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Trump says it ‘looks’ like Iran is behind Saudi oil attack: Here’s what we know – Global News

September 17th, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump believes Iran is to blame for an attack on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that put a huge portion of the world’s supply on hold.

About 50 per cent of the production cut by the attack was restored by Tuesday.

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The attack is just another episode exacerbating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

READ MORE: Iran’s supreme leader says there will be no talks with U.S. ‘at any level’

An Iran-aligned rebel group known as the Houthi movement has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iran has denied any involvement, calling Trump’s claim “maximum lies.”

Trump originally suggested the U.S. would initiate a military response but stopped short of any legitimate retaliation.

The dispute may have effectively ended speculation about a possible U.S.-Iran meeting at the United Nations later this month. The meeting would be the first positive step since relations deteriorated over economic and nuclear disagreements.

What happened?

Drone attacks were launched on stated-owned Saudi Aramco oil facilities Abqaiq and Khurais on Sept. 14. Abqaiq is considered the world’s largest oil processing plant.

The co-ordinated strikes sparked massive fires at the sites and sent thick plumes of smoke into the air.

WATCH: Trump says U.S. knows who was behind recent Saudi oil attacks

While no one was injured, the attacks took out nearly half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, effectively putting five per cent of the global daily output on hold.

Officials initially believed the kingdom’s oil operations could be restored within a few days, but hope for that has dwindled as the damage assessment continued. While 50 per cent of operations resumed Tuesday, the remaining portion likely won’t be repaired until the end of September.

Houthi rebels say they launched the strikes in retaliation to Saudi Arabia’s military effort against them in Yemen. The group has been locked in a war against a Saudi-led coalition that has fought to reinstate the Yemeni government since 2015.

READ MORE: Gas prices in Canada will feel slight impact from Saudi attack, for now: analysts

This isn’t the first time Houthi rebels have used drones in combat since the start of the Saudi-led war. More recently, the Houthis launched drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia’s crucial East-West Pipeline in May. In August, Houthi drones struck Saudi Arabia’s Shaybah oilfield.

Since the weekend assaults, the group has threatened to carry out more attacks and claimed its weapons could reach anywhere in Saudi Arabia.

Why does it matter?

The strikes, which temporarily halved Saudi Arabia’s oil production, are considered the largest single supply disruption in half a century.

The attack has already had a significant impact on the global oil industry — prices surged as much as 20 per cent at one point on Monday.

With fears that full production could be offline for two to three weeks, analysts believe the impacts could widen and intensify.

WATCH: Impact on Alberta’s oil market after attack on Saudi Arabian refineries

“Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world who has spare capacity for crude,” Roger McKnight, a senior petroleum analyst at En-Pro International, told Global News.

“When you knock out five per cent of the country’s capability, you really knocked out all the spare capacity of crude for the global community.”

The U.S. has suggested it would consider offsetting the effects by drawing on the country’s emergency oil reserve.

In tweets, Trump said he would draw on the reserve “if needed.”

That may not be enough, said McKnight.

“The crude oil inventories in the U.S. are down two per cent versus the five-year average. This is going to slow things down again,” he said.

“[Trump] may claim, ‘Well, we’re the largest oil producer in the world, we don’t need Saudi crude. A little message to Mr. Trump — you import seven million barrels a day of crude, a lot of it from Canada, but a lot of it also from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.”

McKnight and other industry analysts in Canada anticipate a five- to six-cent hike in gasoline prices by Wednesday.

READ MORE: Drone attack on Saudi oil sites raises risks amid U.S.-Iran tension

But the long-term impacts for Canadian drivers — and the global oil market — rest on how long it takes the Saudis to restore full operations.

“It’s really serious,” McKnight said. “We don’t know how long this is going to be going on.”

Why is the U.S. blaming Iran?

The U.S. claims the pattern of destruction in the attack did not come from neighbouring Yemen, as claimed by Houthi rebels.

A Saudi military official has also alleged “Iranian weapons” were used.

Trump hinted at a military response to the attacks one day after the drone strikes.

He tweeted: “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack.”

White House officials later downplayed the threat of action, saying the president’s language was merely “a reflection” of his desire to protect the U.S. “from these sorts of oil shots.”

One day later, the U.S. president softened his response, stressing that he did not want to go to war and there was “no rush” to do so.

“We have a lot of options but I’m not looking at options right now,” he said. “We want to find definitively who did this.”

