Highlights from the news file for Wednesday, Aug. 23———CANADA, MEXICO SHRUG OFF TRUMP THREAT: Donald Trump’s sudden threat to blow up NAFTA less than a week into its renegotiation isn’t drawing much of a response from the other North American countries, which are downplaying his remarks. Canada and Mexico say it’s a predictable event in the course of a trade negotiation. “As we said last week, trade negotiations often have moments of heated rhetoric,” said Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. “Our priorities remain the same and we will continue to work hard to modernize NAFTA, supporting millions of middle-class jobs.” The Mexican foreign minister described it as an obvious leverage play: “No surprise: we’re in a negotiation,” Luis Videgaray tweeted in response to Trump. “Mexico will remain at the table with calmness, firmness and in the national interest.” This comes after the U.S. president told a partisan crowd at a rally that he doubts a deal is possible. Trump said he’ll try negotiating but will probably wind up killing NAFTA.———NDP, TORIES HIT LIBERALS ON BORDER RESPONSE: A January tweet from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming those fleeing persecution has set off a crisis at the border that the Liberals are failing to address, both federal opposition parties say. And his follow-up messaging on the subject has made the situation worse both for the thousands now crossing the border to seek asylum in Canada and for the immigration system as a whole, say immigration critics for both the Conservatives and NDP. “The prime minister has put us in the situation,” Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said Wednesday. “He’s had every opportunity for nine months now to address this with a credible plan.” Last week, the government announced a federal-provincial task force was being set up to manage the issue and the group was set to meet in Montreal on Wednesday. Trudeau was scheduled to attend the meeting, but Rempel pointed out it was unclear what exactly the task force is doing. She said the tent cities being set up at the border to temporarily house hundreds of people can’t be considered a solution to a problem that will have the trickle-down effect of overwhelming the immigration system.———SYSTEM FAILED GIRL IMPREGNATED BY STEPFATHER, REPORT SAYS: Newfoundland and Labrador’s child and youth advocate says the province’s child protection system responded inadequately and missed opportunities to intervene in the case of a 12-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and impregnated by her stepfather. In a report released Wednesday, Jacqueline Lake Kavanagh says questions weren’t asked, risk wasn’t assessed, and consents were not appropriately obtained when the young girl sought and ultimately obtained an abortion after saying she had become pregnant through consensual sex with her teenaged boyfriend. Kavanagh says had appropriate measures been taken when the girl presented to terminate her pregnancy and when child protection concerns were eventually reported, the abuse “may potentially have been detected and stopped.” The report says the family later moved and two years later the girl told authorities in another province that she had repeatedly been sexually assaulted by her stepfather over a period of 26 months resulting in two abortions. The stepfather pleaded guilty in the case and to other offences including sexual assault on other individuals, and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.———STORMS CUT POWER TO THOUSAND IN QUEBEC: More than 63,000 Hydro-Quebec customers were without electricity early Wednesday after severe thunderstorms ripped through southern Quebec, Montreal and the Laurentian region north of the city. Most of the outages were in the Montreal area affecting more than 42,000 homes and businesses, with another 8,000 blackouts reported in the Laurentians and a further 7,500 in communities south of Montreal. Hydro-Quebec spokesman Mathieu Rouy says the wind gusts were so violent, fallen trees and branches littered the streets, making it difficult for repair crews to get through. In Montreal, the greatest damage appeared to be in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood where pictures posted on social media showed numerous trees snapped in two by the wind and streets littered with branches and debris. A spokesman for the Montreal Fire Safety Authority said about 20 residences on one street in NDG had to be evacuated after snapped branches fell on transformers and homes.———NOVA SCOTIA’S ABORTION BARRIER LIKELY ‘HISTORICAL PRACTICE’: Nova Scotia’s health minister says the province is addressing concerns about abortion access, adding it appears the need for women to get a referral from a family doctor is simply historical practice rather than law. “There were concerns about how the process, particularly around referrals, takes place,” Randy Delorey said in an interview Tuesday. “What we’ve seen thus far is there is no legislation or regulation that establishes it, so that means it’s likely a case of it being historical practice.” Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that requires women to obtain a referral before booking an abortion. Advocates call the referral requirement a barrier to access that creates lengthy delays for the time-sensitive procedure. Delorey said he has asked staff at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Health Department to look into concerns and report back on how to improve access.———B.C. GREENS PROPOSE BAN ON FARMLAND SALES TO FOREIGNERS: The leader of British Columbia’s Green party wants to see the government ban foreigners from buying farmland in a bid to cool the province’s real estate market. Andrew Weaver says many non-residents are buying land zoned for agricultural use in Metro Vancouver, but instead of farming they’re building large homes and selling the property for inflated prices. He says the result is a loss of food security and higher real estate prices in an already overheated market. Several other provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Prince Edward Island, have measures in place regulating who can purchase farmland. Weaver says the proposed prohibition would not apply to anyone who pays taxes in Canada, including Canadians living overseas and people in the country on work visas. Last year the province’s previous Liberal government implemented a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers purchasing residential real estate in Metro Vancouver, but the levy does not apply to farmland.———JUDGE WHO WORE TRUMP HAT IN COURT SAYS IT WAS A JOKE: An Ontario judge who wore a hat in court bearing a slogan used by U.S. President Donald Trump told a disciplinary hearing Wednesday he was shocked to discover that what he meant as a joke was viewed as a political statement. Justice Bernd Zabel told an Ontario Judicial Council panel in Toronto he meant to “lighten things up” by wearing a baseball cap with the slogan “Make America Great Again” while walking into court on Nov. 9, 2016 — the day after Trump won the U.S. election. Zabel, 69, testified that it was only after his actions made headlines that he realized some believed he was showing support for the controversial American president and his policies. “I had no malicious intent,” said Zabel, who vowed never to wear the hat in court again. Zabel admitted his actions were contrary to the standard of conduct expected of a judge and constitute judicial misconduct. The panel must decide what penalty, if any, to order. It may impose a number of sanctions or recommend he lose his job. The judicial council said it received 81 complaints about Zabel’s behaviour, with some suggesting his apology was not consistent with his earlier comments in court.———TUMBLING OIL PRICES PLAGUE ALBERTA’S BOTTOM LINE: Tumbling oil prices are forcing Alberta to dip into its reserve fund to keep its $10.5-billion deficit from sliding further into the red. Finance Minister Joe Ceci says in his first-quarter fiscal update that the province had expected the benchmark oil price to average out at US$55 a barrel this year. Instead, it’s hovering below $49 a barrel and isn’t expected to rise much in the near term. Ceci says the province will use half of its $500-million contingency fund to keep this year’s deficit from growing. Numbers reveal that lower-than-expected oil prices are expected to add $291 million to the Alberta deficit by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year next spring. The big hit comes from oilsands royalties — the province had hoped to bring in $2.5 billion this year, but now expects to take in $563 million less.———ALBERTANS WANT TIGHTER METHANE RULES, POLL FINDS: A new poll suggests nearly three-quarters of Albertans want tighter rules on methane release from oil and gas facilities. The poll, done by EKOS research and funded by Environmental Defence, says 71 per cent of Albertans want regulations on the potent greenhouse gas to be at least as strict as those in the U.S. The provincial regulator and the federal government are gathering public comment on proposed new regulations that would force companies to inspect more often for leaks and reduce venting of methane. Such rules are in place in many U.S. states. Methane is a greenhouse gas considered to be 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the long term. Ottawa estimates that its proposed rules would reduce methane emissions by 282 megatonnes by 2035. The poll surveyed more than 1,000 Albertans by phone and online over a two-week period ending Aug. 8 and is considered accurate to within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.———K.D. LANG INVITES JASON KENNEY TO CALGARY PRIDE: Alberta crooner k.d. lang has invited Jason Kenney to Calgary’s Pride festivities — but it appears he won’t be attending. The country singer took to Twitter on Tuesday to offer Kenney — a leadership candidate for the province’s new United Conservative Party — free tickets to a concert if he’d sit down and discuss LGBTQ rights with her. Lang’s offer followed a tweet from blogger Mike Morrison, who also invited Kenney on Twitter to attend Pride. It all stemmed from a statement Kenney’s spokeswoman, Annie Dormuth, issued Monday, saying he would skip the annual parade because he wasn’t invited. In response to lang’s invitation, another spokesman, Blaise Boehmer, tweeted that Kenney was “100% focused” on the leadership campaign and had a “packed week meeting with members.” Calgary Pride begins Friday and ends Sept. 4. The marquee parade will be held on Sept 3.