These are the top stories:
Municipalities in Canada’s oil patch face revenue shortfalls as energy firms stop paying taxes
Local governments and bankruptcy documents peg the tax loss in the tens of millions of dollars – and the lost revenue could lead to higher bills for residents and other businesses (for subscribers). In Saskatchewan, rural communities are calling on the province to crack down on tax-delinquent petroleum producers. Landowners also say they are losing out on annual rents companies are supposed to be paying to use oil and gas wells on their properties. There’s concern the issue could get worse as the downturn in oil and gas prices has led to a spike in corporate bankruptcies and idle wells in Western Canada.
Meanwhile, amid the oil glut and pipeline shortage, Canadian National Railway Co. expects to set a new record for shipping crude by rail in 2019. And as it looks further ahead, the company is aiming to send puck-sized pellets of solidified bitumen to overseas markets within three years (for subscribers).
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B.C. farmers are pushing back against new caps on house sizes
Supporters of the house-size cap say it will protect B.C. farmland from misuse of tax breaks and real-estate speculation. But opponents argue hard-working farming families are being unfairly affected (for subscribers). In Richmond, where nearly 40 per cent of the land area is protected agricultural land, local council is placing a limit of 4,300 square feet on new farmland homes (the provincial cap has been set at 5,400 square feet).
Bill Dhiman (seen above), whose three-generation family of six lives in a 4,500-square-foot house on their blueberry farm, says he won’t be able to build a new home as his family expands. “The new house-size restriction will impact my father’s legacy of our family living and farming together,” he said.
A Quebec man is facing four years in jail in Cuba over a fatal boating accident
Toufik Benhamiche was convicted a second time for a 2017 incident at a beach resort where the boat he was piloting spun out of control, striking and killing a mother of three from Ontario. Benhamiche and his lawyer say evidence didn’t support the charge of criminal negligence causing death, and that one of the judges fell asleep during the one-day-trial. His lawyer said he believes Cuban authorities are trying to shield local companies from civil liability. Cuba’s Supreme Court overturned Benhamiche’s original guilty conviction; he now plans to appeal this second verdict, which could mean another year of living in Cuba (he is not in custody).
Winter-sports trailblazers Rhoda and Rhona Wurtele are among the new Order of Canada recipients
Through the 1940s and 1950s, the Montreal sisters dominated skiing at a time the sport was still largely the domain of men. The identical twins finished at the top in international races, and inspired generations of Canadian women who followed. “We were very surprised [by the honour]. We’re getting kind of old at this point,” said Rhoda Wurtele Eaves, who along with her sister is three weeks shy of her 97th birthday. And for the record: she still skis.
The other Order of Canada appointments include: Jean Grand-Maître, artistic director of the Alberta Ballet; Winnipeg-born actor Len Cariou, a Tony Award winner; James Lockyer, a Toronto criminal lawyer who has fought to defend the wrongly convicted; former Nunavut premier Eva Aariak, for her dedication to promoting Inuit culture and languages; actor and author Ann-Marie MacDonald, for her contributions to the arts and advocacy of LGBTQ+ and women’s rights.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Donald Trump made an unannounced trip to U.S. troops in Iraq
While there, the U.S. President defended his decision to withdraw forces from neighbouring Syria despite criticism from military officials and allies. Trump said the U.S. had effectively eliminated Islamic State-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria; critics contend the militant group remains a threat. This was Trump’s first presidential trip to U.S. forces in a troubled region.
Market surge loses momentum
North American markets looked set for another volatile day Thursday with Wall Street futures pointing to a lower start after the previous session’s dramatic rebound. Dow futures were down by triple digits. S&P and Nasdaq futures were also weaker. On Bay Street, the markets reopen after a two-day break with futures pointing to a firmer start. On Wednesday, the Dow recorded its biggest single-day jump on record, climbing nearly 5 per cent or more than 1,000 points. The S&P 500 gained 4.96 per cent and the Nasdaq recorded its best day since 2009, climbing 5.84 per cent.
WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT
Do you want a carbon tax, or do you want to be lied to?
“Taxing carbon has proven a tough sell in some places. But it’s worth keeping in mind the virtues that made putting a price on emissions such an appealing idea. There’s no painless way of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Taxing them is usually the most honest and least economically damaging way of inflicting that pain. Voters should be wary of leaders who say otherwise; there’s a good chance they either want to make you pay through the back door, or don’t care about climate change at all.” – Globe editorial
How to survive political disagreements with your family this holiday season
“You can change the subject and physically remove yourself, even temporarily, from the conversation. As someone who has worked clinically with patients struggling with anger management, deep breathing and distraction help to mitigate provocation. … I’d also recommend spending more time listening and asking questions than searching for ways to shut a person down. If there are aspects of their perspective that warrant merit, be willing to point this out. The only way to close the political divide is to hear the other side – not with the goal of changing their mind, but to come away with an understanding.” – Debra Soh, writer with PhD in sexual neuroscience research
Consumers are paying for government’s failure to understand cannabis
“Consumers nationwide are faced with prices that are much higher than what is otherwise available in the black market. Prices are inflated from a variety of different sources, which include: the 10 per cent federal excise tax, the 2.3 per cent federal revenue tax, various compliance and security fees, and additional sin taxes such as Manitoba’s “social responsibility fee.” The ever growing tax burden, which is ultimately paid for by consumers, is rightly raising some eyebrows with those who are wanting to purchase cannabis legally.” – David Clement, North American affairs manager with the Consumer Choice Center
What to book and when: The ultimate 2019 vacation planning guide
Thinking of booking a cruise? The “Wave Season” runs from January through March and features perks for advance bookings. January is one of the best times to book a room at Disney World in Orlando (late August is also another good time). And if you want to reserve a campsite at one of Canada’s national parks, reservations open between Jan. 3 and 22. Globe subscribers can go here to see the full list of tips.
MOMENT IN TIME
Radio City Music Hall opens
Dec. 27, 1932: Amid the Great Depression, with so many Manhattan storefronts vacant, John D. Rockefeller set out to build a complex of buildings in midtown Manhattan that would inspire everyone. The result was Rockefeller Center, and its crown jewel, at least for fans of live music and performance, was Radio City Music Hall. Nothing was spared in the ambitious art-deco design of the hall. The auditorium was the biggest in the world when it opened. The marquee is still a city block long and it’s still the largest indoor theatre in the world. One of its first tenants was the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), and its top executive christened the building “Radio City,” a catchy improvement over its original name: the International Music Hall. Audiences flocked to it until the late 1970s, when dropping attendance led the president of Rockefeller Center to announce the music hall’s closing in 1978. But the building was saved thanks in part to being declared a city landmark. Today, it is probably best known as the home of the Rockettes. But for performers and audiences alike, it remains what Rockefeller wished it would be: an inspiring place for dreamers of all kinds. – Dave McGinn