QUEBEC PASSES FACE-COVERING LAW: The Quebec national assembly has passed a controversial religious neutrality bill that will oblige citizens to uncover their faces while giving and receiving state services — triggering criticism the law targets Muslim women. Quebec’s two main opposition parties opposed the bill because they argued it didn’t go far enough in restricting the presence of conspicuous religious symbols in the public sphere. The new law has two basic components: it bans the wearing of face coverings for people giving or receiving a service from the state and it offers a framework outlining how authorities should grant accommodation requests based on religious beliefs.
JUDGE APPROVES REVISED SEARS CANADA BONUS PLAN: An Ontario judge has approved Sears Canada’s request for a revised $2.8 million retention bonus plan for 36 head office staff and store managers who stay through its liquidation process. Those numbers are both down from the retailer’s previous plan. But some of the retailer’s former employees said after Wednesday’s hearing that they think too much money and time are being spent to coax executives to stay. Under the revised plan, the key head office employees can earn their bonuses if they stay with the company until next March or April, depending on the person.
AMAZON HQ IN THE GTA WOULD SAVE COMPANY MONEY, PROVINCE SAYS: Setting up its second headquarters in the Greater Toronto Area would save Amazon $1.5 billion a year, the man heading up Ontario’s bid for the project said Wednesday. Ed Clark, a business adviser to Premier Kathleen Wynne, said the region offers highly trained talent at a savings when compared to most U.S. jurisdictions and corporate taxes in the province are lower than south of the border. The company has said it wants to be near a metropolitan area with more than a million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand that headquarters to more than 740,000 square metres in the next decade.
TRUDEAU DEFENDS MORNEAU: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deflected attacks on his finance minister and what the opposition parties describe as a conflict of interest over Bill Morneau’s wealth disclosure. In the Commons Wednesday, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer grilled Trudeau about when he knew Morneau had not placed his assets in a blind trust, as many cabinet ministers do once taking office. Trudeau answered by insisting Morneau has followed all the rules. Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson herself said Tuesday she told Morneau he did not have to put his business in a blind trust.
ALBERTA FIREMAN DIES FIGHTING WILDFIRE: Wind-whipped wildfires have scorched southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan, and taken a human toll. Officials with Cypress County in southeastern Alberta confirmed the death of a firefighter who was battling a fierce grass fire driven by gusting winds near Hilda. James Hargrave of the Walsh fire station died in the line of duty Tuesday night while assisting Saskatchewan crews. He was killed in a crash involving a water truck and a pickup truck south of Burstall, Sask.
FORMER NHL AGENT CHARGED WITH FRAUD: Winnipeg police have charged an ex-NHL agent with fraud, alleging he bilked former Ottawa Senators Chris Phillips and Dany Heatley out of $12 million. Stacey McAlpine, 54, is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, two counts of theft over $5,000 and laundering proceeds of crime. Police say the alleged fraud occurred between January 2004 and June 2011. They say the victims gave the accused money so he could invest it for them, but they allege that he used the money for personal business, disguising its true source.