Man facing manslaughter charges after disappearance of Vida Smith

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Kevin Barton, also known as Chris Lee, 60, of Calgary has been charged with one count of manslaughter.

Police located Barton in northwest Calgary on Thursday and took him into custody without incident. They say they’ve also located Smith’s missing car, a 2002 Nissan Altima.

Police have charged Kevin Barton with manslaughter in relation to Smith’s disappearance.. Calgary Police Service/via Postmedia Calgary

His next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

In N.C., Cunningham’s Tax Past Includes $39K Home Credit


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Cal Cunningham, the Democratic attorney and Iraq War veteran challenging North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, broke his no-tax-increase pledge and voted for a $1 billion tax increase when he was in the state legislature in 2001.

Back then Cunningham said he agonized over the decision but defended his support for raising sales taxes and taxes on the state’s highest earners by calling it “the right thing to do.”

“We asked those who have benefited from the work of some very savvy tax lawyers to pay their fair share,” he told a local newspaper at the time. 

“The issue for me is one of fairness,” he said. “. . . If it’s a tight year and we have to cut $377 million out of the state budget, then those who have benefited from loopholes should do their part.”

In his race for U.S. Senate nearly 20 years later, Cunningham no longer seems conflicted about supporting tax hikes, repeatedly arguing that corporations and the wealthy must pay their “fair share” to help the government provide numerous services, including cheaper health care and lower college costs. 

When it comes to his own taxes, however, Cunningham has taken advantage of government programs to reduce his obligation. 

From 2015 to 2019, Cunningham took nearly $40,000 in state tax credits for a $130,000 renovation to his home – a project that added a wet bar/butler’s pantry, expanded his master bedroom and replaced laminate with hardwood floors. 

The state’s historic preservation office approved Cunningham’s application for the tax credits to defray $38,860 from the renovations to his three-bedroom, 3,074-square-foot Raleigh home. Redfin estimates the home, constructed in 1920 in the Cameron Park neighborhood just west of downtown, is worth $903,000.

From January 2018 to September 2019, Cunningham reported $439,016 in compensation for legal work and his position as vice president and general counsel for WasteZero, a Raleigh-based waste reduction company, according to the financial disclosure report he’s required to file when running for Senate. 

The historic-renovation tax credits, available only to properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, were used by 621 North Carolina taxpayers in 2015, according to the state revenue department.

Rachel Petri, Cunningham’s spokeswoman, did not respond directly to questions about whether Cunningham believes his decision to take the tax credits for home renovations is consistent with his belief that the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes.

“As you can see in the public record, Cal applied for the historic preservation tax credit and the state’s Historic Preservation Office approved the application for his work,” she told RealClearPolitics in an emailed statement.

Petri then defended Cunningham’s vote in 2001 to increase state taxes by $1 billion.

“Cal believes everyone should pay their fair share, and the budget you cite did exactly that to address an $800 million budget shortfall while also increasing teacher pay, establishing pre-K, and reducing class sizes,” she said.

The Senate contest in North Carolina, a presidential battleground, is one of the most competitive and closely watched in the nation because it could determine which party controls the chamber next year. 

Cunningham and Tillis in recent weeks have engaged in a fierce debate over tax policy, with Tillis using Cunningham’s 2001 tax increase to cast him as a tax hiker who wouldn’t hesitate to raise taxes again in Washington. 

In the U.S. Senate in 2017, with President Trump in office, Tillis voted in favor of the tax cut that lowered corporate tax rates permanently while providing only a temporary tax cut for individuals. Supply-side economists have credited the 2017 tax cuts with helping create the strongest economy in decades and the lowest unemployment rates in 50 years before the coronavirus’ devastating impact.

Similarly, while serving as North Carolina’s speaker of the House in 2013, Tillis and other Republicans lowered rates on individuals and corporations.

Cunningham’s spokeswoman blasted Tillis for his work on North Carolina’s 2013 tax cut, arguing that it decreased money for public education, “leading to larger class sizes and fewer teaching jobs.”

She also said the 2013 state tax overhaul “increased taxes on mobile homes and college meal plans while protecting tax breaks for yacht owners and cutting taxes for corporations.”

Petri then pointed to statements Tillis made while a state legislator supporting the historic preservation tax credits as a “positive thing for towns” and a “well-documented return on investment” while serving as in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

A spokesman for Tillis said his boss wasn’t in the legislature when this tax credit was created, and in 2014, when it was set to expire, deemed the tax benefits for renovating historic homes and buildings “inconsistent” with the principles of the landmark tax reform bill that he spearheaded in 2013.

“[That’s] why the North Carolina General Assembly let it lapse in the 2014 budget,” said Andrew Romeo, Tillis’ spokesman. “He certainly did not believe that it should be abused for luxury home improvement projects for the wealthy.” 

