Mani Square, one of Kolkata’s most popular retail destinations, celebrated their eleventh anniversary recently. Renowned singer Rupankar Bagchi joined Sanjay Jhunjhunwala, CEO, Mani Group to cut a giant 160 lbs cake in the ground floor atrium of the mall at the largest birthday party in town.The eleventh anniversary celebrations – a three day even – started on June 14, with the entire mall decorated for the party in a colourful combination of crafty frames. Also Read – Pollution makes you more aggressiveFrom Friday onwards, every evening witnessed fun MC-driven activities and game shows with attractive prizes for the visitors. The action-packed range of performances included: June 14 – MC-driven activities, game shows and instrumental music performances. June 15 – Grand cake cutting by group CEO Sanjay Jhunjhunwala in the presence of renowned playback singer Rupankar Bagchi, followed by a performance by the artiste. June 16 – MC-driven activities, game shows and band performance by ‘Kabyakatha’. Also Read – Physical therapy better for low back painOn the occasion, Prithwiraj Ganguly, Asst. General Manager – Mall Operations, Mani Group, said: “Mani Square has come a long way from June 15, 2008, when it opened its doors for the people of Kolkata. We have always promoted the mall as a complete family destination with a wide range of shopping, eating and entertainment options, and a visit to Mani Square is today a regular habit for most mall visitors that has been internalized over the last few years. We really enjoy the special relationship we share with all of them.” Speaking on the new brands that have set up shop in Mani Square, Ganguly added: “Stores that have opened shutters in the last 12 months since the mall celebrated its 10th Anniversary include popular fashion brands like W, Fabindia, Arrow, Allen Solly, Van Heusen, U.S. Polo Assn., Biba, 109F, Manyavar, Inc.5, Jockey, FCUK, Shopper’s Stop, Lavie, Health & Glow, PC Chandra and Jhalak.” “After Wow Momo, the latest entrants in the ever-popular food court was Moti Mahal with its wide variety of north Indian delicacies; the famous ice-cream brand Baskin Robbins, which began serving its unique cones to soothe the inner soul from the scorching heat; and the world famous coffeehouse chain Starbucks.”
Mumbai: Actress Parineeti Chopra feels American pop-singer Nick Jonas, her brother-in-law, was well prepared for his Indian wedding ceremony with her sister, actress Priyanka Chopra. Parineeti says she got lots of money “in dollars and rupees” as well as diamond rings in the ‘joota chupai’ ceremony. Priyanka and Nick got married in India in December last year. The couple had three-day wedding festivities at Jodhpur’s royal Umaid Bhawan Palace, where they exchanged wedding vows as per both Christian and Hindu rituals in two separate ceremonies. Also Read – Rihanna to release 500-page ‘visual’ autobiography ‘Joota chupai’ is a tradition wherein the sister-in-law hides the shoes of the groom and then asks for money or gift in return. Parineeti opened up about the wedding when she appeared on “BFFs with Vogue – Season 3” along with Sania Mirza. The show is aired on Colors Infinity, read a statement. During the signature BFFs game round ï¿½Say It Or Strip It’, Parineeti revealed how much she got for hiding Nick’s shoes for the ‘joota chupai’. Also Read – Hilarie Burton, Jeffery Dean Morgan tie the knot “I got a lot of money, I got dollars and rupees, in lakhs and we also got diamond rings. We also got bags, we got a lot of stuff. He was very generous,” Parineeti said. “He was actually more prepared than all of us. So I thought I was the smart one and I was going to go and do this ‘rasam’ (ceremony) and take only cash from him. They were more than ready because when the time came, he literally just signalled to someone and all of us cousins looked at the back, and there was this guy with a giant tray full of diamond rings and all of us got diamond rings and the bridesmaids got a lot of gifts. “So I am proud to show off that Nick jiju is very generous,” she added. When host and actress Neha Dhupia asked Parineeti about some ‘bridezilla’ moments from the wedding, she said: “We honestly thought of it before the wedding happened but actually not at all. “She (Priyanka) was just so happy and in fact she was so excited like she was that bride who, when the baraat came she wanted to get ready early so that she can run and see the baraat in a filmy style. She was really happy. So no, bridezilla moment, not at all.” During the ï¿½Platter Of Punishment’ game round, Neha asked Parineeti to choose between Nick as a singer or a brother-in-law, she picked him as a brother-in-law. “Nick Jonas, the brother-in-law. He is the best, I love him,” the actress said. Opening up about the Priyanka’s bachelorette party in Amsterdam, the actress said: “I just want to say Sophie (Turner) has all the videos and she has still not sent them to me and I am glad because if somebody looks at my phone…” Then Neha intervened and said: “Basically what happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam.” Parineeti concurred, and said: “I think we did Amsterdam the way Amsterdam should have been done. I am just going to leave it at it.”
