Scheer steps down and who will be Britain's next PM?; In The News for Dec. 13

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 13.

What we are watching in Canada ...

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Mid-way through last week, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer came home from a day on Parliament Hill and got to talking with one of sons.

He realized, he would tell Conservative MPs and senators at meeting Thursday morning, he had no idea what was going in his child's life.

Ever since he failed to secure a majority on election night he had known the party might not allow him to stay on as leader.

But the conversation with his teenage son Thomas made him realize the time had come to make a choice about whether he wanted to stay, he told his MPs, according to people who were in the room but, under caucus rules, not authorized to speak publicly about what happened.

The conclusion he would reach, and announce publicly on Thursday, was no.

After rejecting calls for his resignation from within his party for weeks, Scheer said he will step down as soon as his party chooses a successor. His caucus agreed in an emergency meeting at the end of the day.

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Also this ...

Lawyers for German auto giant Volkswagen are set to propose a plea deal in an Ontario court today on allegations that the company broke numerous environmental laws.

The Canadian government announced Monday it was charging the behemoth with 58 infractions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It is also charged with two counts of providing misleading information.

The government says Volkswagen imported 128,000 cars into Canada between 2008 and 2015 that violated emissions standards.

Environment Canada's investigation, launched in September 2015, was repeatedly criticized by environmental experts and lawyers for taking too long.

The company pleaded guilty in U.S. court in 2017 for violating American laws and was fined $4.3 billion. In 2018, German prosecutors fined the company one-billion euros for the emissions-cheating case.

Several company executives and managers involved in the deception were charged in the U.S. and Germany, and some have already been sent to prison.

In total, the elaborate scheme has cost the company more than US$30 billion in fines and civic lawsuits, as well as compensation to customers who returned the affected cars for refunds or exchanges.

The affected cars in Canada included 3.0-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engine vehicles sold under Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands.

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ICYMI (in case you missed it) ...

The Public Health Agency of Canada is advising exotic pet owners to practise good hygiene amid a salmonella outbreak in six provinces that's been linked to contact with snakes and rodents.

A notice issued this week counts 92 cases of the bacterial infection reported between April 2017 and October 2019.

The agency says exposure to snakes and rodents is the likely cause of the outbreak, with an investigation finding many of the affected individuals had contact with a snake, pet rat or rodent used as reptile food.

Reptiles and rodents can carry salmonella bacteria even if they seem clean and healthy, and people can fall ill from contact with the animals or places they have recently roamed, the agency says.

"There have been past outbreaks of salmonella illnesses linked to snakes and rodents," the notice said. "The findings from these investigations have highlighted the important role snake and rodent owners can play in preventing new illnesses linked to these types of pets."

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign shrugged off the president's expected impeachment less than a year before Election Day, talking up the campaign's data collection efforts and declaring that no one in the Democratic field can compete with the incumbent.

With a House impeachment vote expected next week, the campaign stressed that polls indicate impeachment is unpopular with independents, particularly in battleground states. And the campaign declared that Trump may now have a glide path to reelection, though he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots in 2016 and captured Electoral College votes by razor-thin margins in three Rust Belt states.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, was one of several senior campaign officials who briefed reporters Thursday on the state of the campaign. He said that when the reelection team looks at the Democratic field, "We don’t see anyone who can put together the Obama coalition. We’re on offence everywhere, and we’re very excited about that."

Kushner, who was a Democrat before helping steer his father-in-law’s surprise victory three years ago, added: "I was not a Republican. Now I’m a Republican. I think the Republican Party is growing now that people like me feel comfortable being part of it."

The strategy laid out is multi-pronged, including a focus on turning out supporters of the president who stayed home during the 2018 midterms; a robust data operation fueled by collecting information at the president’s raucous rallies; a volunteer-heavy and technology-driven organization far more professional than the low-budget 2016 version; and a commitment to expanding possible paths to victory by competing in 17 battleground states, including Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Mexico, where Trump lost last time.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

An exit poll in Britain’s election projected Thursday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party would likely win a solid majority of seats in Parliament, a decisive outcome that should allow Johnson to fulfil his plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union next month.

The survey, released just after polls closed, predicted the Conservatives would get 368 of the 650 House of Commons seats and the Labour Party 191. That would be the biggest Tory majority for several decades, and a major setback for Labour.

Based on interviews with voters leaving 144 polling stations across the country, the poll is conducted for a consortium of U.K. broadcasters and is regarded as a reliable, though not exact, indicator of the likely result. The poll also projects 55 seats for the Scottish National Party and 13 for the Liberal Democrats.

Ballots are being counted, with official results expected early Friday.

A decisive Conservative win would vindicate Johnson’s decision to press for Thursday’s early election, which was held nearly two years ahead of schedule. He said that if the Conservatives won a majority, he would get Parliament to ratify his Brexit divorce deal and take the U.K. out of the EU by the current Jan. 31 deadline.

That would fulfil the decision of British voters in 2016 to leave the EU, three and a half years after the divisive referendum result. It would start a new phase of negotiations on future relations between Britain and the 27 remaining EU members.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 13, 2019.

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