These are the top stories:
Breaking down WestJet’s plan to go private in a $3.5-billion deal
The country’s second-biggest carrier is taking itself private as it looks to expand internationally and lure away Air Canada’s business-class travellers. With WestJet’s debt included, the acquisition by Toronto-based Onex is the biggest private-equity takeover of an airline in history.
WestJet’s stock has been on the decline for years, dropping 46 per cent from 2015 through the end of last year. By contrast, Air Canada’s stock more than doubled, up 119 per cent.
CEO Ed Sims said going private will give WestJet breathing room from the pressures of investors who are “almost constantly pulling up the roots of the vegetables to see if they’re still growing, and then are puzzled when that growth slows down.” But as our reporters note, the airline will still need to overcome challenges as it moves away from its low-cost beginnings. (for subscribers)
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Doug Ford’s chief of staff pressed Ontario police forces to launch raids on illegal cannabis dispensaries
In the weeks after legalization, Dean French sought daily reports on the number of store owners charged by police and the number of stores shut down. He also instructed staff to send letters to police service boards in an effort to instill “some urgency,” records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show. (for subscribers)
This isn’t the first time Ford’s government has come under the microscope on policing matters. Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner recently said French appeared to be “rooting” for the appointment of Ford’s friend Ron Taverner as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (Taverner later withdrew from consideration).
Jason Kenney’s planned corporate tax cuts set him apart from other conservative premiers
The Alberta Premier is vowing to cut the corporate income-tax rate by one percentage point in each of the next four years, from 12 per cent to 8 per cent. It’s a policy that will cost the province billions in forgone revenue, which the Premier is justifying by saying it will create 55,000 jobs. “We need to take the defibrillator to the Alberta economy,” Kenney said. (for subscribers)
Other conservatives, like Ontario’s Doug Ford, promised corporate cuts but backtracked as they looked to eliminate deficits.
Alberta NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley continues to warn that Kenney won’t be able to meet commitments to balancing the budget by 2022-23 without “significantly undercutting” funding for social services like health care and education.
On the money-laundering front, Alberta is questioning the findings of a major B.C. report
A recent report found $10-billion was washed through Alberta’s economy last year – the greatest amount of any province. But the province’s Minister of Justice and Solicitor-General, Doug Schweitzer, said the figure “appears to be the product of economic modelling that may not be completely reliable.”
The panel behind the report said it used a cautious model, noting that while it estimated almost $47-billion was laundered across Canada last year, the International Monetary Fund said the figure could be as high as $147-billion.
Gary Mason writes that the lack of reliable data underscores “just how difficult it is to capture with dead certainty the full scope of this particular criminal activity.”
ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Investigators have found just $28-million of Quadriga’s assets as they try to recover more than $200-million owed to those who invested funds in the now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange. The Canadian company was plunged into disarray when founder Gerald Cotten – the only person who knew the encrypted passwords – died suddenly on a trip to India late last year. (for subscribers)
Record damages of $2.5-million have been awarded in a Toronto cyber libel case. Describing the defendant’s behaviour as “a loathsome example of hate speech at its worst,” the judge ordered the payout to the Lebanese-born owner of Paramount Fine Foods who was targeted by two anti-Muslim activists.
World stocks hover near two-month low, investor fears over US-China trade war ease
World stocks hovered near two-month lows on Tuesday, although slightly more optimistic comments from U.S. and Chinese officials on trade brought some comfort a day after equities suffered their worst selloff so far this year. Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 0.7 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 1.5 per cent, and the Shanghai Composite 0.4 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.3 and 0.6 per cent by about 5 a.m. ET. New York futures were up. The Canadian dollar was above 74 US cents.
WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT
Hit anti-vaccination forces where it hurts: social media
André Picard: “If you spend five-10 minutes on an anti-vaccine website, you will have doubts. Why? Because they tell compelling stories presented in a readable fashion. Public health has to do the same. For far too long, it has embraced a “father knows best” attitude. That doesn’t cut it in a skeptical/cynical world. To earn trust you have to demonstrate caring and competency. That has to happen on a one-on-one basis with physicians and nurses before it can spread to peers in Facebook groups.” (for subscribers)
Canada’s tough spot in U.S.-China trade spat highlights the new economic Cold War
Campbell Clark: “For those with money in the stock markets, the U.S.-China trade war probably didn’t feel too cool on Monday. But this is a Cold War. As Toronto trade lawyer Larry Herman observes, ‘tariffs will be the weaponry.’ In this Cold War, the U.S. hasn’t had much time for allies. Neither superpower is particularly constrained by the rules of global trade, the ones that are supposed to protect smaller economies like Canada’s. Chances are, if the giants make a deal, it will undermine those rules.” (for subscribers)
Kawhi’s seismic basket could trigger a TV ratings natural disaster
Cathal Kelly: “Contrasted with the joy in Toronto on Sunday night, one can imagine how things were going down at NBA headquarters in New York. Would despair be too strong a word? How about resignation? The Milwaukee Bucks vs. the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference final is an imminent TV ratings natural disaster. The ground will first start buckling on Fifth Avenue.”
TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON
Cracks in the system: Without a national pharmacare strategy, who is left behind?
Incomplete coverage. No private or public insurance. Sky-high drug prices. Those are just a few of the issues preventing many Canadians from accessing much-needed prescription drugs in an otherwise universal health-care system.
“I have gone without my medication. I’ve skipped days to make it last longer. I’ve taken half a pill instead of a full,” says Natalie Brown, who spends $300 a month on drugs even as chronic illnesses leave her too sick to work.
This spring, a federal advisory council will release a report that could upend Canada’s fractured system for paying for prescription drugs. Both the Liberals and NDP are expected to make pharmacare a key part of their respective election platforms. But it’s not clear how much will be done to fix the broken system.
MOMENT IN TIME
First vaccine administered
May 14, 1796: In the late 1700s, Edward Jenner deliberately infected James Phipps, the eight-year-old son of his gardener, with cowpox. The experiment was inspired by the belief that people who looked after cows and had been infected with cowpox could not catch smallpox. (At the time, milkmaids were symbols of beauty because their skin was free of pockmarks common among smallpox survivors.) After James had recovered, Jenner exposed the boy to smallpox, but James did not contract the disease. It was the first documented case of successful vaccination. Jenner repeated the procedure on dozens of others, and none contracted smallpox. In 1801, Jenner published his treatise On the Origin of the Vaccine Inoculation, and within years, smallpox vaccination became routine and even mandatory. But it also generated a backlash. Some clergy argued that vaccination was “un-Christian” because the serum was derived from animals; civil libertarians objected to the mandatory orders; and skeptics argued that smallpox was caused by bad air, not pathogens. Almost 200 years after the first vaccination, smallpox, one of the most deadly diseases in human history, was eradicated. Building on the work of Jenner, the father of immunology, vaccines were also developed for dozens of other infectious diseases, and have saved hundreds of millions of lives. – André Picard