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Saskatchewan’s carbon tax court challenge launches today

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When Scott Moe became premier of Saskatchewan, he vowed to do all he could to fight the federal government’s carbon pricing plan, stealing a famous political threat from a former prime minister: “Just watch me.”

Now, a year later, that battle — pitting several provinces against the federal government — will play out over two days in a Regina courtroom as the province’s Court of Appeal hears arguments Wednesday and Thursday on Saskatchewan’s constitutional challenge of the carbon tax.

The court will decide whether Ottawa has the jurisdiction to impose a price on carbon pollution in provinces that don’t have federally-approved plans of their own.

Most legal experts believe Saskatchewan doesn’t have a strong case. That may not matter to the provincial government itself, or to the governments in Ontario and New Brunswick that are backing Saskatchewan’s court play.

Saskatchewan’s justice minister makes no secret of the fact that the constitutional challenge is at least partly about sending a message to voters.

“Politically, it’s important for the message to the people of our province that we are sticking up for them, that this is something that’s fundamentally important to us as an oil-producing, energy-exporting province,” Don Morgan told CBC News.

‘See? We’re fighting for you’

Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said he suspects Saskatchewan would be content to lose the case in court — because that would make it easier to “go back to their own constituents in their own province to say, ‘See? We’re fighting for you’.”

For the federal government, Bratt said, the stakes are higher — with an election looming this fall and both Liberals and Conservatives looking to use carbon pricing as an issue to galvanize supporters.

“If they lose this case, even if they appeal it, they will have to spend time on the hustings trying to explain why they lost and why they’re going to appeal it,” Bratt said. “It would really put a damper on climate change efforts by the federal government.”

Odds are, however, that this constitutional challenge will end up in front of the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Almost all [federal environmental laws] have been upheld by the courts in the last 50 years, with the only exception being one obscure section of the Fisheries Act, which was struck down in 1980,” said Stewart Elgie, professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa.

The court proceedings will be divided over two days, with the anti-carbon price arguments happening on Wednesday, along with interventions from Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta’s opposition United Conservative Party.

Thursday will be devoted to the government’s arguments, with interventions from British Columbia, the Assembly of First Nations, the Canadian Public Health Association and several environmental groups.

The voters’ verdict comes first

All of the arguments will be live-streamed by CBC News, after the court approved a media request from the CBC and other outlets.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the public attention doesn’t bother her at all.

“I think transparency is great,” she told CBC News.

“We need to have a conversation about this. We need to stop having these Conservative politicians fighting everyone else on serious climate action. I don’t want to fight in court. I want to fight climate change.”

McKenna added that the decision on Ottawa’s climate plan ultimately will be in the hands of voters this year, while she agrees the constitutional challenge will end up on the Supreme Court’s plate.

“This certainly is not the end of the story,” McKenna said.

Assuming nothing else changes, the carbon pricing plan will be back before the courts in April, when a court challenge instigated by the province of Ontario begins.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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