41% of Albertans plan to spend less on Christmas this year

‘Tis the season of giving’, but some Albertans are tightening their purse strings this Christmas and say the weak economy is to blame.

A recent survey commissioned by ATB Financial shows four in ten Albertans (41 per cent) intend to spend less on gifts this holiday season, compared to what they spent last year.

Of those who are planning to cutback, 19 per cent said they will spend a lot less than last year and 22 per cent said they will spend somewhat less.

About half of Albertans (48 per cent) said they plan to spend about the same as in 2015.

Among those planning to reduce their holiday spending, 84 per cent said they are doing so “because of the economic downturn.” As of October, Alberta’s unemployment rate is 8.5 per cent, higher than the national average of 7 per cent.

READ MORE: 37% of Calgarians say quality of life has worsened in last 3 years: survey

“Amid the holiday cheer – which we could really use – will be an undertone of sadness as the economic downturn makes life harder for many Albertans,” ATB Chief Economist Todd Hirsch said in the survey results.

Albertans with a lower income were more likely to be cutting back this holiday season. About 44 per cent of people in households with annual income under $40,000 are planning to spend less, while 34 per cent of those with household incomes over $100,000 are planning to do the same.

READ MORE: Alberta’s tough economy sees spike in number of Santa School students

“There are signs that the provincial economy will pull itself out of recession next year, but this is cold comfort for those who are struggling in the here and now,” Hirsch said.

The survey also asked Albertans about their Christmas travel plans. The majority (69 per cent) said they don’t plan to hit the road. Of those staying home, 58 per cent cited the poor economy as the reason.

READ MORE: Travelling for the holidays? Here’s how to make it cheap and stress-free

The Albertans who are planning to get away for the holidays said they were mainly planning to visit another part of Canada, head to the United States or stay within the province.

“The drop in retail spending is just one indication of the recession’s impact but it is a good reminder that it’s real people who feel it,” Hirsch said.

“From the owners, managers, employees and suppliers of retail stores to the tens of thousands of Albertans wondering how they are going to get by this winter, the “r word” is not an abstraction.”

The results came from an Ipsos poll of 802 Albertans, conducted online between Nov. 1 to Nov. 7, on behalf of ATB Financial.

The poll is accurate to within +/- 4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Weighting was employed to balance demographics to ensure the sample’s composition reflected that of the adult population, according to Census data.

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Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr sells Kinder Morgan, Enbridge Line 3 pipelines in Edmonton

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr continued his pipeline sales mission in Alberta Thursday, addressing the Alberta Enterprise Group in Edmonton.

The federal government approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain and Enbridge Line 3 pipelines Tuesday.

Watch below: Alberta’s embattled oil industry got some good news from Ottawa Tuesday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given the green light to two major pipeline expansion projects.Tom Vernon reports.

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    Carr said the announcement brings new hope to the thousands of Albertans who work in the energy sector.

    “We must never lose sight of why we’re doing it, what it’s all about: it’s about people, their families, their livelihoods, their identity, and for a long in Alberta too many people have suffered because of the loss of opportunity for them and their families,” Carr said.

    “We want to acknowledge that that is a principle motivation of the decisions we have announced and it will be implemented as we move forward.”

    READ MORE: Calgary, Alberta oilpatch applaud Trudeau pipeline approvals

    Carr noted the climate plan put forward by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley provided the building blocks for the pipeline projects.

    The minister said the approval of the pipelines adheres to the federal government’s mandate to create middle class jobs while protecting the environment.

    “Fulfilling the mandate means listening to Canadians, it means taking climate change seriously, it means encouraging economic growth and at its core it means that the environment and the economy are not competing interests or values, they are complimentary elements in a single engine of innovation.”

    READ MORE: Canada’s emissions targets now a pipe dream following pipeline approvals: environmentalists

    Carr also noted Canada should use its bountiful resources to help pay for the transition to a lower-carbon economy and that projects like the Trans Mountain and Enbridge Lines can’t pit one region of the country against another.

    “We know that these opinions are firmly held, that people believe that they are right and they’re prepared to express their opinions forcefully, powerfully, but ultimately we can never make a decision based on a regional point of view,” Carr said.

    “It is Canada’s interest, it is a national point of view that drives the decisions we make.”

