Edmonton’s Catholic school board is not pleased that it got shut out in the new provincial budget.

The budget , unveiled Thursday, provides $393 million for 20 projects — seven new schools, seven replacements, three modernizations, one addition to an existing school and two projects that have been approved for design.

But none of the money is going to projects on the wish-list of the city’s Catholic school board.

“Edmonton Catholic Schools did not receive any new schools or modernizations and we are extremely disappointed with this news,” a board spokesperson said in a media advisory Friday.

Board chair Terry Harris is going to outline the board’s concerns to reporters Friday afternoon.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci defended the government’s decision making.

“Since the NDP became government in 2015, 14 schools in the Edmonton Catholic school board system have been funded and are either under construction or finished,” Ceci told CBC News Friday.

“We fund through enrolment growth and health and safety needs for modernization. We’re going to continue to look at the needs of Edmonton as we go forward. But we’ve done a great deal already because of the growth they’ve had, and 14 schools funded is a pretty great high-water mark.”

Earlier Friday, Education Minister David Eggen detailed the list of 20 projects at École À la Découverte, a francophone school in northeast Edmonton that has been approved to get a new building.

“I look at imminent need, capital lists and geographic balance to determine my lists,” Eggen said.

“We’re very proud of this. It’s important to make investment in public services and public buildings in this case, in order of us to continue on with economic recovery to meet the needs of the fast growing economy in the country.”

Seven of the school projects on the list are in Edmonton or the Edmonton area.

  • École  À la Découverte K-6 (new francophone school in northeast Edmonton)
  • Heritage Valley Chapelle East K-9 (new public school in southwest Edmonton)
  • Westlawn Cluster (modernization of four public schools in west Edmonton)
  • Paul Kane (replacement high school in St. Albert)
  • Stony Plain Central (replacement school in Stony Plain)
  • École  Père Kenneth Kearns Catholic School (modernization in Sherwood Park)
  • École Secondaire Beaumont Composite High School (addition)

The province said its five-year capital plan includes $2.2 billion in investments over the next five years on school infrastructure.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is checking one item off his wish list from the province: $1.5 billion for the proposed Valley Line LRT in west Edmonton.

But should he?

In the 2018-19 provincial budget released Thursday, $3 billion over 10 years is earmarked for LRT lines in Edmonton and Calgary. Of that, $1.5 billion will go toward Calgary’s Green Line.

The budget document does not specify a specific amount for Edmonton.

Nevertheless, Iveson praised the province for the funding.

Edmonton mayor says LRT money in provincial budget big win for city

Mayor Don Iveson talks to media following the provincial budget release Thursday. (CBC News)

“In effect, we have now secured an announcement from the provincial government with enough money in it to know we can go ahead and build the west line.”

But Transportation Minister Brian Mason said the mayor is getting ahead of himself on funding for the Valley Line.

“We want to see a finalized plan, we want to see an alignment, we want to see a budget, we want to see construction costs,” he told CBC News.

Mason said he’s made it clear to both of Alberta’s biggest cities that these criteria are needed before the money starts to flow.

“That is not a blank cheque,” he added.

Mason said he’s been watching with interest as the public hearings were held this week at city hall.

At a hearing Wednesday, nearly 50 people criticized various aspects of the proposed design for the western portion of the Valley Line, delaying a vote to move the project forward.

In September 2016, council agreed to update the Valley Line west portion design even though the preliminary plan for the leg stretching from downtown to Lewis Farms was approved back in 2013.

Council directed the city’s LRT team to consult residents, landowners and developers about the impact of the train at busy intersections, including 149th Street at Stony Plain Road and 178th Street at 87th Avenue. 

The city administration came back with design amendments — and a higher price tag to build the train. The cost estimate is now at $2.24 billion, up from the previous estimate of $1.8 billion

Despite the lagging timeline, Iveson expects council to finalize the scope of the project this week.

The design still needs a final vote.

Infrastructure help from MSI fund

In the provincial budget, Edmonton will receive $190 million this year from the province’s Municipal Sustainability Initiative, or MSI, a fund that helps hamlets, towns and cities build infrastructure.

In the past, these funds have been used for the Fort Edmonton footbridge, upgrades to Louise McKinney Park, a fire station and snow storage facilities.

The province’s $11.3-billion MSI fund, established in 2007, is expected run out by the 2021-2022 budget cycle.

That means Edmonton will see $61 million less in each of the next three years than it receives in 2018.

The province says it’s working with municipalities to replace MSI with a new grant program with a “funding formula based on revenue sharing.”

Iveson said the new program will be more direct and reliable because it will allow municipalities to be partners with the province.

