Kenney's plan to step down as UCP leader shows how hard merging 2 parties is: political commentator

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced his resignation as leader of the United Conservative Party after narrowly winning his leadership review.

The difficulty that can result from merging two political parties was underscored by Premier Jason Kenney’s announcement Wednesday that he intends to step down as leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, according to one political commentator.

“The first problem that has to be acknowledged, and we’re seeing this at the federal level as well, is that combined conservative parties are difficult to lead,” Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, told Global News on Wednesday night.

Earlier in the evening, Kenney spoke to UCP members immediately following the party releasing results from his leadership review vote which saw his leadership earn support from only 51.4 per cent of those who cast a vote.

READ MORE: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney intends to step down as UCP leader after narrow leadership win

“(Combined conservative parties are) difficult to govern, they’re difficult to manage and indeed the only recent leader that’s been successful in doing so was (former prime minister) Stephen Harper,” Williams said.

“It has to be said that this was a difficult job to be done, and the fact that Jason Kenney brought the parties together and got them to agree to go forward was quite an accomplishment, but a difficult thing to sustain.”

Last year, several UCP constituency associations had pushed to have Kenney face an early leadership review. He had faced growing and more vocal dissent with some party members being angered by his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing many of his government’s public health restrictions as unreasonably infringing on personal liberties.

Two constituency association presidents Global News spoke with Wednesday indicated they understand and respect Kenney’s decision.

“I wish him all the best and well and hopefully he’s right, we’ll clear the air and the future leadership race will set a new tone for our party and we’ll hopefully all come together under the new leader,” said Victor Vargas of the Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview UCP Constituency Association

“I think Jason Kenney didn’t often get a lot of the credit he deserved… still, he made the decision that is probably best for our party and our province going forward.”

Conrad van Hierden of the Livingstone-Macleod UCP Constituency Association said he knew the leadership review vote “could be close, could be controversial, but at the end we wanted unity and at 51 or 52 per cent or whatever it was, it wouldn’t have been that.”

“He’s such a smart man,” he said of the premier. “He knows what’s probably best for the party and we do need to unite because we can’t divide.

“We can’t have two conservative parties.”

“The people who came together (when the Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservative Party merged to form the UCP) didn’t agree with one another on a lot of different points,” Williams said. “And in some cases, they didn’t like or respect one another, and I think the combative style of leadership that Jason Kenney chose to deal with, that magnified some of the divisions.

“There are a lot of folks in this party who are grassroots democracy advocates who want the government to actually listen to and respond to them, (and) I think a lot of folks in that party were saying, ‘What’s the point in being part of the governing party if the government doesn’t listen to us? Why not just have our own party and speak our minds?'”

READ MORE: Kenney seriously considered leaving his post before deciding to fight for his job: audio recording

Williams added that she believes Kenney was expecting to have to face some hostile colleagues at a caucus meeting Thursday after the results of the vote were released, and realized “the future wasn’t going to get any better for him.”

The premier’s most high-profile political foe, a UCP MLA who lost the party’s 2017 leadership race to Kenney, told 630 CHED on Wednesday that the leader’s announcement was “the right thing to do and it was the honourable, decent thing for him to do and very professional.”

“I want to thank Jason Kenney for his quarter-century of public service for Albertans and Canadians,” Brian Jean said. “I’ve said it for several weeks now that if he could not get a survivable number, the members have clearly spoken.

“They want a United Conservative Party that listens, that consults and that thoughtfully implements practical and effective conservative policies that will benefit all Albertans, and I think that’s what’s important — tonight they’ve had their say.”

The 2017 leadership race in which Jean lost to Kenney remains under RCMP investigation after allegations of criminal identity fraud were made. Jean has also raised concerns about allegations this month’s leadership review saw illegal bulk buying of memberships. The Canadian Press has reported that documents leaked to them indicate Elections Alberta is investigating those concerns.

READ MORE: MLA Brian Jean says 8 credit cards allegedly bought thousands of UCP memberships

“We have some great talented people — Albertans — that can take the reins from here and I think the best thing for Jason Kenney to do now is to step out of the limelight and leave us to try and rebuild and renew this party,” Jean said, adding that he still plans to put his name forward for the next UCP leadership race.