    Watch below: Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr stopped by Global Edmonton on Thursday for a one-on-one interview with Gord Steinke just two days after his government approved two major pipeline projects.

    Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson echoed some of the minister’s thoughts, saying pipeline projects are good for treasuries across Canada and will fund a transition to a low-carbon economy.

    “We make it needlessly harder for ourselves to achieve that lower carbon future if we tie one hand behind our backs when it comes to energy infrastructure,” Iveson said.

    Iveson added there is a fundamental misunderstanding about how committed Albertans are to environmental stewardship.

    READ MORE: TransMountain, Line 3 are moving forward – they could still face major delays

    The $6.8-billion Trans Mountain expansion would see the capacity of a pipeline that runs from the Edmonton area to Burnaby, B.C., nearly triple, to 890,000 barrels per day.

    The Line 3 replacement project would see the pipeline roughly double its current output to 760,000 barrels per day.

    The federal government rejected Northern Gateway which would have shipped up to 525,000 barrels of crude per day from the Edmonton area to Kitimat, B.C., for export to Asian markets.

    Carr said the decision to halt that project demonstrates the government’s commitment to environmental stewardship and and respecting cultural practices of indigenous people.

Committee suggests penalizing political parties that don’t run enough women

A special all-party committee examining Canada’s electoral system says parties should be rewarded, or penalized, financially depending on how many women they run on the ballot.

The idea is not a new one, but it may be getting new life through the committee’s report to Parliament, which was tabled in Ottawa on Thursday.

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The document’s big headline was the recommendation that the Trudeau government design a new proportional voting system and hold a national referendum to gauge how many Canadians would support it.

But buried in the 333 pages were several other suggestions, and one was aimed at tackling a perennial problem: the low proportion of women in the House of Commons. It currently sits at 26 per cent.

“The Committee recommends that the Government amend the Canada Elections Act to create a financial incentive (for example through reimbursement of electoral campaign expenses) for political parties to run more women candidates and move towards parity in their nominations,” the report states.

READ MORE: Where are all the women on House of Commons committees?

NDP MP Kennedy Stewart proposed this same idea as part of a private member’s bill, Bill C-237, which was defeated in late October after the majority of the Liberal caucus did not support it. The Conservatives voted against the bill, while the NDP and the Greens voted in favour of moving it to second reading.

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Specifically, the bill would have amended the Elections Act to reduce the reimbursement any party receives for its election expenses if there is more than a 10 per cent difference in the number of male and female candidates on its list of candidates.

Currently, parties can receive a reimbursement of 50 per cent of their election expenses after those expenses are reported to Elections Canada and if they’ve followed all the rules.

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef explained that her party felt it was important to wait until the committee on electoral reform had issued its report, “and then we can address this conversation (about gender parity) through a different means.”

That may now occur, with the recommendation written in black-and-white from the committee. The group included several Liberal members.

WATCH: ‘Daughters of the Vote’ aims at involving more women in politics

The document made public on Thursday also tackles some of the reasons why women don’t move forward with the nomination process, even if they’re actively recruited by parties.

One expert, University of Calgary political science professor Melanee Thomas, told the committee members that “money matters” for women looking to make the leap into politics.

Thomas suggested that limiting the amount of money that can be used in a nomination contest, focusing on developing personal networks for women in riding associations, and funding child care and related expenses at the nomination stage would encourage more women to run.

“Women tell us that money becomes a barrier also at that nomination stage, and it matters in ways that don’t matter for men,” Thomas said.

“It’s not just about getting money for getting on the ballot and mounting a campaign, but for things like after-hours child care. It’s for things like hair and clothes and the whole presentation in which women are required to engage in ways that men aren’t.”

Son of Cirque du Soleil co-founder dies after accident at ‘Luzia’ show in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO – Officials say a technician with the Cirque du Soleil Luzia show who died after being hit in the head by an aerial lift Tuesday is the son of one of the founders of the show.

In a statement from Cirque du Soleil, officials confirmed that 42-year-old Olivier Rochette of Quebec died Tuesday night in San Francisco.

According to the statement, his immediate family, including his father Gilles Ste-Croix, one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil, has been informed of the accident.

“I am heartbroken. I wish to extend in my name and in the name of all Cirque du Soleil employees my sincerest sympathies and offer my full support to Gilles and his family. Oliver has always been a member of our tight family and a truly beloved colleague,” said CEO Daniel Lamarre.