New Delhi: State-owned ONGC and Oil India Ltd alongside private sector Vedanta Ltd on Tuesday walked away with almost all of the oil blocks auctioned in the latest licensing round as part of the government’s effort to raise domestic production. The winners of Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) Round II and III, which closed earlier this year, signed exploration and production contracts with the government at a function here on Tuesday.Speaking on the occasion, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that more production of oil and gas is a priority of the Modi-2.0 government as it looks to meet its rising energy demand of fast growing economy. “There is possibility of $1 billion in OALP-II and III,” he said. Oil India Ltd signed up for the 12 out of 32 oil and gas exploration blocks it won in the twin rounds that ran parallelly because OALP-II was delayed. Vedanta Ltd walked away with 10 and Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) got eight blocks. Reliance Industries and its British partner BP Plc signed a contract for the sole KG basin gas they had bid, while Indian Oil Corp (IOC) too got one block. Reliance-BP combine outbid ONGC in one Krishna Godavari basin block in the Bay of Bengal. This is an area that ONGC had previously relinquished and is said to hold natural gas prospects. According to the DGH, OIL won six out of the 14 blocks on offer in OALP-II while Vedanta walked away with five. ONGC, Reliance-BP and IOC won one block each. Speaking on the development, Vedanta Resources Ltd Executive Chairman Anil Agarwal said, “We congratulate the Government for the successful completion of three rounds of auctions under OALP. The progressive vision of this Government has been key to developing the hydrocarbons industry in India, and we appreciate the faith they have reposed in us. With the sizable and diversified portfolio of the blocks, Cairn will step up its efforts to produce 50 per cent of India’s domestic crude oil. We believe in the hydrocarbons potential of India and this is a huge enabler to lead the nation towards energy security.” OIL CMD Utpal Bora informed that the strategy of the company is to consolidate its position as the leading operator in the North-East and carry out exploration in Category II & III basins in line with the Government of India’s vision to intensify exploration in Indian sedimentary basins and increase domestic oil and gas production. In OALP-III, ONGC won seven blocks while OIL got six and Vedanta the remaining five. Bidding for 14 blocks on offer in the OALP round-II and another18 oil and gas blocks as well as five coal-bed methane (CBM) blocks on offer in OALP-III closed on May 15. No bid was received for any of the CBM blocks. Reliance-BP had made their first bid in eight years when they sought an area that previously was held by ONGC, sources said. When the government in July 2017 allowed companies to carve out blocks of their choice with a view to bringing about 2.8 million sq km of unexplored area in the country under exploration, Reliance-BP sought the KG area containing the discoveries.
New Delhi: In a major transfer of IPS officers, Sandeep Goel who was posted as Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) in Delhi Police was transferred as Director General (Prisons). According to the order, Ajay Kashyap (IPS 1985) who was posted as Director General (Prisons) was transferred as Director General (Home Guards). JK Sharma earlier posted as Director General (Home Guards) will be seeing Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) as Director-General. The order reads that the Lt Governor (Delhi) is pleased to order the transfer, posting of IPS officers as mentioned against them, with immediate effect. Also Read – Bangla Sahib Gurudwara bans use of all types of plastic itemsS Sundari Nanda, an IPS officer of the 1988 batch, the current working as the DGP of Puducherry, has been transferred to the Government of NCT Delhi. She was transferred as the Union Home Ministry effected a reshuffle among top IPS and IAS officers in the Union Territory cadre. Satya Gopal, as IAS officer of 1988, currently posted as Chief Secretary of Arunachal Pradesh has been transferred to the Delhi government. Apart from Puducherry the police chiefs of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram were transferred as the Union Home Ministry effected a reshuffle among top IPS and IAS officers in the Union Territory cadre.
