NEWS
04/26/2017 12:56 EDT | Updated 04/26/2017 14:42 EDT

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

Highlights from the news file for Wednesday, April 26

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KEVIN O'LEARY OUT OF CONSERVATIVE RACE: Celebrity investor and reality-TV star Kevin O'Leary is quitting the federal Conservative leadership race and throwing his support behind Quebec rival Maxime Bernier. O'Leary said despite his front-runner status nationally, he doesn't have the kind of support in Quebec he thinks he needs, not just for the leadership but for the next general election. "This is obviously very disappointing for me. As someone who was born in Montreal, I had hoped I would do much better there," O'Leary said in a statement Wednesday, only hours after informing his campaign team of his decision. O'Leary said he is supporting Bernier because the longtime Quebec MP's policies mirror his own. A lack of facility with French was always considered one of O'Leary's greatest liabilities. Prior to Wednesday, O'Leary had offered no hint that he was considering dropping out. Three hours before announcing the decision, he sent out a fundraising letter to his supporters.

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REPORTS SAY WHITE HOUSE READIES TO PULL OUT OF NAFTA: The White House is telling U.S. media that it's weighing a plan to pull out of NAFTA, upping the pressure on Congress to get cracking on negotiations under the threat of having the seminal trade deal obliterated. Various media say Trump is considering detonating the trade equivalent of a nuclear option: an executive order to withdraw from the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, a prospect that would terrify industry and business-friendly lawmakers. Those same reports say Trump hasn't yet decided what to do. The online site Politico says he's looking at an executive order drafted by aides Steve Bannon and economic assistant Peter Navarro. CNN says he might simply go ahead with renegotiations, as originally planned. What's not at all clear is whether Trump is seriously considering a pullout, or merely using it as a threat. The leaks to media appeared to jolt markets. The Canadian dollar lost 0.25 cents by early afternoon, while the Mexican peso got hit harder, down almost two per cent by 1:45 p.m. ET.

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TRUMP TAX CUTS WOULD HURT CANADA, INDUSTRY SAYS: Corporate Canada is bracing for the latest economic challenge out of Washington: a tax-cutting plan for U.S. businesses that many fear would pose a considerable threat to Canadian competitiveness as well as Ottawa's bottom line. The White House has announced a tax-reform package that includes a proposal to significantly slash the top U.S. corporate rate from 35 per cent to 15 per cent. Tax expert Jack Mintz says such a "dramatic" reduction would push the U.S. effective corporate rate about seven percentage points below Canada's effective rate. That, Mintz warns, would entice businesses to move their investments and profits south of the border, starving public treasuries in Canada of up to $6 billion per year. The senior vice president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters says Ottawa must now seriously consider easing its own regulations and ensure the corporate rate remains competitive. Mathew Wilson says if companies don't invest in Canada, the economy will grind to a halt.

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BRAZEAU ACQUITTED OF DRUNK-DRIVING CHARGES: Sen. Patrick Brazeau has been acquitted of drunk-driving charges that date back to 2014. The news was confirmed by the court clerk at the courthouse in Gatineau in western Quebec. Brazeau is still fighting one more criminal charge, stemming from an April 2016 incident when he allegedly refused to submit to an alcohol test. He has pleaded not guilty to that charge. Brazeau has gone through a long judicial saga that began in 2013 during the Senate expense scandal. He and other Senate colleagues were charged with allegedly making inappropriate housing expenses. The charges against Brazeau were eventually dropped. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to reduced charges related to assault and cocaine possession and received an unconditional discharge. Brazeau was kicked out of the Conservative party caucus after the housing scandal broke but returned to the Senate in 2016 to sit as an Independent.

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SMALL FIRST NATION REELING AFTER MURDER: A First Nations community northeast of Winnipeg is reeling following the killing of a high-school student and the arrest of two younger teens. RCMP have not identified the 19-year-old found dead near a home on the Sagkeeng First Nation on Sunday night, but say two girls aged 16 and 17 were arrested on charges of second-degree murder. Community members say the victim is Serena McKay, and the accused are students at the community's high school. Principal Claude Guimond says students and staff have been hit hard by the tragedy, and by a video he says is McKay being beaten that has been shared on social media. RCMP say they are aware of the video and are reviewing it to see whether it is pertinent to the case. Guimond says the community, 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, has seen increasing gang activity and drug use and it is proving deadly.