Jean noted the UCP was created in part with the intent of gaining support from “all types of conservatives” to avoid another electoral win by the NDP, which won a majority in the 2015 election.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley tweeted about Kenney Wednesday night and said that “there are obviously many things about which we don’t agree, but that doesn’t negate the time and sacrifice that goes into taking on the role of premier.”

“I want to thank Jason Kenney for his public service,” she tweeted. “I wish Jason the best.

“I will have more to say to Albertans tomorrow.”

Williams suggested that with a provincial election expected to take place about a year from now, Kenney’s announcement Wednesday still gives the UCP an opportunity to regroup before voters head to the polls.

“(The coming UCP) leadership race probably won’t be concluded until the fall,” she said. “That might be enough for them to stick together to make it through the next election, but much is going to depend on who that leader is.”

–With files from Dean Bennett and Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Battle of Alberta Game 1 sees Oilers lose 9-6 to Flames

The Calgary Flames staved off an Edmonton Oilers comeback attempt for a 9-6 win in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.

“We fought back and made it a game, but we can’t feel good about that in anyway because you scored six goals in a game and found a way to not win it,” Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft said after the game. “So, there’s a lot of things for us to clean up and well go through the tape and give our team some.”

The Flames jumped out to a 2-0 lead with two goals in the first 51 seconds.

Elias Lindholm beat Mike Smith with a long wrist shot, then Andrew Mangiapane put a shot from close range in off the post. Brett Ritchie scored off a turnover 6:05 into the game, chasing Smith from the game after allowing three goals on 10 shots.

Connor McDavid slid a puck under Jacob Markstrom, but the Oilers were badly outplayed in the first.

The Flames were up 3-1 after the first period and had a 19-7 advantage in shots.

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The onslaught continued in the second with Blake Coleman flipping in a rebound to make it 4-1 just 45 seconds into the session.

Coleman made it 5-1 before Evan Bouchard finished off a feed from McDavid.

It became 6-2 when Matthew Tkachuk batted a puck out of the air on the power play. Zach Hyman fooled Markstrom from a sharp angle as the teams combined for nine goals before the game was 30 minutes old.

Hyman scored again with 5:54 left in the second, then Leon Draisaitl struck on a partial breakaway in the final minute to pull Edmonton within a goal.

Kailer Yamamoto stuffed in a rebound early in the third, but Rasmus Andersson came right back for the Flames to make it 7-6 Calgary.

Tkachuk took advantage of an Oilers turnover to score on a breakaway with 11:05 to go. He added an empty netter to complete the hat trick.

McDavid finished with four points. Koskinen stopped 32 of 37 shots.

“Obviously you’re not going to win any games if you get scored on nine times, there’s no secret to that,” Draisaitl said. “And I think we can all be a lot better away from the puck and that obviously starts with myself.”

Game two is Friday (630 CHED, Face-off Show begins at 6 p.m., the game starts at 8:30 p.m.)

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Spirits high in Lethbridge as Battle of Alberta kicks off

The puck has dropped on the second round of the playoff series between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. Hockey fans congregating across Lethbridge Wednesday night, taking in the first Battle of Alberta playoff matchup in 31 years. That includes The Canadian Brewhouse, where Erik Bay stopped to gauge fans’ excitement levels.

For more than three decades, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have avoided their provincial neighbours in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Now, the two teams’ paths to the Western Conference final will go through each other, and fans are ready for the series.

“I’m really excited,” said Flames fan Marla Medicine Shield.

“Excitement’s just through the roof,” Luke Kazakawich added. “I’ve been a lifelong Oilers fan… so spirits are high.”

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this one. Too long.”

“I’m pumped,” said fellow Oilers fan Kynan Veenendaal.

These Lifelong fans are finally getting a chance to watch their first postseason Battle of Alberta, and that’s fueling the enthusiasm while also causing some anxiety.

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“It’s going to be stressful,” Kazakawich said. “From a fan perspective, I’m not going to be sleeping for the next few weeks.”

Kazakawich is joined by many others in Lethbridge. Supporters clad in red and yellow are sitting next to those wearing blue and orange, keeping the city’s bars and restaurants busy.

“After 31 years, it feels fantastic. Just kind of building up,” Lethbridge restaurant owner Tyler Harvey said.

Business owners are anticipating the Battle of Alberta excitement will create an economic boost.

“The restaurant and hospitality industry really took a big beating,” Harvey said. “It’s really nice to have this kind of event.

