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Canada Morning Update: Hong Kong delays bill debate as protests turn violent; Vance to testify in Norman probe; CMHC head takes on lobby

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These are the top stories:

Hong Kong legislators postpone debate on China extradition bill as protests turn violent

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Violence broke out in Hong Kong Wednesday, as police used tear gas, water cannons and baton rushes to push back a large swell of protesters that had pressed toward the entrance of the city’s Legislative Council amid an angry protest over a proposed extradition bill.

The dramatic scenes in Hong Kong began after 3 p.m., when crowds who had spent the day peacefully gathering in the sweltering heat began to chant “withdraw,” demanding the government back down on the bill, which would ease the ability of Chinese authorities to legally seize people accused of serious crimes from the city. The sound of the chanting echoed through the downtown corridors of one of the world’s financial centres.

Within half an hour, clashes had broken out between crowds, who pushed metal barricades and threw water bottles, and police, who responded with tear gas, pepper spray and beanbag bullets.

Just before 11 a.m., members of the city’s Legislative Council said a scheduled debate on the bill had been unexpectedly postponed, as the city’s political leaders pleaded for peace with a crowd of tens of thousands who took over downtown streets.

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The head of the CMHC says there would need to be ‘calamity’ to warrant adjusting the stress test

Evan Siddall is doubling down on his defence of the mortgage measure, saying he’s speaking up to push back against industry criticisms. “The real estate lobby is on the wrong side of this issue, they’re being intensely self-interested, and somebody had to call them on it frankly because they were getting traction,” said Siddall, the CEO of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (for subscribers)

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Easing the stress test would increase Canadian debt levels and raise home prices, he said, adding that any short-term pain is worth increased affordability over the long stretch. Only “bubble-bursting collapse calamity” should prompt a re-examination, Siddall said.

The Chief of Defence Staff has agreed to speak to the Senate about the Norman affair

General Jonathan Vance plans to appear before the Senate committee investigating the failed prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. The committee, which decided to probe the matter after a Liberal-controlled House of Commons committee rejected a similar request, is still waiting to hear from Norman and other senior officials about whether they will speak. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has indicated he would appear.

Sources have previously told The Globe that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s frustration over the 2015 leak of his cabinet’s navy-ship contract discussions set in motion the RCMP probe that led to the charge against Norman. (for subscribers)

The federal tourism agency is sponsoring a Canada Day gala in Beijing while Canadians are detained

Destination Canada is listed as the “principal sponsor” of a “Canada Day in Beijing Gala dinner” even as Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor remain jailed for what the Trudeau government has called “political reasons.” Other sponsors include Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada and Manulife Financial. (for subscribers)

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Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole is calling for the event’s cancellation, saying “we should not be acting like ‘situation normal.’”

Destination Canada says it’s not a sponsor, but rather a partner in a multiyear agreement with Canada China Business Council to stimulate trade activity.

Meanwhile, John Ibbitson says Canada’s frozen relations with Beijing stem from a U.S.-China trade war that’s based on a false assumption: “China is not destined to grow. It is destined to decline.” That’s because the country’s birth rate is collapsing, which could hurt its economy in the long term. Unlike the U.S., China doesn’t welcome immigrants, a key way to make up for population declines. (for subscribers)

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SNC-Lavalin’s CEO has exited as the company pursues a new strategy that lowers risk. The departure of Neil Bruce comes as the Quebec-based construction and engineering giant sees its future threatened amid fraud charges and a sinking stock price. Eric Reguly says Bruce’s time was up but that the interim CEO will have a hard time convincing investors the company isn’t a lost cause. (for subscribers)

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Anglophone Montrealers are up in arms over the Quebec government’s plan to transform three English schools into French ones. The province says it’s necessary to accommodate an influx of asylum seekers who must by law pursue a French education. The rift comes on the same week the province may move to pass controversial bills on immigration and religious symbols.

World markets snapped a seven-day winning streak on Wednesday as the White House took a tough line on trade talks with China, while an impending reading on U.S. inflation was set to refine the odds of an early cut in interest rates there. European markets were lower in morning trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 was off 0.52 per cent just before 5:30 a.m. ET. Germany’s DAX fell 0.39 per cent. France’s CAC 40 slid 0.57 per cent. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index closed down 0.56 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng ended down 1.73 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei finished 0.35 per cent lower. New York futures were lower. The Canadian dollar was trading at 75.18 US cents.


The Raptors, the NHL, and the reasons we cheer now

Globe editorial: “The Raptors’ rise to the top of the NBA, taking on the star-studded dynasty that is the Golden State Warriors, is a tale Canadians can get behind. Canada’s Team? Hell yes. There may be no Canadian-born players on the starting roster. (Well, other than Drake.) But there is so much about the team, and its stories, that Canadians can identify with.”

Everyone involved in letting Kevin Durant play Game 5 deserves blame

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Cathal Kelly: “If the GM of the best team in the league doesn’t have the sense not to risk his most precarious asset in a series that is statistically already over, then he shouldn’t be a GM. He should be the team’s grief counsellor. Everyone else who 'collaborated’ on this decision should also get it in the neck.”

Bombardier’s sale of the Canadair Regional Jet program would be a sad ending to a Canadian success story

Konrad Yakabuski: “Bombardier’s CRJ may not have saved millions of lives the way insulin, another Canadian invention, has. But it did thrust Canada into the major leagues of the global civil aviation industry and transformed air travel in the 1990s. … That’s why news that Bombardier is in talks to sell the CRJ program to Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is a worrying development for Canada’s aerospace industry and a sad reminder of how a global champion lost its way.” (for subscribers)


(Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail


Could cannabis be a substitute for opioids? New research is casting doubt

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A new study is contradicting an earlier landmark study that found U.S. states with medical cannabis laws saw slower-than-expected increases in prescription opioid death rates.

In the original study, the authors speculated patients may have been substituting marijuana for painkillers. But the new report showed opioid overdoses were happening at a higher rate in states with medical marijuana laws.

In Canada, some cannabis activists and industry members have pushed for more access as one possible way to address the overdose crisis. But Chelsea Shover, one of the authors of the new report, says “the evidence doesn’t suggest” that legalization is a solution.


Cleopatra premieres

(20th Century Fox/Photofest)

20th Century Fox/Photofest

June 12 1963: A ballooning budget. A revolving door of actors and directors. Two stars who alternately loved and loathed each other. And, in the improbable end, nine Academy Award nominations and US$484-million at the box office (adjusted for inflation). That is the up, down and every-which-way legacy of 1963′s Cleopatra, the epic historical drama that both heralded a new era of blockbuster-sized filmmaking and nearly killed off the genre in one fell swoop. Costing about US$44-million to make at the time (about US$350-million today), Cleopatra had all the makings of a cinematic disaster unfolding in real time. The press was obsessed with the tumultuous on-set affair between leads Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and the studio was so meddlesome to necessitate huge behind-the-scenes shuffling, including replacing original director Rouben Mamoulian with Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Matters were so out of control that crews ended up building a recreation of the Roman Forum that was larger than the real-deal Forum itself. Yet just like future thought-to-be-bombs Apocalypse Now and Titanic, Cleopatra (“The motion picture the world has been waiting for!” according to marketing materials) surprised everybody. It became the biggest box-office success of 1963 and a Best Picture Oscar nominee. – Barry Hertz

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