Cannabis buds lay along a drying rack at the CannTrust Niagara Greenhouse Facility in Fenwick, Ont., on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Police, lawyers and advocates say a year into cannabis legalization, Canada has a long way to go toward stamping out the black market and pot-impaired driving THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

In the news: Cannabis, cucumbers and feral cats

Alberta to table its first budget this week

What we are watching in Canada …

The Alberta government is to table a budget today that will cut program spending by nearly three per cent.

But Premier Jason Kenney, in a TV address last night, reiterated that health and education funding will not be reduced and maintaining front-line services is a priority.

“This will be a challenging budget. It will not be easy,” said Kenney, adding the exact reduction figure is 2.8 per cent.

“These are necessary decisions. In fact, I would argue that they are long overdue. We must embrace transformative change to get a smarter government. That’s not going to happen overnight.”

The budget is the first one by Kenney’s United Conservative government since it defeated the NDP in the spring election.

Kenney has promised the budget will be a landmark spending document that will balance the books in four years and reorient Alberta’s economy long after that.

He has pledged to get it done by getting more value for public money while reducing overall spending and ending a recent run of multibillion-dollar deficits he says threaten to cripple future generations with unsustainable debt.

ALSO READ: ‘Havoc and chaos:’ Alberta separatist group gains support as Liberals re-elected

Also this …

A judge in southwestern Nova Scotia is expected to deliver a decision today in the case against a former police chief accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.

John Collyer was the chief of police in Bridgewater, N.S.

He was placed on administrative leave from the Bridgewater Police Service in August 2016 after the province’s Serious Incident Response Team confirmed it was investigating the alleged assault.

The 26-year veteran of the force was suspended in May 2017 after the independent police watchdog charged him with one count of sexual assault and two counts of sexual exploitation.

The complainant testified that Collyer asked her an inappropriate question while the two were driving in May 2016 before putting his hand between her legs and assaulting her.

Collyer has denied the accusations.

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ICYMI (In case you missed it) …

Scientists have written the family tree for the tree of life.

Years of analysis, released in the journal Nature, has allowed researchers to pinpoint a billion years of evolutionary relationships between plants as different as cannabis and cucumbers, orchids and oaks.

“Everything is interrelated,” says the University of Alberta’s Gane Wong, one of the paper’s dozens of co-authors.

Science has known for a long time that species with significant differences can be related through a common evolutionary ancestor. In plants, those relationships have been studied mostly through how they look or behave. Do they have trunks? Flowers? How do their seeds form?

Wong and his colleagues — nearly 200 of them — have been looking at how the links are expressed through genetics.

The team couldn’t resolve everything. They couldn’t find branches in the tree for about five per cent of species, either because there wasn’t enough data or because it dated from so long ago it couldn’t be read accurately.

But the work is already yielding concrete benefits. Proteins taken from an obscure algae species studied by the researchers were found to turn certain brain neurons on and off. Those proteins are now being used in clinical trials to treat blindness.

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What we are watching in the U.S. …

Alberta’s oilsands are at the centre of a court battle in New York this week that legal experts say could affect future climate lawsuits in Canada.

“The evidence that’s coming out through this case is absolutely relevant to other lawsuits,” said Martin Olszynski, a University of Calgary professor who teaches environmental law.

New York’s attorney general is accusing Exxon Mobil of misrepresenting the risks oilsands operations face as governments move to fight climate change.

In the case filed a year ago, the state claims Exxon told investors that it was evaluating projects based on a carbon price that was much higher than the one used in calculations. That led investors to believe they faced a lower risk and also inflated evaluations of Exxon’s oil reserves.

Exxon has tried twice to block the case. The company’s lawyer, calling the accusations bizarre and twisted, argued Tuesday that Exxon did nothing wrong.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world …

Authorities found 39 people dead in a truck in an industrial park in England and arrested the driver on suspicion of murder in one of Britain’s worst human-smuggling tragedies.

Police were reconstructing the final journey of the victims as they tried to piece together where they were from and how they came to be in England.

“To put 39 people into a locked metal container shows a contempt for human life that is evil,” said Jackie Doyle-Price, a member of Parliament who represents the area where the truck was found. “The best thing we can do in memory of those victims is to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”

The truck and the trailer with the people inside apparently took separate circuitous journeys before ending up on the grounds of the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, 25 miles (40 kilometres) east of London on the River Thames.

British police said they believe the container went from the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet, England, where it arrived early Wednesday. Police believe the tractor travelled from Northern Ireland to Dublin, where it took a ferry to Holyhead in Wales before picking up the trailer at the dockside in England.

The truck’s driver — a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland — was arrested on suspicion of murder. He has not been charged and his name has not been released.

READ MORE: UK police expand probe, say 39 dead in truck all from China

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On this day in 1990 …

The RCMP announced it would allow Indigenous officers to wear their hair in braids while in uniform.

—-

Weird and wild …

Animal lovers in Newfoundland and Labrador are seeking help for dozens of feral cats facing an uncertain future as the humans in the small town where they prowl prepare to relocate.

Residents of Little Bay Islands have voted to resettle the community, and they have until the end of the year to move before services are withdrawn.

Little Bay Islands, off Newfoundland’s northern coast, is one of many rural communities in the province faced with a dwindling population. The 2016 census recorded just 71 people living in the town.

As residents grapple with the prospect of leaving their homes behind, the question of what will happen to the feral felines remains.

Resident Carol Hull estimates there are between 35 and 40 “semi-feral” cats living in the community.

Animal welfare groups in other parts of Newfoundland have become involved in the campaign to domesticate and find homes for some of the animals.

Hull is hoping for a bump in funding for animal welfare groups willing to take them in.

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Your health …

A new report from Young Adult Cancer Canada sheds light on such unique issues faced by the 22 young adult Canadians, ages 15-39, who are diagnosed with cancer each day.

The study surveyed 622 diagnosed young adults across Canada to explore the physical, social, financial, and emotional challenges they face as compared to their peers without cancer.

It found cancer in young adulthood can “disrupt an important period of development and identity formation, which tends to have a cascading impact on all areas of life.”

Yet there are few support programs geared to helping these patients through diagnosis and recovery, the report says.

It also found one of the main issues facing young adults with cancer is financial strain. Treatment and recovery affect their ability to work, and not all treatment costs are covered by public health care in Canada.

ALSO READ: Blood cancer survival rate rising fastest, Canadian stats find

—-

The games we play …

When softball player and Olympic 2022 hopeful Natalie Wideman was handed a $6,000 cheque and told the money came from women she did not know, she was speechless.

“I instantly broke down crying,” says the 27-year-old catcher from Mississauga, Ont. “In our generation, there’s so much stuff being put on women, comparing each other to each other and judging each other’s choices.

“Women helping women is just really, really, special to me.”

The money came from Canadian Athletes Now, or Canfund, via a campaign of professional women supporting female athletes.

The 150 Women campaign — named for the minimum donation of $150 — has cut $6,000 cheques to 109 female athletes in two years. Eight of them have won Olympic gold.

Donors range in age from 18 to 82 with $50,000 the highest single donation so far.

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The Canadian Press


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