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Taking shots at Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole enters Conservative leadership race

CALGARY — Erin O’Toole, a former Canadian Armed Forces airman, entered the Conservative leadership race on Monday taking a shot at one of his main rivals.

O’Toole positioned himself as a true Conservative compared to Peter MacKay, who he said will turn the Tories into a “Liberal-party lite.”

“That’s not how we will win,” O’Toole said in an interview.

O’Toole announced he was entering the race on Monday by video, joining up as a presumptive front-runner alongside MacKay, a former Nova Scotia MP. While describing MacKay as a friend, O’Toole attacked the former cabinet minister’s politics, saying he’d make the Conservative Party of Canada more centrist as a member of the “left side” of the Tory movement.

In a party that’s been fractured over its identity — there has already been controversy over the role of social conservatism  — O’Toole is billing himself as a “true blue” conservative.

“Do we go back and be the mushy middle party?” asked O’Toole. “Or do we have conservative, principled ideas for all the issues of the day, from the economy, from foreign policy, defence, security, that’s the choice.”

O’Toole, who met with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in Calgary on Monday, also ran in the 2017 leadership race. His supporters ended up being key to Andrew Scheer’s victory over Maxime Bernier.

In the announcement video, O’Toole promised to defend Canadian history and institutions as footage showed a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald being removed by a crane.

“I’ve been standing up against what I call the ‘virtue signalling’ from Justin Trudeau which actually ignores the real challenges of the day and offers symbolic gestures as a substitute,” O’Toole said.

In his interview with the Post, O’Toole said he is a strong supporter of western issues, with concerns about the resource economy and pipeline projects. But, he noted, the Conservatives can’t bank solely on the west to be the base of power since there are “no more seats to win in Saskatchewan,” and only one in Edmonton. The Conservatives, under Scheer’s leadership, won all seats in Saskatchewan, all but one in Alberta and half the seats in Manitoba.

But “we got shut out, virtually, in southern Ontario,” said O’Toole, whose riding is Durham, Ont. “My province needs to understand that Alberta’s issues are national issues.”

He said he sees himself as the leader for the party that can bridge the gap between western issues while making in-roads in Ontario. His success, he said, comes from principled conservative ideas and experience in the private sector and military.

“I’m known as a small-c conservative, “ he said. “This is really a struggle for the identity of the Conservative party in 2020.”

My province needs to understand that Alberta’s issues are national issue

He said Canada needs to restore its competitive advantage. Any economic gains in recent years are because of good policy during the years Stephen Harper was prime minister and the Canadian economy being bolstered by a strong American economy. Canada is not seen as competitive, he said.

“We’re seen, quite frankly, as government led by the editorial board of the Toronto Star,” O’Toole added.

The field of contenders who have announced they are running include: MacKay, O’Toole, Ontario MPs Marilyn Gladu and Derek Sloan, Richard Décarie, a former Conservative staffer and social conservative, and Alberta businessman Rick Peterson. Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner hasn’t ruled out a run and Candice Bergen, a Manitoba MP, is also considering entering the race.

“We often say conservatives come in after a period of Liberal mess, I just don’t want them to make much more of a mess than they’ve already made,” said O’Toole.

— With files from Brian Platt and The Canadian Press

• Email: tdawson@postmedia.com | Twitter:


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Pilot of helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant tried to climb to avoid cloud layer: investigators

The pilot of the helicopter that crashed into a hillside outside Los Angeles, killing former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and eight others, told air traffic controllers in his last radio message that he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer, an accident investigator said Monday.

The pilot had asked for and received special clearance to fly in heavy fog just minutes before Sunday’s crash and was flying at 427 metres when he went south and then west, said Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board, which went to the crash scene Monday to collect evidence.

The pilot then asked for air traffic controllers to provide “flight following” aide but was told the craft was too low, Homendy said.

About four minutes later, “the pilot advised they were climbing to avoid a cloud layer,” she said. “When ATC asked what the pilot planned to do, there was no reply. Radar data indicates the helicopter climbed to 701 metres and then began a left descending turn. Last radar contact was around 9:45 a.m. and is consistent with the accident location.

Coroner’s officials worked to recover victims’ remains Monday from the hillside outside Los Angeles where the helicopter crashed, which aviation experts say may have been caused by the pilot becoming disoriented in the fog.

While the cause of the tragedy is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, some experts raised questions of whether the helicopter should have even been flying. The weather was so foggy that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff’s department had grounded their own choppers.

Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, watch a U.S. national championship swimming meet in California in July 2018. Gianna was following in her father’s basketball footsteps. (Chris Carlson/The Associated Press)

The Sikorsky S-76 went down Sunday morning, killing the retired athlete along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and everyone else aboard and scattering debris over an area the size of a football field.

Crews recovered three bodies on Sunday and resumed the effort on Monday amid an outpouring of grief and shock around the world over the loss of the basketball great who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles during his dazzling 20-year career.