“We’d be able to plan and predict if provincial government revenues were going down,” Iveson said. “The point is if they go up because the economy is growing, then cities would have finally some return in helping to contribute to that economic growth.”

In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the changes to the MSI program are one of the things giving him pause in what he called a “mixed bag” budget.

“Winding down MSI is worrisome, taking that cut is difficult,” Nenshi said. “That cut of $91 million is going to hurt.”

The Alberta budget includes just over $620 million over five years for Edmonton to build a new hospital, and $290 million to upgrade the Norwood Long Term Care Facility.

Cannabis hopes up in smoke

Iveson was also counting on the province to allocate a percentage of cannabis revenues to municipalities, but that was missing from the provincial budget document.

Under the federal plan to legalize marijuana this July, provinces will receive 75 per cent of revenues from cannabis while the federal government will keeps the rest.

Prior to delivering the budget, Finance Minister Joe Ceci said it’s too early to say how much the municipalities will get from legal pot.

Iveson and other municipal mayors say they need money to cover the cost of increased policing and enforcement when weed becomes legal.

“We’re going to have to work with some urgency,” Iveson said “It would have been nice to get resolution today.”

He said the city was looking for either a share of the cannabis revenues or a grant to help deal with the transition costs.

Legalizing marijuana is estimated to cost the city $4.5 million for direct costs plus between $5 and 7 million for increased policing costs.

If you want to shoot a bow and arrow while riding on horseback through a raspberry vineyard, Sherwood Park is the place for you.

While the area may be stereotyped as a quiet commuter outpost, the community has hidden depths.

With a rough and tumble history and some modern quirks, this rapidly growing bedroom community is much more than a sleepy suburb.

With the CBC Morning show Edmonton AM broadcasting live from Sherwood Park on Friday, CBC News decided to take a look at some of the little known facts about the community.

1. It’s not a city

With a population of more than 70,000, Sherwood Park is one of the largest and fastest growing communities in Alberta, but it has resisted the temptation of being crowned a city.

The community has enough people to be considered Alberta’s seventh largest city, but it has retained the status of a hamlet.

2. It was settled by a train-hopping horse wrangler

The community was established in 1955 on the farmland of Maurice Smeltzer as a bedroom community for industrial sites cropping up east of Edmonton. 

Smeltzer, born in 1867 in Huron, Ont., first came to Edmonton with a delivery of work horses. He arrived on one of the first trains to reach the area that would eventually become Strathcona County.

He returned with another string of horses in 1892 and settled on a 480-acre homestead, the boundaries of which would become Sherwood Park.

The Smeltzer house is still standing and has been designated an official historic site.

3. It wasn’t always called Sherwood Park

The community was originally named Campbelltown, but was pressured to change it by Canada Post. The federal postal service argued the town’s title was causing confusion, due to the existence of several other communities in Canada by the same name.

One resident even recalled being sent a cheque from Edmonton that arrived via Campbelltown, England.

After much objection — and misdirected mail — the community’s name was officially changed in 1956.  

4. In the early days, there was a female-only fire brigade

10 weird and wonderful things you never knew about Sherwood Park

An undated photograph of Sherwood Park’s female-only fire brigade. (Strathcona County)

In the early 1950s, shortly after it was established by developers, the women of the community were often left to their own devices while men worked long shifts at the refineries. 

In order to protect the community, a female-only volunteer fire brigade was formed to serve the area during the daytime hours. They were a spectacle of brawn and bravery wherever they went. 

“Strangers in the area were surprised to see a fireman take off his helmet and calmly take the rollers out of ‘his’ hair,” Marg Jordheim was quoted as saying in 1985. She served with the brigade for 20 years.

5. It has a lot of horses

With over 6,200 horses in 2011, Strathcona County has the second highest number of horses of any municipality in Alberta and has one of the highest per capita in Canada. Welcome to the neigh-bourhood.

7. It has a winery

Who needs Italy when you have a winery in your proverbial backyard?

Founded by University of Alberta heart researchers Rick and Amy Barr, Barr Estate Winery produces fruit wines from locally-sourced raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb, and is open to the public for private tours.

8. There is an archery range 

10 weird and wonderful things you never knew about Sherwood Park

Archers travel to Sherwood Park to hone their skills at the local range. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

If you feel like honing your inner Katniss Everdeen, head on over to the Sherwood Park Archery Range. The members-only club has both an indoor and outdoor range for those who want to master the medieval art of bows and arrows.  

9. It has a biosphere

Not unlike a biodome, Sherwood Park’s biosphere is an ecologically protected area, but you won’t find it behind glass.