WATCH: Crew member dies after accident at Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia show in San Francisco

Police say officers with San Francisco Police Department Traffic Collision Investigation Unit and investigators with the state’s workplace safety regulator, Cal/OSHA, are investigating.

Julia Bernstein of Cal/OSHA said Wednesday that the employee was struck in the head by an aerial device. The agency had no further information.

The Tuesday and Wednesday night shows were cancelled.

Many on social media offered condolences following the news of Rochette’s death.

Cirque du Soleil has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from nearly 50 different countries.

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Louisiana man charged in ‘gruesome’ killing, dismembering of parents on Thanksgiving weekend

BATON ROUGE, La. — A 28-year-old man was arrested in Louisiana on charges of killing and dismembering his parents at their Tennessee home.

Joel Michael Guy Jr. was arrested Tuesday on a fugitive warrant in Baton Rouge, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office said. He’s accused of killing his parents, Joel Michael Guy Sr., 61, and Lisa Guy, 55. They are believed to have been killed Friday or Saturday.

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The Tennessee sheriff’s office, in a news release, said both victims were stabbed and dismembered, with remains found in multiple rooms in the house. Portions of the remains were discovered in an acid-based solution, in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence.

“Both suffered multiple, vicious stab wounds as well as dismemberment,” sheriff’s Maj. Michael MacLean tells WBIR-TV.

He called the crime scene “gruesome.”

“It would be described as horrific — a very gruesome crime scene,” said MacLean, adding that there was no indication why the remains were scattered.

Authorities said the suspect, who lives in Baton Rouge and attended LSU until last year, had visited his parents for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The parents were last seen Friday. Signs indicate they struggled, said MacLean, who added that authorities believe Guy stayed in the house after the bodies were dismembered.

Investigators spent much of Monday going through the couple’s home after they were told the mother didn’t show up for work.

MacLean said authorities with the FBI, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office placed Guy under surveillance during the past few days and apprehended him at his Baton Rouge apartment Tuesday when he tried to get into his 2006 Hyundai Sonata.

Guy has declined to talk with authorities. Online jail records did not list an attorney for him.

MacLean has said Guy allegedly needed money and met with his parents to discuss that issue. He said Guy has two sisters in Maryville and another in Kingsport. The sheriff’s office spoke with them but they told investigators their brother didn’t give them any indication that anything was wrong.

Officials expect to return him to Knox County in the next couple of days.

Drake tops 2016 Spotify streams with over 4 billion plays

Drake “started from the bottom” and now he’s here, reaching Spotify god status and shattering the platform’s records.

One-upping Michael Jackson’s 12 American Music Award nominations isn’t the only record Drizzy set this year. The Canadian-born rapper is the most streamed artist of 2016 on Spotify with a whopping 4.7 billion individual plays.

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READ MORE: Drake cancels remaining Summer Sixteen Tour dates due to ankle injury

You can always count on Drake to “take care” of business these days, setting the standard for Spotify’s most viewed album Views (2.45 billion streams) and the most streamed song, One Dance (970 million streams).

Comprising the rest of the top five most-streamed albums of 2016 are, in order: Justin Bieber’s Purpose, Rihanna’s Anti, Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface and The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness.

Rounding out the top five most streamed songs are: Mike Posner’s I Took a Pill in Ibiza – Seeb Remix, The Chainsmokers’ Don’t Let Me Down, Rihanna and Drake’s Work and Sia’s Cheap Thrills.

READ MORE: Drake, Justin Bieber take home hardware at American Music Awards

And if topping multiple Spotify streaming records in 2016 wasn’t enough, Drake is also the single most streamed act of all-time with an internet-shattering 8.7 billion streams.

Plus, snagging his own unique award is former One Direction heartthrob Zayn Malik – Spotify’s top breakout artist.

Busy doing Canada proud, Drake may sneak in more streams before the end of the calendar year with the anticipated release of his new playlist project More Life – although no release date has been confirmed as of yet.

Family, friends remember Quebec superior court judge Fraser Martin

Family and friends are gathering to remember Quebec Superior Court Judge Fraser Martin, known for presiding over prominent cases such as the first-degree murder trial of former Concordia University professor Valery Fabrikant.