NBA all-star Kobe Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif. 2:08

The pilot was identified as Ara Zobayan. Several aviation experts said it is not uncommon for helicopter pilots to be given such permission, though some thought it unusual that it would be granted in airspace as busy as that over Los Angeles.

But Kurt Deetz, who flew for Bryant dozens of times in the same chopper that went down, said permission is often granted in the area.

“It happened all the time in the winter months in L.A.,” Deetz said. “You get fog.”

The helicopter left Santa Ana in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, shortly after 9 a.m., heading north and then west. Bryant was believed to be headed for his youth sports academy in nearby Thousand Oaks, which was holding a basketball tournament Sunday in which Bryant’s daughter, known as Gigi, was competing.

Air traffic controllers noted poor visibility around Burbank to the north and Van Nuys to the northwest. At one point, the controllers instructed the chopper to circle because of other planes in the area before proceeding.

The aircraft crashed in Calabasas, about 48 kilometres northwest of downtown Los Angeles, around 9:45 a.m. at about 426 metres, according to data from Flightradar24. When it struck the ground, it was flying at about 296 km/h and descending at a rate of more than 1,200 metres per minute, the data showed.

Randy Waldman, a helicopter flight instructor who teaches at the nearby Van Nuys airport, said its likely the pilot got disoriented in the fog and the helicopter went into a fatal dive.

“It’s a common thing that happens in airplanes and helicopters with people flying with poor visibility,” Waldman said. “If you’re flying visually, if you get caught in a situation where you can’t see out the windshield, the life expectancy of the pilot and the aircraft is maybe 10, 15 seconds, and it happens all the time, and it’s really a shame.”

Waldman said it was the same thing that happened to John F. Kennedy Jr. when his plane dropped out of the sky near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in 1999.

“A lot of times somebody who’s doing it for a living is pressured to get their client to where they have to go,” Waldman said. “They take chances that maybe they shouldn’t take.”

Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino stopped by CBC News Network to preview the Super Bowl, while also remembering Kobe Bryant. 4:47

Bryant known for commuting by helicopter

Bryant had been known since his playing days for taking helicopters instead of braving the notoriously snarled Los Angeles traffic. “I’m not going into L.A. without the Mamba chopper,” he joked on Jimmy Kimmel Live in a 2018 interview, referring to his own nickname, Black Mamba.

David Hoeppner, an expert on helicopter design, said he won’t fly on helicopters.

“Part of it is the way they certify and design these things,” said Hoeppner, a retired engineering professor at the University of Utah. “But the other part is helicopter pilots often fly in conditions where they shouldn’t be flying.”

Jerry Kidrick, a retired army colonel who flew helicopters in Iraq and now teaches at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., said the helicopter’s rapid climb and fast descent suggest the pilot was disoriented.

When that happens, he said, pilots must instantly switch from visual cues to flying the aircraft using only the machine’s instruments.

“It’s one of the most dangerous conditions you can be in,” Kidrick said. “Oftentimes, your body is telling you something different than what the instruments are telling you. You can feel like you’re leaning to the left or the right when you’re not. If the pilot isn’t trained well enough to believe the instruments, you get in a panic situation.”

On Sunday, firefighters hiked in with medical equipment and hoses, and medical personnel rappelled to the site from a helicopter. About 20 investigators were on the site early Monday. The Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, said it could take at least a couple of day to to recover the remains.

Among those killed in the crash were John Altobelli, 56, longtime head coach of Southern California’s Orange Coast College baseball team; his wife, Keri; and daughter, Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Bryant’s daughter; and Christina Mauser, a girls’ basketball coach at a Southern California elementary school.

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Egan: Woman furious after waist, ankles checked at city hall security screening

A woman passes through a security check before entering council chambers at Ottawa City Hall.

Errol McGihon / Postmedia

A new security protocol went into effect at Ottawa City Hall last week.

Alayne McGregor, among the first to go through the visitor screening, was skeptical when it began, furious when it was over.

A cycling advocate and keen city-hall watcher, she described in an email what two security guards asked her to do before entering the main council chambers for a meeting of the transit commission on Thursday:

“Remove my coat; remove everything in my coat pockets; pull out my coat pockets to show they were empty; open my backpack; remove the contents of my backpack; let the officer examine my backpack and its contents; open my purse and let the officer peer inside; partially pull up my sweater to show my belt line; pull out my trouser pockets to show they were empty; lift up my trousers to show my ankles.

“I am furious,” she writes. “This was demeaning and an outrageous invasion of my personal privacy.”

It does seem a bit much. Checking the ankles of the middle-aged engagé, a regular visitor to the building for 30 years?

But, more than that, city hall’s approach to this issue does seem half-hearted or illogical. Maybe we live in an age when venues like Parliament Hill or Queen’s Park need up-front security to ensure anyone inside has been screened or has some kind of employee or visitor pass.

