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Canada Morning Update: Refugee hearing wait times rising; the state of municipal elections in Toronto and Vancouver

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

The asylum-seeker surge at the Quebec border is choking Canada’s refugee system, data show

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The waiting time for a refugee claim hearing has now reached 19 months amid a surge in asylum seekers entering Canada via unauthorized border crossings. A Globe analysis reveals only 15 per cent of 27,674 asylum claims by people entering illegally into Quebec were finalized between February of 2017 and this June. Just 45 per cent of the claimants in those finalized Quebec cases have been accepted as legitimate refugees – below the 57-per-cent approval rate for all claims processed in Canada since late 2012. The federal government has pledged $72-million toward the Immigration and Refugee Board in a bid to reduce waiting times; it has also committed funds to provinces incurring steep costs of housing asylum seekers waiting for their cases to be heard.

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Municipal elections: What’s going on in Toronto and Vancouver

Toronto: Lawyers for the city are exploring legal options as Ontario Premier Doug Ford plans to invoke the notwithstanding clause to reduce the size of council from 47 to 25. Mayor John Tory says it’s bound to be an uphill battle; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “disappointed” by Ford’s decision but declined to intervene. Adam Radwanski writes that Ontario PCs “will need to come to terms with the fact that this week’s bedlam is exactly what they signed up for when they went to work for a chaos agent.” (for subscribers)

Vancouver: Ian Campbell threw his municipal party into disarray late Monday when he announced he was removing himself as Vision Vancouver’s mayoral candidate. The city’s ruling party needs to decide by Friday how – and if – it will replace Campbell ahead of the Oct. 20 election. Some Vision councillors have already thrown their support to independent candidate Kennedy Stewart, an NDP MLA. As for Campbell’s sudden exit: sources say Vision campaigners found out late last week that Campbell had issues in his background that weren’t disclosed.

Hurricane Florence: Where it’s headed, what’s expected, and travel warnings

Coastal residents fleeing a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence encountered empty gasoline pumps and depleted store shelves as the monster storm neared the Carolina coast with 140 mph (225 kph) winds and drenching rain that could last for days.

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While some said they planned to stay put despite hurricane watches and warnings that include the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the East Coast, many weren’t taking any chances.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the federal government has issued travel advisories; Canadians should avoid all trips to coastal areas in the three states as well as to Martinique, Guadeloupe and Dominica because of a separate tropical storm. Airlines are also offering to change flights to affected areas in the U.S. southeast, Barbados and Hawaii.

Canada and the U.S. are taking a time out on deadlocked NAFTA talks

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is leaving Washington to discuss negotiations in person with Justin Trudeau: “This is really a moment when speaking and meeting face to face with the Prime Minister is really essential,” she said (for subscribers). It’s not clear yet when talks will resume, even with a coming Sept. 30 deadline for Canada to be included in the text of a deal reached between the U.S. and Mexico. Freeland offered no specifics on the results of the recent talks, but trade watchers suggested she would have stayed in Washington if a deal was nearing completion.

Editor’s note: Yesterday’s Morning Update incorrectly referred to Chrystia Freeland as Ms. Freeman on second reference.

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CIBC’s CEO is sounding the alarm over falling foreign investment in Canada

Victor Dodig said a lack of clarity from Ottawa on its criteria for approving large deals such as Trans Mountain is creating uncertainty for potential investors. “That, to me, should be a siren call that that money is here. It will leave.” (for subscribers) Dodig also issued a warning about rising debt levels around the world, saying he believes there’s “a real serious global challenge of this low-interest-rate party developing a big hangover.” Dodig said boosting immigration and working to increase STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates would help Canada keep its strong economy intact.


Markets mixed

Fresh sparring between Washington and Beijing over trade kept world stocks close to three-week lows on Wednesday, while a slight U.S. dollar pullback gave little respite to emerging markets, with the Indian rupee plumbing new record lows. Tokyo’s Nikkei, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and the Shanghai Composite each lost about 0.3 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.2 per cent by about 6:20 a.m. ET, while Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.2 and 0.5 per cent. New York futures were up. The Canadian dollar was above 76.5 US cents, up after President Donald Trump said NAFTA negotiations were going well with Canada.

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Constant cries about Trump’s instability simply aren’t enough

“The focus on how Mr. Trump operates, his obliterating of all behavioural norms, is overshadowing the more important issue of what he does. Beneath the hullabaloo of the past few weeks was a development of more consequence – the triumph he and his Republicans scored in getting Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through confirmation hearings. Presidential neuroses had nothing to do with it. With the Kavanaugh confirmation now almost certain, the court will have a rightward tilt if not thrust for possibly a generation or more to come. Much of Mr. Trump’s work can be undone by succeeding presidents. But his appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Mr. Kavanaugh will leave a lasting stamp. For progressives, it’s a disaster.” – Lawrence Martin

The case for treating work e-mailing during commutes as hours worked

“September is here, everyone is back to work and commuting takes longer than ever if you drive. So maybe public transit looks good to you: If you were to take the train or the bus, you could catch up on some work, maybe send some e-mails. After all, according to Statistics Canada, Canadians who took transit to work in 2016 spent an average of nearly 45 minutes commuting, which is plenty of time to get things done. Thing is, if you do send those e-mails, should the time spent be counted as official work time? Researchers at a British university say that it should, and that it would be better for everyone if it was.” – Linda Nazareth, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute

A Trudeau government clam contract that still smells fishy

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“Arctic surf clams, with their rosy flesh and sweet taste, are big in Japan. Though they are fished off our Atlantic coast, virtually the entire catch is shipped to Asia. This exotic creature is now at the heart of a very Canadian scandal. It has been playing out for months, but important questions about the federal government’s conduct in the affair remain unanswered. The issue centres on the government’s process for awarding a lucrative licence to fish surf clams off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia worth tens of millions of dollars to its holder.” – Globe editorial


The best sushi in Japan isn’t in Tokyo – and it’s not even at a restaurant

Japan is known for some of the best seafood in the world, with 34 Michelin-starred sushi restaurants in Tokyo. But eating delicious fish in Tokyo often comes at a steep price. If you’re looking for affordable and top-quality seafood, you’re better off heading to small markets in the northern parts of Japan. There, you’ll be able to choose individual pieces of salmon roe, shrimp, sea urchin, tuna and more that you can plop on top of a bowl of rice – all for less than $20 a meal.


Oscar Pistorius found guilty of culpable homicide

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Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria on Sept. 12, 2014 after the verdict in his murder trial.


Sept. 12, 2014: It was the verdict that Oscar Pistorius was lucky to get. And it ignited a national uproar. After a sensational murder trial for the shooting death of his girlfriend, the Olympic hero was found guilty of only the lesser charge of culpable homicide – a generous verdict that shocked many South Africans. For years, the world had been gripped by the Pistorius saga. He was the celebrated Blade Runner, the first double-amputee athlete to compete against able-bodied sprinters in the Olympics. As an athlete, he was hailed for his fearless determination. But when he picked up his 9mm pistol and fired four bullets through a bathroom door in his luxurious Pretoria home, his excuse was flimsy: He said he thought an intruder had entered the house. After months of testimony, Judge Thokozile Masipa accepted his claim that he hadn’t intended to kill Reeva Steenkamp. The judge delivered a manslaughter verdict that would allow Pistorius to leave prison on parole just 13 months later. But by then, the widespread public backlash had led to a state appeal. The appeal court ruled that he was guilty of murder, and today he remains in prison with no chance of parole until 2023 at the earliest. – Geoffrey York

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