New Delhi: Three members of a family were found hanging inside the Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi premises, the police said on Saturday. Bodies of Gulshan Das, a senior lab assistant in the Department of Bio-Chemistry at IIT, his wife Sunita and his mother Kamta were found hanging inside Kumar’s official accommodation late on Friday night. No suicide note was recovered, said the police. According to the police, they had reached the IIT campus after receiving a panic call reporting domestic violence by Sunita’s mother, who was unable to reach her daughter. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder Upon reaching the flat, it was found bolted from inside. The police broke open the door to find three bodies hanging from the roof. “The women were hanging in separate bedrooms with dupattas tied round the fans. Gulshan was hanging in the corridor with a dupatta tied to an overhead rod/pipe,” said DCP (South-West) Devender Arya. “No external injuries were found on any of the bodies and no suicide note was recovered from the house,” police said. “We have sent the bodies for post-mortem. Gulshan’s family, based in Haryana, has been informed of the tragedy,” said Arya. The police suspect it to be a case of suicide.
New Delhi: Industry body Confederation of Indian Industry on Sunday urged the government to lower the base price for 5G spectrum, saying the high price of such radiowaves will halt accelerated growth of the sector and deter adoption of telecom services by the masses. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) cautioned that participation of Indian telecom companies may be severely constrained in the upcoming auction for 5G spectrum due to low average revenue per user, and added that high reserve prices could further subdue this.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday questioned the BJP-led NDA government if it believes the use of military force against people of Kashmir will stop the freedom movement. “The whole world is waiting to see what happens to oppressed Kashmiris in IOK when the curfew is lifted. Does the BJP govt think by using greater military force against Kashmiris in IOK, it will stop the freedom movement? Chances are it will gain momentum,” Khan wrote on Twitter.
Kolkata: The ‘Didi Ke Bolo’ helpline number launched by Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee once again turned saviour for a Katwa woman who is set to get a new house following the intervention of the Chief Minister.Mandira Chakraborty, a resident of Gopkhaji village of Katwa in East Burdwan, has been staying inside a bamboo thatched house with a partially broken tin shed in a very deplorable condition with her two sons. Her husband had allegedly deserted her almost a decade ago. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaThe situation forced the woman to pick up sewing to run her family. The money she earns is not enough to set up a house. Ever since the helpline number was launched by Banerjee, the woman decided to take the matter up with her. A few days ago, she gathered courage and called up the ‘Didi Ke Bolo’ helpline number and expressed her financial condition and how she and her sons live. After calling up the number, the woman visited the Chief Minister’s house recently, where she has been assured that the matter would soon be addressed. The woman claimed that the Chief Minister gave her a patient hearing. She told the Chief Minister about her plight after her husband left her. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayAfter she reached home, the district administration, after being prodded by the Chief Minister, visited her place and took stock of the situation. The district officials assured her that her house would soon be constructed. It may be mentioned here that a few days ago one Bapan Das, originally a resident of Katwa in East Burdwan, got stuck in a house along with 14 others due to floods in Kizhur area of Kerala. Das called up the toll-free number and shared his ordeal. The caller informed that he was trapped in Kizhur along with others and there was no electricity or transportation available to them. The caller also requested for immediate assistance. The matter was immediately raised with the disaster management officials of the state government, who contacted their counterparts in the Kerala government. After being requested by the Bengal government, the rescue team in Kerala started a search operation and rescued the victims.
New Delhi: Parle Products Pvt Ltd, a leading Indian biscuit maker, might lay off up to 10,000 workers as slowing economic growth and falling demand in the rural heartland could cause production cuts, a company executive said on Wednesday.A downturn in Asia’s third-largest economy is denting sales of everything from cars to clothing, forcing companies to curtail production and raising hopes that the India government will unveil an economic stimulus to revive growth. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details A sharp drop in Parle’s biscuit sales means the company may have to slash production, which may result in layoffs of 8,000-10,000 people, Mayank Shah, category head at Parle, said in a telephone interview from Mumbai. “The situation is so bad, that if the government doesn’t intervene immediately … we may be forced to eliminate these positions,” he said. Parle, founded in 1929, employs about 100,000 people, including direct and contract workers across 10 company-owned facilities and 125 contract manufacturing plants. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from Thursday Shah said demand for popular Parle biscuit brands such as Parle-G had been worsening since India rolled out a nationwide goods and services tax (GST) in 2017, which imposed a higher levy on biscuits costing as low as 5 rupees, or 7 cents a pack. The higher taxes have forced Parle to offer fewer biscuits in each pack, hitting demand from lower-income consumers in rural India, which contributes more than half of Parle’s revenue and where two-thirds of Indians live. “Consumers here are extremely price-sensitive. They’re extremely conscious of how many biscuits they are getting for a particular price,” Shah said. Parle, which has an annual revenue of above $1.4 billion, held talks over the past year with the government’s GST council as well as former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, asking them to review tax rates, Shah added. Once known as Parle Gluco, the Mumbai-headquartered company’s flagship biscuit brand was renamed as Parle-G, and became a household name in India through the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, Parle-G was considered the world’s largest selling biscuit brand.The slowdown in India’s economic growth, which has already led to thousands of job losses in its crucial automotive industry, was accelerating the drop in demand, Shah said. Market research firm Nielsen said last month India’s consumer goods industry was losing steam as spending in the rural heartland cools and small manufacturers lose competitive advantages in a slowing economy. Parle is not the only food product company to have flagged slowing demand. Varun Berry, managing director of Britannia Industries Ltd , Parle’s main competitor, said earlier this month that consumers were “thinking twice” about buying products worth just 5 rupees. “Obviously, there is some serious issue in the economy,” Berry had said on a conference call with analysts. Shares in Britannia were down 1.5%, as of 0620 GMT, having fallen as much as 3.9% earlier on Wednesday. (With inputs from Indian Express)
Kolkata: Guardians staged protests outside an English medium private school in Hooghly’s Sreerampur on Tuesday morning after a security guard of the school allegedly molested a KG I student during the school hours.The incident resulted in massive protest with the guardians staging demonstration outside the school complex. The irate mob ransacked a police vehicle when some police personnel reached the spot. Policemen, who went to the spot, had to face the wrath of the protestors. They urged agitating guardians not to create chaos. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaThe police personnel tried to calm the irate mob but failed to control the situation. A section of the guardians threw stones on the windscreen of the police vehicle. The family members of the schoolchildren held the school authorities responsible for the incident. They also blamed the authorities for appointing a security guard who indulges in such a barbaric act. A heated argument broke out between some of the guardians and the school officials. Some of the representatives from the school also tried to dissuade the agitating guardians from resorting to violence. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwaySome of the guardians alleged that the accused took the victim girl to a corner and made her sit on his lap before molesting her. The guardians expressed their concern over the incident and said that would not send their children to school as they feel their children are not safe. The accused security guard was taken to the local police station and detained for interrogation. Protests continued till Tuesday afternoon but later it was called off following the intervention of senior police officers. Parents of the students have urged school authorities to take strict action against the accused.
Tokyo/New Delhi: Japanese auto majors Toyota Motor Corporation and Suzuki Motor Corporation on Wednesday said they will acquire stake in each other as they seek to strengthen their alliance. As part of a capital alliance agreement, Toyota will acquire 2.4 crore shares of common stock in Suzuki (4.94 per cent stake) for 96 billion yen (over Rs 6,510 crore), while Suzuki plans to acquire shares in Toyota equivalent to 48 billion yen (around Rs 3,255 crore). Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal On October 12, 2016, the two companies had first announced their business partnership. In March this year, they agreed to engage in joint product development and collaboration in production, in addition to promoting mutual supply of products by bringing together Toyota’s strength in electrification technologies and Suzuki’s strength in technologies for compact vehicle. Elaborating on the reasons for their capital alliance, Toyota and Suzuki in a joint statement said that the automobile sector is currently experiencing a turning point unprecedented in both scope and scale, not only because of enhanced environmental regulations but also from new entries from distinct industries and diversified mobility businesses. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boost “The two companies intend to achieve sustainable growth by overcoming new challenges surrounding the automobile sector by building and deepening cooperative relationships in new fields while continuing to be competitors, in addition to strengthening the technologies and products in which each company specialises and their existing business foundation,” they said. Toyota and Suzuki will jointly take up challenges together in this transitional era and plan to establish and promote a long-term partnership for promoting collaboration in new fields, including the field of autonomous driving, the statement added. “The execution of the capital alliance agreement is a confirmation and expression of the outcome of sincere and careful discussions between the two companies, and it will serve for building and promoting their future partnership in new fields,” it said. As part of their earlier pact, the two partners had agreed to extend their collaboration to Europe and Africa over and above their partnership in India. Suzuki will supply Ciaz sedan and Ertiga multi-purpose vehicle to Toyota in India in addition to the already agreed supplies of premium hatchback Baleno and compact SUV Vitara Brezza, which will be rolled out from Toyota’s plant in India from 2022. Moreover, Suzuki will also supply its India-produced vehicles — Baleno, Vitara Brezza, Ciaz, Ertiga — to Toyota for the African market as well. Toyota, on the other hand, will provide Suzuki its hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) technologies in India through local procurement of HEV systems, engines and batteries, while also supplying THS (Toyota Hybrid System) to Suzuki in global markets.