Located in the southeast corner of Sherwood Park and extending east of Elk Island National Park, the Beaver Hills area is a heavily treed Boreal mixed wood forest habitat with an unusual “knob and kettle” lanscape.

The Beaver Hills Biosphere received UNESCO biosphere designation in 2016 at a world congress of biosphere lovers in Lima, Peru. 

10 weird and wonderful things you never knew about Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is more than just a sleepy suburb. The huge hamlet even has a winery. (Barr Estate Winery)

10. It’s home to a real life Nottingham

In what appears to be an obvious ode to the legend of Robin Hood, one of the neighbourhoods in Sherwood Park is named Nottingham.

The real, royal Sherwood Forest is in Nottinghamshire, England, and was made famous by its historic association with the heroic outlaw.

Close enough, I say.

Come join Mark Connolly and the crew this Friday morning as we broadcast live from this most interesting hamlet for the “Spring Break” edition of Mark About Town.

  • Mark About Town – Millennium Place
  • Time: 5:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
  • 2000 Premier Way, Sherwood Park

The Alberta government will provide nearly $9 million in temporary funding to help financially troubled Carillion Canada continue its highway maintenance operations and pay its employees.

In a news release Wednesday, the province said it will make up to $8.9 million available to the company, which is responsible for maintaining 43 per cent of the provincial highway network.

The funding will help Carillion maintain its Alberta highway operations until April 30, the government said.

The money will also help the company cover outstanding amounts owed to vendors for bills incurred during the winter maintenance season, the government said.

Carillion Canada’s parent company, British multinational Carillion PLC, went into receivership in January.

The cash injection means there will be no disruption in highway maintenance, including plowing and sanding, the government said.

Transportation Minister Brian Mason said the government “didn’t really have a choice” other than to step in with funding to help Carillion Canada continue its operations through the end of the winter. No other companies were able to take over the work on short notice, he said.

“They [Carillion Canada] were losing money on the contract, they were being subsidized by their British [parent] company, and that of course is no longer available since it’s in receivership,” Mason told reporters.

“So in order to allow them to pay for supplies that they need — the gravel and the sand — and to pay their workers and continue to meet their obligations under the contract, we’ve provided them with $8.9 million.

“We have our own auditors, and we have … Ernst and Young keeping very close eye on all of it so that none of this will go to profit. This is just to cover their costs until the end of April so they can keep our roads open and safe.”

Carillion Canada recently sought an order and stay of proceedings from the Ontario Superior Court under the Companies’ Creditor Arrangement Act.

Carillion has more than 300 snowplows in Alberta, roughly half of the snowplow fleet in the province. The company employs about 300 people in Alberta during the winter and up to 500 in summer, the government said.

Carillion’s three contracts for maintenance of Alberta highways cover the following areas:

  • Stettler, Three Hills, Drumheller, Hanna, Coronation, Provost and Oyen. Information on Alberta Transportation’s website says the contract is due to expire July 31, 2022.
  • Fort McMurray, Boyle, Smoky Lake, Cold Lake, St. Paul, Lac La Biche, Vegreville, Tofield, Lamont, Lloydminster, Wainwright, Vermilion, Camrose, Viking and Killam. Contract expires July 31, 2023.
  • Slave Lake, Wabasca, Swan Hills, High Prairie, Kinuso, Sherwood Park, Morinville, Gibbons, Barrhead, Westlock, Athabasca, Leduc, Warburg, Drayton Valley and Stony Plain. Contract expires July 31, 2019.

Mason said a clause in its agreement with Carillion Canada allows the government to cancel the contracts “at any time.”

He said the focus now is on finding a long-term solution.

“We’re working on a number of different options right now which I can’t really talk about because it’s not finalized or determined yet.”

Edmonton city council extended Monday’s public hearing on the rezoning proposal of two tall towers in Strathcona until April 9th, allowing more time to hear resident concerns.

Bateman Properties and ONE Properties are proposing to build 15 and 18-storey towers at 89th Avenue at 99th Street. Currently, that area is zoned for medium-high rises — most buildings are no taller than six storeys.

The developers have been moulding their proposal with public feedback from consultations that started in November 2016.

Tom Burr with ONE Properties said he wants to manage growth “in a sustainable way” for the community.

Strathcona residents addressed city council on Monday, expressing their frustrations over walkability, increased traffic, parking problems, and the building’s height.

Maureen Duguay, president of the Strathcona Community league, said the towers will overshadow the rest of the neighbourhood.

“The fact that it’s just this big tower — as well-designed as they say it is — it’s a big tower that’s going to cause shade onto the street,” she said. “It also it takes away from that welcoming low-scale dynamic that you get in our neighbourhood and it’s just going to tower over 99th Street.”

