National Newswatch

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 Aug. 12.

What we are watching in Canada ...

Justin Trudeau's ethical conduct will be put under an opposition microscope today during a rare summer sitting of the House of Commons — but the prime minister won't be there.

Trudeau is on vacation with his family and his office says he won't be cutting it short to attend the special parliamentary sitting.

It's not clear that Finance Minister Bill Morneau will be there either.

Trudeau and Morneau are under investigation by the federal ethics watchdog for possible conflicts of interest arising from the government's decision to hand the administration of a student grant program to WE Charity.

Both have close family connections to the charity and have apologized for not recusing themselves from the decision.

Trudeau's office points out that the prime minister has already testified at length about the controversy before the Commons finance committee, as have Morneau, other ministers and senior bureaucrats.

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Also this ...

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is expected to mark a political milestone today: his final time rising in the House of Commons as leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

Today's Commons sitting is one of two scheduled for August, but the second comes after party members will elect Scheer's replacement, bringing an end to the long and sometimes painful process for Scheer that began just after last fall's federal election.

That the House is sitting at all this month though is something Scheer himself took some credit for Tuesday as he briefly reflected on his achievements during a news conference.

He argued that Commons sittings, committee hearings and the chance to propose improvements to government programs all came from the Opposition's push for more accountability from the Liberals as they rolled out their COVID-19 response.

While the Liberals haven't taken the Tories up on all their ideas, they did agree to some, he said.  

"We haven't missed a beat, we've been right there," he said.

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ICYMI (in case you missed it) ...

Some 300 dolphins were caught on camera Sunday stampeding across the ocean near Dana Point, the Orange County Register reported.

The minutes-long video captured by Capt. Dave's Whale Watching Safari shows dolphins leaping several feet into the air above the glistening waters, wowing those aboard the boat.

Dolphins move fastest while porpoising out of the water since there is less resistance in air than in water, the Register reported. It is unknown why pods of dolphins stampede.

"It's thought that the dolphins could be evading a predator such as orcas, racing to catch a food source, or meeting up with another pod of dolphins," the charter company said in a statement.

Dolphin sightings off the Orange County coastline are not uncommon. A dolphin pod caught stampeding in waters near Laguna Beach made news around the world last year.

Southern California is home to nearly 450,000 common dolphins, the species captured on video Sunday, the charter company said.

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

Joe Biden named California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday, making history by selecting the first Black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket and acknowledging the vital role Black voters will play in his bid to defeat President Donald Trump.

In choosing Harris, Biden is embracing a former rival from the Democratic primary who is familiar with the unique rigour of a national campaign. The 55-year-old first-term senator, who is also of South Asian descent, is one of the party’s most prominent figures. She quickly became a top contender for the No. 2 spot after her own White House campaign ended.

She will appear with Biden for the first time as his running mate at an event Wednesday near his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

In announcing the pick, Biden called Harris a "fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country's finest public servants." She said Biden would "unify the American people" and "build an America that lives up to our ideals."

Harris joins Biden at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 160,000 people in the U.S., far more than the toll experienced in other countries. Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused severe economic problems. Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality.

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

Health authorities in New Zealand were scrambling Wednesday to trace the source of a new outbreak of the coronavirus as the nation's largest city went back into lockdown.

Authorities have found four cases of the virus in one Auckland household from an unknown source, the first reported cases of local transmission in the country in 102 days. The news came as an unpleasant surprise to many and raised questions about whether the nation's general election would go ahead as planned next month.

Authorities said two of the people who had tested positive had travelled to the tourist city of Rotorua last weekend while suffering symptoms, and they were now trying to track their movements.

"We are working with urgency to find out what places the family may have visited while in Rotorua over the weekend," Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. "But the important thing is here, people in Rotorua and indeed around the country should be vigilant about their health and seek advice if they have symptoms."

Auckland was moved to Alert Level 3 at midday Wednesday, a designation initially set to continue through midnight Friday. That means that non-essential workers are required to stay home, while bars, restaurants and most businesses will be closed.

The rest of the country was moved to Alert Level 2, meaning that mass gatherings are limited to 100 attendees and people are required to socially distance themselves.

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Also this...

In a race against tides and time, workers pumped tons of fuel on Tuesday from a Japanese bulk carrier ship grounded in the shallow waters of Mauritius to try to prevent a renewed oil spill from further fouling the island's eastern lagoons and shore.

The Japanese ship, MV Wakashio, ran aground on a coral reef about a mile off Mauritius on July 25, and prolonged pounding by heavy surf caused the vessel to crack about two weeks later. It spilled an estimated 1,000 tons of oil — about a quarter of the ship's total cargo — into the Indian Ocean, polluting the island's once pristine coastline.

Although the oil leak was stopped, the ship's hull was continuing to crack, prompting fears that the remaining fuel would gush into the sea.

By Tuesday, about 1,000 tons of the fuel had been pumped out of the stranded ship into small tankers nearby, according to a statement from the Wakashio's owner, Nagashiki Shipping. About 1,800 tons of fuel remained on the ship by midday and with efforts continuing, some experts expressed hope that all the fuel could be emptied from the ship before it breaks up.

"The situation is very tight. The pumping is continuing non-stop," said Sunil Dowarkasing, an environmental consultant and former member of parliament who was at the scene. "If all the oil can be successfully removed from the ship that would prevent any increase in the destruction, which is already an environmental disaster."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 12, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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