(The tax credits Cunningham used for the home renovation expired at the beginning of 2015 – one day after he certified that his home-improvement project was completed. The state legislature has since passed new historic preservation tax credits worth only 15% in credit for non-income-producing private residences.)

Joseph Coletti, a senior fellow with the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank based in North Carolina, said his organization advocates for a much simpler tax code free of loopholes and tax credits – one that reduces the overall rate of everyone’s taxes so consumers have more purchasing power and businesses have more power to grow.

Still, stepping out of his role at the foundation and taking a populist line, he said he sees why the state legislature might want to provide a tax credit for those restoring old buildings that can then be turned into income-producing restaurants, retail stores or apartments.

The same principle, he said, does not apply when it comes to giving wealthy homeowners a tax cut on their home renovations, which he said would likely take place with or without the tax credit. 

“What is the value that the [state] gets out of individual homeowners renovating their houses – and should it subsidize their choice of laminate flooring over hardwoods?” Coletti asked. “Government policies on taxes should raise money in the least invasive and least discriminatory way. When you reward someone for a certain behavior, you’re misusing the tax code, in my view.” 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the time frame for Cunningham’s referenced income of $439,016. That amount was for January 2018 to September 2019, not a single year.

Susan Crabtree is RealClearPolitics’ White House/national political correspondent.

Bombardier plans to move its corporate offices to Dorval by early 2021

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Jessica McDonald, a company spokeswoman, confirmed the news to the Gazette on Friday.

The move adds to a dramatic three-year reshaping of Bombardier, begun under former CEO Alain Bellemare, that has seen the once-sprawling Quebec industrial icon narrow its focus solely to business jets — with such transactions as the sale of the commercial aviation program formerly known as the C Series to European planemaker Airbus SA.

On Friday, France’s Alstom SA secured conditional clearance from the European Commission for the proposed acquisition of the Bombardier Transportation rail business, which is based in Berlin. Closing is still expected in the first half of 2021, Bombardier said.

Bombardier’s future headquarters at 400 Côte-Vertu Blvd. W. sits close to the plant where workers build the company’s Challenger jets. It’s adjacent to the Laurent Beaudoin Completion Centre, where the the interiors of the ultra-long-range Global 7500 business jet are completed.

About 180 employees are based at Bombardier headquarters, though the coronavirus pandemic means they are working from home. Human resources, legal affairs and finance are all housed downtown.

“I recognize that this move will raise questions and concerns for some employees and we’ll have a number of opportunities to address them,” Martel said in the email. An “all-hands” meeting is planned for later this summer, he added.

Located above Central Station, 800 René Lévesque Blvd. W. stands next to the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel. It was recently modernized and now boasts a redesigned plaza, a bigger lobby and a revamped elevator system. Vancouver-based Polaris Realty manages the building.

This is the second time since Bombardier’s founding in 1942 that company headquarters are moving. Having started out as a snowmobile manufacturer in the Eastern Townships municipality of Valcourt, the company relocated executive offices to Montreal as business expanded.

Bombardier is set to announce second-quarter results next Thursday.

Corbella: Trudeau’s WE scandal testimony leaves him battered and bruised

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The committee heard Tuesday from the Kielburgers that the Trudeau family received even more money from WE than previously revealed. Margaret Trudeau had $167,944 of expenses paid for her 28 events. Alexandre Trudeau submitted $19,576 in expenses for eight events, and the PM’s wife had $25,326 in expenses paid to her for seven WE events, or an average of $3,618 per event.

In total, the Trudeau family received more than $508,000 in speaking fees and expenses paid to them by the WE Charity or one of its more than one dozen Canadian affiliated entities, which includes the ME to WE social enterprise — the for-profit arm of the Kielburgers’ initiatives.

Marc, left, and Craig Kielburger appear as witnesses via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Trudeau admitted that his government has given millions of dollars to WE. Had this program gone ahead — which is a $543.5-million program, not $912 million as the PM initially announced — WE Charity would have received up to $43.5 million in administration fees.

So millions of taxpayer dollars goes from the government into this charity, and then more than $500,000 goes from the charity to the PM’s family in speaking fees and lavish travel expenses.

Morneau’s daughter, Grace, is a contract employee with WE and his family received a free $41,000 vacation from WE in 2017 to Ecuador, which Morneau only paid back when he appeared before the committee last week.

It all stinks.

Trudeau says he wanted to rush this program to help students. But the government had already rolled out the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit and it has the long-standing Canada Summer Jobs Grant program that could have been expanded and enriched to ensure more businesses and charities could hire students and pay them at least minimum wage, rather than the $10 per hour under the CSSG. When Trudeau says the civil service had given him only a “binary choice” of choosing WE to administer the program or not run the program at all, that is incorrect. Other charities say they could have done this and better options, as already mentioned, exist. This debacle creates the appearance that the CSSG was dreamed up to funnel money into a struggling charity that supports his family and those of other prominent Liberals.