He later doubled down on his claim Iran was behind the attacks.

“Well, it’s looking that way,” he told reporters at the White House. “That’s being checked out right now.”

What does Iran have to say?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has claimed the strikes were carried out by “Yemeni people” retaliating for attacks in the Saudi-led war.

He told Reuters reporters: “Yemeni people are exercising their legitimate right of defence.”

The country’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, called the accusations stemming from the U.S. “max deceit.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ruled out talks with Washington on Tuesday.

“There will be no talks with the U.S. at any level,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by Iranian state TV.

The latest breakdown steers the two countries away from attempting to quell tensions, which were renewed by economic sanctions and Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

While the talks may be on hold for now, Khamenei said that if the U.S. returns to the deal, Iran would reconsider negotiations.

“Otherwise, no talks will happen … with the Americans,” he said. “Neither in New York nor anywhere.”

— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters

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Liberals, Conservatives target families in battle for votes – The Globe and Mail

September 17th, 2019

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced a plan to boost the government’s contribution to registered education savings plans from 20 per cent to 30 per cent for every dollar invested up to $2,500 a year.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Families were once again the main target of campaign messages from the Liberals and the Conservatives Tuesday, as the two parties set their sights on taking a lead in the neck-and-neck race.

In Winnipeg, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced a plan to boost the government’s contribution to registered education savings plans from 20 per cent to 30 per cent for every dollar invested up to $2,500 a year. The Conservatives said it will boost the maximum annual grant from $500 to $750.

“By boosting RESPs, a new Conservative government will help even more Canadians provide their kids with a smart start,” Mr. Scheer said.

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In St. John’s, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced that a re-elected Liberal government would make maternity and parental benefits tax-free. The party said the measure would mean parents earning about $45,000 a year would pocket $1,800 more.

The Conservatives have also promised to make parental leave tax-free but they have pledged to do this through a non-refundable 15-per-cent tax credit.

The Liberals and Conservatives continue to be locked in a virtual tie in the daily tracking survey from Nanos Research. The Conservatives were at 36 per cent and the Liberals were at 35 per cent in the numbers released Tuesday, putting both parties within the margin of error. The NDP stood at 15 per cent, the Greens at 7 per cent, the Bloc Québécois at 5 per cent and the People’s Party at 2 per cent. Nik Nanos, the chief data scientist, said the Conservatives were trending upward while the Greens were trending down.

The poll was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV, with a total of 1,200 Canadians surveyed from Sept. 14-16. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” A report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys can be found at globeandmail.com/election/polls.

The Liberals also pledged to increase federal tax-free monthly cheques for most parents with children under the age of one. The 15-per-cent increase to the Canada Child Benefit will give families up to $1,000 more to help in the first year of a child’s life, the party added.

“In those first few months with a new baby, when it’s a struggle to get enough sleep, let alone get to the top of your game at work, it can be an even bigger concern,” Mr. Trudeau said.

“No one should have to choose between their paycheque and their family.”

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The Liberals also announced plans to introduce a 15-week leave for parents who adopt so they get the same benefits as biological parents, a measure they said would give adoptive parents an extra $7,000.

The Liberal measures announced Tuesday will cost about $800-million, starting in 2020, and rise to $1.2-billion in 2023.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, housing affordability was the focus of an event with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Mr. Singh started the day in the riding of Ottawa Centre, where he announced he would build 500,000 affordable housing units over the next decade if elected.

The riding is currently held by Liberal cabinet minister Catherine McKenna but has previously been held by New Democrats, including the late Paul Dewar and former leader Ed Broadbent.

“A lot of people are struggling to find housing,” Mr. Singh said. “We know we can do a lot more.”

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The NDP also said it is considering support for energy-efficiency upgrades.

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Iran’s Supreme Leader rules out talks with U.S. as tensions rise in wake of attacks on Saudi oil facilities – The Globe and Mail

September 17th, 2019

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran will not negotiate with the United States until the Trump administration reverses course and rejoins the multiparty nuclear agreement that U.S. President Donald Trump walked away from in 2018.

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Iran’s Supreme Leader has ruled out any negotiations with the United States, further escalating tensions in the wake of a stunning weekend attack that targeted the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday that Iran will not negotiate with the United States until the Trump administration reverses course and rejoins the multiparty nuclear agreement that U.S. President Donald Trump walked away from in 2018. The statement seemed intended to quash talk that Mr. Trump would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of next week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. It also dimmed hopes that diplomacy could help avert a conflict between Iran and the U.S. and its allies.