Public hearing on proposed high-rises in Strathcona extended into April

Rendering of two proposed high-rises in Strathcona neighbourhood at 89th Avenue at 99th Street. (City of Edmonton)

Duguay said the tall buildings will “detract from the quality of life,” citing the “loomingness of high-rises” that will divide the community.

“The key stumbling block is height,” Duguay said, adding that few proposed aspects are “palatable.”

Over 400 people signed a survey opposing the development, Duguay said.

“They’re very upset,” she said. “They feel there’s no need for this type of height, that it’s not in consideration of our community, the historic nature of the community, the walkability, the low-rise feel of our community and they’re very concerned about that.”

More traffic, less heritage

Leslie Main Johnson has lived two blocks from the development site in Strathcona for 18 years and feels strongly about preserving her neighbourhood’s heritage.

“It would very much change the low-key comfortable sense of what our community is at present,” she said.

Johnson is concerned with the density increase in the area.

“It means lots more traffic,” she said. “It means a lot of people who aren’t really neighbours because they’re living in a high-rise tower. Those are the main issues for me — it’s just the transformation of the nature of our neighbourhood.”

“And the whole concern about the 99th Street corridor,” she added. “Are we going to see high-rises popping up down the whole thing?”

Johnson said for her, the Oliver neighbourhood is a cautionary tale.

“If you go drive Jasper Ave. over there — that’s not, for me,” she said.

“A walkable, friendly neighbourhood and they destroyed many heritage homes with the development of Oliver.”

Rachel Notley’s threat to cut oil exports to British Columbia in the battle over the Trans Mountain pipeline is a gamble which could backfire for the Alberta premier, says an Edmonton political scientist.

In last week’s throne speech, Notley invoked Peter Lougheed as she promised to halt the flow of oil west, if B.C. continues to block construction of the pipeline expansion. 

The tactic is a bit of political theatre borrowed from her predecessors, said Jared Wesley, an associate professor of political science with the University of Alberta.

“We’ve seen this escalation over the past number of years and this is just the latest salvo, but I’m not surprised that the tone was quite familiar,” Wesley said Monday in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“It shouldn’t be surprising to Albertans that a premier who grew up in this province and saw premiers like Lougheed and [Ralph] Klein find enemies outside the province and pick fights with them, and see that work for them [would do this].

Makes opponents cheerleaders or traitors

“It helps marginalize her opponents within the province, turning them into either cheerleaders or into traitors. Casting herself as a kind of guardian to the province is something she is banking will pay off for her too.”

Notley is eager to see the Trans Mountain project move forward, allowing industry to ship oil overseas through West Coast ports and funnel more resource money into the provincial treasury.

The fight over the project, which would carry Alberta bitumen through B.C. to the coast, has pitted the two NDP-led governments against each other for months.

The spat became more heated earlier this year when B.C. said it would not allow increased oil flow until more research is completed on pipeline safety and spill response. B.C. backed down after Alberta suspended imports of B.C. wine.

On Thursday Notley said in her throne speech she would, if pushed, replicate the actions of former premier Peter Lougheed who in 1980-81 reduced oil shipments over several months and cancelled two oilsands developments after the federal Liberals introduced the national energy program with its price controls, new taxes and revenue sharing.

Notley has said no restrictions will be introduced without extensive consultation with industry. 

‘Peter Lougheed paid a price’

Alberta has used its oil and gas exports as leverage at least three times in the past to win arguments with other levels of government. But it hasn’t always paid off politically, Wesley said.

Lougheed’s policies during the so-called energy wars with Ottawa were deeply unpopular with Alberta industry, he said.

“We have to remember that Peter Lougheed paid a price,” West said. “When he took measures like cancelling leases and increasing provincial royalties, the oil industry was not happy with that.

“So the premier’s office is again going to be thinking about, ‘What’s the right balance? Can we convince people in the industry to take short term pain if there is a potential for long term gain?’ “

‘You have to be very careful not to solve different problems with the same solution.’ – Jared Wesley

Notley’s latest tactic could draw the same ire from industry — and hurt her chances in the looming provincial election, Wesley said.

“The problem is the same, in that Alberta is being disadvantaged by low oil prices, but the source of that problem is very different,” he said.

“Back in the late 70s and early 80s we could heap some of the blame on the federal government for their policies on export taxes and federal royalties.

“But today, [the problem is] pipeline capacity so you have to be very careful not to solve different problems with the same solution.”

Alberta has right to restrict exports

The Alberta government still has the legal right to restrict exports of oil and gas by withholding “removal permits,” said Bob Skinner, executive fellow with the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, whose career included stints in the federal energy department, industry and academia.

