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Morning Update: Canada pushing to revamp NAFTA provision; Gay Chechen refugee threatened

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland addresses reporters at the NAFTA talks in Mexico City, Mexico, Tuesday, Sept.5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta

Canada pushing to revamp NAFTA Chapter 11 lawsuit provision

Canada is pushing to revamp NAFTA's Chapter 11 – a lawsuit provision that's resulted in Ottawa being sued nearly 40 times by U.S. companies. Right now, independent arbitrators make decisions on cases. But critics say the lawyers who sit on those panels are vulnerable to conflicts of interest. Ottawa wants judges to hear the cases instead. The U.S. hasn't rejected the idea yet, and it's reportedly a less heated topic compared to other issues. Canada has been the main target of damage claims by U.S. and Mexican firms. Most of those cases came down to disagreements about Canadian provincial environmental protection regulations.

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Gay Chechen refugee threatened in Toronto

Between June and August, the federal government secretly brought 31 gay Chechens fleeing persecution to Canada. But a recent incident in Toronto has some of the refugees worried about their safety. In August, a gay Chechen man was physically threatened. The man agreed to meet another man he was talking with on a dating app. But when he arrived for the date, he was confronted by two men and placed in the back of a car. There, they swore and berated him and told him his homosexual lifestyle brought disgrace to Chechnya. He wasn't physically harmed. The best way to protect the refugees, Canadian officials say, is to help them integrate into Canadian society as quickly as possible.

Ontario's thriving food-making business faces growing labour shortage

If you're considering a career change, maybe look into the food industry. There are four times as many job openings than there are graduates of Canada's largest agricultural college, according to a survey. And that's even with a 30-per-cent increase in enrolment at the University of Guelph's Ontario Agricultural College. The food and agricultural sector is Ontario's largest employer, with 807,000 working in the field in 2016. What's driving the growth? Investments in technology, automating and factory upgrades have led to increased demand for better-educated workers.

Calgary Flames go on a power play against city with arena proposal

The Calgary Flames want the city to pay for more than a third of the cost of a proposed new arena – and they want to be exempt from property taxes and rent. That's according to a municipal insider, who also says Flames ownership is refusing to open their books at the negotiating table. A new arena is expected to cost around $500-million. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi put it this way: "The city has a very fair offer on the table, I think one that many Calgarians – most Calgarians – will see as eminently reasonable. And there is another offer on the table that most Calgarians will see as eminently unreasonable."

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Here's our editorial board's take: "As usual, the NHL cartel and its apologists are counting on Calgarians' succumbing to a wave of me-too feelings when they gaze at taxpayer-funded arenas elsewhere. But using past bad decisions to justify terrible future decisions does not qualify as logic. And governments in cash-strapped Alberta can't afford to capitulate."

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Census 2016: Income grows in resource-rich provinces, Ontario and Quebec lag behind

The median income in Canada went up 12.7 per cent to $34,204 over the course of a decade, according to the latest census data. But that figure doesn't show the full picture: the oil downturn isn't fully accounted for, and Ontario and Quebec saw the slowest increases. While resource-rich Saskatchewan led the way with a 36.5-per-cent increase in median income, Ontarians only saw a bump of 3.8 per cent. And workers' earnings fell by 2.3 per cent, a sign of job losses in the manufacturing sector.

As University of Ottawa professor Miles Corak writes: "What the census shows is that growing middle-class and bottom incomes is fundamentally going to depend upon the nature of work, not on the tax system. And leave no doubt about it, the nature of work has changed."

MORNING MARKETS

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Global stock prices pulled back from record highs after weaker-than-expected Chinese economic data, while the pound held steady before a Bank of England rate decision later on Thursday. Tokyo's Nikkei lost 0.3 per cent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng and the Shanghai composite each lost 0.4 per cent. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 was down marginally by about 5:05 a.m. ET, as Germany's DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were down by between 0.1 and 0.3 per cent. New York futures were also down, and the Canadian dollar was just above 82 cents. Oil prices steadied, holding on to most of their recent gains after forecasts for stronger oil demand by the International Energy Agency.

WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

Journalism matters more than ever. We need help to save it

"There are those who rightly worry any government involvement would compromise a free press. But a broke press isn't much of a free press. Others contend it's best to wait for news organizations to go bankrupt and then pick up the pieces. But once in bankruptcy court, it is the debt holders and not the public interest that is served, as we saw in 2010 when Postmedia emerged out of bankruptcy court with bondholders as owners and an unbearable burden of debt." – Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press; Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor; Edward Greenspon, president of the Public Policy Forum

Don't replace Shakespeare. Diversity in literature needs to be about 'and' not 'or'

"The debate around whether Shakespeare and other classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies should be replaced in the classroom – because they may not reflect the student population or to free up more time – seems to come up repeatedly. True diversity – literary and otherwise – needs to be about adding voices, not replacing them, but time constraints often force choices. However, keeping some Shakespeare in high school as a shared reading experience still has value." – Catherine Little, Toronto-based educator, consultant and writer

HEALTH PRIMER

Need to mix up your workout? Try the organized – yet fun – chaos of aerobics

"If loud, upbeat music and choreographed "dance-esque" moves – not to mention the potential to trip over your own feet as you turn, twist and often giggle – sounds intriguing, then aerobics might be for you. If you're thinking, "Aerobics? The nineties called. They want their workout back," you are both right and wrong. Aerobics may be past its heyday, but the format is very much alive – with both original and updated versions (like Zumba). Synchronized cardio-dance workouts will never fully die; devotees love getting lost in the music and mastering tricky combinations." – Kathleen Trotter, personal trainer

MOMENT IN TIME

Handel completes Messiah

Sept. 14, 1741: If George Frederick Handel whispered "hallelujah!" as he put down his pen after writing the final note of Messiah, history has not recorded it. But some such sentiment was surely in his head – the German-born English composer had just completed a remarkable artistic marathon. His friend and frequent collaborator Charles Jennens first conceived of this "sacred oratorio," and wrote the words based on scriptural sources. Handel set to work on Aug. 22, 1741, and composed at breakneck speed, finishing the 259-page orchestral score in just 24 days. Messiah premiered in Dublin in 1742, at Easter (it only became a Christmas tradition in the 19th century). The London premiere was a year later, although it's probably apocryphal that audiences stand for the Hallelujah chorus because King George II did so at that performance – there's no evidence he was even in attendance. – Christopher Harris

Morning Update is written by Arik Ligeti.

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