Also in motion Tuesday was a crucial election in Israel, where the next prime minister could quickly find themselves dealing with conflict on one or more fronts should Tehran decide to activate allies such as the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon or the Islamic Jihad group in the Gaza Strip. With the vote expected to produce a virtual dead heat between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and the centrist Blue and White, it could be weeks before a new Israeli government is formed.

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Tensions have spiked across the Middle East since Saturday, when a series of explosions rocked Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing plant – the largest in the world, accounting for more than 5 per cent of global production – as well as the nearby Khurais oil field. World oil prices climbed almost 20 per cent Monday – the sharpest spike since the 1991 Gulf War – before declining almost 5 per cent Tuesday.

While Yemen’s Houthi rebels were quick to claim responsibility for the attack, there is widespread skepticism that the Iranian-backed insurgents have the technological capability to hit well-defended oil facilities more than 1,200 kilometres from the areas of Yemen under Houthi control.

Several U.S. media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and CNN, quoted unnamed U.S. government officials saying there was a growing consensus in the intelligence community that the attack – which involved a mix of cruise missiles and explosives-laden drones – was carried out directly by Iran from Iranian soil.

If that consensus solidifies into a conclusion – and is backed by evidence that Western capitals can agree on – the question will quickly become what Mr. Trump and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, decide to do about it. Both men have reputations for tough talk and unpredictable actions.

On Tuesday, Riyadh struck a distinctly multilateral note – calling on the international community to “shoulder its responsibility” and confront Iran, even as some in Washington are taking a more hawkish stance.

“The target list I would put on the table if there is a military strike would be the Iranian oil refineries,” Lindsey Graham, a prominent Republican senator seen as close to Mr. Trump, told CNN. “Nobody’s talking about invading Iran, but we want to make them pay a price for trying to disrupt world order. Hitting their refineries would make them pay that price.”

Mr. Trump himself has vacillated between implied threats of war and musing about a possible diplomatic resolution. He declared Sunday via his Twitter account that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” and waiting only for the Saudis to say who was responsible for the attack. A day later, he told reporters in the White House that the diplomatic route was “never exhausted,” adding that he “would certainly like to avoid” a war with Iran.

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The shifting line from the White House is nothing new. Mr. Trump’s policy of trying to escalate pressure on the Iranian regime while also saying he wants to avoid getting tangled in a Middle Eastern war has created a situation where Iran feels both cornered and emboldened.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks made clear that Tehran sees the current round of hostilities as rooted in Mr. Trump’s May, 2018, decision to withdraw from the multinational agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. That deal, which was signed in 2015 by the Obama administration, saw Iran suspend its nuclear ambitions in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.

Mr. Trump came to office vowing to tear up the deal, saying that even if Iran was complying with the JCPOA’s caps on uranium enrichment, the deal was defective because it did not require Iran to give up its missile-building program or cease supporting armed groups around the Middle East.

To Tehran, Mr. Trump’s move to leave the pact and reimpose sanctions marked the beginning of renewed U.S. economic warfare. Iran’s gross domestic product contracted 3.9 per cent in 2018 – after two years of impressive growth following the signing of the JCPOA – and is expected to shrink a further 6 per cent this year.

“If U.S. repents and returns to JCPOA … then it can join and talk with Iran,” Mr. Khamenei said in a statement. “Otherwise no negotiation will take place between Islamic Republic and U.S. officials at any level.”

As the economic pressure has escalated, Iran has been blamed for a series of increasingly brazen strikes targeting global energy supply. First came a series of mysterious attacks on oil tankers, and now the air strikes on Abqaiq and Khurais.

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The curtains are also being pulled back on a regionwide shadow war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two would-be leaders of the Muslim world. For 15 years they have battled each other via proxy forces – most recently in Syria and Yemen and before that in Lebanon and Iraq. Now, if U.S. intelligence is correct, Iran has decided to start hitting its enemies directly.

Iran has also threatened to target U.S. military forces in the region should Mr. Trump order them to get involved. “Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometres around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force, said Monday.

Israel could quickly become another front if hostilities escalate. Tuesday’s election came less than three weeks after a tit-for-tat exchange of fire across the Israel-Lebanon border that was the biggest since the Israeli military and Hezbollah fought a devastating month-long war in 2006.

