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The English debate and a Canadian star lights up New York: In The News for Sept. 10

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 Sept. 10 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

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 Sept. 10 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Federal party leaders are back on the campaign trail today after locking horns in two back-to-back leaders' debates.

It remains to be seen whether either Wednesday's French debate or Thursday's English debate moved the public opinion needle, with just 10 days to go before election day on Sept. 20.

Heading into the debates, polls suggested the Liberals and Conservatives were locked in a dead heat, with smaller parties poised to determine which of the main parties emerges victorious.

The English debate was fractious, its format widely panned for giving leaders little time to engage substantively with one another or to respond to barbs from rivals.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet took umbrage with moderator Shachi Kurl, a pollster with the Angus Reid Institute, for a question he said suggested Quebec is racist and he later criticized Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for not coming to the province's defence.

Trudeau, who had rounded on Blanchet in Wednesday's French debate for questioning his devotion to Quebec, told reporters the format didn't give him a chance to respond.

He reiterated his opposition to Quebec's secularism law — which Kurl had called "discriminatory" because it bans public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious garb or symbols — but said Quebecers are not racist.

Quebec, with 78 seats, is a key battleground that could determine the outcome of the election.

At dissolution, the Liberals held 35 seats in the provinces, the Bloc 32, the Conservatives 10 and the NDP just one.

Hours before Thursday's debate, Premier Francois Legault all but endorsed Erin O'Toole's Conservatives, saying they'd be easier to work with than the Liberals or NDP, whom he accused of wanting to intrude on Quebec jurisdiction over health care and other matters.

O'Toole has promised to transfer billions to the provinces for health care with no strings attached.

The English debate represented the leaders' last best chance to sway millions of voters. It came just as four days of advance polls are set to open today.


Also this ...

OTTAWA — Forty-three Canadians were among around 200 foreigners on board a civilian flight out of Afghanistan on Thursday — the first such large-scale departure since U.S. forces completed their frantic withdrawal over a week ago.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau confirmed the departure and number in a statement as he thanked Qatar for facilitating the special flight from Kabul to Doha, which also contained U.S., German and Hungarian citizens.

“We can confirm that today 43 Canadian citizens were on board a special flight organized by the government of Qatar," Garneau said in a statement. “Canada has been working closely with Qatar to ensure safe passage for Canadian citizens still in Afghanistan who are seeking to leave, and we thank them for their continued support."

The 43 were among 1,250 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and family members stranded in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from the country on Aug. 30.

“We are working tirelessly, including through close co-operation with our international partners, to bring home remaining Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families and the vulnerable Afghans who have supported Canada’s work in Afghanistan,” Garneau said.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media, said the Taliban’s new foreign minister and deputy prime minister helped facilitate the departure. 

A senior Canadian official had previously confirmed those on board did not include any former interpreters and other Afghans who previously worked with Canada in the country and are now desperate to escape for fear of Taliban retribution.

The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly, said the best avenue for escape for those people remains the overland route to Pakistan.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has deployed more staff to bolster the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad, the official added, and more people are being sent to help there and at the border with Afghanistan.


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

NEW ORLEANS — Supply trucks are once again delivering beer on Bourbon Street and the landmark Cafe Du Monde is serving beignets, fried pastries covered with white sugar, even though there aren’t many tourists or locals around to partake of either.

With almost all the power back on in New Orleans nearly two weeks after hurricane Ida struck, the city is showing signs of making a comeback from the Category 4 storm, which is blamed for more than two dozen deaths in the state. More businesses are opening daily, gasoline is easier to find and many roads are lined with huge debris piles from cleanup work.

Thousands are still struggling without electricity and water outside the metro area, and officials say oppressive heat is contributing to both health problems and the misery. It could still be weeks before power is restored in some areas, and many residents who evacuated haven't returned.

“It is not lost on anybody here at the state level and certainly not on our local partners just how many people continue to suffer,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday. “While things are getting better and we can be thankful for that ... this is going to be a very long-term recovery.”

Around New Orleans, residents are seeing signs that life is getting back to normal after Ida. Philip Palumbo, who lives in the French Quarter and works at a bar that remains shuttered, said the citywide curfew being lifted should help restaurants and bars struggling to reopen get more customers.