However, he thinks there is a “very low chance” that Notley will actually implement export cuts because her threat echoes a previous suggestion by Opposition leader Jason Kenney, who could be the next premier.

“She does not have to do it because what she’s done is take an arrow from the quiver of Jason Kenney, so the signal to British Columbia and Premier (John) Horgan is, ‘If you think I’m a toughie, just you wait. I’m offering you a basis for negotiation. I don’t think you’ll get that if somebody else is here.’ “

‘There is no giant tap in the basement of the leg that we can just turn off.’ – Jared Wesley

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that the Alberta-B.C. dispute over Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion plans isn’t the first time provinces have disagreed on a project, adding that it’s important the federal government show leadership now.

“What I have been very clear about is that this project is in the national interest and it will get built,” Trudeau said in Regina.

The Trudeau government approved the Kinder Morgan project in 2016, but the pipeline has since faced permit fights and challenges from the B.C. government. The $7.9-billion expansion would triple the amount of Alberta bitumen going from Edmonton to the port in Burnaby, B.C.

Wesley remains curious to see how the Notley government will deliver on its threat.

“There is no giant tap in the basement of the [legislature] that we can just turn off,” Wesley said.

“We really can’t tell until we see the piece of legislation as to whether it’s constitutional or not.

“Certainly there is constitutional wiggle room for something like this and there is precedent.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has declared the North Saskatchewan River watershed infected with whirling disease.

The declaration covers all streams, creeks, lakes and rivers feeding into the river ending at the Saskatchewan border.

The declaration, issued Friday, establishes the federal government’s role in managing the disease. It does not mean that all fish within the infected watersheds are infected with the disease.

Late last year, the agency declared the North Saskatchewan River watershed as part of a buffer zone for whirling disease in an effort to keep the disease from spreading.

Moving fish and other materials such as sediment from infected or buffer-area watersheds requires a permit, though recreational and sport fishing are exempt.

North Saskatchewan River watershed infected with whirling disease

Whirling disease has been found in fish across Alberta. (Mike Lawrence/The Gleaner/Associated Press)

A fish was first confirmed with the disease at Johnson Lake in Banff National Park in 2016, but the disease has since been found in watersheds across southern Alberta.

The name comes from the circular swimming patterns of infected fish and affects cold-water salmonids such as salmon, trout and whitefish. The disease is not harmful to humans.

The Alberta government is encouraging fishers and anglers to clean, drain and dry their gear to help prevent the spread of the parasite that causes whirling disease.

Peter Giamberardino, coordinator of the provincial whirling disease program, said the disease was detected in the North Saskatchewan after sampling and surveillance work conducted in 2017.

This year the surveillance plan will include studying natural trout populations to determine “if there are actual impacts to those populations,” Giamberardino said Friday.

“We know that once it’s in the wild, it’s there to stay,” he said.

‘We know that once it’s in the wild, it’s there to stay.’ – Peter Giamberardino, provincial whirling disease program coordinator

“So we can’t treat the disease or eradicate it, but what we can do is really prevent the spread of the disease and do our best to protect those natural trout populations that have yet to be exposed or impacted by the disease.

“So we really ask people recreating out on the landscape in these water bodies to really pay attention to their cleaning, draining and drying of all water equipment and gear — waders and fishing nets and things like that.

“[It is] really important the public is taking that action to prevent the spread of whirling disease.”

A leave to appeal has been granted in the case of an Ontario trucker charged with killing an Indigenous woman in an Edmonton motel room.

In 2015, a jury found Bradley Barton not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Cindy Gladue. The 36-year-old woman was found dead in a bathtub in an Edmonton motel room four years earlier.

Thursday’s decision means Canada’s Supreme Court will review the order for a new trial.

There was anger from coast to coast in 2015 when the Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench jury found Barton not guilty in Gladue’s death.

Public outrage led to a series of rallies and a petition with more than 4,500 signatures demanding Alberta’s justice minister appeal the jury’s verdict.

Gladue, a mother of three, was found dead at the Yellowhead Inn in June 2011.

She died from blood loss from a perforation more than 11 centimetres long that went completely through her vaginal wall.

During Barton’s first-degree murder trial, the jury was told she was a sex worker who lost her life after agreeing to have sex with the accused in exchange for $60. 

Supreme Court to review case of Ontario trucker accused in death of Edmonton woman

Surveillance video shows Cindy Gladue and Bradley Barton leaving Barton’s hotel room. The next night, she would return to his room, where she would later be found dead. (Supplied)

The Crown’s theory was that Gladue was incapacitated by alcohol when Barton used a sharp object to cut her vaginal wall, then moved her to the bathtub when she began bleeding heavily.