Mr. Netanyahu reportedly considered asking for the election to be postponed so he could order a military operation in the Gaza Strip after rockets fired by Islamic Jihad forced him to stop speaking and seek cover in the middle of a campaign event in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod.

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Politics Briefing: Plane trouble strikes again – The Globe and Mail

September 17th, 2019

Hello. We begin today with a file from the road. Janice Dickson, who is with the Conservative tour this week, reports that the Liberals aren’t the only ones facing transport troubles:

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and his campaign had to switch to a different plane last night after a mechanical issue was discovered on the Conservative-branded plane.

Shortly after landing in Calgary Monday afternoon, the plane sat on the tarmac for an hour before being towed to the disembarking area. Mechanics determined the plane had a hydraulics issue with the ground steering, a spokesman for the party said, and that the party is expecting the plane to be back in commission soon.

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This is the second time a federal party has faced a flying issue. On the first day of the election campaign, the Liberals’ plane was damaged after a coach bus drove under one of its wings.

Despite the similar setback faced by the Conservatives, they were eager to to embrace the replacement Airbus, which took the entourage to Winnipeg.

Speaking into the plane’s intercom, a Conservative campaign member said “Air Conservative will be back soon. See you on Scheer Force One tomorrow,” and played Mr. Scheer’s campaign song.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

DAILY TRACKING OF PUBLIC OPINION

  • Conservatives: 36 per cent
  • Liberals: 35 per cent
  • NDP: 15 per cent
  • Green: 7 per cent
  • Bloc: 5 per cent
  • People’s Party: 2 per cent

Analysis from Nik Nanos: “Conservative support trends upward and the two-way race between the Conservatives and Liberals continues. Support for Greens shows noticeable negative pressure.”

The survey was conducted by Nanos Research and was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV. 1,200 Canadians were surveyed between Sept. 14 and 16, 2019. The margin of error is 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” A report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys can be found at https://tgam.ca/election-polls.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

ICYMI on Day 6 of the campaign: It was all about families for two of the main parties. The Liberals promised funding for more before- and after-school care for children. The Conservatives said they would revive child fitness and arts-program tax credits, part of a suite of broad-based and targeted tax cuts that the party is promising. The NDP announced a former Quebec Green leader would run for them in the province. The federal Green Party announced their platform. And People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier was invited to take part in the official leaders’ debate.

Today on the campaign trail: Still all about families. The Conservatives said they would boost government contributions to Registered Education Savings Plans while the Liberals promised to make parental benefits tax-free – a different spin on a similar proposal made by the Conservatives earlier in the campaign. The NDP, meanwhile, pledged to build more affordable housing.

A central focus of the campaigns is on affordability, in an age when household debt continues to climb. The Globe and Mail did an analysis to find the most financially stressed neighbourhoods in the country. The results? They are almost exclusively in the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area and Vancouver – the so-called “vote-rich” ridings that the parties keep targeting.

The federal government has reported its year-end fiscal numbers for the 2018-19 year that ended March 31. The deficit ended up at $14-billion, a slight improvement on the $14.9-billion that the Liberals had budgeted – though nowhere near the budgetary balance Mr. Trudeau had promised in the 2015 election.

The Liberals have pledged to eliminate all the boil-water advisories in First Nations by March, 2021. Neskantaga in Northern Ontario has the longest advisory in the country, lasting 25 years. Nearly a hundred residents were evacuated to Thunder Bay this week as homes lost what little water supply they had.

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A senior RCMP intelligence officer who was arrested last week for breaching official secrets law was found out because of a separate organized-crime investigation. Police seized a laptop owned by Vincent Ramos, a Vancouver businessman linked to organized crime, in March and discovered an internal document that they realized had been leaked. Over the ensuing months, a source told The Globe, RCMP investigators worked to trace the alleged leak and ended up charged Cameron Ortis, the head of the police force’s intelligence unit. The federal government is currently doing damage control with its international allies who may be concerned that information shared with Canada could have been leaked, too.

And Saudi Arabia is asking the international community to condemn the perpetrators of an attack on the country’s oil facilities on the weekend. The Saudi government blames Iranian weapons for the attack. The price of oil surged on Monday on worries about how the attack could affect the supply of Saudi oil, but the price has gone back down on word that the Saudis expect to be back up and running within weeks.

