Trudeau meets Pallister and the Meng hearing; In The News for Jan. 20

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 Jan. 20.

What we are watching in Canada ...

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WINNIPEG — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet today with the least hostile of conservative Prairie premiers, Manitoba's Brian Pallister.

The tete-a-tete comes on the second day of a three-day federal cabinet retreat, being held in Winnipeg as part of a bid to reach out to a region that spurned Trudeau's Liberals in the Oct. 21 election.

The election reduced the Liberals to a minority; they were entirely shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan and lost three of seven seats in Manitoba.

Pallister has signalled his willingness to act as something of a bridge between the federal government and the other two, openly hostile Prairie premiers, Alberta's Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan's Scott Moe.

They blame federal environmental policies for gutting their provinces' energy industries. Since the Liberals were re-elected with a minority, talk of alienation and even outright separatism has ramped up in the two oil and gas-producing provinces.

But while the cabinet retreat is an exercise in outreach to the discontented region, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson signalled Sunday that the government's plan to combat climate change, including the centrepiece national carbon tax, isn't likely to be modified to mollify westerners.

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Also this ...

VANCOUVER — A court hearing begins today in Vancouver over the American request to extradite an executive of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei on fraud charges.

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou in 2018 fractured relations between Canada and China.

At issue at the hearing is the legal test of double criminality, meaning if the allegations are also a crime in Canada then Meng should be extradited to the United States.

Meng is accused of lying to a bank about a Huawei subsidiary's business in Iran, putting the financial institution at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against the country.

Her lawyers have argued the allegations do not amount to fraud and Canada does not have similar sanctions against Iran.

Meng, who's free on bail and living in one of her two multimillion-dollar homes in Vancouver, denies the allegations.

China has detained two Canadians and restricted some imports including canola, moves that are widely seen as retaliation for Meng's arrest.

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ICYMI (in case you missed it) ...

ST. JOHN'S — Armed Forces personnel were deployed Sunday to help Newfoundland and Labrador dig out from the monster blizzard that paralyzed eastern regions of the province with record breaking amounts of snow, as forecasts called for yet more precipitation overnight.

Premier Dwight Ball asked for Ottawa's help on Saturday, as residents of St. John's and other communities on the Avalon Peninsula awoke to drifts that blocked doorways and clogged roads.

Through the weekend, neighbours worked to help one another unbury their vehicles and homes, and to locate necessities ranging from prescription medicines to gasoline.

Meanwhile, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were among the first personnel boarding Hercules aircraft from Gagetown, N.B., to join with reserves in St. John's.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said at a news conference in Winnipeg that two Cormorant helicopters, at least one Griffin helicopter and two Hercules aircraft have been deployed to Newfoundland.

The military personnel are expected to assist with snow removal, provide residents with transportation to warming or emergency centres, and help ensure the elderly as well as those with health concerns are cared for.

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump’s defence team and the prosecutors of his impeachment are laying out their arguments over whether his conduct toward Ukraine warrants his removal from office.

Trump's lawyers on Sunday previewed their impeachment defence with the questionable assertion that the charges against him are invalid, adopting a position rejected by Democrats as "nonsense."

The trial resumes on Tuesday with what could be a fight over the ground rules. By then, both sides will have submitted briefs and four Democratic presidential candidates will have been forced back to Washington from the early nominating states to join every other senator in silence, sans phones, on the Senate floor.

What they're likely to hear in this extraordinary setting is the House Democrats' impeachment articles that charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his pressure on Ukraine for political help. From the White House, the senator-jurors are expected to hear that Trump committed no crime, the impeachment articles are invalid and he's the victim of Democrats who want to overturn his election.

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

BEIJING — China reported Monday a sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new coronavirus, including the first cases in the capital. The outbreak coincides with the country's busiest travel period, as millions board trains and planes for the Lunar New Year holidays.

Health authorities in the central city of Wuhan, where the viral pneumonia appears to have originated, said an additional 136 cases have been confirmed in the city, which now has a total of 198 infected patients. As of the weekend, a third patient had died, bringing the death toll to three.

Two individuals in Beijing and one in the southern city of Shenzhen have also been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, health commissions in the respective cities said Monday. The three people had visited Wuhan.

The outbreak has put other countries on alert as millions of Chinese travel for Lunar New Year. Authorities in Thailand and in Japan have already identified at least three cases, all involving recent travel from China.

At least a half-dozen countries in Asia as well as some airports in Canada and the U.S. have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 20, 2020.

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