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✨ Good morning! Today is Friday, February 22, 2019 and we have a feeling you’re going to need a big box of tissues today.
BULLETIN: SNC…NO EVIL
• The Background
Turns out America’s government isn’t the only one that’s gone off the deep-end — things in the Canadian capital are getting just as crazy. (Happy Friday!) Yesterday, the House of Commons justice committee started questioning members of Trudeau’s cabinet about the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and let’s just say this situation is coming up complicated. The Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick testified, telling the committee that the conversations he had with former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould were “within the boundaries of what’s lawful and appropriate.” He also denied that the PM or the PMO’s staff ever pressured JWR to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin (but did admit that one’s interpretation of pressure could be different) and said that “at every opportunity […] the prime minister made it clear that this was the decision for the minister of justice to take. She was the decision-maker.” Finally, he took aim at Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail for its Feb. 7 report (which kicked off this whole thing) saying it “contains errors, unfounded speculation and, in some cases, is simply defamatory.” CBC News
• What Else You Need to Know
In addition to Wernick, the justice committee also heard from Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti, who doubled down on Wernick’s defence of the prime minister. Lametti said he has “never faced inappropriate pressure from the prime minister or anyone in the PMO” and that if he were ever put in such a situation, he would take action (e.g., possibly file his own complaint with the ethics commissioner). Earlier this week, Wilson-Raybould had an opportunity to speak as well, but did so privately in front of cabinet ministers. According to reports, she said that she felt “improper” pressure from the PMO’s office to “help SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. out of its legal difficulties.”
• What’s Next?
The justice committee hearing will continue on Tuesday.
• U.S.: Ballot Tampering
It’s not a U.S. election if it’s not riddled with claims of voter fraud and ballot tampering. And now, the North Carolina State Board of Elections has approved Republican Mark Harris’s (surprise) call for a new election on the heels of a fraud investigation. One of Harris’s campaign workers, McCrae Dowless, carried out an illegal ballot harvesting operation that may have led to various inconsistencies in the November vote. (Harris won a disproportionate number of absentee votes across several counties.) The board agreed unanimously to go ahead with a new vote after four days of hearings centred around the allegations. The board has not yet decided on dates for the new primary and general election. CNBC
• World: Catalan Crisis
Things haven’t been easy in Catalonia since they tried to declare independence from Spain. (Paying attention, Pascal Bérubé? 🙄) Riot police and pro-independence protestors clashed yesterday following the arrest of 12 separatist leaders. Twenty-six civilians and two police officers were wounded while four individuals were arrested. The young protestors who chanted “Independence” and “Get out, occupation troops” used piles of burning car tires to block a total of 11 highways. Periodic protests have broken out under the name Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) since the failed bid for independence back in October 2017. The attempted independence declaration led to Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades and direct rule by the Conservative government in Madrid. Reuters
📣 QUOTE OF THE DAY
It will be completely closed until otherwise notified, the land border with Brazil.
• No Place Like Home
Another Canadian company’s closing up shop. Yesterday, Hudson’s Bay Co. announced that it was closing all 37 locations of Home Outfitters. The 20-year-old home goods store hasn’t been able to keep up with increased competition (Oh hi, Amazon and Wayfair) and has suffered financially over the past few years (it lost $164 million in the last quarter alone). In addition to shuttering Home Outfitters, HBC (which now owns the Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Off 5th and Lord & Taylor chains) said it would likely be closing 20 of its American Saks Off 5th locations to “reduce costs, simplify the business, and improve overall profitability.” The closures are expected sometime this year. BlogTO
• Lyft Your Legs
Lyft is looking ahead in its competition with Uber and plans to come out on top with a new “most affordable ride” option called Shared Saver — think Uber’s Express Pool without the surge pricing. (Yes, please.) Basically, Shared Saver guarantees Lyft users the lowest price available in exchange for a little extra patience and hustle on their own part, with Lyft asking users to walk a couple blocks to meet their driver, who will then drop them off a couple blocks from their destination. Screenshots have shown that Shared Saver cashes in at around 25% to 30% cheaper than the next-cheapest option. (Not bad when you think about what you’re saving trading in that gym membership.) It’ll only be available in Denver, CO and San Jose, CA at first but more cities should be added over the next few months. The Verge
• MMA: Knocked Out
One of Canada’s most famous athletes is hanging up his hat really tight shorts. Yesterday, at a press conference at the Bell Centre, former UFC champion Georges St-Pierre (affectionately known as GSP) announced that his time as an MMA fighter had come to an end. The 37-year-old has had one of the most illustrious careers in Canadian history, winning 26 of his 28 matchups and going on a 13-fight winning streak. St-Pierre thanked UFC president, Dana White, along with all his former opponents: “All of them are incredible athletes who brought out the best in me.” TSN
• Hate Attack Hoax
In a disturbing turn of events, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was arrested yesterday over what police are saying was a staged attack in an attempt to boost his career. Smollett was apparently unhappy with his salary on Empire (seriously?) and decided to pay two brothers $3,500 to “attack” him. He gave them specific instructions on how the attack would play out and which racial slurs to use, including instructing them to shout “MAGA country” as they put a rope around his neck in what was supposed to look like a lynching. Smollett appeared in court yesterday where his bond was set at $100,000. (Can anyone say karma?) The revelation has been met with outrage that Smollett would use racism — already an incredibly challenging issue in the U.S.— to falsely promote his career. President Trump even weighed in with a tweet calling out Smollett’s dangerous rhetoric (and for once, we don’t disagree). Global News
• Garbage Day
It’s no secret that the Earth’s waterways are in bad shape. In order to actually make a difference (besides eliminating single-use plastics, micro plastics, and the like), big businesses need to step in — and luckily, IKEA is doing just that. The Swedish home goods store has created a super-sized remote-controlled bath toy that travels along the water’s surface picking up trash. (It can collect 44 pounds of debris at one time!) While there are only two boats for now (and they’ve been donated to Hubbub after clearing Deptford Creek in London), there could certainly be more in the future. (Especially if Ikea’s as dedicated to improving its carbon footprint as it claims to be.) Engadget
• Lunch Time
There are quite a few places one might think of hiding their drug stash, but schoolyard snacks isn’t one of them. But apparently the same can’t be said for two (grown) Florida men who were recently arrested and charged after $84,000 worth of cocaine was found stashed inside two empty Lunchables boxes. (Why two adult males were opting to chow down on Lunchables is beyond us.) Ohio State Highway Patrol pulled the men over after they were spotted driving dangerously at an “excessive speed” (blame the cocaine) and making “aggressive lane changes.” Police also confiscated a semiautomatic handgun. The Takeout
• A Fine Lime
When National Margarita Day (today!) happens to fall on a Friday, you know it’s time to throw a fiesta. Whip up some guacamole and shake up one of these magical margs to kick off your weekend on the right foot.
⚡️ STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
• File this one under totally terrifying: According to the FBI, a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant was planning a massive terror attack, targeting anti-Trump Democrats and journalists.
• (John) Bowser is finally the king of the corporate castle, after longtime Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aimé announced that he’s retiring in April.
• In its efforts to automate parts of its business, PepsiCo has begun laying off employees as it kicks off a four-year restructuring plan.
• We’re not monkeying around: Monkees bassist, Peter Tork, died yesterday at the age of 77.
• Next-Level Lookalikes
How is this even possible?