Jessica Davis (The Globe and Mail) on the RCMP intelligence officer charged with breaching the secrets law: “The allegations he faces – betraying his country, as Mr. Ortis is alleged to have done by stealing and attempting to convey (or sell) this information – are not something that is done lightly. At the outset, this case looks like a classic insider threat – which is, in the spy world, the holy grail of espionage. But, if complicit, this does not necessarily mean that it was directed by a foreign country; insider threats can also emanate from people motivated by a wide variety of factors including grievance, ideology, compromise, extortion or ego.”

Bessma Momani (The Globe and Mail) on tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia: “Expect lots of Trump machismo on this issue for months, if not longer. But with Iran hawk John Bolton out of the White House, the chance of outright military confrontation with Iran is less than ever. Iran knows Mr. Bolton’s departure as national security adviser takes out the loudest champion for Iranian regime change and war. Tehran takes comfort in this White House staffing change, and the Republican base’s desire to avoid getting entangled in yet another Middle East war. Iran will take advantage of these circumstances until either sanctions are relieved or Mr. Trump is out of office.”

Daphne Bramham (Vancouver Sun) on expat voters and an unofficial gathering of Conservatives in Hong Kong: “Potentially, the Hong Kong votes could be decisive in Metro Vancouver, Toronto and even Calgary ridings because overseas Canadians vote in the riding where they last lived. But, so far, only 865 have registered as of this week, according to Elections Canada. Globally, fewer than 20,000 have registered with nearly half of those living in the United States and most of the others living in Britain, Australia and Germany.”

Sarah Boesveld (Flare) on Trudeau’s promised feminism: “This has not been a perfect past four years for women, but having a feminist government that has (mostly) put substance behind the branding and has shown that it cares about women through policy, has mattered to progressive women voters.”

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John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the Green Party platform as a list of asks in a hung parliament: “None of those priorities would be acceptable to Conservatives. So, does that mean the Liberals can count on the Greens? Not quite. Another Green priority is electoral reform, which means moving away from first-past-the-post and toward some form of proportional representation. Justin Trudeau promised electoral reform, then broke that promise. Would Andrew Scheer agree to PR to get the Greens to support his throne speech?”

Christie Blatchford (National Post) on campaign promises: “And the few biggish ideas – the various parties’ child-care or climate change policies, for instance – are not as such debated, but rather presented as quid pro quos: You give me your vote, I with your own money, will return X dollars to your pocket. It all has the greasy transactional feel that is so very Ottawa.”

Just 35 days of the campaign to go…

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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RCMP head says allies concerned, but supportive in wake of spy charges – CBC News

September 17th, 2019

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said today the national police force is working to limit security risks among Canada’s intelligence allies and assess potential operational damage in the wake of charges laid against one of its top intelligence officers.

“I would definitely imagine that there is concern among our Five Eyes community, as well as within Canada,” Lucki told a news conference at RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa.

“Right now there is great support from those communities, both in Canada and abroad, and of course we are concerned as well. But until we know what we’re dealing with specifically, our risk assessment is fluid and the measure of severity of such an event is fluid as well, depending on what we find as the investigation furthers.”

Late last week, Cameron Ortis, 47, was charged under a section of the Security of Information Act that applies to individuals “permanently bound to secrecy” as a condition of their work. The director general of the RCMP’s national intelligence co-ordination centre is accused of preparing to share sensitive information with a foreign entity or terrorist organization.

“Once the RCMP became aware of the alleged activities, we worked with partners to take immediate steps to safeguard the information. Together, we are working to assess the level of impact to operations, if any,” she said.

The commissioner said she could not comment on possible motives. She said Ortis has been employed in various roles by the RCMP since 2007.

Lucki also said no Canadian ally has made any moves to limit or suspend intelligence-sharing with Canada.

“We haven’t had any restrictions at this point, and again, it’s early on in the investigation,” she said.

Lucki said that at this point it appears Ortis allegedly acted alone, adding witnesses will be interviewed. 

In a written statement issued yesterday, Lucki confirmed that Ortis had access to domestic and foreign intelligence.

She called the allegations “extremely unsettling.”

Cameron Ortis makes his first court appearance in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. The civilian employee with an RCMP intelligence team faces several charges under the Security of Information Act. (Sketch by Laurie Foster-MacLeod for CBC News)

Leak could cause ‘devastating’ damage: documents

According to documents viewed by CBC, the cache of classified intelligence material Ortis allegedly was preparing to share is so vital to Canada’s national security that the country’s intelligence agencies say its misuse would strike at the heart of Canada’s security.