This is not what city hall is doing. The bulk of the building is wide open, with public doors on three sides, a big foyer, adjoining meeting space like Jean Pigott Place, a free-for-all piano, and a staircase that leads to the second-floor councillors area. In these spaces, nobody screens anyone. There are also multiple meeting rooms with no security checkpoints in place.

But, for the council chambers, check people’s ankles? McGregor dismisses it as security “theatre.”

“The real question, though, is whether any of this is necessary,” said McGregor, who that day stopped in to see the new library unveiling downtown and sample the LRT update at city hall. “We’ve had open access to city council meetings ever since Ottawa became Ottawa.”

She worries that the new measures, even though they take but a minute, create a barrier between politicians and citizens.

“I think it’s just scaring people and that’s wrong.” It also means visitors must go through screening twice if they leave a lengthy meeting to fetch some food or drink, which they cannot bring inside.

The changes at city hall were prompted by a security review in the aftermath of the shooting of an armed gunman inside Parliament Hill on Oct. 22, 2014. After killing Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the nearby National War Memorial, the gunman managed to make his way into Centre Block where the prime minister and other MPs were meeting in caucus.

It could have been a much bigger disaster. (It is probably worth noting, though, that the Hill had its own security service at the time and restricted entry.)

This led to recommendations from the city’s auditor general and the introduction of several measures, including new security bollards outside, better cameras inside and gates and inspection points outside the council chambers.

Among the items now prohibited inside the chambers are noisemakers and megaphones, signs or placards, “sharp objects”, beverages or aerosol cans, explosive or flammable items. The city is looking at whether other committee rooms should also have security screening.

Long gone are the days when anyone could stroll, unencumbered, through a high-profile public building in Ottawa. About $130 million was spent on a new visitor centre and security-screening operation on Parliament Hill. At Queen’s Park, meanwhile, an estimated $5.3 million was spent to open a visitor screening centre in 2019.

McGregor says she’s communicated her displeasure to councillors Jeff Leiper and Shawn Menard, who were critical of the plan when it was announced in December.

“It just seems to me we have so many other things we could spend that money on.”

The city reports it has had no “formal” complaints about the new system.

“Of note, several residents attending the Commission and Special meeting were understanding and appreciative of the need for enhanced security measures at meetings,” reads a statement attributed to security manager Pierre Poirier.

These new security measures expand on long-standing practices that already existed for Standing Committee and Council meetings and reflect the constantly evolving security landscape of a large metropolitan city.”

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email kegan@postmedia.com

Twitter: @KellyEganColumn



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Adam Olsen: Wet’suwet’en conflict calls for good-faith dialogue

Adam Olsen is the interim B.C. Green party leader, the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, and a member of the Tsartlip First Nation.

As the last legislative sitting of the decade came to a close in November, every member in the building voted to pass Bill 41, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

With its introduction we reaffirmed that Indigenous rights are human rights and our belief that the path forward — although not always clear or easy — is one that we must walk together.

The act does not confer any special rights or privileges. It merely upholds the rights that are already well-established in the courts and calls on the government to align its laws with those standards.

The passage of Bill 41 also marked the beginning of our next chapter of work — efforts that have been immediately tested in Wet’suwet’en territory.

Like many British Columbians, I watched with worry as the new year began (for the second year in a row) with escalating tensions between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs fighting the Coastal GasLink pipeline slated to cut through their traditional territory, those working to advance construction, and the RCMP standing between them trying to enforce court orders.

This situation is a legacy of Canada’s colonial history and I know better than to underestimate its complexity. As an Indigenous person in Canada, I feel how strong and destructive that legacy can be. As an MLA and the interim leader of the B.C. Green party caucus, I see how it shapes where and how we live, how decisions are made, how lands are stewarded, where power lies, and the purposes for which it is used.

When the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs invited me to their territory last week, I was honoured for the opportunity. I also contacted the RCMP contingent in Smithers and asked if I could meet with them while I was in town. And I booked another trip to Prince George for the following week to attend the Natural Resource Forum.

I want to hear all perspectives and, crucially, I wanted to learn more about Wet’suwet’en laws and customs. We cannot use a narrow interpretation of the “rule of law” to shield us from the hard work of fair and just governing.

Courts in our country have been recognizing Indigenous law as legitimate for decades. The Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the rights of Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan hereditary chiefs specifically is, itself, decades old — as established in the 1997 Delgamuukw v. British Columbia decision.

With the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, I learned about their sophisticated governance structure that stretches back thousands of years. We may be more familiar with the band council system, which was put in place by the Indian Act, but that system does not govern all, or even most, Indigenous people in B.C., and it certainly has not extinguished everything that came before it.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act does not give anyone veto power, but it does commit everyone to a new model of working together. It recognizes that the “rule of law” in British Columbia and Canada is complex and includes Indigenous law.

Now is the time for the B.C. government to embody the principles of its new act by making the time to peacefully work through challenges with a spirit of humility and willingness to listen and learn.

Adam Olsen is the interim B.C. Green party leader, the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, and member of the Tsartlip First Nation.

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