and their major fear is voter fatigue with their brand.Jean-Francois Lisee’s PQ, currently in third place in the polls, is struggling to get attention and has positioned itself as the big-government mainstream choice in a province already known for its public-spending largesse.Taking current polling at face value can be misleading, however, because the Liberals’ spring budget has proven popular, the PQ cannot be entirely counted out, and recent events have indicated the Coalition is vulnerable with its strong nationalist rhetoric.Philippe Couillard’s Liberals have entered spring on a high note after tabling a fourth consecutive balanced budget — one that cuts business taxes and aims to aggressively pay down the province’s high debt.“We did exactly what we said we were going to do,” Couillard said recently about his party’s 2014 campaign promises.The Liberals are well on their way to reaching their 2014 target of helping to create 250,000 jobs over five years, and unemployment is at record lows.In question period a day after the budget was tabled, Couillard offered a taste of how he will sell his party to electors come the fall campaign.“Now we have the means to dream,” he said, referring to the surpluses Quebec is generating after budgetary compressions early in his mandate.“And not just to dream, but to realize these dreams due to the financial means we now have.”The PQ’s Lisee also offered a slice of how his party will be campaigning in the fall.During the same exchange in the legislature, Lisee used the term “human misery” several times to describe the consequences of the Liberals’ drive to balance the books.He brought up a Quebec ombudsman report that cited how a woman who needed home care “was forced to choose between sleeping in her wheelchair or getting (subsidized) help to eat.“Was there any point in time when (Couillard) realized the human misery he was creating?” Lisee asked.Philippe Fournier, an astrophysicist who runs the poll-aggregating blog Qc125.com, calls the PQ’s vote “efficient.”The party’s support is spread out among the ridings, creating a double-edged sword, he said.“If the PQ drops in the polls by two or three percentage points, to 19 per cent, then they could get five or six seats and be almost wiped out,” Fournier explained.“But if their vote reaches 25 per cent, they could come away with 30 seats or more — it’s a very fine line.”There are 125 seats in the Quebec legislature.Legault’s Coalition has been coasting for months on the fact his party is offering Quebecers a departure from the Liberal-PQ dichotomy of the past 50 years.His party hasn’t announced many concrete proposals yet, but Legault talks favourably of private business, cutting taxes, slimming down the public service and getting Quebec off equalization payments from wealthier provinces.But Legault also has more controversial positions, such as reducing the yearly number of immigrants to the province by 10,000 people — at a time when Quebec is suffering from labour shortages — and making their residency contingent on passing a language test.Finance Minister Carlos Leitao also gave voters a strong signal of how ugly the upcoming fall campaign will be when he accused the Coalition in mid-March of “ethnic-based nationalism,” sparking furor in Legault’s camp.While much is up in the air, the Liberals might want to look to the recent Montreal municipal election for pointers.Similarly to Couillard, Denis Coderre was running last November against a popular party that had never held the mayoralty. The city’s economy was red-hot with low unemployment, record tourism and an explosion of urban development.Yet Coderre lost quite heavily and was accused of running a campaign where he coasted on his record and offered nothing for Montrealers to dream about.“I’ve spoken to many Liberals and they saw what happened to Coderre and they won’t do that,” Fournier said. “They won’t run on their record — that would be a huge mistake.”But it’s currently difficult, he said, “to see exactly which of the three main parties Quebecers will want to dream for.”