The defence contended that while Barton caused Gladue’s fatal injury, it was a non-culpable act of homicide. Barton testified the injury was an “accident” from consensual sexual activity.

The Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the not-guilty ruling and ordered a new first-degree murder trial in the case last June.

The appeal court decision, released June 30, 2017, said there were flaws in the way the jury was instructed to consider sexual assault offences and the laws relating to consent.

The errors by Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Graesser included erroneous instructions on what use the jury could make of Barton’s conduct after the fact, and failing to instruct the jury properly on the law of sexual assault relating to consent, the decision said.

Barton’s lawyer Dino Bottos appealed that decision saying the Appeal Court’s ruling is flawed. 

‘Judgment cried out for an appeal’

“I’m very relieved,” Bottos said in an interview with CBC News on Thursday. “We think that the Court of Appeal of Alberta’s judgment cried out for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

“It’s our belief, with respect, that the Court of Appeal made several legal errors in overturning Barton’s acquittal and so we’re excited about the chance of taking this to the Supreme Court to hopefully correct those errors.” 

Bottos said his client is relieved that Canada’s top court will review the case. 

Bottos acknowledged the ruling will be politically charged given the ongoing debate around sexual consent.

“When the Supreme Court grants leave to appeal in a situation like this, what it’s really saying is that this is a matter of national importance,” Bottos said. “But there is no telling what the Supreme Court will do with respect to its view on the law.

“The #MeToo movement is calling for robust and perhaps wholesale changes to the law of consent in the context of sexual assault,” he said.

“The defence bar across the country is saying the law, as it is, strikes the right balance and there’s no change necessary.

“This represents the Supreme Court of Canada’s opportunity to weigh in on that and to say … whether some tinkering of the law is required.”

Victim’s mother plans to attend hearing

The Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund were granted intervenor status by the Alberta Court of Appeal.

Edmonton lawyer Lisa Weber argued the case on their behalf and plans to ask to do the same when the case is heard by the Supreme Court.

When Weber heard this morning leave was granted, she immediately called Cindy Gladue’s mother, Donna McLeod.

“I think she had mixed feelings,” Weber said. “The initial reaction was certainly one of feeling re-traumatized. Having said that, Ms. McLeod was very unequivocal in saying we need to be there. In fact, she expressed that she very much wants to be there in the Supreme Court when the case is heard.”

Lise Gotell, chair of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, said the ruling is disappointing.

“This is a case that has critical implications for women’s rights to body autonomy and also the rights of Indigenous women. And it was especially disappointing that this decision to grant leave would come on International Women’s Day.”

Bottos expects the high court will hear the appeal either late this year or early 2019.

Barton’s retrial in Court of Queen’s Bench was scheduled for next February. Appearing before the Supreme Court will likely put the lower court matter on hold.

 A Edmonton man pleaded not guilty Saturday to U.S. charges that he sent money and provided other long-distance support to Tunisian jihadists believed responsible for a 2009 suicide attack in Iraq that killed five American soldiers.

Sayfildin Tahir Sharif, also known as Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, entered the plea in federal court in Brooklyn, where a magistrate judge jailed him without bail on charges of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists without ever leaving Canada.

Sharif, a 36-year-old Canadian citizen and Iraqi national, was arrested in 2011 on a U.S. warrant after an investigation by authorities in New York, Canada and Tunisia. He was held in Edmonton until he lost an extradition fight claiming the U.S. had no jurisdiction in the case and was brought to New York City on Friday.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said the case “demonstrates to those who orchestrate violence against our citizens and our soldiers that there is no corner of the globe from which they can hide from the long reach of the law.” 

One of Sharif​’s American defence attorneys, Chase Scolnick, declined comment.

Code words used in phone calls

An extradition request cited wiretap evidence and an interview of Sharif​ that U.S. authorities claim link him to the terror network.

Authorities say the group used a suicide bomber to detonate an explosives-laden truck outside the gate of the U.S. base in Mosul, Iraq, on April 10, 2009, killing the soldiers, and staged a separate suicide bombing on an Iraqi police station on March 31, 2009, that killed seven people.

During the interview, Sharif​ admitted he corresponded by email with two of the terrorists while they were in Syria, and that they were on a mission to kill Americans, the paperwork said. The documents allege he corresponded with “facilitators” who were trying to get the attackers into Iraq, and wired one of them $700.

On wiretaps, Sharif​ was overheard last year discussing with someone in Iraq how he used code words when discussing the Iraq operation, the papers said.

