NEWS
01/17/2017 12:52 EST | Updated 01/18/2018 00:12 EST

The Tuesday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories

Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Jan. 17

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TRUDEAU TOUTS NATO AFTER TRUMP CALLS IT OBSOLETE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will continue to be a reliable partner in NATO. But just days after U.S. president-elect Donald Trump said the military alliance is obsolete, Trudeau stopped short of saying he would be willing to boost the defence budget so Canada could meet NATO's spending target for its member countries. Speaking to reporters in New Brunswick on Tuesday, Trudeau said: "When there's heavy lifting to do, when there's a need for people to step up, Canada is there on the front lines contributing fully to NATO operations." Analysts say Trump will expect other NATO members to increase spending in the alliance to ease the burden on the United States. Canada currently contributes about one per cent of GDP to defence spending — well below the alliance's two per cent target.

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OBAMA SHORTENS CHELSEA MANNING'S PRISON SENTENCE: U.S. President Barack Obama is commuting the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst who leaked classified documents. The White House says Manning is one of 209 inmates whose sentences Obama is shortening. Manning is more than six years into a 35-year sentence for leaking classified government and military documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Her sentence is now set to expire May 17. She was known as Bradley Manning at the time of her 2010 arrest and attempted suicide twice last year. Obama is also pardoning 64 people, including retired Gen. James Cartwright, who was charged with making false statements during a probe into disclosure of classified information. Most of the other people receiving commutations were serving sentences for nonviolent drug offences.

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CANADIAN WOMEN TO JOIN MARCH ON WASHINGTON: Hundreds of Canadians are travelling overnight to Washington, D.C., to take part in a massive protest and rally on the first day of Donald Trump's new administration. Organizers of the Women's March on Washington say they expect about 200,000 people to take part in the demonstration, originally promote women's rights. However, many of those attending say they are speaking out against Trump's offensive comments during his presidential campaign about women and immigrants. One Canadian woman describes her participation as a means of sending a message that people are not afraid to take a stand on something important, and that by taking part in the event, Canadians can help effect change. Thousands are expected at solidarity marches in cities across Canada and the United States.

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CMHC RAISING MORTGAGE INSURANCE PREMIUMS: Canada's federal housing agency is hiking the cost of mortgage loan insurance for homebuyers starting March 17, as part of new regulatory requirements requiring it to hold more capital to offset risks in the country's red-hot real estate market. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Tuesday it doesn't anticipate the increases will have a major impact on new home owners. It expects the changes will add about $5 to a monthly mortgage payment for a homebuyer with an average CMHC-insured loan of approximately $245,000. James Laird, co-founder of interest rate-comparison website RateHub, says on its own, these increases are "minor" when compared with higher down payment requirements, higher qualifying interest rates and a decrease to amortization periods — changes that were recently put in place as part of an effort to cool down Canada's housing market.

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TRUDEAU BACKS DECISION TO STRIP MILITARY COMMANDER OF DUTIES: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is backing the decision by Canada's chief of the defence staff to relieve his second in command of his duties, but won't say anything more about the controversy swirling around Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Word emerged Monday that Norman was abruptly stripped of his responsibilities by his boss, Gen. Jonathan Vance, in a tersely worded letter dated Jan. 13. Neither Vance nor Trudeau would say why Norman was relieved. Norman, former commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, was appointed to the vice-chief position last summer. Citing an anonymous source, the Globe and Mail reported Monday that the decision followed an investigation into the alleged leak of "high-level secret documents."  

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CANADIAN TRAVELLERS UNDETERRED BY SHOOTING IN MEXICO: Canadian travellers and expats appear undeterred by a fatal shooting at the popular Mexican resort town of Playa del Carmen this week, saying the area remains safe despite what they consider an isolated tragedy. A spokesman for the Quebec-Riviera Maya Chamber of Commerce says the Canadian expats and business owners he has spoken to are saddened by the attack that killed five people, including an Ontario security guard, but are not concerned for their own safety. Michel Bedard says the shooting at the Blue Parrot nightclub was the first such incident at the 10-year-old venue, which he described as a cultural hub in the area. He says Canadian snowbirds and tourists are unlikely to change their habits as a result of the attack. The editor of a local English-language newspaper in Playa del Carmen says shootings are "very, very rare" in the Riviera Maya and almost never involve tourists.

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FORT MCMURRAY FIRE COSTS REACH $9.5B, STUDY SAYS: An assessment of the total financial impact of last spring's Fort McMurray wildfire is pegging the direct and indirect costs of the blaze at almost $10 billion. The $9.9-billion figure includes the expense of replacing buildings and infrastructure as well as lost income, profits and royalties in the oilsands and forestry industries, said MacEwan University economist Rafat Alam. It also includes early estimates on indirect costs such as environmental damage, lost timber and physical and mental-health treatment for residents and firefighters. Alam said it can take up to 10 years to get a complete picture of everything that happened and what it cost. Earlier this year, insurers estimated they'd be paying out about $3.7 billion for damage caused by the blaze which firefighters came to call "the beast." The blaze destroyed 1,800 single-family homes and numerous other structures and forced more than 80,000 people to leave.

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TRIPLE MURDER SUSPECT'S FATHER TESTIFIES: The father of a man charged in the deaths of a couple and their young grandchild says his son was angry over some unpaid money. Archie Garland told court in Calgary that his son, Douglas Garland, and Alvin Liknes seemed to get along well at first when they worked on developing an experimental pump for the oil and gas sector. But he said the relationship soured and Liknes didn't pay his son the money that he was owed. Douglas Garland, 56, is charged with first-degree murder in the disappearance of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O'Brien in 2014.

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REPORTS SAY BAUTISTA SLATED TO RETURN TO THE BLUE JAYS: Multiple reports indicate that Jose Bautista will return to the Toronto Blue Jays next season, agreeing to a one-year deal worth US$18 million. The contract reportedly includes two mutual option years that if exercised, could make the deal worth $60 million. Neither the team nor Bautista's agent, Jay Alou, would comment on the reports. Some of Bautista's teammates didn't wait for a formal announcement to celebrate his return. Bautista signed a US$65-million, five-year deal in 2011 and the Blue Jays picked up a $14-million team option last season. Bautista rejected the team's $17.2-million qualifying offer last fall, which ensured Toronto would receive compensation if he signed elsewhere as a free agent. In the end, it appears both sides have circled back in what could be a good deal for all involved. 

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MCDONALD'S CANADA ISSUES NUT WARNING: McDonald's Canada has started serving its first food containing peanuts or tree nuts that don't come in an individual package, a move critics say reverses its long-standing position as a safe space for people with food allergies. The fast-food chain says in a statement on its website that its new Skor McFlurry contains chopped almonds in the pieces of chocolate bar used to make the treat. The company says that means all of its other products may contain or come in contact with peanuts, tree nuts or other allergens. McDonald's previously only served individually packaged peanuts and tree nuts. Some people took to Twitter to criticize the company for the move, saying people with severe allergies to such nuts would no longer be able to eat at the restaurants.