“There’s not a lot around yet, but they’ll be back,” he said.

Power crews reached a “major milestone” in the New Orleans area by restoring electricity to the vast majority of customers.


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

BANGKOK — A strong typhoon skirted past most of the Philippines on Friday but appeared to be gaining strength and heading directly for Taiwan this weekend, forecasters said.

Typhoon Chanthu still had the potential on its current course to hit the extreme northeastern portion of Cagayan province in the Philippines with sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour and gusts up to 240 kph before moving onward toward Taiwan, the country’s meteorological agency said.

As Chanthu moves west-northwest past the Philippines, current forecasts are that it will most likely hit the east coast of Taiwan on Sunday morning, with the potential of hitting the island head-on if it tacks more to the west, or missing it entirely if it veers to the east.

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau has issued a typhoon warning as it tracks the storm.

The bureau said high waves were expected along Taiwan’s southern coast and in the Bashi Channel between its southern tip and the northernmost island in the Philippines.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said Chanthu is forecast to intensify up to 205 km/h over the next 12 hours, before slightly weakening ahead of reaching Taiwan.

“Further weakening will begin on Sunday as the typhoon begins to interact with the rugged terrain of Taiwan but will remain within typhoon category throughout the forecast period,” the agency said.


On this day in 1937 ...

More than 1,500 cases of infantile paralysis — polio — with 58 deaths were reported in Canada in an epidemic that began in June.


In entertainment ...

TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival is welcoming Hollywood celebrities back to the red carpet as organizers look to revive the event's big-screen magic in spite of pandemic precautions.

TIFF kicked off with the premiere of musical "Dear Evan Hansen" at Roy Thomson Hall on Thursday night, ringing in a return to theatres after the COVID-19 crisis largely limited last year's festival to digital and drive-in screenings.

But even as the global glitterati once again graced Toronto, the 10-day hybrid festival seemed to lack some of the star-powered fanfare of previous years.

Director Stephen Chbosky said he's had a special relationship with TIFF since his first studio film, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," debuted at the festival in 2021.

Chbosky said having "Dear Evan Hansen" open this year's pandemic-tailored festival felt like "coming home."

"We didn't even know if there was going to be a TIFF," he said. "We just went for the first crowd, hundreds of people in the audience. I'm still kind of buzzing from it. It's remarkable."

Based on the Tony Award-winning musical, "Dear Evan Hansen" sees Ben Platt reprise his Broadway role as a socially anxious high school student who gets caught up in a web of deception following the death of a classmate.

Platt, Julianne Moore and Amandla Stenberg were among the actors in attendance at the gala.

But rather than being greeted by throngs of fans, the cast was shielded from public view as they walked the red carpet.

The trio did take a bow before the audience after Thursday night's screening, taking to the stage with Nik Dodani, Colton Ryan and Danny Pino.

But many star gazers reported a dearth of celebrity sightings outside the heavily guarded venue.



NEW YORK — Canada's newest teenaged tennis hero is headed to the U.S. Open women's final. 

Leylah Fernandez, of Laval, Que., fought back from an early 4-1 first-set deficit to narrowly defeat Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4, securing her first-ever shot at a Grand Slam title.  

The 19-year-old fan favourite got off to a slow start in Thursday's semifinal match, struggling at first to even make contact with the No. 2 seed's blistering pinpoint serves and a fearsome cross-court forehand. 

But by the time she broke Sabalenka to take a 4-2 lead in the third set, it was clear the 73rd-ranked Fernandez wasn't going anywhere without a fight — an attitude she'll take into Saturday's final against  18-year-old Emma Raducanu of Great Britain.

Her U.S. Open experience so far, she said, "has helped me not only to believe in my game, but it also has helped to open my eyes that I have no limit to my potential," Fernandez said after the match.

As they've done almost from the outset, the fans — some of them decked out in Canadian flags and T-shirts hand-lettered with the name "Leylah" — cheered her like a hometown favourite, an advantage that at times appeared to be getting on Sabalenka's nerves.

Meanwhile, No. 12 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal plays No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the semifinals on the men's side today.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2021

The Canadian Press

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