“For example, when I want to name the brothers, I say the farmers — because they plant metal and harvest metal and flesh,” the papers quoted him as saying. He also explained that he used the term “married” to mean “in the afterlife.”

U.S. authorities alleged that the day after the attack on the U.S. base, Sharif asked in an electronic communication: “Did you hear about the huge incident yesterday? Is it known?”

He also identified the bomber as “one of the Tunisian brothers,” to which a facilitator responded, “Praise God.”

Sharif​ told investigators in the interview that by “huge incident” he meant an explosion, the papers said.

No date was set for another court appearance.  A judge has granted Sharif permission to contact his brother to help support a future bail application.

Alberta’s Opposition leader says that if he becomes premier, there would be “serious consequences” for British Columbia if it blocks the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Jason Kenney said Monday he would be prepared to stop permits for the shipment of Alberta oil to B.C. through the existing Trans Mountain line, which runs from the Edmonton area to Metro Vancouver.

“If British Columbia is unwilling to help us export Canadian energy, then I would ask: Why should the NDP government benefit from shipments from Alberta?” he asked during a media availability in Vancouver.

“People are already paying $1.50 a litre for their gas here. Thousands of British Columbia drivers are going down to Bellingham and Washington state to fill up their gas tanks. That situation, unfortunately, would get a whole lot worse without Alberta oil.”

The United Conservative Party leader said he travelled to B.C. to speak about the need for “environmentally responsible resource development.”

He also said he would be prepared to slap a toll on B.C.’s natural gas shipments through Alberta.

Kenney acknowledged some Calgary-based companies that develop B.C. natural gas would not be happy with a toll, but said the job of an Alberta premier is to defend the province’s economic future.

“I don’t want a trade war. Albertans want free trade. But if the NDP in Victoria breaks the law, and blocks the export of our major product, we have to respond.”

He compared his stance to that of former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed, who in the early 1980s cut his province’s oil production to punish Eastern Canada over the federal government’s unpopular National Energy Program.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley banned B.C. wines in response to the province’s proposal to limit diluted bitumen shipments. But she lifted the ban after B.C. Premier John Horgan said he would ask the courts to decide whether it can bring in the restrictions.

Kenney said his party stands a good chance of forming a government in an election next year.

“My message to John Horgan is: I may very well be sitting across the table from you in 14 months. And if you’re unable to come to an understanding with your fellow New Democrat Rachel Notley, just wait until you’re sitting across the table from me.”

Kenney also clarified his stance on supervised drug consumption sites, saying he respects the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision that governments are obligated to license such facilities.

He said he’s not opposed to licensing facilities that “try to reduce harm,” but there needs to be more consultation with local communities and greater emphasis on stopping the drugs from entering Canada.

“My concern is that the focus has become almost single-mindedly on harm reduction, which I do not think is an adequate solution to the problem.”

‘Playing more games’

In Edmonton, Notley met Monday with the members of her task force charged with coming up with strategies should B.C. or another jurisdiction take illegal or unwarranted actions against the oil industry.

Notley reiterated Alberta is keeping a close eye on Horgan’s government and won’t hesitate to bring back the wine boycott and take other more punitive measures if B.C. “starts playing more games.”

Alberta officials will head to Ottawa this week to work with their federal counterparts on ways to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion moving, she said. The province will also intervene in Burnaby’s appeal of a National Energy Board ruling on permits.

She said if B.C. gets court approval to dictate what goes into pipelines, “B.C. would trigger an internal Canadian trade war that would make what’s going on with the United States today look like a tea party.”

Bernadette Alseth was cooking spaghetti in her north Edmonton home when she struggled to open a jar of sauce.

In that moment, she realized she had no one to ask for help.

Over the past three years, Alseth, 66, has mourned the deaths of her brother, mother, father, her best friend, and her husband, Fred, who died last January.

Feeling defeated by the jar, she went down the street to Safeway and instead bought some canned sauce for her dinner. She also decided she didn’t want to find herself that lonely again.

“I couldn’t be the only person that was in this particular situation where all of a sudden, in a few short years, you find yourself having lost friends and family and being retired,” Alseth said. 

Through the Carrot Community Arts Coffee House, a 118th Avenue coffee shop where she works as a volunteer barista, Alseth formed the Coffee Friendship Club.

Since the club began a few months ago, the gatherings inside have become a weekly affair.

The club meets every Wednesday, sharing laughs over hot drinks and the occasional card game.

The group is open to people over 55 who are looking to make new friends in the Delton, Eastwood, Parkdale, Westwood, Spruce Avenue and Alberta Avenue neighbourhoods.