“Battle of Alberta is what everyone needs here to make a little bit of extra money, get everyone out of the house and having some fun again.”

A divided province coming together to watch an on-ice battle.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

CFL and CFL Players' Association reach tentative collective agreement

CFL and CFL Players’ Association have reached a tentative bargaining agreement Wednesday night, ending the second strike in league history.

Details of the agreement are not yet known, but sources say it’s for seven years.

Perhaps the most eager to see a deal reached  is the many members of Rider Nation.

Rider Fan Page Administrator Cliff Hanselmann says it doesn’t matter how we got here, the only thing that matters is that there’s going to be football.

“Honestly right now, here we are it’s three, four days before game time and we’re actually going to see games and that’s all I care about as a fan,” said Hanselmann. “They got it done, kudos to them.”

Although agreed to, the deal still has to be ratified by the CFL’s Board of Governors and CFLPA members before players can report to their teams. It is believed players will be able to go through walkthrough practices as soon as Thursday.

As a result of the deal being reached, Monday night’s game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers will go ahead as scheduled.

In anticipation for the new deal, some Riders players have been staying limber, participating in player workout sessions organized by team veterans on Wednesday in an effort to keep themselves ready for training camp.

“Just gotta listen to your body, make sure that you’re doing not too much but just enough to stay in the swing of things and be ready for the start of camp,” said Riders Defensive Back A.J Hendy. We’re athletes, we’re used to adjusting on the fly, so I’m sure everybody will be fine, we’re just taking it in stride and I’m sure it’ll work itself out soon.”

The deal comes four days after players from seven of the CFL’s nine teams walked off the job, and just hours before players from Alberta’s team were legally allowed to strike.

The only previous strike in CFL history occurred in 1974, with a deal being reached just in time for the regular season.

The 2022 CFL season is set to kick off on June 9th.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Public hearings begin on Vancouver's divisive Broadway Plan

More than 200 people have signed up to speak before Vancouver City Council on the controversial plan to redevelop the Broadway Corridor. Emad Agahi reports.

A public hearing into a sweeping development plan that could reshape Vancouver’s skyline got underway Wednesday, with more than 200 people signed up to comment on the proposed Broadway Plan.

The plan is meant to guide development along the city’s Broadway corridor over the next 30 years and take advantage of the completion of the new $2.8 billion Broadway subway.

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“The plan is a generational city-building opportunity for positive change on Vancouver’s most pressing issues,” said Theresa O’Donnell, the city’s director of planning, as staff presented the plan to council.

“It will deliver new homes and jobs close to transit, it will provide market rental and below-market rental and social housing opportunities in all neighborhoods.”

The proposal would allow redevelopment within nearly 500 city blocks in an area already considered the province’s second largest employment corridor, and home to about a quarter of the city’s existing purpose-built rentals.

It would allow towers of up to 40 storeys near transit stations and between 20 to 30 storeys in numerous so-called centre/shoulder areas.

The city is aiming for 65 per cent of construction to be rental, with a quarter of that at below-market rates.

The plan has sparked fierce public debate, some of which was on display at council Wednesday.

“People desperate for affordable housing are being hoodwinked into thinking all these towers will provide what they need,” speaker Gareth Sirotnik told council.

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“Tower clusters do just the opposite, they raise rents all around, and for smaller more unaffordable spaces that already exist in very large numbers in all the shoulder areas of the Broadway corridor.”

Architect Brian Palmquist took issue with the “climate and sustainability disaster that is concrete high-rise,” arguing that his own modelling showed “the Broadway plan density can be achieved without much high-rise at all.”

Council also heard from numerous speakers in support of the plan. Some like Mount Pleasant resident Zoe Mabry said it didn’t go far enough.

“I’m really happy to see the city increasing density, tackling our housing crisis and expanding public and active transport. I’m very concerned about lack of action concerning climate change, so adding housing around the new subway is really exciting,” Marby said.

“We can be way more ambitious about where we build what type of housing. I have a lot of friends who have moved out of Vancouver to start families and as a renter with a baby on the way I’m concerned myself.”

Read more:

Vancouver mayor promises protection for renters potentially displaced by Broadway plan

Speaker Kit Sauder, co-chair of the city’s Renters Advisory Committee, told Global News he was confident proposed protections will ensure current renters aren’t hurt by the plan.