OTTAWA – A Salvadoran woman and her two daughters who fled their home country after allegedly suffering extortion and rape at the hands of members of the notorious MS-13 gang are among several parties challenging the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country agreement in court.The case has been snaking its way through Federal Court for the last year, but this week saw a flurry of new filings by three additional applicants in the case: Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Council of Churches, all of them longtime critics of the agreement.Recent changes in U.S. refugee policy, including a ruling by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying domestic and gang violence are no longer grounds for asylum, make the argument for challenging the agreement even stronger, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.“Legally, our case has become much more compelling with many of the things that are being introduced under the Trump administration,” Dench said.“When you have the U.S. government taking measures such as ‘zero tolerance’ and such as the Sessions/presidential decision, something that legally constrains asylum, that’s something the court will have to look very carefully at.”While the case itself is based on the plight of a Salvadoran woman and her daughters, it encompasses a broader challenge of the Safe Third Country agreement, or STCA, arguing it violates certain provisions of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.“By returning refugee claimants to the U.S. and exposing them there to a serious risk of arbitrary, lengthy detention and refoulment (deportation), Canada violates their charter rights,” the applicants argue in court documents.“(The woman) and her daughters faced the risks described when they sought entry to Canada as refugee claimants and were refused under the STCA. This same situation is also faced by a great number of other refugee claimants prevented from entering Canada by the STCA.”Hundreds of pages of documents have been filed in Federal Court, including affidavits from refugee law experts, studies, reports and news clippings that detail the escalating risks faced by asylum seekers in the U.S.In her affidavit, the woman — identified only as ABC — says her family became a target of MS-13 after her husband helped El Salvador police identify a gang member who killed his brother in 1993.He fled to Canada in 2005, but was denied refugee protection because, as a teenager, he had been associated with a national liberation movement deemed by Canada to be a terrorist organization. He is appealing that decision.Meanwhile, left alone with her daughters in El Salvador, ABC claims she faced constant threats from gang members demanding to know where her husband was. She alleges they followed her girls home from school on a regular basis and murdered her landlord.In April 2013, she alleges gang members forced their way into her home, raped and then robbed her, threatening to kill her daughters if she went to police. She claims her youngest daughter was born as a result of the rape.She finally decided to flee in November 2016 after she alleges gang members pointed a gun at her head and told her she had 24 hours to pay them a sum of money she didn’t have.She took her two youngest daughters, leaving two adult children behind, and embarked on a perilous journey through Mexico to Texas. After staying with family in Mississippi for a few weeks, she eventually tried to enter Canada at an official border crossing between New York and Ontario, hoping to be reunited with her husband, who remains in Canada pending the outcome of his refugee claim appeal.The woman was told she would be deemed inadmissible, as a result of the Safe Third Country agreement. She returned to the U.S. for a few months to seek legal advice and in July 2015 once again tried to cross the Canada-U.S. border, was deemed inadmissible and filed her legal challenge.The woman, who along with her daughters has been granted leave to remain in Canada pending the outcome of her challenge, says she has received legal advice saying she would not have a strong refugee claim in the U.S. and is fearful of being deported back to El Salvador.She is being represented by a public interest clinic for low-income clients operated by the University of Toronto’s faculty of law. The federal government sought to contest the participation of the other three applicants, but their role was ultimately upheld by a judge in December 2017 on national public interest grounds. They are relying on volunteer time and donations to cover their costs.In its response, the government is asking the Federal Court to dismiss the case, arguing the woman did not try to seek refugee protection in the U.S., where she would have had multiple legal avenues for appeal. The government also refutes the assertion the agreement violates the charter.A three-day hearing has been scheduled to take place in Toronto beginning next Jan. 21.— Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter.
TORONTO – A respected Ontario Superior Court justice broke the rules by accepting a temporary dean’s posting at an Indigenous law school but does not deserve to lose his job, a review concluded on Tuesday.The review, which had sparked an intense and ongoing backlash, found that Justice Patrick Smith might have been well intentioned but should nevertheless have refused to become interim dean at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.“This is not a case involving bad behaviour or improper motives,” the panel of the Canadian Judicial Council concluded. “Justice Smith was motivated by a genuine desire to use his skills, background and experience to help the faculty in a time of crisis.”According to the panel, Smith violated Section 55 of the Judges Act. Among other things, the act requires judges to devote themselves exclusively to their judicial duties and to avoid involvement in any controversy or public debate that could expose them to political attack.Following the panel’s findings, it was left to the chairman of the council’s conduct committee, Quebec’s Associate Chief Justice Robert Pidgeon, to decide on next steps. Pidgeon said he agreed with the panel and, given that Smith had already resigned from the dean’s post, the council needed to take no further action against him.Smith had no comment on Tuesday but his lawyer, Brian Gover, expressed dismay the council had rendered its decision despite the judge’s request to Federal Court to review the matter. The council, Gover said, should have waited for the court review, which is likely to be heard early next year.“We expect to proceed with the application for judicial review and our motion for the production of the CJC’s entire (Smith) file,” said Gover, who called the council process “completely unsatisfactory.”Gover had previously said the legal community was in shock at the CJC’s review and called the decision to go ahead with the investigation without a complaint a “strange irregularity.”Norman Sabourin, the executive director of the council, said in an interview that he stood by his decision to launch the probe. Sabourin said council is obligated to act whenever judicial misconduct is suspected.“The report of the review panel makes clear there was an issue with the judge’s conduct,” Sabourin said from Ottawa. “It’s also beneficial that there is clear understanding now of the obligations for judges.”Sabourin refused to comment on the judicial review issue, saying council took the position Federal Court had no jurisdiction over its proceedings. The public interest required the council to complete its work, Sabourin said.Some Indigenous leaders objected when Lakehead invited Smith in April to take on a six-month appointment as academic dean of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law after the previous dean, Angelique Eagle Woman, alleged systemic racism at the school and resigned.The interim appointment, approved by the province’s chief justice and which drew no objections from the federal government, was intended to fill the role only until Eagle Woman’s permanent replacement could be found. Smith took up the post June 1 but resigned three months later.The fact that Smith took leave from the courtroom did not remove the prohibition against carrying on extra-judicial duties, the panel said.“Justice Smith has an ethical obligation as a judge to avoid involvement in public debate that may unnecessarily expose him to political attack or be inconsistent with the dignity of judicial office,” the review panel said in its report.“There were also reputational risks to Justice Smith and to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice associated with lending their support to the faculty of law at Lakehead during a time of crisis.”At the same time, the panel decided the conduct was not serious enough to warrant his removal from the bench.