‘I couldn’t be the only person that was in this particular situation where all of a sudden … you find yourself having lost friends and family and being retired.’ – Bernadette Alseth

Many of their members are people who have experienced divorce or the recent death of their partners, Alseth said.

“What I was hoping to achieve with this coffee club was bringing people out, bringing people out of themselves, out of their shells, if they had lost a loved one,” Alseth said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“I think people should talk about it more. People are little afraid to talk about losing people in their life but it’s just a part of it.”

The club has become a refuge for retirees, Alseth said. Like her, many people struggle with spending their days in complete solitude after their working lives have come to an end.

“It’s very important, particularly for people who are no longer doing nine to five,” she said.

“When you get up at eight o’clock in the morning and you don’t go to bed until 10, and you’re alone and isolated, those are very long days and you can end up having very dark thoughts.”

Edmonton widow's coffee shop friendship club combats loneliness with lattes

The Carrot Community Arts Coffee House on Alberta Avenue has become a weekly gathering place for the club.

‘Taking that first step’

The group remains small, but Alseth is hoping to grow their numbers. In time, she hopes to add more organized events like games or workshops to their weekly meetings.  

“If there were enough people who came, maybe we can put some things together, so people who feel isolated feel more a part of something solid,” she said.

“You just get to be yourself here. To me, that is really special.”

Alseth says the friendships she has formed through the club have been a balm for her grief. She encourages anyone to come join her for a friendly game of crib.

“It’s taking that first step, putting myself out there, introducing myself, being vulnerable,” she said.

“Mainly I just put myself out there and see what happens.” 

The Coffee Friendship Club meets every Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Carrot Coffeehouse, at 9351 118th Avenue. 

Brian Jean, former leader of the Wildrose Party, resigned Monday as the MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin.

In a written statement, Jean gave no reason for his decision to resign as a United Conservative Party MLA other than saying he wants to spend more time with his family. 

“Alberta and Albertans are always close to my heart and mind, but I believe now is an important time in my life to draw closer to my family, my kids and my grandchildren,” he said. 

Jean has faced questions about his political future ever since he lost the UCP leadership to former federal Conservative MP and cabinet minister Jason Kenney in October, following the amalgamation of the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservatives.  

Jean told Fort McMurray Today that three family members, including his sister, have cancer. 

Kenney in a written statement praised Jean’s legacy and service. 

“While it is a loss for our caucus that he has decided to return to private life, I understand and respect his personal reasons for doing so,” Kenney said. “His legacy in public life will endure in the United Conservative Party that he helped to create.” 

Premier Rachel Notley cited Jean’s leadership during the 2016 wildfires in Fort McMurray, in which he lost his own home. 

“As former Leader of the Official Opposition, Brian Jean took over his party at a difficult time and led it ably and conducted himself in a manner that demonstrated it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable,” she said in a statement. “He represented his constituency with great dedication – no more so than during the Wood-Buffalo wildfires.

“On behalf of the Province of Alberta, I offer our gratitude and thanks for his service to the people of Alberta.”

Jean’s announcement comes three days before the legislature on Thursday starts a spring sitting. 

Son misdiagnosed

Angela Pitt, the UCP MLA for Airdrie, said Jean ran to lead a Wildrose Party that was diminished by floor crossings in late 2014.

“He was committed to rebuilding this movement that was the Wildrose Party at that time,” she said. 

Pitt was first elected MLA in 2015 under the Wildrose banner. She said Jean is both a mentor and a friend. 

“He would offer all sorts of different information or introduce me to the right people at the right time in whatever quest or whatever project I was working on at the time,” she said. 

“He taught me a lot about being grassroots … He always was able to bring it back to the people.” 

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao, also of the UCP, said while he was disappointed by the news, he respects Jean’s decision.

He said Jean still had much to offer Alberta.

“Quite frankly, I understand that there is personal family issues that he’s going through right now,” Yao said.

“And the fact that he has worked really hard, he deserves a break.”

Yao said Jean will be remembered locally as the politician who advocated for Fort McMurray seniors when the provincial government backtracked on a decision to build a continuing care facility downtown.

Jean was first elected as an MLA in May 2015, two months after winning the leadership of the Wildrose Party, which was left with five MLAs after the majority of caucus crossed to the Progressive Conservatives the previous year. 

The Wildrose ceased to exist last summer after it merged with the Progressive Conservative party to form the UCP.

Jean spent a decade as a Conservative MP before resigning in January 2014. His bid for the Wildrose leadership was inspired by his 24-year-old son’s treatment by the health care system.

Jean said his son was misdiagnosed a number of times before it was discovered he had lymphoma. Michael Jean died shortly before his father won the Wildrose leadership.