London: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday issued a stark warning to rebels within his own Conservative Party to fall in line with his Brexit plans or risk a government led by Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The warning came amid reports of secret government plans to de-select Tory MPs who vote against Johnson in order to block a no-deal Brexit, as Opposition MPs plan urgent legislation to be tabled when the UK Parliament resumes after its summer recess next Tuesday. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USThe urgency follows Johnson’s announcement to suspend Parliament from the week of September 9 until October 14, depriving MPs of crucial sitting days in which to scrutinise Brexit plans and triggering street protests by thousands across the UK on Saturday against what has been branded a “coup” by the British Prime Minister. “Jeremy Corbyn has made a historic decision to turn his party into the anti-democratic, referendum-cancelling party. That’s his decision. I think it’s totally wrong,” Johnson told ‘The Sunday Times’. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls”I just say to everybody in the country, including everyone in Parliament, the fundamental choice is this. Are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum; are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people and plunge this country into chaos? Or are you going to side with those of us who want to get on, deliver on the mandate of the people and focus with absolute, laser-like precision on the domestic agenda. That’s the choice,” he said. The UK is set to leave the European Union (EU), with or without an agreement in place, by October 31 after the June 2016 referendum in favour of Brexit. Johnson took charge at Downing Street in July with a “do or die” pledge on Brexit, demanding that the EU re-consider the controversial Irish backstop before any withdrawal agreement can be finalised for the so-called divorce. However, the EU has remained firm on what it believes is a non-negotiable insurance policy against a post-Brexit hard border between EU member-country Ireland and UK territory Northern Ireland. “The one thing that could undermine the UK’s ability to negotiate would be Brussels thinking there’s some chance that the referendum could be cancelled and that Brexit could be blocked,” Johnson said, in a warning to MPs finalising legislation to block a no-deal chaotic Brexit. “The people who claim to be campaigning against no deal are making no deal more likely. That’s the problem,” he claimed. Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Kier Starmer disagreed with this stance, saying legislation was essential to prevent a damaging Brexit. “The legislation is intended to ensure we don’t leave without a deal, that will require an extension. The length of the extension is secondary, frankly. We have simply got to stop us leaving without a deal,” said Starmer. And, the EU’s lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier once again categorically rejected Johnson’s demands for the Irish backstop to be scrapped. Writing in ‘The Sunday Telegraph’, Barnier said: “On the EU side, we had intense discussions with EU member states on the need to guarantee the integrity of the EU’s single market, while keeping that border fully open. “In this sense, the backstop is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.” The clash over Brexit is set to dominate next week once Parliament resumes after its customary summer recess on Tuesday. With Johnson allowing only a few sitting days before suspension the following week, the Opposition MPs are plotting frenzied moves to ensure immediate action. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters took to the streets over the weekend for coordinated “Stop the Coup” demonstrations against the Parliament suspension confirmed earlier in the week. Protests were held in more than 30 towns and cities across the UK, including Edinburgh, Belfast, Cambridge, Exeter, Nottingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. Parts of central London were brought to a standstill, as people chanted: “Boris Johnson, shame on you”. They also staged a sit-down protest on the roads around Trafalgar Square, before marching to Buckingham Palace shouting: “Whose democracy? Our democracy.”
The ancient folklore of India has heartwarming lessons and stories to tell us. Delhi is gearing up for one such tale on the life of Meera and spiritual and cultural facets associated with it. The musical evening will be held on September 13, at Siri Fort Auditorium, and will be graced by eminent personalities like Hema Malini, Member of Parliament and Bollywood Actor; Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of Parliament; Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister, Delhi; Prathibha Prahlad, Bharatnatyam Dancer; Shyam Jaju, National Vice President BJP; Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner, Chile; Sir Geoffrey Adams,High Commissioner, Egypt; to name a few. Also Read – An income drop can harm brainA record 183 artists are set to perform with a crew of 300 Art of Living volunteers for ‘Meera – The Musical’, a contemporary take on the celebrated Bhakti saint, Meera Bai whose songs kindled devotion among millions. In the first of its kind musical, interspersed with dialogues in English and original soundtracks in Hindi, this 90-minute musical touches upon poignant moments of her victorious journey, with colourful dynamic sequences enriching the experience. Also Read – Shallu Jindal honoured with Mahatma AwardAs part of the musical, ten of her lesser-known compositions will be woven into an enchanting storyline. Original scores for the songs have been composed by popular musicians and singers of The Art of Living. The musical would also include classical dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Kathputali, Mayur, Ghoomar, Gair from Rajasthan and even contemporary forms like lyrical yoga. The musical is directed by Srividya Varchaswi, famed choreographer and artist based out of Bangalore. “The unique dance drama will not only be an enchanting opportunity for the viewers to witness a grand production but also an opportunity to support the fundamental cause of education,” says Srividya Varchaswi, adding, “The proceeds from the production will go towards supporting the education of over 70,000 students studying in 700+ free schools run by the Art of Living in tribal and rural areas of India.”
PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – Police say the search for a little boy who went missing in Prince Albert, Sask., is now a recovery operation.Sweetgrass Kennedy was last seen a week ago and Prince Albert police say witnesses and other evidence suggest the four-year-old fell into the North Saskatchewan River.Hundreds of volunteers initially looked for the boy in the community.Police later asked the volunteers to leave the search to professionals because of the dangers of the swiftly moving river.Inspector Jason Stonechild says searchers including aircraft and a dive team have not found any trace of the boy.Police estimate the search has covered 160 kilometres of riverbank. (CKBI, The Canadian Press)
MELVILLE, Sask. – A man, a woman and a baby are dead after a head-on crash in Saskatchewan.RCMP say it happened late on Canada Day when two cars collided on Highway 10 near Melville.A 24-year-old man from Melville who was driving one car and a 25-year-old woman from Yorkton who was driving the other vehicle, died at the scene.Three young children were also in the woman’s car, including a six-month-old boy who died in hospital.A seven-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy suffered serious injuries.Police are still investigating and say they will not be releasing the names or relationships between the occupants of the vehicles.
VICTORIA – British Columbia’s plan to get big money out of politics and shake off its reputation as the Wild West of election campaign financing comes with a potential cost to taxpayers of almost $30 million over the next five years.Attorney General David Eby introduced legislation Monday that bans donations to political parties by unions and corporations and caps donation limits by individuals at $1,200 annually.The proposed changes to the Election Act include a taxpayer-funded, five-year allowance to wean the parties off those donations, Eby said.Starting next year, political parties will receive $2.50 for every vote they got in the last election and funding will drop by 25 cents each year until 2021, the minister said.It means both the Liberal and New Democrat parties will receive just over $8.1 million over five years, while the Green party will get $3.4 million.The changes would also ensure that the parties that get at least 10 per cent of the vote are reimbursed for half of their expenses — an estimated cost of $11 million.Eby acknowledged the NDP did not fully address its position on a vote subsidy before or during the election campaign. He said the government considered implementing a permanent vote subsidy after the May election, similar to Quebec’s system, but decided on the five-year allowance instead.“This bill takes $65 million out of the political system going forward,” said Eby, referring to the estimated amount that B.C.’s political parties would have fundraised for over the next five years. “We guaranteed the public we would make 2017 that last big money election in B.C. We believe this bill achieves the goal.”He said the legislation also bans out-of-province donations and caps contributions to third-party advertisers. The proposed law does not permit political parties to use the money they have raised since last May’s election to be used in the next election, Eby said.Elections BC, the agency that monitors provincial elections, reported the Liberals raised $13.1 million in 2016, while the NDP took in $6.2 million and the Greens raised $757,268. None of the parties have officially disclosed how much money they have fundraised since the election.Premier John Horgan said the legislation will take big money out of B.C. politics.“The Wild West financing of the past will come to an end,” he said. “It’s time elections were decided by voters, not by those with the most money in the kitty. This bill is what we campaigned on.”Andrew Wilkinson said the Opposition Liberals will vote against the proposed bill, saying taxpayers should not be funding political parties.“This is a big disappointment,” he said.Green party caucus spokesman Adam Olsen said the influence of special interests through the lax campaign finance laws led to cynicism from those who felt their voices hadn’t been heard.“British Columbians should be able to trust their government to put them, not special interests, first,” he said in a news release. “This legislation is a big step towards restoring that trust.”Per-vote funding isn’t a new idea. The federal Liberal government introduced such a subsidy in 2004 after banning political donations from unions and corporations.The Conservatives vowed in 2008 to do away with the $1.95 per-vote subsidy, with then-prime minister Stephen Harper saying political parties should have to rely on support from individual citizens, not all taxpayers. The allowance was phased out and ended in 2015.