OTTAWA — Longtime Conservative MP and finance critic Pierre Poilievre heads toward the 2019 federal election as one of his party’s chief agitators, relishing the task of getting under the skins of the Liberal government’s front-bench ministers.He doesn’t write lines or questions in advance and only has notes when he’s quoting someone or referring to data, he says. The zingers come out on their own.“After I say them I decide whether I’m excited about having said it or regretful,” he says, laughing, in an interview at a restaurant in Ottawa’s airport.One of his favoured approaches is to make fun of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau for being rich. Trudeau’s father Pierre was the heir to a fortune his own father made running Quebec gas stations; Morneau made his money in the family’s human-resources firm Morneau Shepell.Poilievre calls Trudeau the “millionaire trust-fund prime minister” in the House and similarly wrote on Facebook that Trudeau and Morneau are “trust-fund twins.”Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer have both said they expect the fall campaign to be one of the nastiest in recent memory.For Poilievre, the Tories need to focus on economic management, fiscal responsibility and “better quality of life for everyday people.”“Anything that distracts from that is unproductive and only helps Justin Trudeau. That’s how I would put it,” Poilievre says.Emphasizing the personal wealth of the two men at the top of the Liberal government is a calculated choice.So is asking constantly when the federal budget will balance itself. Before Christmas, Poilievre posted a video montage of himself asking the question over and over again. The line that combines two digs in one — reminding viewers that Trudeau said that his Liberals would run small deficits for a couple of years, when forecasts now show them persisting at least into the next decade and likely beyond, and that a growing economy takes care of government deficits fairly easily.And Poilievre recently posted a joking video of himself sitting in front of a Christmas tree and a fireplace while Christmas music plays lightly in the background. Poilievre pretends to open “Liberal fiscal treats” from Trudeau. Before reading aloud from the government’s long-term fiscal projections, publicized the Friday before the holiday, he pours a hefty slug of white rum into a stein of eggnog and takes a fortifying gulp.“He is not there because of his financial acumen or auditioning for a future role as minister of finance. He is there to serve as agitator-in-chief to the Liberal government in an area where they are perceived to be vulnerable,” says Tim Powers, a Conservative strategist and vice-chairman of Ottawa firm Summa Strategies. “He has performed well stirring the pot and putting the Liberals on the defensive.”Opposition leaders like to put established political agitators in key roles so they can get under a government’s skin, says Powers, like Liberal leader Jean Chretien’s deploying of the Liberal “Rat Pack” — a group of young and exuberant Liberals who mounted an energetic opposition to then prime minister Brian Mulroney. Don Boudria, Sheila Copps and Brian Tobin all went on to be Chretien-era ministers.As for what distractions might knock the Tory campaign off course in 2019, Poilievre says he’s thinking of “nothing in particular.”Not even Maxime Bernier, the former minister who sat next to him in the House of Commons before Bernier’s high-profile split from the Conservatives? He’s harshly criticized the Liberals on immigration, a line of attack the Conservatives have adopted. And he’s attacked Scheer for his defence of supply management in the dairy sector, charging that it means higher prices for consumers.“I’ve knocked on 20,000-plus doors since the end of July and I think his name has come up five or six times,” Poilievre says.Poilievre was quick to challenge questions about Bernier’s new People’s Party and whether it poses a threat at all to his own. He says he’s still waiting to see Bernier’s ideas, that he has no idea what his proposals are. Poilievre rejected quickly the idea that Scheer is taking any of Bernier’s moves into consideration.“It’s not clear what he’s doing,” he says flatly.The 39-year-old new father jokes the only job he’s running for is the one Morneau now holds, shooting down questions about whether he has any leadership ambitions of his own.“I have no plans of that whatsoever,” he says.Poilievre didn’t support anyone in the Conservative leadership race that put Scheer in charge of the party. And he says he doesn’t know why Scheer chose him as finance critic, but he’s “thankful and grateful.”“I was rather surprised when the leader offered it to me, to be honest,” he says of the appointment, “because I was neither a rival nor a supporter during the leadership race, so he owed me nothing.”Poilievre, who has won five consecutive elections in his south-Ottawa riding, said the 2019 election is “anyone’s game at this point.”“I’m in it for one more and I’m in it to win it, so we’ll see what happens,” he says.And after four more years? Poilievre recites the old adage: “Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today’s a gift and that’s why they call it the present.”Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press