“If he could have, he would have wrapped us all up in bubble wrap and kept us safe from anything that was happening out in the world,” said Anna Mai Norwell, Martin’s widow.

“He knew what was happening with the job he had.”

Martin died of cancer at the age of 77.

He immigrated to Canada with his family from Greenock, Scotland at the age of 14.

Quebec Superior Court Judge Fraser Martin died at the age off 77 after battling cancer.

Martin Family

Martin attended Sir George Williams University and taught Grade 6 in Pointe-St-Charles before completing a law degree at McGill University in 1964.

The longtime Hudson resident was named to the bench in 1983 and retired two years ago.

“Probably one of the best judges in the province of Quebec in the Superior Court, if not one of the best judge’s across Canada,” said Philip Schneider, defence lawyer.

Martin is survived by his wife, Norwell, children Micheline, Derek, Francine and Colette, as well as eight grandchildren.

“He would just read all the time and so, you would come thinking you knew a little bit about something and you would sit down with him and be like, ‘oh, I didn’t know,’” said Alex Angelini, Martin’s grandson.

The services are taking place at 434 Main Rd., Hudson.

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Here’s what Canadian senators spend your money on

The Canadian Senate has been working to improve transparency since the expense scandal, and has started releasing quarterly reports outlining senators’ spending.

The expenditures report is divided into five sections: office expenses (excluding salary), hospitality expenses, living expenses in the Ottawa region, travel, and contracts. Detailed information is available for some, but not all of the claimed expenses.

READ MORE: What to expect as ‘modernization’ comes to the Senate

The first report summarizes expenses from July 1 — Sept. 30. Expenses range from small gifts to $54 for alcohol, to $660 for an annual New York Times subscription.

Here are some of the expenses taxpayers are on the hook for.

WATCH: How do we prevent ‘confusion’ in future Senate expense claims? 

Artwork 

The cost to rent and install artwork isn’t cheap, as a number of senators’ expense details show.

$6,205 — Independent Sen. Andre Pratt, Quebec, artwork rental and installation.

READ MORE: Patrick Brazeau not impressed with Senate spending accusations

$6,060 — Independent Sen. Chantal Petitclerc, Quebec, artwork rental and installation.

$2,100 — Independent Sen. Ratna Omidvar, Ontario, artwork rental.

WATCH: Mike Duffy back in the Senate claiming living expenses 

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    Hospitality expenses

    Three senators expensed more than $1,000 in the time period for hospitality, while many — including newly returned Sen. Mike Duffy — claimed none at all.

    $1,564.14 — Tory Sen. Yonah Martin just might be the hostess with the mostest, coming in on top for spending on hospitality. The expenses include more than $150 at the Parliament Hill boutique on three gifts, and the rest on catering for five community events and a business meeting.

    READ MORE: Oversight for Senate spending being considered

    $1,339.55 — Tory Sen. Dennis Glen Patterson, Nunavut, expensed costs for 12 business meetings and other events.

    $1,056.71 — Tory Sen. Tobias C. Enverga Jr., Ontario, expensed more than a grand for a community event for 268 guests.

    WATCH: What’s the point of the Senate if the government rejects amendments to important bills? 

    Office Expenses 

    Office expenses include things such as service contracts, furniture and office supplies.

    $11,580.82 — Sen. Yonah Martin, who has been a senator since 2009, also claimed the most for office expenses. A good chunk of that change, $4,080, was for artwork rental.

    READ MORE: Ex-Canadian senator’s 27-year-old widow could collect millions in pension

    $9,947.38 — Tory Sen. Dennis Glen Patterson, Nunavut, no information for expenses available.

    $8,244.97 — Tory Sen. Nany Green-Raine, B.C., no information for expenses available.

    WATCH: Senate staffers get sweeter severance than others 

    Travel expenses 

    Travel expenses include transportation, meal allowances and accommodation.

    $23,229.39 — Tory Sen. David M. Wells, Newfoundland and Labrador, expensed the most for travel of all the senators. Wells resides in St. John’s. The breakdown of his costs include $11,892 for his own travel, $7,810 for “designated traveller” and $3,525 for “dependant(s).”

    READ MORE: Duffy to return to Senate after 3-year hiatus

    $20,306.38 — Independent Sen. Nick G. Sibbeston, Northwest Territories, came second for most travel expenses.

