Details on Emergencies Act, January inflation rate : In The News for Feb. 16


Published February 16, 2022 at 4:15 am

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 16 …

What we are watching in Canada …

Members of the Ottawa blockade that has kept the capital at a standstill for nearly three full weeks are calling the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act a scare tactic.

Trucks, RVs and other vehicles with Canadian flags or banners with the word “freedom” in giant letters along their front grilles remain on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill, with drivers saying they will stay put until all COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions are lifted.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the act on Monday for the first time in Canadian history, with details of the regulations contained in cabinet orders published Tuesday night.

Under the act, bringing children to the antigovernment blockades, participating in the protests directly, or bringing aid such as food or fuel to those involved could result in a fine of up to $5,000 or five years in prison 

Blockades are not allowed on Parliament Hill and surrounding streets, official residences, war monuments, airports, harbours, border crossings, piers, lighthouses, canals, interprovincial and international bridges, hospitals and COVID-19 vaccine clinics, trade corridors and infrastructure needed for the supply of utilities including power generation and transmission.

The cabinet orders are now in effect but must all be confirmed by motions to be put to both the House of Commons and the Senate for a vote.

The government could take until next week to table the motion invoking the act itself, but has only until Thursday to do so for the motions on the specific powers being enacted, which will remain in place for 30 days unless the government revokes them sooner.

Also this …

Statistics Canada is scheduled to report this morning how quickly prices rose in January, with expectations that the annual inflation rate remained around a 30-year high.

The agency said last month that the annual pace of inflation climbed to 4.8 per cent in December, the fastest rate since September 1991. Economists expect a similar reading for January, driven by changes in gasoline and housing costs compared with the same month one year ago.

CIBC senior economist Andrew Grantham writes in a note that a rebound in energy prices last month should underpin the January inflation reading, though he doesn’t expect the annual inflation rate to change from the 4.8 per cent in December.

Where Grantham sees potential for inflation to climb further is during February because of rising dairy prices at the start of the month and increased costs for auto production connected to protests at key border crossings.

He adds that it may only be in the second half of the year that Canadians could see a noticeable and sustained easing in inflationary pressures.

The inflation report this morning comes exactly two weeks ahead of the Bank of Canada’s next scheduled interest rate announcement.

The central bank has kept its key policy rate at 0.25 per cent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, but recently dropped its promise to hold the rate at emergency levels. 

The bank is widely expected to raise rates as part of the March announcement in what’s likely the first of several hikes over the course of the year designed to cool inflation.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

BRUNSWICK, Ga. _ Prosecution witnesses will retake the stand Wednesday in the federal hate crimes trial of three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

On the first day of testimony Tuesday, the jury heard from neighbours of the defendants who described how the fatal shooting in February 2020 shocked them. They also watched graphic cellphone video and saw crime scene photos of Arbery’s bloody body before hearing excerpts of interviews the defendants gave to police.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery after spotting him running in their coastal Georgia neighbourhood on Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbour, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.

No arrests were made until the video leaked online two months later.

Both McMichaels and Bryan were convicted of murder last fall in a Georgia state court and sentenced to life in prison.

All three are now standing trial in a separate case in U.S. District Court, where they are charged with violating Arbery’s civil rights and with targeting him because he was Black. They have pleaded not guilty.

When the trial opened Monday, prosecutors said they will present evidence that each of the defendants had a history of making racist comments. Defense attorneys said there’s no excuse for their clients’ use of slurs. But they insisted the deadly pursuit of Arbery was motivated by an earnest, though erroneous, suspicion that the 25-year-old Black man had committed crimes.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

MOSCOW _ Russia made two overtures to ease tensions around Ukraine _ reporting a pullback of troops near its neighbour and welcoming talks with the West. But the United States and its allies said they needed evidence of the troop movements and that the threat of a Russian invasion still loomed.

