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Canada Evening Update: RCMP arrest suspected spy; federal parties promise tax, regulatory relief and Huffman gets 14 days in jail

Good evening, we have some breaking news:

RCMP charge intelligence official for breaching secrets law

The RCMP has arrested and laid seven charges against Cameron Ortis of Ottawa over alleged breaches of the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code that would have occurred as part of his work as a senior intelligence official for the Mounties, report Daniel Leblanc, Marieke Walsh, Steven Chase and Colin Freeze. Ortis, 47, appeared in an Ottawa courtroom via video link this afternoon. Senior counsel with the Public Prosecution Service, John MacFarlane told the court Mr. Ortis “obtained, stored, processed sensitive information” and the crown believes he intended "to communicate that information to people he shouldn’t be communicating to.” The RCMP has confirmed the charges stem from activities alleged to have occurred during his tenure as an RCMP employee. According to court documents ,the alleged infractions occurred between 2015 and 2019.

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Tom Ngi, who worked with Ortis on his 2006 thesis paper at the University of British Columbia, said he was interviewed by the RCMP on Thursday despite losing contact with Ortis years ago. He said the federal police service did not hint at specific countries, if any, for which Ortis may have spied.

Several of the charges fall under three sections of the Security of Information Act, which was ushered in following the 9/11 attacks in the United States and is intended to safeguard sensitive government information. The other charges are Criminal Code violations for allegedly trying to disclose classified information.

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Trudeau controls waiver of cabinet confidentiality on SNC-Lavalin

Legal and political experts are rejecting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement that it is up to Canada’s top bureaucrat, Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart, to decide whether to lift the veil of cabinet secrecy over the SNC-Lavalin affair. As Daniel Leblanc and Robert Fife report, retired judge John Gomery, who led a public inquiry into the federal sponsorship program in 2004 and 2005, said that waiving confidentiality is a political decision in the hands of the prime minister. Gomery said he was initially rebuffed by senior bureaucrats when he asked for access to cabinet minutes related to the national-unity initiative, which was marred by fraud and corruption. The Liberal prime minister of the day, Paul Martin, eventually over rode the senior bureaucrats and agreed to provide access to all available information. “Their usual rules are there is no disclosure of what goes on in cabinet,” Gomery said in an interview. "Like every rule, there are exceptions. I had one of them, and we’ll find out if there will be another one in the SNC-Lavalin case.”

Party leaders announce tax credits, regulatory changes on campaign trail

On the campaign trail today, leaders of Liberal, Conservative and NDP parties targeted consumers and small business owners with a clutch of boutique tax breaks and regulatory changes aimed at saving them a few dollars. As Marieke Walsh, Janice Dickson and Michelle Zilio report, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau put forward a suite of minor changes for small businesses to make it easier for female entrepreneurs to get started and lower some costs for business owners; Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pledged to bring back the transit tax credit axed by Trudeau; and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pitched a cap on cellphone and internet bills.

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May, Singh attack Scheer as he targets Liberal record at leaders’ debate

The leaders clashed on the economy, social programs and climate change as they tried to articulate their positions at the Thursday debate hosted by Maclean’s/Citytv. But with a key player absent from the stage in Toronto, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May directed most of their attacks at Mr. Scheer. The only representation Justin Trudeau had at the debate was an empty lectern. The Liberals announced last week that he wouldn’t take part in the Maclean’s/Citytv debate or a Munk debate on foreign policy − both of which he participated in during the 2015 election. This was the first federal leaders debate for Scheer and Singh. After the formal leaders’ handshake at the top, May, the political veteran on stage, walked over to Trudeau’s empty podium and mimed shaking his hand.

  • Opinion: (John Ibbitson): By skipping first debate, Trudeau gives rivals chance at warm-up round

Democratic candidates gang up on front-runner Biden

Former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination ganged up last night in Houston to accuse the front-runner of failing to be ambitious enough on everything from health care to gun control and foreign policy at the party’s third debate. The evening also featured some brief references to Canada, including Senator Cory Booker, who is bald, cracking a self-deprecating joke about his envy of Justin Trudeau’s wavy hair. As U.S. correspondents Adrian Morrow and Tamsin McMahon report, the debate was the first with a sufficiently small field to take place on a single night, ensuring the top 10 contenders all appeared on the same stage together. And despite stumbling to respond to several attacks, . Biden likely did little to damage his front-runner status.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