“CSE’s preliminary assessment is that damage caused by the release of these reports and intelligence is HIGH and potentially devastating in that it would cause grave injury to Canada’s national interests,” say the documents.

The documents reveal that investigators covertly searched Ortis’s condo last month and found a number of handwritten notes providing instructions on how to share documents without leaving a paper trail.

They also reveal that Ortis was just over $90,000 in debt.

The documents allege the security services first got wind of Ortis through a separate investigation of Phantom Secure Communications, a B.C.-based company under investigation for providing encrypted communication devices to international criminals.

In March of last year, the FBI revealed that it had taken down an international criminal communications service based in Canada that had revenue of $80 million over the last decade.

The documents seen by CBC News say the FBI investigation discovered in 2018 that a person was sending emails to Vincent Ramos, CEO of Phantom Secure Communications, offering to provide valuable information.

The documents allege that person was Ortis.

“You don’t know me. I have information that I am confident you will find very valuable,” one email contained in the documents reads.

A subsequent email promised to provide “intel about your associates and individuals using their network internationally.”

Ortis is expected back in court later this week.

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Cameron Ortis: Trudeau reassures allies amid alleged spying case – BBC News

September 17th, 2019
Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauImage copyright Reuters
Image caption PM Justin Trudeau says Canada is taking the allegations against Cameron Ortis “very seriously”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has moved to reassure allies in the wake of an alleged spying case with possible international implications.

A senior intelligence official was charged last week with violating national security laws.

Cameron Ortis had access to information coming from Canada’s global allies, the RCMP national police force said.

Canada is in close contact with its intelligence partners over the case, Mr Trudeau says.

“We are in direct communications with our allies on security,” the prime minister said while campaigning in Newfoundland on Tuesday.

“We are also working with them to reassure them, but we want to ensure that everyone understands that we are taking this situation very seriously.”

Canada is a member of the Five Eyes – the intelligence alliance that also includes the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

What are the charges against Mr Ortis?

Mr Ortis, who was a director general with the police force’s intelligence unit, is accused of breaching the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code.

The charges filed against him include the “unauthorised communication of special operational information”, possessing a device or software “useful for concealing the content of information or for surreptitiously communicating, obtaining or retaining information”, and breach of trust by a public officer.

Few other details have been released about the alleged offences, though they took place during his tenure as an RCMP employee.

How damaging is the case?

On Monday, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said the charges have “shaken many people” throughout the national police force and conceded that the leaks could have hurt allied nations’ intelligence operations.

She said in a statement he had access to information the Canadian intelligence community possessed and intelligence coming from allies both domestically and internationally.

“We are aware of the potential risk to agency operations of our partners in Canada and abroad and we thank them for their continued collaboration. We assure you that mitigation strategies are being put in place as required,” she said.

CBC News reports that Mr Ortis had highly classified material that, if it were released, would cause a serious damage to Canada and its allies.

Mr Ortis was looking into allegations that Russian tax fraudsters had laundered millions of dollars through Canada, a US financier told Reuters.

Bill Browder, a high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he had met Mr Ortis twice in Canada in 2017 after alerting the RCMP to the matter.

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RCMP to give update on espionage case against intelligence officer – CBC News

September 17th, 2019

The head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is expected to deliver an update today on the extraordinary case against one of her top intelligence officers.

Late last week, Cameron Ortis, 47, was charged under a section of the Security of Information Act that applies to individuals “permanently bound to secrecy” as a condition of their work. The director general of the RCMP’s national intelligence co-ordination centre is accused of preparing to share sensitive information with a foreign entity or terrorist organization.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki will provide a short update on the ongoing investigation and answer reporters’ questions starting at 1 p.m. ET. and CBCNews.ca will stream it live. 

In a written statement issued yesterday, Lucki confirmed that Ortis had access to domestic and foreign intelligence.

She called the allegations “extremely unsettling.”

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks at RCMP Depot in Regina, Sask. (CBC)

Leak could cause ‘devastating’ damage: documents

According to documents viewed by CBC, the cache of classified intelligence material Ortis allegedly was preparing to share is so vital to Canada’s national security that the country’s intelligence agencies say its misuse would strike at the heart of Canada’s security.

“CSE’s preliminary assessment is that damage caused by the release of these reports and intelligence is HIGH and potentially devastating in that it would cause grave injury to Canada’s national interests,” say the documents.

