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Sept. job numbers and Rocky Mountain coal mining: In The News for Oct. 8

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. 8 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

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. 8 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada will say this morning how the country's labour market made out in September after the economy added jobs in August.

The economy added 90,200 jobs in August to drop the unemployment rate to 7.1 per cent for the month, bringing it to the lowest level since the onset of the pandemic last year.

Economists are expecting another round of gains in September as reopenings took hold, many out-of-work Canadians began exhausting unemployment benefits, and the start of the school year allowed more parents go back to work.

Royal Bank economists Nathan Janzen and Claire Fan expect a gain of 50,000 jobs for the month, which would bring the country to about 100,000 jobs from pre-pandemic levels recorded in February 2020.

On Thursday, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem said he expected to see more job gains heading forward given the number of job openings, even if companies report having a hard time finding workers.

Macklem said the process of matching unemployed workers with available jobs is still going to take some time.


Also this ...

EDMONTON — An environmental group says an exchange of coal exploration lease applications in Alberta's Rocky Mountains suggests mining companies expect to be able to go ahead with their plans despite a provincial debate on the industry's future.

"They wouldn't be buying those lease applications if they didn't think they could do something with them down the road," said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Morrison said her group has found that Cabin Ridge Project Ltd., one of several companies hoping to develop open-pit coal mines in the Rockies, has purchased 2,000 hectares of coal exploration lease applications from a second company, Peace River Coal. 

The purchases took place over July and August, after Alberta suspended exploration activity and the sale of new leases in response to public concern over the high-impact industry in one of the province's most beloved landscapes. The purchases also coincided with the work of a government panel tasked with hearing from Albertans about how or if they want industry on those summits and foothills. 

The purchases concern so-called Category 2 lands, which are deemed the most environmentally sensitive and valuable. 

Energy Minister Sonya Savage said she is baffled.

"I am puzzled why any coal company would want to purchase a lease application for Category 2 lands in that area given the strong concerns raised by Albertans," she said in an email. "We have been clear that all exploration activity in that region has been halted." 

Cabin Ridge did not return a request for comment. 

The Alberta Energy Regulator, which approved the transfers, referred questions to Alberta Energy. 

Morrison said the lease transfers violate the spirit of the government's promise not to sell new exploration leases in the area. She said the transfers should not have been approved by the regulator. 


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

AUSTIN, Texas — Abortions have resumed in some Texas clinics after a federal judge halted the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S. 

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman's Health, which has four clinics in Texas, says some of them were performing abortions again on Thursday and scheduling more for the coming days. 

But some providers worry that an appeals court could soon reinstate the law known as Senate Bill 8, which bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks when many women don't even know they are pregnant. 

Texas officials have already said they will appeal.   

Prior to the order from U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman late Wednesday, other courts had declined to stop the law.

“There’s actually hope from patients and from staff, and I think there’s a little desperation in that hope,” said Hagstrom Miller.

“Folks know this opportunity could be short-lived." 

Planned Parenthood, the state's largest abortion provider, did not say Thursday whether it had resumed abortions, stressing the ongoing uncertainty and the possibility of an appeals court quickly reinstating the law in the coming days. Fund Choice Texas, which covers travel expenses for women seeking abortions, was still receiving a high volume of calls Thursday from patients needing help to make out-of-state appointments.


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

KABUL — Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers have their sights on stamping out widespread drug addiction in the country, even if by force. 

Fighters raided a drug den under a bridge in Kabul on a recent evening, beating addicts. The addicts were then forcibly taken to treatment centres where they stay for 45 days. 

Afghanistan is the source of most of the world's opium and a major center for methamphetamines, which has fuelled a massive addiction problem. 

But the Taliban’s war on drugs is complicated as the country faces the prospect of economic collapse and imminent humanitarian catastrophe. The illicit opium trade is intertwined with Afghanistan’s economy and its turmoil. Poppy growers are part of an important rural constituency for the Taliban, and most rely on the harvest to make ends meet.

During the insurgency years, the Taliban profited from the trade by taxing traffickers, a practice applied on a wide variety of industries in the areas under their control. Research by David Mansfield, an expert on the Afghan drug trade, suggests the group made $20 million in 2020, a small fraction compared to other sources of revenue from tax collection. Publicly, it has always denied links to the drug trade.

But the Taliban also implemented the only largely successful ban on opium production, between 2000-01.

For Mansfield, the latest drug raids are history repeated. “In the '90s, (when the Taliban were in power) they used to do exactly the same thing,” he said. The only difference now is that there are drug treatment centres; back then drug users were made to stand on mountain melts, or rivers, thinking it would sober them up.

Whether they will be able to ban opium production is another story, he said. Any meaningful ban will require negotiations with farmers.


Also this ... 

TOKYO — A powerful magnitude 5.9 earthquake has shaken the Tokyo area, injuring more than 30 people and halting trains and subways. 

It caused buildings to sway and hanging objects such as signs to swing violently. 

Trains were halted for safety inspections, and many elevators automatically stopped. 

Traffic disruptions continued Friday morning, with local trains delayed and commuters overflowing from main stations in the region. 

The Meteorological Agency says the quake late Thursday was centered just east of Tokyo and 77 kilometres deep. There was no danger of a tsunami. 


On this day in 2001 ...

Canada announced it would contribute six ships, six aircraft and more than 2,000 service personnel to the American-led coalition against terrorism.


In entertainment ...

TORONTO — Saskatchewan-raised filmmaker Danis Goulet explores the impact of colonial policies on Indigenous people in her new sci-fi thriller, "Night Raiders." 

The story hits theatres across Canada on Friday with Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers playing a Cree mother who's trying to rescue her daughter from a state-run military academy in the year 2043.

The post-war dystopian tale reflects both the past and present — from residential school horrors, to walls dividing nations and the spread of a deadly virus.

Goulet says she started writing the story in 2013 because she thought the national conversation around the impact of residential schools was lacking. She says she set the story in 2043 after imagining how future North American elections and a far-right white supremacist backlash would lead to civil war around the early 2030s.

As she was developing the story, some of the unsettling ideas she imagined on the page began to play out in reality, in particular the white supremacist backlash.

"I think it's reminded us about how important it is to be vigilant when it comes to the types of futures that we want to create for all of us," she said.

Elevation Pictures says "Night Raiders" will have the widest theatrical opening ever for an Indigenous Canadian filmmaker — a record previously held by Zacharias Kunuk's "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner," which played 36 locations. 



TORONTO — Sekali, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan at the Toronto Zoo, is pregnant — the first such pregnancy at the zoo in 15 years.

The organization says the father is 15-year-old Budi. Both of the critically endangered orangutans were born at the zoo.

It says the pair was introduced in February, the pregnancy was confirmed in August and Sekali is due in April. 

The organization says the conservation status of Sumatran orangutans was changed to critically endangered in 2017 and fewer than 15,000 can be found in the wild.

It says the zoo houses the only Sumatran orangutans in Canada.

"This pregnancy is an important contribution to a genetically healthy Sumatran orangutan population," Toronto Zoo CEO Dolf DeJong said in a statement.

"Sumatran orangutans are under increasing pressure due to habitat loss and the palm oil crisis." 


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2021

The Canadian Press