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Alberta budget introduces $1.3-billion in cuts, elimination of 2,000 public sector jobs

The United Conservative government’s first budget will see the province cut its operating spending by 2.8 per cent over the coming years. The province says it can eliminate the province’s $8.7-billion deficit by 2022-2023. To get there, the government will cut 2,100 public sector positions while keeping budgets for health, education and social services frozen for four years. The budget takes an axe to advanced education funding, eliminates a tax credit for tuition and raises the province’s cap on tuition increases to seven per cent annually. Grants to municipalities will be cut by up to 50 per cent, worsening budget pressures in cities like Calgary. The province will also press ahead with a plan to cut corporate taxes by one-third over the next four years, as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney looks to ignite a recovery after five years of economic malaise.

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What about expectations for oil sector and potential cuts at the province’s energy regulator?

The government forecast paints a relatively rosy picture for the oil patch. The fiscal plan expects a modest oil price increase to US$63 per barrel in 2022-23 to combine with relatively steady balance sheets for an industry expected to hold the line on short-term spending and investment. As Albertans grapple with the impact of the cuts, they’ll also be paying an estimated $1.5-billion to cover the crude-by-rail contracts cancelled by the Kenney government. That plan, originally put in place by the previous Rachel Notley government, would have seen the province lease rail cars and then purchase and ship 120,000 barrels of oil per day out of Alberta. When it comes to energy and non-energy investment, the budget predicts corporate tax cuts and national pipeline expansions to set the stage for medium-term gains, with real and total oil exports estimated to grow by three per cent.

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Kurdish forces close Iraq-Syria border crossings to prevent refugee exodus

Aid workers in northern Iraq say the closing of the Syrian side of Faysh Khabur, a border area that is under the control of the Kurdish YPG militia, is an apparent attempt to stem the tide of Kurds fleeing after the Turkish offensive. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accused of seeking to change the demographics of the region by replacing Kurds with Arabs. Mark MacKinnon, The Globe’s senior international correspondent, reported yesterday from the Bardarash refugee camp in Kurdish-controlled Iraq on the arrival of several busloads of Kurds from Syria.

The closing of the Syrian side of the border explains why an expected mass exodus of refugees has yet to materialize. While more than 10,000 Kurds have arrived in northern Iraq since the Turkish offensive on Oct. 9, that’s only a fraction of the 180,000 people that the United Nations says have been displaced by the fighting. With the crossing closed, refugees have been forced either to seek refuge elsewhere in Syria, or turn to smugglers to get them out of the country.

Johnson calls for election on Dec. 12 to break Brexit deadlock

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a general election in the hopes of breaking the impasse over Brexit, but he still needs the support of two-thirds of Parliament’s 650 lawmakers to make it happen. Johnson wrote to opposition Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn to encourage his support for an election but Corbyn has repeatedly said the Labour Party will back an election only when it is sure that Johnson cannot lead Britain out of the European Union without a deal. Johnson has failed twice before to win the votes in Parliament for an election.

With barely a week before the Oct. 31 deadline when Britain is due to leave the EU, the bloc appears set to grant his government another delay. Germany and France support an extension but differ on its length. Over the weekend, the British Parliament voted in favour of Johnson’s recently negotiated Brexit deal with the EU, but rejected his preferred timetable and essentially forced him to seek an extension.

Victims found dead in truck revealed to be Chinese nationals

Police in Britain have confirmed that all of the 39 bodies found packed into the back of a truck east of London on Wednesday were Chinese, The Globe’s Paul Waldie reports. The victims include 31 men and eight women. A 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, identified in media reports as Maurice Robinson, has been arrested on suspicion of murder. However, it is not clear whether Mr. Robinson knew there were people inside the trailer.

B.C. legislation would make it first province to implement UN declaration on Indigenous rights

British Columbia has introduced legislation that mandates the government to bring provincial laws and policies into harmony with the aims of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Announced today by Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser, the legislation is modelled on a federal bill that died on the Senate order paper when Parliament adjourned for Monday’s election. The UN declaration grants Indigenous Peoples the right to redress or compensation for traditional lands that have been taken, used or damaged without their “free, prior and informed consent.”