A volunteer firefighter was killed and two men trying to beat back flames on their property were injured in wind-whipped wildfires that scorched parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan and forced the evacuation of several communities.Officials with Cypress County in southeastern Alberta confirmed the death of James Hargrave, 34, who was with the Walsh fire station. He was helping to fight a fierce grass fire Tuesday that had been driven into Saskatchewan by winds gusting to 100 km/h.“He was an awesome fellow. He was very nice, kind and very considerate of the community and the people around him,” said Walsh resident Chris Sauer.“He ran a big ranch north of Walsh with his wife and four young children. He was just an all-around nice person.”Walsh had a listed population of 60 in the 2016 census. Sauer said everyone knows everybody.“It’s terrible. It will devastate the community for a while here. He’ll surely be missed.”Rick Friesen from Vauxhall, Alta., knew Hargrave when the two served together as delegates with the Alberta Beef Producers.“He was a great young guy. He was friendly, hard-working and a good family man. It’s a shame what happened to him and I feel for his family.”RCMP said Cypress County firefighters were assisting Saskatchewan crews when there was a crash around midnight involving a water truck and a pickup truck south of Burstall, Sask.Police said Hargrave was alone in the water truck and died at the scene. The driver of the pickup truck was not badly hurt.It wasn’t known if fire or smoke in the area were factors in the accident.“This tragic loss of life speaks to the danger that this emergency posed and also to the heroism of the volunteers who sacrifice in service of their neighbours,” Cpl. Curtis Peters said in a release.“The RCMP extends its deepest and most sincere condolences to the family of the deceased as well as his friends and colleagues in the Cypress County Fire Department.”The men trying to protect their land near Tompkins, Sask., were seriously injured and had to be transported to hospital in Calgary. The RCMP did not have an update Wednesday on the condition of the two, who are 43 and 27 years old.The executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency said Hargrave’s death outlines how dangerous grass fires can be.“It is a very dangerous business that they’re in. Last night’s events are a clear indication of that,” said Scott Long.“Grass fires, especially with that kind of wind, move at incredibly fast rates of speed and even professionals find themselves in precarious situations.”On Wednesday evening, provincial officials updated the number of homes lost to 14 —two in Stobart, four in Gleichen, one in Rockyview County, five in Acadia Valley and two on the Siksika First Nation. They said, however, that could go up as further assessments are done.All but one of the evacuations ordered during the height of the fires had been lifted by Wednesday.In Saskatchewan, residents of Leader and Burstall were allowed to return home and the fire near Tompkins was under control, although a farmhouse and barn were lost. There was also a loss of some livestock near Richmound.However, thousands of Saskatchewan residents were without electricity.One one local state of emergency remained in effect in Alberta in the Crowsnest Pass area of southwestern Alberta, where 150 people were forced from their homes in Coleman.While an evacuation order remained in place Wednesday, the mayor of Crowsnest Pass said things had calmed down somewhat.“The wind has died down. We’ve got helicopters bucketing the area,” Mayor Blair Painter said.“We were able to divert the fire so it hasn’t affected those areas. I’m hoping we’re able to get those people back just as soon as possible.”Painter said the blaze was probably caused by downed power lines as a result of strong winds.No one was injured and a welcome centre was set up in the nearby town of Pincher Creek, where more than 80 residents had registered.Painter said it was a wild scene when the fire started.“We had 130 kilometre-an-hour gusts. Probably about 100 kilometres an hour steady, and then gusts up to 130. Guys were even having a hard time standing up so, yeah, it was pretty scary.”Painter said it didn’t appear any homes burned down. Two barns and two outbuildings were confirmed lost to the fire. A fish hatchery also sustained roof damage from the wind.Alberta Agriculture and Forestry had 25 wildland firefighters supporting local fire departments. Four helicopters were being deployed.— Follow @BillGraveland on TwitterNote to readers: This is a corrected story to clarify that it was the firefighter who died in the Saskatchewan traffic accident. An earlier story based on RCMP information suggested a second man died in a single-vehicle collision in Saskatchewan.