The prime minister is to be commended for appearing before this committee — something he was not required to do. But, politically, it was unwise of him, and has only left us with even more questions that need answering.

Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary.

Could America Split Up?

Could America Split Up?

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

All week I’ve been haunted by a brief few seconds of video posted on Twitter late Sunday night by a student journalist in Eugene, Oregon. Two men face off at a protest — the one standing on the left is demonstrating for Black Lives Matter; the one on the right, sitting in a pickup truck, is a counter-protester. Each is pointing a handgun at the other’s face at point blank range.

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Montreal’s Jean-Doré Beach closed because of high bacteria count

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The Quebec environment department and the city of Montreal announced on Friday that they have shut down Jean-Doré Beach until at least Sunday, after water tests this week found a high level of bacterial contamination.

The tests, carried out on Wednesday, found the water quality did not meet ministry norms. A message on the Parc Jean-Drapeau website informs users that they are working to have the beach reopen at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

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King penguin chick hatches at Calgary Zoo after overcoming ‘incredible obstacle’

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The Calgary Zoo is welcoming a new king penguin chick to its Penguin Plunge after the wee seabird overcame an “incredible obstacle” to hatch.

Just as the chick’s two-month incubation period was coming to an end, its mother Grace moved away from the egg causing it to roll down the beach and hit rocks that cracked the shell. Zoo staff had to act quickly and rushed the egg to a specialized incubation room to repair the damage.

The “significantly cracked shell” was carefully patched together but, still, the chick would need to fight against many odds to hatch. Over several days it was closely monitored before it finally tried to break through the shell.

The Calgary Zoo is welcoming a new king penguin chick to its Penguin Plunge. The chick faced significant obstacles but with the help of the zoo's staff it hatched on July 18.
The Calgary Zoo is welcoming a new king penguin chick to its Penguin Plunge. The chick faced significant obstacles but with the help of the zoo’s staff it hatched on July 18. /jpg

“A hatching chick works hard for days to break through its shell… This wee one didn’t have any more strength left,” said the Calgary Zoo in a press release. “It needed experienced helping hands. The Calgary Zoo team gently assisted the chick, ever-so-carefully breaking the shell first and then the egg membrane so that it could ease its way into the world.”

Macpherson: New bouts of indig-nationalism over flags

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Usually, indig-nationalism is directed at anglos. On one recent occasion, however, nationalists turned on … other nationalists.

Some were doubly infuriated in June by this year’s televised Fête nationale holiday concert. Not only did one performer wear a sticker against the anti-hijab Bill 21, no Quebec flags were visible.

The “Natfest” concert organizers apologized for the absence of the fleurdelisé, explaining that it was an oversight resulting from the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic.

No one thought to put flags on stage because usually, there are none. Instead, small flags are handed out to spectators. This year, however, there was no live audience.

It’s a plausible explanation. The annual event is funded by the Quebec government, which is currently nationalist, and which entrusts the production to a nationalist organization whose president is a former PQ candidate. They’re hardly likely to disrespect the Quebec flag intentionally.

Nevertheless, another campaigning PQ leadership candidate apparently suspected a deliberate depoliticization of the annual holiday celebrations in a victory of “multiculturalism over nationalism.”

And this week, the fleurdelisé supposedly came under attack again, from a previously little-known Quebec English-language youth organization that presented proposals for a flag officially representing the province’s anglophone community.

The proposals, submitted for an online vote, are an initiative of Y4Y Quebec, a two-year-old organization that receives public funding from Quebec as well as Ottawa. Its year-long flag project is financed by a $52,800 grant from a program of the federal Canadian Heritage department.

‘Canary in the coal mine’: Calgary-shot Wynonna Earp among first TV series to resume production after COVID-19

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Still, Wynonna Earp is among the first wave of TV series to restart production in North America and certainly the first out of the gate in Alberta since the pandemic took hold.

“We are extremely fortunate in that we are back in production, but we also serve as a canary in a coal mine for everyone else,” Andras says. “In terms of challenges, they are both off-screen and on-screen challenges. Off-screen, the reality is we have on any given day between 100 and 300 crew members, sometimes working in enclosed spaces. It’s an intimate environment. It’s very much like a construction site with people handling equipment and eating together and breathing together and collaborating. On-screen, of course, we are an R-rated, 10 p.m. cable show with a supernatural element. So we have things like intimacy and sex scenes and kissing and we also have stunts.”

While the provincial government has offered general protocols for film and TV production to resume, the producers behind Wynonna Earp have gone “above and beyond” to keep people safe while filming the final six episodes of Season 4, Andras says.

That includes a “massive amount of testing,” particularly for the cast, Andras says. Performers are tested before any intimate scene. The cast members are also quarantined together in a social bubble in Calgary, she says.

“Once they have been tested and cleared, they are each other’s social lives,” Andras says. “That’s how it has to be and it has to be very limited. But they love each other and are so concerned with keeping the crew safe that they will follow all that.”