Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:
Conservative MPs may be going out of their way to avoid discussing abortion rights following the leak this week of a draft U.S. Supreme Court decision foreshadowing possible restrictions on those rights in the United States. But Liberal MPs, who have long used abortion as a wedge issue against the Tories, were lining up to talk to reporters about it both before and after their weekly caucus meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday.
And the Prime Minister was at the front of the line, reaffirming his view that access to safe and legal abortions will be protected in Canada. Justin Trudeau said he has directed Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Status of Women Minister Marci Ien “to look at the legal framework” around abortion services to ensure “that not just under this government, but under any future government, the rights of women are properly protected.”
The tone was similar on the Ontario election campaign trail, with all three major party leaders calling for protection or expansion of women’s access to safe abortions.
In the United States, where a final high-court decision on the matter is due by the end of June, abortion clinics and abortion-rights advocates are seeing a surge in donations.
- Opinion: The looming reversal of Roe v. Wade is unjust – but it should be no surprise
- Explainer: What are the implications for the U.S. Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade after leak of draft document?
EU proposes Russian oil ban as Moscow intensifies offensive in eastern Ukraine
Ukraine’s defence ministry said Wednesday that Russia was intensifying its war on its neighbour, while Europe could be closer to a 27-country plan to phase out Russian oil imports it still depends on by the end of 2022.
Those and other sanctions would be intended to further isolate Russia, though Ukrainian officials fear the pace of the proposed phase-out is too slow. On Tuesday, 10 weeks into the invasion, Ukraine said its eastern regions were subject to 50 air strikes while Russian forces also attacked western Ukrainian targets, where supplies from its allies were flowing.
In Mariupol, where evacuees are still trickling out, an investigation by The Associated Press has found that Russia’s March 16 bombing of a theatre serving as a bomb shelter killed close to 600 people, not 300 as originally estimated.
Meanwhile neighbouring Belarus, a close ally of Russia, said its military had begun large-scale drills on Wednesday to test their combat readiness and that they posed no threat to Ukraine.
From Paul Waldie in Lviv:
U.S. Federal Reserve raises key interest rate by a half-point in bid to tame inflation
In a widely anticipated move meant to combat inflation, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced an increase to its benchmark short-term interest rate Wednesday, to a range of 0.75 to 1 per cent, with an expectation of further rate hikes this year. The Fed will also start reducing its huge $9-trillion balance sheet, a move that is likely to make borrowing money even more expensive.
Inflation in the United States reached 6.6 per cent last month, the highest point in four decades. Canada’s central bank is facing similar challenges.
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ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Ontario leaders seize on Highway 413 proposal: The first official day of campaigning in Ontario featured Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford touting the proposed Highway 413 as a time-saver for the thousands of commuters who live in the Toronto suburbs it would serve. Rivals Steven del Duca of the Liberals and Andrea Horwath of the NDP counter that the project would pave over the protected Greenbelt and shave mere seconds from commute times.
- More: Visit our Ontario election page for voter information and comprehensive campaign coverage
- Opinion: Buck-a-fare is better than buck-a-beer, but neither makes much sense
Russians accused in gruesome Africa deaths: A new report by Human Rights Watch documents how Russian mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group have been implicated in the torture and executions of civilians in the Central African Republic over the past three years.
Man who aided N.S. killer opts to join restorative justice: James Banfield, who supplied ammunition to the killer of 22 people in Nova Scotia in 2020, has withdrawn his guilty plea and will instead participate in a restorative justice process.
Dave Chappelle attacked on stage: Performing on stage in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, comedian Dave Chappelle was tackled by a man holding a replica gun that contained a knife blade.
Investors in the U.S. seemed reassured by signals emerging from the Federal Reserve’s half-percentage point interest-rate hike Wednesday, with major indexes closing higher after Chair Jerome Powell’s news conference.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 932.27 points, or 2.81%, to 34,061.06, the S&P 500 gained 124.69 points, or 2.99%, to 4,300.17 and the Nasdaq Composite added 401.10 points, or 3.19%, to 12,964.86.
Likewise, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended up 279.67 points at 21,184.95, its highest closing level since April 22. One Canadian dollar cost 78.5 cents US by the end of the day.
Today’s budgets are a secret, even after they’ve been presented
Andrew Coyne: “Once, budgets were conceived of as fairly straightforward exercises in disclosure – of the current state of the nation’s finances, and of the government’s future plans for spending, taxing and borrowing. That has gradually given way to a new idea of their purpose: misdirection and confusion. When no one can even understand what’s in the budget, what need is there to keep it secret?”
When lying becomes normalized in politics, democracy suffers
Gary Mason: “There always has been a certain amount of lying in politics, but those caught doing it were often held to account, were forced to pay a price. Then Donald Trump came along. ... Politicians, especially in the Republican party, took note. Even if you got caught out in a lie it didn’t matter. There were no consequences.”
B.C.’s new anti-racism legislation allows us to turn intersectional data into systemic change
Kasari Govender: “However, there is a serious downside to collecting all this information. Despite its power to focus the gaze of policy makers on real world inequities, data also have the power to reinforce negative stereotypes, and some people have legitimate concerns about sharing this information.”
Dolly Parton, Eminem, Lionel Richie inducted into Rock Hall of Fame
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voters have spoken, and despite wanting to “bow out” of consideration for the honour, Dolly Parton’s name is on the list of artists who have been inducted in the hall’s class of 2022. She joins as a rare crossover country act, and is accompanied by Eminem (a rare hip-hop crossover act), Lionel Richie, Carly Simon, Eurythmics, Duran Duran and Pat Benatar.
An outdoor tequila tasting in Jalisco, Mexico, is true luxury
Here in the birthplace of the spirit derived from the blue agave plant, visitors to the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa are treated to a sophisticated and educational tasting by a tequila sommelier well-versed in the art of sipping.
TODAY’S LONG READ
Hot housing market turns realtor incomes inflation proof
The runaway housing market across Canada has put financial pressure on potential home buyers who nowadays also need to factor cost-of-living increases into their budgets. But for real estate agents involved in the deals, the fight against inflation is much easier: rising home prices mean rising incomes thanks to a fixed-percentage commission structure.
Results will vary significantly from realtor to realtor – it’s a competitive industry with some no-frills agents undercutting the standard 5-per-cent commission rate and other agents selling far fewer properties than average in a typical month.
Still, some rough number crunching shows an occupation characterized by astounding wage growth in the past two decades. In the Toronto region, for example, sales totalled some $26.32-billion in 2004 compared with about $133.3-billion in 2021, for an increase of 315 per cent over 18 years if you assume an average commission of 4.1 per cent.
- Toronto home sales plunge 27 per cent in April, home prices dip
- Some buyers see opportunity in Toronto market slow down
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