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WITNESS SAYS FINANCE PLAYED ROLE IN CARBINE ROLLOUT: Senior Mounties should not have included the "influences of finances" when deciding which RCMP divisions would first get semi-automatic carbine rifles, an RCMP tactical expert testified Wednesday at the national police force's trial on charges of violating the Canada Labour Code. The allegations against the RCMP stem from its response to Justin Bourque's 2014 shooting rampage in Moncton, N.B., which claimed the lives of three officers and left two others wounded. Bourque shot each of the officers with a semi-automatic assault rifle, prompting some critics to complain police were outgunned. As a result, police use of the C8 carbine, also a high-powered assault rifle, became a central focus in the fallout from the Moncton shootings. The Mounties in Moncton did not have access to carbines at the time. RCMP Supt. Bruce Stuart, an expert in tactical operations, told Moncton provincial court that he contributed to a threat risk assessment that would help determine how many carbines were needed and which divisions needed them most. The carbines were approved in September 2011, but the rollout took time.

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SOLDIER WHO DIED IN TRAINING ACCIDENT REMEMBERED: A soldier who died while training at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright was in a type of armoured vehicle that has been involved in other fatal accidents. The military says Sgt. Robert Dynerowicz died in hospital Tuesday and three other soldiers were hurt after their LAV III vehicle was in a single-vehicle crash on the base in east-central Alberta. Dynerowicz was a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, a regiment based at CFB Petawawa in Ontario. The military says his fellow troops held a memorial in the field to honour his memory and service, which included two tours of duty in Afghanistan. Col. Conrad Mialkowski, the commander of 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, says the LAV III has been the workhorse of the army for years and is safe. In 2014, Lt.-Col. Dan Bobbitt died when his LAV III rolled during training at CFB Wainwright and four other soldiers were injured.

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CLARK CALLS ON OTTAWA TO BAN COAL EXPORTS: Premier Christy Clark wants the federal government to ban the shipment of thermal coal through ports in British Columbia after the United States announced new tariffs on softwood lumber. Clark says she has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking Ottawa to act by stopping the export of the coal, including from the United States. The B.C. Liberal leader made the announcement Wednesday at a paper products company in Surrey, B.C., while campaigning for the May 9 provincial election, saying the impasse over softwood lumber "gives us the freedom to do what I think is unquestionably the right thing." Clark said a ban would fit with her goal of developing a liquefied natural gas industry, arguing if China were to shift from coal to LNG it would have "a massive impact" on greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. is imposing duties of up to 24 per cent on lumber imports from Canada. The B.C. Lumber Trade Council says the province exports $4.6 billion in softwood lumber to the U.S. each year.

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QUEBEC CABINET MINISTER IN LANGUAGE FLAP: Quebec's public security minister is apologizing for replying in French to an English-language question in the legislature. Martin Coiteux says he did not mean to offend Quebec's English-speaking community when he answered Quebec solidaire's Amir Khadir in French on Tuesday. Khadir prefaced his question by saying he was asking it in English because it was about allegations of illegal fundraising within the Liberal party, a topic he said Quebec anglophones don't hear enough about. Coiteux then said, in French, he would reply in French in keeping with what he called the tradition of the national assembly. A group that defends the rights of Anglo-Quebecers pointed out that 44,980 of Coiteux's constituents in his riding of Nelligan and more than one million Quebecers "have a tradition" of speaking English. Coiteux said today he didn't mean to offend anybody and that he was sorry if the words he used had done that.

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BEAVER STUCK IN FENCE FREED BY HAMILTON, ONT., WORKER: A fat beaver that got stuck in a fence in an Ontario city has been freed by the soapy hands of a municipal employee. The City of Hamilton says an animal services officer went to a home around 12 p.m. on Tuesday where she found a beaver — carrying excess fat from hibernation — wedged between two metal bars. The city says Sarah Mombourquette used soap to help the beaver wiggle through the bars. It says the beaver recovered at a shelter. The beaver has since been transferred to Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge in nearby Jarvis, Ont. The rodent needs time to recover from its injuries before it is released back into the wild.