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Alberta’s United Conservative Party government has terminated the contract of the province’s elections watchdog and eliminated the position – just as the commissioner is in the midst of investigating potential problems in the party’s leadership race that was ultimately won by Premier Jason Kenney.

The UCP government denies its move has anything to do with the investigations. Instead, it says it’s about saving the province $200,000 a year. “We are doing nothing here that will undermine any current investigations that are taking place,” Finance Minister Travis Toews said.

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Elections Alberta said the investigations will continue under its agency for now.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the termination was “corruption.”

“Jason Kenney is casting a profound, chilling effect across Alberta, and delivering a message to anyone who would challenge Jason Kenney or his UCP operatives and felt that democratic institutions would keep them safe,” Ms. Notley said.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

Tomorrow is the day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffles his cabinet. TVA, citing sources (in French), is reporting that one of the Liberals’ star candidates in Quebec, environmentalist Steven Guilbeault, is expected to be the new heritage minister.

More than 3,000 Canadian National Railway Co. are on strike. Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu have met with company and union representatives to try to encourage a deal. The Alberta government is asking the federal Parliament to resume sitting early to legislate an end to the strike.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the Liberal government should withhold health transfers to New Brunswick until the province resolves its problems with access to abortion services.

Canadians think the wealthy and big corporations have too much influence on politics, an Environics Institute survey suggests.

Jordan says it is backing Canada’s quest for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

In Germany, the municipal council in Dresden has declared a “Nazi emergency” because of a rise in far-right extremism in the area.

And Canadian-Iranian academic Maryam Mombeini was trapped in Iran for more than a year, causing an escalation in diplomatic tensions between the country and Canada. Ms. Mombeini returned to Canada last month – but, as it turns out, it wasn’t because Iran released her. Globe and Mail reporter Michelle Zilio spoke to the family of the academic to find out her harrowing story of how she slipped through the cracks at the Tehran airport.

Sarah Kendzior (The Globe and Mail) on the U.S. impeachment hearings: “It is not merely about Donald Trump, or Ukraine or the alleged act of extortion the President and his colleagues are accused of carrying out in the summer of 2019. It is about Mr. Trump’s ceaseless and brutal effort to eliminate the inconvenient. What he finds inconvenient are the values that sustain democracy: truth, accountability and service to country over party.”

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Keith Gerein (Calgary Herald) on the Alberta government’s move to dismiss the elections investigator: “When a government charges ahead with a move as seemingly brazen as this, it can indicate only one thing. Alberta is now being governed by those who have lost any fear of political fallout, a machine that has come to interpret its election mandate as a blank cheque to do whatever it wants, no matter the optics, the cost to accountability, or the threat to democracy itself.”

Jim Leech and Sean Cleary (The Globe and Mail) on climate change and the economy: “While governments are struggling to come up with public-policy responses, global investors and financial institutions are not standing around. The investment world is already shaping markets in response to the effects of climate change. Canada cannot wait to establish the expertise required to navigate successfully to a low-carbon economy. If we delay, others will shape Canada’s economic future for us.”

Elizabeth Renzetti (The Globe and Mail) on Prince Andrew and the BBC: “Prince Andrew’s interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis is widely being described as a disaster, but it was not that at all. Quite the opposite: It was a Christmas miracle come early for the way it exposed how power clings to its own and disdains anyone it considers unworthy.”

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