“The context everyone needs to remember is that by the time this plan is over I will be 64 years old and my two year old who is still in diapers will be my age,” he said.

“This is not happening today, in fact, I would argue it’s not happening fast enough.”

For his part, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has promised the plan will come with “the strongest renter protections in Canada.”

Anyone displaced by redevelopment, the mayor pledged, will get help finding another unit with the right to return to a new building at their original rent or better.

“We’ve got to protect renters that are here already. I think this plan does this,” Stewart told Global News Wednesday.

“We also have to build tens of thousands of new units for those that are seeking homes. This is the second largest employment corridor in the province, it’s so important, and we need a place for workers to live.”

Wednesday’s meeting may mark the first of several sittings to address the plan. By 8 p.m., council had heard from fewer than a quarter of registered speakers. With just one day a week set aside to address the plan, it means deliberations could potentially stretch into June before council votes on whether to approve it.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

ICBC warning drivers to slow down over May long weekend

ICBC and police are asking drivers to watch their speed over the long weekend, warning police will be targeting speeders with a province-wide enforcement blitz.

On average, 480 people are injured and three people are killed in 1,800 crashes throughout the province over Victoria Day long weekend.

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In a release, ICBC said 340 people are injured in the Lower Mainland, which is where roughly 1,200 of the crashes happen. In order to prevent crashes, it urges those getting behind the wheel to plan ahead, check road conditions and leave some extra travel time.

Drivers are also encouraged to avoid distractions or anything that will take your eyes off the road.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Pacific Western Transit, union restart negotiations to end to Sea-to-Sky strike

There is renewed optimism the transit strike that has affected the region for more than 100 days will finally come to an end, now that talks between the transit union and the employer have resumed. Aaron McArthur reports.

Pacific Western Transit has agreed to meet with a mediator again in an attempt to negotiate an end to the 15-week job action at its Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton locations.

Representatives from Whistler Transit and Diversified Transportation met with Minister of Labour Harry Bains, and agreed to the arrangement.

“We are optimistic that this meeting will result in a fair and reasonable deal, returning our employees to work and restoring essential transit services to the Sea-to-Sky communities,” said PW in an emailed statement.

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Mediation fails in bitter 103-day Sea-to-Sky transit strike

The mediation will resume next Friday with representatives from the company and the employee’s union.

“Mediation in the context of free collective bargaining is how this dispute is going to be solved,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director.

“We’re eager to get back to the bargaining table and find a resolution as soon as possible.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Police issue warning about London, Ont. man facing sex assault charges

Police in London, Ont., have issued a public safety warning after a man was released from custody following a court appearance on Wednesday in relation to sexual assault charges.

Police say Ibrahim Serter, 61, of London is facing two counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual exploitation in relation to an investigation by the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Section.

The investigation was launched on May 11 after officers received allegations about a man and unspecified incidents at his construction business.

Read more:

Strathroy police issue community safety alert after man charged in sexual assault of minor

The incidents are reported to have taken place between January and May of this year, according to police.

Investigators believe there may be additional victims related to the alleged incidents and have released a photo of the accused in the interest of public safety.

Members of the public are asked to not approach the accused.

Anyone who has information that could help investigators is asked to contact London police at (519) 661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

China eases COVID-19 test rules for Canadian travellers, other countries

WATCH: COVID-19: China's Beijing begins mass testing as lockdown fears grow

China has eased some COVID-19 testing requirements for people flying from Canada, the United States and other countries, while shortening the pre-departure quarantine for some inbound travellers.

The Chinese Embassy in Canada said in a statement that starting Saturday, travellers will no longer need a negative RT-PCR test seven days before flying.

Travellers flying out of Canada will still need to take a first test within 48 hours of boarding, and a second test 24 hours before their flight. The tests must be taken at a medical centre recognized by China.

Read more:

Beijing residents return to work as China doubles down on ‘zero-COVID’ policy 

In addition, those travellers must take an antigen test within 12 hours before boarding, which can be administered by any Canada-approved hospital, clinic or pharmacy.

However, China is dropping the need for antibody tests for travellers coming from Canada and the United States, according to consular notices.

Starting Friday, travellers from Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago will be subject to the same testing rules for Canadian departures.

