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WE Charity documents and Gaza's power plant shut; In The News for Aug. 19


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 Aug. 19 ...

What we are watching in Canada ... 

Thousands of pages of newly released documents back up the Trudeau government's contention that it was federal public servants who recommended a student service grant program be administered by WE Charity.

But they also suggest bureaucrats may have been nudged to look in that direction by their political masters.

The documents were released late Tuesday afternoon to members of the House of Commons finance committee, on the orders of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he announced he was proroguing Parliament until Sept. 23.

Prorogation puts a temporary end to the four committees that have spent the summer probing how a charity with close connections to Trudeau's family was chosen to administer a multimillion-dollar program to encourage students to volunteer in pandemic-related community service.

The controversy over the now-abandoned program has spawned investigations by the federal ethics watchdog into possible conflict of interest on the part of Trudeau and his former finance minister, Bill Morneau, who also has close family ties to WE Charity.

The 5,000-plus pages of government documents were tabled with the finance committee almost two weeks ago but had not been released to committee members because legal counsel was still vetting them to ensure there were no breaches of cabinet confidences or personal privacy.


Also this ...

Statistics Canada will say today what the country's inflation barometer read in July.

The consumer price index was up 0.7 per cent in June compared with a year earlier, following two months of negative readings.

The turnaround from May to June matched the fastest acceleration in the so-called headline inflation reading since March 2011, but still left the measure well below the Bank of Canada's two per cent target.

The jump to July isn't expected to be as sharp.

Financial data firm Refinitiv says the average economist estimate is for a year-over-year increase of 0.5 per cent.

The Bank of Canada forecast last month that annual inflation will be 0.6 per cent this year and vowed to maintain its key interest rate at the lower limit of 0.25 per cent until inflation hits the central bank's two per cent target.


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

Democrats formally nominated Joe Biden as their presidential candidate Tuesday night, with party elders, a new generation of politicians and voters in every state joining together in an extraordinary, pandemic-cramped virtual convention to send him into the general election campaign to oust President Donald Trump.

For someone who has spent more than three decades eyeing the presidency, the moment was the realization of a long-sought goal. But it played out in a way that the 77-year-old Biden couldn't have imagined just months ago as the coronavirus pandemic prompted profound change across the country and in his presidential campaign.

Instead of a Milwaukee convention hall as initially planned, the roll call of convention delegates played out in a combination of live and recorded video feeds from American landmarks packed with meaning: Alabama's Edmund Pettus Bridge, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, a Puerto Rican community still recovering from a hurricane and Washington's Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Biden celebrated his new status as the Democratic nominee alongside his wife and grandchildren in a Delaware school library. His wife of more than 40 years, Jill Biden, later spoke of her husband in deeply personal terms, reintroducing the lifelong politician as a man of deep empathy, faith and resilience to American voters less than three months before votes are counted.

"There are times when I couldn't imagine how he did it — how he put one foot in front of the other and kept going," she said. "But I've always understood why he did it. He does it for you."

The convention's most highly anticipated moments will unfold on the next two nights. Kamala Harris will accept her nomination as Biden's running mate on Wednesday, the first Black woman to join a major party ticket. Former President Barack Obama will also speak as part of his stepped-up efforts to defeat his successor.

Biden will deliver his acceptance speech Thursday night in a mostly empty convention hall near his Delaware home.


What we are watching in the world ...

Gaza's sole power plant shut down Tuesday, leaving the territory's 2 million residents with only around four hours of electricity a day after Israel cut off fuel supplies in response to incendiary balloons launched by Palestinian militants.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007. The balloons, launched across the frontier by Hamas-affiliated groups, have set farmland ablaze, prompting retaliatory strikes by Israel.

On Tuesday evening, Palestinian militants launched a rocket from the Gaza Strip toward Israeli territory, the Israeli military said. There were no reports of casualties or damage.

In response, the army said it bombed Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including "a military compound belonging to one of the special arrays" belonging to the militant group.

Hamas is demanding, through Egyptian and Qatari mediators, that Israel take steps to further ease a crippling blockade it imposed when the militants seized control from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

Instead, Israel has tightened the blockade in response to the attacks, closing the main commercial crossing into the coastal territory and barring fishermen from taking to the sea.


On this day in 1998 ...

The McDonald's restaurant in Squamish, B.C., became the first outlet of the fast-food giant in North America to be unionized as the CAW was certified. Just a year later, employees voted to oust the union.


In entertainment news ...

Saskatchewan singer-songwriter Andy Shauf has landed a spot on Barack Obama's coveted summer playlist.

The breezy track "Neon Skyline," from Shauf's newest album of the same name, joined a selection of songs from powerhouse acts that include Billie Holiday, Sheryl Crow, Billie Eilish and Beyonce.

Each summer, the former U.S. president unveils a selection of his favourite songs of the season.

Most of the artists are household names, but Obama often leaves room to showcase a few lesser-known acts, much to their surprise.

Shauf says he learned about his placement when a listener tagged him on Instagram shortly after Obama revealed the playlist on social media.

"It's cool to think that Obama, or the Obamas together, have listened to my music," he says. "It's a really nice feeling to think my music has gone that far."


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2020

The Canadian Press

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