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Historic Alberta elections, Quebec government restart : In The News for Oct. 19

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Oct. 19 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Alberta's two major cities are set to make history in their mayoral races after Monday's municipal elections across the province.

Jyoti Gondek is set to become Calgary's first female mayor and in Edmonton, Amarjeet Sohi appears to have been elected as the capital city's first mayor of colour.

Sohi is a Sikh immigrant from India who previously served as an Edmonton city councillor and a federal Liberal cabinet minister. 

Celebrating his victory, he thanked Edmontonians for making the impossible possible after dreaming as a young adult to "build a better life in a new home."

Gondek will replace Naheed Nenshi, who held the city's top job for more than a decade. 

Nenshi made history on his own as the first Muslim mayor to be elected in a large North American city. 

Gondek said Calgarians embraced a vision of "promise and opportunity" by electing her. 

Election results are to be made official on Friday.

Also this ...

Quebec Premier François Legault's government will set out its priorities for the rest of its mandate with an inaugural speech later today.

Legault announced Oct. 7 he was proroguing the province's legislature, cutting short the previous session.

Legault has said in recent weeks that it's time to begin planning for the post-COVID-19 pandemic period, repeating that message Monday in a Facebook video.

Under provincial law, the next election is set for Oct. 3, 2022.

Prorogation ended work on all bills before the legislature, but the government can bring back legislation it considers essential and pick up where it left off.

The last time a Quebec premier prorogued the legislature was in 2011.

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And this ...

Police in Regina say a man is accused of sending a threatening email from a fake account to two people, one of whom a premier's office spokeswoman says was Scott Moe.

The Regina Police Service says an investigation began on Oct. 4 with an email allegedly threatening "the lives and safety of an elected official and an official with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health."

Police say the email was received by several people with no apparent connection to each other and it allegedly contained non-specific threats to the lives and safety of government officials and law enforcement.

But police say it also mentioned two Saskatchewan individuals by name.

Moe's press secretary, Julie Leggott, said in an email late Monday that Moe was the elected official, but there would be no further comment because the matter was now before the courts.

Thirty-eight year-old Tobechi Okwuonu of Regina is facing two charges of uttering threats and has been released on conditions until he appears in provincial court Dec. 1.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — Washington’s regional Metro system pulled more than half its fleet of trains from service early Monday morning over a lingering problem with the wheels and axles, which promises to complicate commutes for thousands of riders while the National Transportation and Safety Board investigates. 

The Metro authority's safety commission ordered the withdrawal of the entire 7000-series line of trains overnight. They are the newest set of trains in service and the 748 cars comprise about 60 per cent of the fleet.

Safety board chair Jennifer Homendy told reporters Monday that a design flaw had been identified, which caused the trains' wheels to spread too wide on the axles, allowing the carriage to slip off the tracks.

“This could have resulted in a catastrophic event,” she said.

The wheel issue is being blamed for an incident last week in which a train car slipped off the tracks on the Metro's blue line near Arlington Cemetery. Homendy said the car had apparently derailed once and then reconnected with the rails by itself, before derailing a second time. Some passengers were trapped in a tunnel in a dark train car and had to be evacuated on foot.

The safety ruling had already snarled commutes across the nation's capital and the intertwined communities of northern Virginia and southern Maryland. Passengers on social media reported widespread delays with commuters waiting up to 45 minutes between trains and crowding chaotically into whatever space was available.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson led a sombre British Parliament on Monday in honouring the Conservative lawmaker stabbed to death last week as he met constituents at a church hall. 

The attack shocked Britain and raised questions about how the country protects it politicians and grapples with extremism at home. It came five years after Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox was killed by a far-right extremist. 

Johnson said Amess “was taken from us in a contemptible act of violence, striking at the core of what it is to be a member of this House.” 

A 25-year-old British man with Somali heritage, Ali Harbi Ali, is being held under the Terrorism Act on suspicion of murder.

The tributes from shaken and grieving colleagues came as detectives tried to determine whether Amess was targeted simply because he was a legislator, or for more individual reasons. 

Amess, 69, was a social conservative who opposed abortion, campaigned for animal rights and strongly supported Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who often differed with Amess politically, said the late lawmaker held his beliefs “passionately but gently,” and his life was a reminder that “civility matters."

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On this day in 1929 ...

In 1929, the Privy Council of Britain, reversing a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, ruled that Canadian women were "persons" and could become senators. It called the exclusion of women from public office "a relic of days more barbarous than ours." The decision led to the appointment of Cairine Wilson as the first woman member of the Upper House.

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In entertainment ...

TORONTO — Pop superstar The Weeknd is telling fans he wants to invest in "something bigger" rather than move forward with shows that were planned from his already postponed world tour.

The Toronto pop superstar announced Monday he is refunding tickets for those shows. He was scheduled to begin a massive tour for his "After Hours" album, starting with two nights in Vancouver on Jan. 14 and 15. He was then booked to play Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, with more stops in the United States and Europe.

However the artist, born Abel Tesfaye, announced on his Instagram that he wanted to move his tour to stadiums and is rescheduling for next summer.

"Due to constraints of arenas and the demand for more shows I want to do something bigger and special for you which requires stadiums," Tesfaye wrote on social media.

He says all tickets for the planned tour will be automatically refunded and ticket holders "will be given priority to buy tickets for the stadium shows when they go on sale." The tour had already been postponed twice as promoter Live Nation dealt with the fallout of COVID-19 on large gatherings.

Future dates and prices for the renamed After Hours til Dawn tour have yet to be revealed, but a promotional image for the tour mentions South America, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Middle East alongside regions that were charted for the original run of shows.

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ICYMI ...

OTTAWA — The NDP wants the federal government to establish an independent watchdog to address disinformation, hateful posts and algorithm transparency on digital platforms after recent revelations by a Facebook executive rekindled questions about the regulation of big tech.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen's testimony to a U.S. Senate committee shows the company "knew that its algorithms are driving hate content and leading to breakdown in civic engagement."

As the company confronts intense public scrutiny over how its coding fans inflammatory rhetoric and affects users' self-esteem, Angus is proposing to create an independent ombudsman accountable to the House of Commons, akin to Canada's ethics and privacy commissioners.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made several pledges to overhaul internet rules in last month's federal election, including introducing legislation within 100 days of forming a government that combats harmful online materials.

The plan would create a digital safety commissioner to enforce a new regime that targets child pornography, terrorist content, hate speech and other harmful posts on social media platforms. The regulator's teeth would be sharp enough to order social media companies to take down posts within 24 hours.

Facebook Canada said it continues to make investments that target misinformation and harmful content, and stands ready to collaborate with lawmakers on a new legal frameworks for platforms.

"As we've shared, we welcome regulation and have been vocal calling for a new set of public rules for all technology companies to follow. It's been 25 years since the rules for the internet have been updated and it's time for industry standards to be introduced so private companies aren't making these decisions on their own," Rachel Curran, head of policy at Facebook Canada, said in a statement.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2021.

Facebook funds a fellowship that supports journalism positions at The Canadian Press.

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