The slight relaxations were made in response to factors including the “characteristics of coronavirus variants,” according to the notices from Chinese embassies.

Travel in and out of China has plunged during outbreaks of COVID as the country insists on its “dynamic COVID zero” playbook that has involved restrictions on the issue and renewal of passports, mandatory quarantines for most travelers upon arrival, and flight cancellations.

But the shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant has allowed for a slight easing of curbs on international travelers. The capital city Beijing has reduced the quarantine period at centralized facilities upon arrival for travelers to 10 days from 14 days.

The variant has led to several lockdowns of major Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, in an effort to completely curb the spread of the virus.

Embassies in the United Arab Emirates, Serbia and Bangladesh said on Wednesday they had removed some testing requirements and shortened the pre-departure quarantine period for employees at Chinese companies to 10 days from 21 days.

Bangladesh has further reduced the pre-flight quarantine for other travelers to five days from seven days, while Serbia has halved the pre-departure quarantine time for certain personnel to one week, according to embassy notices.

–With files from Reuters

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Region had sharp rise in opioid-related deaths, hospital visits during pandemic: MLHU

New findings from the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) show the region had a sharp rise in deaths and hospital visits related to opioid use amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings were shared in the latest report from the MLHU’s Opioid Crisis Working Group. It’s on the agenda for Thursday’s Board of Health meeting.

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The report focused on trends observed between January 2020, about two months shy of when a global pandemic was declared, and June 2021.

A graph displaying the amount of opioid-related emergency department visits and deaths that have been recorded by the Middlesex-London Health Unit since January 2017.

A graph displaying the amount of opioid-related emergency department visits and deaths that have been recorded by the Middlesex-London Health Unit since January 2017.

Middlesex-London Health Unit / healthunit.ca

“Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, both opioid-related emergency department (ED) visits and deaths had been increasing across Ontario and in the Middlesex-London region,” said the report. “Unfortunately, these patterns of increased ED visits and deaths continued once the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.”

Between January 2020 and June 2021, the amount of opioid-related emergency department visits tripled from 37 to 113 in the Middlesex-London region.

The region’s rise was far sharper than what was observed across the province, with Ontario recording its amount of visits rising from 757 to 1,500 between January 2020 and June 2021, marking a 98 per cent increase.

As for deaths, an average of eight each month occurred in the Middlesex-London region. The monthly average rose to 12 deaths between January and June of 2021. According to Public Health Ontario’s interactive opioid tool, the 17 deaths reported in March 2021 is the highest monthly amount on record for the region.

Province-wide, Ontario had a 45 per cent increase between January 2020 and June 2021 with its amount of deaths rising from 152 to 220.

“The opioid crisis has continued to escalate through the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially exacerbated by challenges for clients to access many in-person services,” the report added.

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The report also provided updates on several local interventions aimed at curbing the opioid crisis in London and Middlesex County.

The MLHU says the use of needle syringe programs increased steadily since 2019, rising from 1 million sterile syringes and needles distributed that year to 1.9 million being distributed in 2021.

8,900 naloxone kits were distributed and more than 1,200 were used in 2021, nearly double the numbers recorded in 2019.

The report also noted a slight decrease in visits to the Carepoint Consumption and Treatment site on King Street, formerly known as the temporary overdose prevention site.

Operated by the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, Carepoint aims to reduce harms associated with drug use.

“Throughout the pandemic there was a slight decrease in visits to the CTS site and an overall increase in opioid overdoses and referrals to services such as primary care, housing, addiction services, mental health, access to food, wound care, and testing,” the report said.

2019 had more than 28,800 visits, 1,576 referrals and 171 overdoses while 2020 had just over 20,000 visits, 810 referrals and 126 overdoses. In 2021, there were 14,013 visits, 13,932 referrals and 237 overdoses.

While year-over-year trends were not provided, the report did share select program outcomes for London InterCommunity Health Centre’s Safer Supply program, which provides a regulated supply of opioid medication to adults who use criminalized drugs and are at high risk of overdose and other harms.

More than 280 people are supported by the program and the MLHU says it has led to reductions in emergency department visits, injection drug use, survival sex work and criminal justice system involvement for those supported by Safer Supply, along with improved food and income security.

Dr. Alex Summers, the MLHU’s medical officer of health, is expected to present the findings during Thursday evening’s Board of Health meeting.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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