    $18,464.31 — Tory Sen. Thanh Hai Ngo, Ontario, came third for travel expenses.

What you need to know about proportional representation

An all-party committee has recommended that the federal government design a new electoral system and put it to the public in a national referendum.

READ MORE: Canada should hold referendum on electoral reform – Election committee

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    The new system would be a form of proportional representation. Although the details would have to be determined by the government, this voting system comes in two main flavours and it’s likely that whatever is proposed would resemble one of them.

    One way proportional representation works is a voter casts a ballot for a party, as opposed to voting for a prospective MP under a party banner, as the current system prescribes.

    Once all the votes are counted, parties are awarded a number of seats in proportion to the percentage of votes each received.

    A form of this type of proportional representation is used in Sweden, though parties must receive at least four per cent of the vote to get a seat in the national legislature. There are currently eight political parties represented in the Swedish parliament. Coalitions and alliances between different parties are common.

    However, the Special Committee on Electoral Reform recommended that Canada not adopt this model as “such systems sever the connection between voters and their MP.”

    WATCH: Election committee calls for proportional voting, referendum

    The second model, called “mixed-member proportional representation” is more complicated. This is a hybrid system that combines the above with some single-member ridings. Several years ago, Elections Ontario proposed the province adopt this system, but it didn’t pass a referendum.

    As described by the electoral body, the system would allow voters to cast one ballot for a candidate in their riding and a second ballot for their preferred party. The first vote determines, more or less, who sits in the legislature based on the second ballot which determines how many seats the party will fill.

    In the end, if a party ends up with fewer seats than it should have based on its overall popularity, they would get some “top up” members from an already established party list.

    Germany’s national elections work like this. Candidates who win in a regional district get a seat in the Bundestag, which ensures some regional representation, and more seats are allocated according to a party’s share of the vote — provided they get at least five per cent of the vote or three direct constituency seats. Unlike in Canada, German elections are often followed by coalition negotiations, because individual parties don’t generally get a majority of seats in the election.

    WATCH: Electoral reform committee recommends against mandatory, online voting

    Proponents of proportional representation say that it’s fairer than the existing first-past-the-post system. If a party gets 25 per cent of the votes, it would get 25 per cent of the seats.

    If we apply that rule to Canada’s last federal election, we’d end up with significantly different results.

    Right now, the party standings are:

    Liberals: 182
    Conservatives: 97
    NDP: 44
    Bloc Quebecois: 10
    Green Party: 1

    If each party had the number of seats that corresponded directly to its share of the popular vote — the simplest form of proportional representation — smaller parties with broad national support would benefit. It would look more like this:

    Liberals: 134
    Conservatives: 108
    NDP: 67
    Bloc Quebecois: 16
    Green Party: 11
    Other: 2

    We can’t know yet what electoral system will be proposed, and whether it will gain support from the Canadian public, but it’s possible that future elections and election results could look quite different under proportional representation.

    — With files from Amy Minsky

Nova Scotia public split on who to support in teachers dispute: poll

Nova Scotians are divided over which side to support in the ongoing dispute between teachers and the government, according to a recent Corporate Research Associates poll.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia premier recorded ‘disappointed’ video before contract talks with teachers collapsed

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In a poll of 401 adults in the province, CRA found that 47 per cent of residents either completely or mostly support the teachers taking strike action. Fourty-four per cent mostly or completely oppose strike action, and eight per cent either didn’t give an opinion, or did not know.

Nova Scotia teachers announced Monday they’ll be starting to work-to-rule on Monday, Dec. 5.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia teachers’ 16 contract demands and what the province says they cost

CRA said most who did support teachers taking job action were women and residents younger than 55.

“It is apparent that both the government and the Union are in a no-win situation with the public in their current labour dispute,” said CRA chairperson and CEO Don Mills.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) and government have been at odds for several months. Teachers have rejected two tentative agreements recommended by their union, then last month voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia students to stage classroom walkout Friday

The most recent round of talks between the government and the NSTU broke down last Friday, with the union leaving the table saying the province wasn’t willing to truly negotiate.

The main sticking points for teachers, who have been without a collective agreement since 2015, are working conditions, wages and the long-service award — three things the government says they are not willing to make concessions on.

The survey was conducted between Nov. 9 and Nov. 29. Results are considered accurate to within 4.9 percentage points, or 95 out of 100 times.

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