For the second day Tuesday, there were signs of hope that Europe might avoid war following weeks of escalating East-West tensions as Moscow massed around 150,000 troops on three sides of Ukraine and held massive military drills. Those moves led to dire warnings from Washington, London and other European capitals that Russia was preparing to roll into Ukraine.

But the tenor changed this week. President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia does not want war and would rely on negotiations in its efforts to eliminate any chance that Ukraine could one day join NATO _ his key demand in the crisis. At the same time, he did not commit to a full pullback, saying Russia’s next moves in the standoff will depend on how the situation evolves.

Russia also offered few details of the pullback, and U.S. President Joe Biden said American officials had not verified Russia’s claim. He promised that the U.S. would give diplomacy “every chance,” but he struck a skeptical tone about Moscow’s intentions.

“Two paths are still open,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “But let there be no doubt: If Russia commits this breach by invading Ukraine, responsible nations around the world will not hesitate to respond. If we do not stand for freedom where it is at risk today, we’ll surely pay a steeper price tomorrow.”

Even amid the glimmers of hope, Biden said 150,000 Russian forces are now massed near Ukraine and in neighbouring Belarus _ an increase from an earlier U.S. estimate of 130,000 troops.

Russia has denied having any invasion plans. It wants the West to keep Ukraine and other former Soviet nations out of NATO, halt weapons deployments near Russian borders and roll back forces from eastern Europe.

The U.S. and its allies have roundly rejected those demands, but they offered to engage in talks with Russia on ways to bolster security in Europe.

On this day in 1949 …

In 1949, the House of Commons passed the Newfoundland Union Act by a vote of 140-47. Newfoundland officially joined Canada on March 31, 1949.

In entertainment …

LOS ANGELES _ After three years without a host, the Oscars are making up for lost time with three hosts for this year’s awards:

Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes are set to host the 94th Academy Awards, producer Will Packer said Tuesday.

“This year’s show is all about uniting movie lovers,” Packer said in a statement. “It’s apropos that we’ve lined up three of the most dynamic, hilarious women with very different comedic styles.”

Packer has worked with Hall several times as the producer of films like “Girls Trip,” “Think Like a Man” and “Little.”

The show is hoping to rebound from the dismal viewership of last year’s broadcast, which was both an all-time low and the norm for pandemic-era awards shows. In addition to bringing back starry hosts and bumping the best picture nominees to a set ten, the Academy is also hoping to spike interest through social media voting for a “fan favourite” movie that will be announced during the show, as well as a chance to win a trip to Los Angeles for the ceremony.

It’s the first time hosting for all three women and the first time in 35 years there has been this many hosts for one broadcast.

The 94th Oscars will be held on March 27 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles and broadcast live on ABC starting at 8 p.m. ET.


HALIFAX _ Search and rescue teams were expected to continue operating overnight after 10 members of a Spanish fishing boat died and 11 were missing in the icy waters of the North Atlantic east of Newfoundland.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax updated the number of dead Tuesday night after three more bodies were recovered from the sunken vessel.

The search was to continue in the area 460 kilometres east of St. John’s, Lt.-Cmdr. Brian Owens, a spokesman for the centre in Halifax, said in an interview.

“One of the advantages overnight is you can potentially spot flares or strobe lights,” Owens said.

Three survivors were located in a life raft by another Spanish fishing boat in the area since the first distress signal was received just after midnight Tuesday.

Owens said the search teams were battling difficult sea conditions, adding that the region was experiencing 74-kilometre-per-hour winds and sea swells of 5.5 metres. 

Three Cormorant helicopters were rotating in and out of the area and flying from St. John’s to the Hibernia offshore oilfield and then out to the search site. Owens said a provincial airlines aircraft and a C130 Hercules out of Greenwood, N.S., were flying overhead doing sensor sweeps. The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cygnus was on route to the debris site, he said, where “a number” of Spanish fishing ships have been assisting.

In a statement, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said that he spoke with Spain’s ambassador to Canada, Alfredo Martinez, to convey condolences on behalf of the people of his province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2022.

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