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Vancouver artist at the centre of controversy with Gucci

Sharona Franklin, who lives in social housing on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, is a 32-year-old multidisciplinary artist who makes edible art: laborious and intricate Jell-O mould-type creations, reports Marsha Lederman. She was contacted by a design firm in London called Simmonds Ltd., which asked whether she would be interested in creating work for a fashion line that turned out to be Gucci. She signed a non-disclosure agreement, there was talk of flying her to Italy and then conversation dried up. A while later, Gucci unveiled its 2020 campaign featuring artwork remarkably similar to her own. Now, friends in the art community are rising in her defence.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

After three rounds of balloting, 19 recently elected MLAs in the Northwest Territories chose Caroline Cochrane, a two-term member of the legislature and former social worker, as the new premier. Cochrane represents a Yellowknife district and becomes the first woman to lead the NWT since Nellie Cournoyea left the job in 1995.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said today the Ontario government will walk back plans to increase high school class sizes in the province and will scale the funded average class sizes back to 25 from the 28 it has been proposing for months.

Although Ontario Premier Doug Ford had previously said the outcome of the federal election would determine whether his government persisted in its plan to fight the federal carbon tax, the Ontario government said today it will carry on with its legal challenge.

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The community of North Spirit Lake First Nation, an Oji-Cree community northeast of Red Lake, Ont., has declared a state of emergency because of interruptions to power and water services due to a lack of personnel.

John Collyer, the former chief of police in Bridgewater, N.S., has been found guilty of sexually exploiting a 17-year-old girl. He was chief when the incident occurred in 2016. The victim had testified that Collyer asked her an inappropriate question while the two were in a car before putting his hand between her legs and assaulting her.

MARKET WATCH

The close: Materials, tech sectors drive TSX higher

Canada’s main stock index rose on Thursday as gains in shares of gold miners and a string of positive earnings helped offset a drop in Husky Energy following disappointing results. Five of the index’s 11 major sectors gained, with the materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners, leading the rally on the back of higher gold prices. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was unofficially up 33.39 points, or 0.20 per cent, at 16,369.32.

A speech from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday underscored tensions between Washington and Beijing. Pence accused China of curtailing “rights and liberties” in Hong Kong but insisted that the United States does not seek to confront or to “de-couple” from its main economic rival. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 28.62 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 26,805.33, the S&P 500 gained 5.63 points, or 0.19 per cent, to 3,010.15 and the Nasdaq Composite added 66.00 points, or 0.81 per cent, to 8,185.80.

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TALKING POINTS

The give and take of reverse mortgages

“In an era of ridiculously low interest rates, reverse mortgage costs stand out as an exception. Why do people use them? Because they need money and the most practical way to get it is to tap into their home equity.” – Rob Carrick

Is Benjamin Netanyahu’s reign finally coming to an end?

“[Benjamin] Netanyahu has now dragged this purported world power into political chaos as he wages a desperate rear-guard action to maintain the premiership. Or, at the very least, to deny it from [Benny] Gantz. While Mr. Netanyahu’s path to forming a government was non-existent, Mr. Gantz’s options are likely only marginally better.” – Neri Zilber is a journalist based in Tel Aviv, an adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and a senior fellow at BICOM, a British think tank.

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The Unicorn: A fine, unforced comedy on regular TV

“By far the best of the [newly launched TV shows] is The Unicorn. It looks on the surface like a generic comedy, but it has a certain unique kind of wit and warmth without ever being saccharine or dumb. I’ve been enjoying it. And I know much of its charm resides in the cast, especially the lead figure.” – John Doyle

LIVING BETTER

Trying to be the perfect child nearly destroyed me

Despite her efforts to be self-reliant, to appear flawless, contributor Madigan Ruch writes in today’s First Person essay about her experiences dealing with expectations, mental health and family. “I wanted everyone to think I was capable, hoping if they believed it then I would, too. Because despite all of my efforts to appear flawless, I didn’t feel like an ounce of it was true,” she writes.

How can I refresh our powder room without renovating?

“Powder rooms are called the jewel box of the home and I think it’s because of the old ‘good things in small packages’ cliché,” writes Beth Hitchcock, who has some ideas on how to advance the room’s style while its two key pieces, the toilet and vanity, stay put.

LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE

At Lahore's train station, four-year-old Khayam Zahid gets his pinky finger marked by polio worker Imtiaz Ahmed to signify he's received vaccination drops.

The Globe and Mail

In Pakistan, vaccine workers have three diseases to fight: polio, propaganda and public mistrust

Misinformation in the digital age has been identified as the biggest setback by leaders in the drive to eradicate polio from Pakistan which, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, is one of the last places in the world where the virus exists. The South Asian country already has 76 cases this year, up significantly from 12 cases last year and eight in 2017. As Salmaan Farooqui reports from Pakistan, it isn’t just the country’s poor and uneducated masses that don’t always know which information to trust. That reality is made more stark by the first appearance of polio in Lahore in eight years. The country’s second-largest city is known to be relatively cleaner, wealthier and to have better infrastructure than other population centres in Pakistan.

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