The documents reveal that investigators covertly searched Ortis’s condo last month and found a number of handwritten notes providing instructions on how to share documents without leaving a paper trail.

They also reveal that Ortis was just over $90,000 in debt.

The documents allege the security services first got wind of Ortis through a separate investigation of Phantom Secure Communications, a B.C.-based company under investigation for providing encrypted communication devices to international criminals.

In March of last year, the FBI revealed that it had taken down an international criminal communications service based in Canada that had revenue of $80 million over the last decade.

The documents seen by CBC News say the FBI investigation discovered in 2018 that a person was sending emails to Vincent Ramos, CEO of Phantom Secure Communications, offering to provide valuable information.

The documents allege that person was Ortis.

“You don’t know me. I have information that I am confident you will find very valuable,” one email contained in the documents reads.

A subsequent email promised to provide “intel about your associates and individuals using their network internationally.”

Ortis is expected back in court later this week.

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Scheer vows to boost federal contributions to Registered Education Savings Plans – CBC News

September 17th, 2019

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Tuesday a government led by him would contribute more money to Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) — a spending commitment that would help parents save more for their child’s post-secondary education.

Scheer has been on an announcement blitz during the first seven days of this federal election campaign, promising a $6 billion tax cut and a host of new or revived tax credits he says will make life more affordable for Canadians.

Under the Conservative plan, the government’s contribution to RESPs would rise from 20 per cent to 30 per cent for every dollar invested up to $2,500 a year.

That means about $750 in free money every year for a parent who contributes the maximum.

Those funds, known as Canada Education Savings Grants (CESG), are paid directly into an RESP account; parents can invest those funds as they see fit. Under the Conservative proposal, the lifetime maximum CESG amount also would increase from $7,200 to $12,000.

“For most parents, sending their kids to college, university or trade school is the culmination of years of scrimping and saving,” Scheer said. “By boosting the RESP, a new Conservative government will put more money in the pockets of parents working hard to help their children get ahead. A more educated Canada is a better, stronger, more prosperous Canada.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer spoke to reporters in Winnipeg on Tuesday 1:02

According to the party’s figures, a couple that contributes $25 a month to an RESP after a child’s birth would stand to receive $1,620 in federal grants by the time the child turns 18.

A couple that contributes double that amount ($50 a month) would receive $3,240 in government grants by age 18, the party said — roughly $1,080 more than what they receive currently.

The Conservative policy to sweeten Ottawa’s contributions to RESPs would launch in January 2022. The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) says the program would cost the federal treasury about $600 million a year in lost revenue.

Like the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) and the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), an RESP allows a parent to make investments — in financial instruments like stocks, bonds, mutual funds or Guaranteed Income Certificates (GICs) — that can grow tax-free.

The money a parent contributes to an RESP can be withdrawn tax-free when a child has graduated high school and is enrolled in a recognized post-secondary institution.

However, the portion of the RESP that came from government grants, along with any capital gains earned on those investments, are withdrawn as Educational Assistance Payments (EAPs) and are taxable as income.

But it’s the student who claims those payments as income — and because most post-secondary students pay little in taxes because of tuition tax credits, the amount owing is usually negligible.

If the child doesn’t go to school, all grant money is lost and must be returned to the federal government.

A perk for wealthier families?

In 2017, $3.8 billion was withdrawn from RESPs to cover the costs of education for over 431,000 students, according to government figures.

In response to the Conservative policy, the Liberal war room pointed to research prepared by Statistics Canada that suggests the program disproportionately benefits wealthier families.

The 2017 study found that, among families with children under the age of 18, RESP holding rates and average dollar amounts were higher for those in higher income quintiles.

“The gap in RESP holdings between families at the top and bottom of the income distribution was largely attributable to higher wealth and (to a lesser extent) higher levels of parental education among families at the top of the distribution,” the study found.

“A lower level of awareness of RESPs among families in the bottom income quintile may have also been a factor.”

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RCMP working to limit possible damage to allies in wake of spy charges – CBC News

September 17th, 2019

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said today the national police force is working to limit security risks among Canada’s intelligence allies and assess potential operational damage in the wake of charges laid against one of its top intelligence officers.

“We are aware of the potential risks to operations of our partner agencies in Canada and abroad and we are working in partnership to ensure mitigating strategies are in place,” Lucki said during a news conference at RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa.