OTTAWA – Cities looking for extra federal cash are being pushed to think outside the box and take some risks as part of a federal challenge that launches today.Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi is in Calgary to unveil what the government calls its “Smart Cities Challenge,” which will provide millions of dollars to communities that come up with the most interesting and innovative ideas.Other ministers will be in Ottawa and Montreal to make similar announcements.The ideas could be an after-school program for at-risk youth that lets them learn to write code; a mobile app to help seniors and caregivers co-ordinate transportation; or equipping homeless shelters with online learning hubs to help users find jobs.Whatever idea cities try, the government says the winning proposals must be scaleable and easy to replicate in other communities, must incorporate data and technology, and must establish measurable and achievable outcomes.But at its core, the challenge is designed to shift how cities think about delivering services and building infrastructure, and to encourage efforts to achieve a “much broader impact” on municipal planning.The Liberals first mentioned the challenge in this year’s budget, setting aside up to $80 million in prizes for winning communities and groups. The top prize will be $50 million; two prizes of up to $10 million each to cities with fewer than 500,000 residents; and a $5 million prize to cities with fewer than 30,000 residents.Cities will have to wait until 2019 to find out who wins.The program is modelled on a similar challenge in the United States two years ago to get cities to rethink their transit and transportation systems. The US$50 million program put an emphasis on use of technology, much as the Canadian version does.The American challenge came up in talks Sohi had with his U.S. counterparts prior to the Liberal government’s 2017 budget.
OTTAWA – Federal coffers would have to dole out more than $76 billion a year to provide every low-income household with a guaranteed minimum income if the government ever embarked on such a radical overhaul of the social safety net, Parliament’s budget watchdog said Tuesday.In a new report, the parliamentary budget officer estimated the federal government would have to find about $43.1 billion to cover the full cost of the program to top up the $32.9 billion Ottawa already spends on support to low-income Canadians.A guaranteed minimum income often means different things to different people, but at its core it can be described as a no-strings-attached benefit that governments provide to citizens instead of various targeted social benefits. It can be delivered as a universal payment, or as a means-tested benefit that declines in value as incomes rise.Spending $76 billion would affect more than 7.5 million people, who would receive on average $9,421 a year, with the maximum amount reaching $16,989 for individuals and $24,027 for couples, before deductions for any income earned.A government determined to institute the idea would have to decide what benefit programs to replace, the value of the benefit itself, and how to address some of the non-financial factors that affect poverty, said Mostafa Askari, the deputy parliamentary budget officer.“If politicians were to implement this, then they would have to really decide about the structure of this program,” he said.The federal Liberals have been lukewarm to the idea at a national level, arguing the Canada Child Benefit, among other measures, amounts to a guaranteed minimum income.A recurring theme in the government’s work on a poverty reduction strategy has been the need to modernize the social safety net and the 61 federal income support programs involving eight departments.The Liberals are unlikely to trade those programs for a basic income that, given equally to working age Canadians and seniors could leave the latter group with less money than they get now, said David Macdonald, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.“There is a temptation to just clear away the table and re-setup your own basic income that treats everyone the same across the board, but the danger in doing that is you end up with losers,” Macdonald said.Macdonald, who has studied basic incomes, said the concept isn’t a silver bullet to poverty eradication, but it can be part of the solution.Ontario is testing the idea and federal officials are keeping on a eye on the pilot project, the parameters of which formed the basis for the budget officer’s report released Tuesday.Hugh Segal, a former senator who helped design the Ontario pilot, said the numbers in the budget officer’s report suggest a federal program wouldn’t break the bank.The cost of a basic income system is a key concern from critics, as is worry that the money would act as a disincentive to work.Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre, who requested the budget estimates, tweeted that the report doesn’t eliminate that concern: “The welfare state apparatus remains & the financial penalties for working grow — the opposite of what basic income was supposed to do.”Segal, a former Conservative senator, said a basic income should receive all-party support if the Ontario test yields positive work outcomes and helps reduce government spending on health care, even from Tories who believe “people should get a step up and not a hand out.”“A step up is a base that then encourages them to work,” Segal said.“That’s what this is designed to do.”— Follow @jpress on Twitter.
LONGUEUIL, Que. – The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers says it plans to tap into its strategic reserves after a cold spring led to a drop in production.The federation of 13,700 producers says it harvested 53.5 million kilograms of maple syrup in the last season, down from the 69 million kilograms harvested in a record haul in 2017.It says the drop in production, which averaged out to what’s considered a low output of 1.14 kilograms per tap, came as a result of a late spring, very cold weather, and abundant snow.The federation says it will use its strategic maple syrup reserve to avoid wild price swings or supply shortages, but did not specify how much extra syrup it plans to release.Between 2003 and 2007 the federation fully depleted reserves of about 27.2 million kilograms after a series of relatively poor harvests.Quebec produces about 72 per cent of the world’s maple syrup, with the rest of Canada producing eight per cent and the United States producing 20 per cent.