Committee dispute and unusual Alberta Goodwill find: In The News for Oct. 21

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Oct. 21 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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A dispute over the scope and composition of a House of Commons committee will come to a head today in a vote that could trigger a federal election in the midst of the second deadly wave of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has declared that the vote on a Conservative motion to create a special anticorruption committee will be test of confidence in his minority Liberal government.

The Conservatives are willing to drop "anticorruption" from the name of their proposed committee but the intent remains the same: to create a disproportionately opposition-dominated committee to investigate the WE Charity affair and other issues the official Opposition maintains reek of the government funnelling pandemic-related funding to Liberal friends.

The motion would give the committee broad powers to call witnesses, including the prime minister and other ministers, and to demand documents on a range of issues, including the speaking fees earned by Trudeau's mother and brother over the past 12 years.

The Liberals maintain the committee would amount to a time-consuming fishing expedition that would paralyze the government when it should be focused on helping Canadians get through the second wave of the pandemic.

They've proposed their own special committee to examine all government pandemic-related spending, including but not exclusively the WE affair and other matters the Opposition deems suspicious.

The Bloc Quebecois is planning to support the Conservative motion but NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh refused Tuesday to give a clear indication of what his party will do.

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Also this ...

A United Nations expert says proposed Canadian legislation that would ban forcing children or adults into therapy to alter their sexual orientation or gender identity could help further LGBTQ2 rights globally.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity tells The Canadian Press that bills such as the one tabled by the federal Liberals earlier this month are one of the most effective ways to protect and advance LGBTQ2 rights.

The bill aims to ban so-called conversion therapy, which involves forcing a person into therapy against their will.

Among other things, the bill would make it illegal to profit from providing conversion therapy or to advertise it.

The bill has the support of Canada's main political leaders, but new Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has accused the government of introducing a divisive piece of legislation just as he was taking over the party.

Some Conservative MPs have vocally opposed an earlier version of the bill.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

President Donald Trump is hopping from one must-win stop on the electoral map to the next in the leadup to a final presidential debate that may be his last, best chance to alter the trajectory of the 2020 campaign.

Democrat Joe Biden has been taking the opposite approach, holing up for debate prep in advance of Thursday's faceoff in Nashville. Trump, trailing in polls in most battleground states, stopped in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and was bound for North Carolina on Wednesday as he delivers what his campaign sees as his closing message.

"This is an election between a Trump super recovery and a Biden depression," the president said in Erie, Pennsylvania. "You will have a depression the likes of which you have never seen." He added: "If you want depression, doom and despair, vote for Sleepy Joe. And boredom."

But the president's pitch that he should lead the rebuilding of an economy ravaged by the pandemic has been overshadowed by a series of fights. In the last two days he has attacked the nation's leading infectious disease expert and a venerable TV newsmagazine while suggesting that the country was tired of talking about a virus that has killed more than 220,000 Americans.

Before leaving the White House for Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Trump taped part of an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that apparently ended acrimoniously. On Twitter, the president declared his interview with Lesley Stahl to be "FAKE and BIASED," and he threatened to release a White House edit of it before its Sunday airtime.

Also trailing in fundraising for campaign ads, Trump is increasingly relying on his signature campaign rallies to maximize turnout among his GOP base. His trip to Pennsylvania on Tuesday was one of what is expected to be several visits to the state in the next two weeks.

"If we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing," Trump said in Erie.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

The president of the International Crisis Group used a high-level UN Security Council meeting attended by China’s foreign minister Tuesday to appeal for the release of the think-tank ’s northeast Asia expert, Michael Kovrig, who has been held by Beijing for nearly two years as part of a diplomatic dispute with Canada.

Robert Malley told the council at the end of his briefing on security in the Persian Gulf that the Crisis Group strives to be "an impartial conflict resolution organization" and its staff tries to understand the perspectives of all parties.

"That’s what our colleague Michael Kovrig was doing in his work on China’s foreign policy," Malley said.

He said it wasn’t the time or place to discuss Kovrig’s case, "but I cannot conclude without appealing to the Chinese authorities, if they are listening, to understand the mission he was pursuing, end his almost two-year detention, allow him at long last to be reunited with his loved ones and continue his work toward a more peaceful world."

The participants at the virtual council meeting were shown on the screen, and when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi heard China mentioned he looked up and paid attention. But he made no mention of Kovrig in his speech to the council.

German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen did, echoing Malley’s appeal "to liberate Michael Kovrig."

"He is not only a member of the International Crisis Group, but a former colleague of ours, a former diplomat," Heusgen said.

Britain’s acting ambassador, Jonathan Allen, echoed Heusgen, saying Kovrig’s case "causes us deep concern."

On Oct. 10, China granted consular access to Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, both Canadians, for the first time since January.

The following day, the Canadian government expressed serious concern at their "arbitrary detention" and called for their immediate release.

China’s Foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, denied on Oct. 12 that the two Canadians had been arbitrarily detained in response to Canada’s arrest of an executive of Chinese technology giant Huawei. He said Kovrig and Spavor were "suspected of engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security."

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On this day in 2004 ...

The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled the world's first coloured circulation coin, a quarter that featured a red poppy embedded in the centre of a Maple Leaf, in homage to the 117,000 Canadians who had died serving the nation.

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In business news ...

Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year.

The subsidiary of Restaurant Brands International Inc. will instead provide customers with a cup sleeve, a thick paper material that protects hands from hot beverages.

Hope Bagozzi, chief marketing officer at Tim Hortons, says cup sleeves will be used by default for hot beverages like tea and espresso and can be requested for other warm drinks.

She says customers who ask for a beverage to be double cupped will now be asked to consider using a sleeve instead.

Bagozzi says the company expects that stopping the practice of double cupping will save roughly 200 million cups from being tossed in the garbage every year.

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ICYMI ...

A more than four-decade-old narwhal tusk found in a Goodwill donation pile is about to get a new home at the University of Calgary.

Goodwill is giving the 60-centimetre-long spiral canine tooth from a marine mammal often dubbed the "unicorn of the sea" to the university's Arctic Institute of North America.

Goodwill spokeswoman Shannon Black says the tusk had federal hunting tags from 1978 attached that say the animal was harvested from the central Arctic.

She says it's not known who donated it and she can't speculate as to whether its most recent owner knew how valuable it is.

The not-for-profit, which raises money for people with disabilities, receives precious donations from time to time, including a collection of Second World War medals last year and an authentic Louis Vuitton bag a few months ago.

Goodwill is to hand off the tusk to the institute at a closed celebration, in keeping with COVID-19 guidelines.

"We're just so honoured that we were able to ensure and secure the right home for it. We're looking forward for it to be a teaching tool for years to come and hopefully helping to preserve the integrity of narwhal whales in Canada's Arctic," said Black, Goodwill's brand manager in the Calgary region.

Shannon Christoffersen, the Arctic Institute's manager of data and information services, got the surprising email from Goodwill about a month ago.

"You don't really hear about narwhal tusks getting dropped off at Goodwill," she said.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2020

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