“Once the RCMP became aware of the alleged activities, we worked with partners to take immediate steps to safeguard the information. Together, we are working to assess the level of impact to operations, if any.”

Late last week, Cameron Ortis, 47, was charged under a section of the Security of Information Act that applies to individuals “permanently bound to secrecy” as a condition of their work. The director general of the RCMP’s national intelligence co-ordination centre is accused of preparing to share sensitive information with a foreign entity or terrorist organization.

Lucki said she could not comment on possible motives.

The commissioner also said no Canadian ally has made any moves to limit or suspend intelligence-sharing with Canada.

In a written statement issued yesterday, Lucki confirmed that Ortis had access to domestic and foreign intelligence.

She called the allegations “extremely unsettling.”

Cameron Ortis makes his first court appearance in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. The civilian employee with an RCMP intelligence team faces several charges under the Security of Information Act. (Sketch by Laurie Foster-MacLeod for CBC News)

Leak could cause ‘devastating’ damage: documents

According to documents viewed by CBC, the cache of classified intelligence material Ortis allegedly was preparing to share is so vital to Canada’s national security that the country’s intelligence agencies say its misuse would strike at the heart of Canada’s security.

“CSE’s preliminary assessment is that damage caused by the release of these reports and intelligence is HIGH and potentially devastating in that it would cause grave injury to Canada’s national interests,” say the documents.

The documents reveal that investigators covertly searched Ortis’s condo last month and found a number of handwritten notes providing instructions on how to share documents without leaving a paper trail.

They also reveal that Ortis was just over $90,000 in debt.

The documents allege the security services first got wind of Ortis through a separate investigation of Phantom Secure Communications, a B.C.-based company under investigation for providing encrypted communication devices to international criminals.

In March of last year, the FBI revealed that it had taken down an international criminal communications service based in Canada that had revenue of $80 million over the last decade.

The documents seen by CBC News say the FBI investigation discovered in 2018 that a person was sending emails to Vincent Ramos, CEO of Phantom Secure Communications, offering to provide valuable information.

The documents allege that person was Ortis.

“You don’t know me. I have information that I am confident you will find very valuable,” one email contained in the documents reads.

A subsequent email promised to provide “intel about your associates and individuals using their network internationally.”

Ortis is expected back in court later this week.

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RCMP provide update on ‘unsettling’ arrest of intelligence official – CTV News

September 17th, 2019

The Mounties revealed more details Tuesday about the investigation that led to charges against one of their senior intelligence officials Tuesday.

Commissioner Brenda Lucki said the RCMP was supporting an FBI investigation last year when they uncovered possible “internal corruption.”

“We took immediate action and launched an investigation into the alleged activities. Our focus has been to diligently pursue this investigation, which led to the arrest,” she said. Cameron Jay Ortis, 47, was charged under the rarely used Security of Information Act.

Lucki wouldn’t comment on “theories.” “The information in the public domain is speculative,” she said, adding it could be harmful to the investigation. “We also need to be mindful of the privacy of the accused and his right to a fair trial.”

Ortis, who was director general of the National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre, was arrested last week and charged under three sections of the act. He is accused of accessing classified information and possessing a device used for secret communications. Two additional charges under the Criminal Code relate to an alleged breach of trust and unauthorized access of a computer.

None of the allegations against him have been proven in court.

When CTV News Vancouver visited his parents’ resident in Abbotsford, B.C., a woman on the intercom said “no comment” when asked to speak about Ortis.

A longtime friend of the man expressed shock at the news, saying that Ortis could have pursued higher pay in the private sector but chose to stay with the RCMP. “It just doesn’t make sense,” said Chris Parry. “He is smarter than anyone you will ever meet and was dedicated to doing good.”

Commissioner Lucki said Monday that the arrest has “shaken many people throughout the RCMP, particularly in federal policing.”

“While these allegations, if proven true, are extremely unsettling, Canadians and our law-enforcement partners can trust that our priority continues to be the integrity of the investigations and the safety and security of the public we serve,” she said. “We are aware of the potential risk to agency operations of our partners in Canada and abroad and we thank them for their continued collaboration. We assure you that mitigation strategies are being put in place as required.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau stayed relatively mum on the subject during an election campaign stop Monday in Waterloo, Ont. “I can assure you that this is something that the responsible authorities are engaged with at the highest levels, including with our allies,” said Trudeau on the campaign trail.

Ortis, who appeared in court last week via video link, has a second court date Friday.

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