  • Canada’s biggest cable companies are heading to court to seek an appeal of last month’s CRTC ruling on wholesale internet rates. The companies are challenging an Aug. 15 ruling that set final rates for what large ISPs can charge smaller players for access to their networks. (The Globe and Mail)
  • Montreal artificial intelligence startup Element AI Inc. has closed its second large financing round, announcing Friday it has raised US$151.4-million ($200-million), two years after it secured more than US$100-million from global investors. (The Globe and Mail)
  • Rock star Eddie Money, who left behind a career as a New York police officer to become one of the top-selling music stars of the 1970s and ‘80s, with hits like Two Tickets to Paradise and Take Me Home Tonight, has died at age 70. (The Associated Press)
  • Actress Felicity Huffman has been sentenced to 14 days in prison, a US$30,000 fine, one year of supervised release and 250 hours of community service in a wide-ranging U.S. college admissions cheating scandal after pleading guilty to paying to rig her daughter’s entrance exam. (Reuters)
  • The remains of Alishia Liolli, the Ontario woman who died in the Bahamas during hurricane Dorian last week, were flown off the Abaco Islands to a funeral home in Nassau on Wednesday night and should be coming to Canada in the coming days, her mother Josie McDonagh said. (The Canadian Press)

MARKET WATCH

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Financials help push TSX to record high, U.S. markets mixed

The TSX ended the week Friday with a record close, with a strong showing in the financial sector sending Canada’s main stock index higher. South of the border was a different story, with major U.S. stock indexes more mixed. The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 39.14 points at 16,682.42 after trading as high as 16,756.11 earlier in the morning (the index had also hit an intraday record on Thursday). In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 37.07 points at 27,219.52. The S&P 500 index closed down 2.18 points at 3,007.39, while the Nasdaq composite closed down 17.75 points at 8,176.71.

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TALKING POINTS

The confusing world of Métis identity

Jean Teillet ― “Naming is important. Every group that takes any kind of collective action gives itself a name. A hockey team names itself, as does a political party. So, too, did Indigenous peoples. Originally calling themselves the Bois-Brûlés, Louis Riel’s people chose Métis, a French word that means mixed, as the name of their nation and have used it since the 1830s. It refers to their unique culture in the Canadian North-West, with their own language, laws, history and traditions. Their stories are woven into Canadian history – stories that tell us their origins, how they lived and how they saw and continue to see themselves as a distinct Indigenous people. Everyone – from historians to the courts to the federal and provincial governments – recognize the Métis Nation as one of the Indigenous peoples of Canada.”

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If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

Benjamin Errett ― “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. This observation is likely the best thing Mike Tyson has ever said. It’s been widely quoted, perhaps most famously by Donald Trump to justify his improvisational leadership style.”

Be like Mister Rogers, and put on a cozy sweater. The world will be a better place for it

Anne T. Donahue ― “Because to choose a sweater is to not only choose warmth, but to choose comfort and coziness. It is to knowingly slip into a portable hug. Arguably, to wear a sweater is the closest many of us will ever come to sleeping atop a pile of freshly bathed sheep, whose wool is fluffy and light and perfectly welcoming. Which is why sweaters have come to symbolize vulnerability and softness. And might even explain why, decades after he first zipped his first cardigan up, we still love Mr. Rogers.”

LIVING BETTER

Start planning your winter vacation with this ultimate Caribbean island guide

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It’s never too early to start planning your winter vacation. If, like millions of other Canadians, you’re thinking of a hot and sunny Caribbean getaway when the weather turns cold and dreary (Canadian visitor growth in the region outperformed that of all other nationalities in 2018, with a 5.7-per-cent jump over the previous year) how do you find the island that’s right for you? Our cheat sheet covers what to expect on every island nation you can reach by a direct flight from a major Canadian city. Once you’re there, if you’re looking to bring home a memory of your Caribbean escape, follow our expert advice to find items that are locally crafted – and skip the made-in-Taiwan shot glass.

TIFF 2019: The best, worst and most awkward moments of the Toronto International Film Festival

The 44th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is entering its closing weekend. Before we bid adieu to celebrities and streetcar closures for another year, The Globe and Mail’s film festival team presents the best, worst and most awkward moments of TIFF 2019. And catch up on pics of all the stars out at premieres and parties – for the record, the award for best technicolor dreamcoat goes to the sparkly jacket Michael B. Jordan sported at the premiere of Just Mercy.

LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Constance Wu star in Hustlers

Barbara Nitke/Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

What’s new in theatres this weekend, from the ambitious Hustlers to the misfire The Goldfinch

Start your weekend planning early with The Globe and Mail’s guide to every feature film arriving this weekend, from would-be blockbusters to under-the-radar indies. This week we have reviews on the ambitious Hustlers, which is more Goodfellas than Showgirls, Keira Knightley’s solid docu-thriller Official Secrets, the quiet return of Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!, the Canadian thriller Freaks and The Goldfinch, which should have never flown away from its literary perch.

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