Five top stories this afternoon.
That’s a wrap for the royal tour Down Under, Prince George edition. Kate and William waved goodbye to Australia Friday, completing their first overseas royal tour with Prince George in tow. Before boarding the plane back to London, the couple spent the morning commemorating Anzac Day, the Australian equivalent of Remembrance Day. During the three-week tour, the chubby cheeked George was the clear star, playing with other babies in New Zealand and checking out a bilby (a rabbit-rat-like rodent) named after him at a zoo in Australia. The future king was so popular that he might just be the tonic needed to prove the British Monarchy’s relevancy in the 21st century. George is, however, just a baby and he squirmed in Kate’s arms and wouldn’t face the cameras as the couple said its final goodbyes. He is only nine months. There’s still plenty of time to perfect the royal wave.
183 bodies recovered from sunken South Korea ferry. Divers continue the gruesome task of retrieving bodies from a ferry that sunk off the coast of South Korea last week. A total of 476 passengers were on board, many of them high school students on a field trip. As of Friday, divers had searched just 35 of 111 rooms on the ship and families are upset at what they see as the slow speed of the operation. U.S. President Barack Obama was in South Korea Friday, where he offered condolences to the victims’ families. “So many were young students with their entire lives ahead of them,” he said. The speed of the operation is being hindered by the position of the ship, rooms are upside down and filled with debris. And, divers face another obstacle: a storm is expected to move into the area Saturday.
The Supreme Court says “no” to Stephen Harper’s version of Senate reform. If the Prime Minister wants to introduce elections for senators or set seven-year term limits, he’s going to need the support of at least seven of the provinces, the Supreme Court ruled today. And if he wants to scrap the Senate altogether, well, that will take a constitutional amendment, requiring all 10 provinces, the House of Commons and the Upper Chamber to agree. And, with that, the Supreme Court effectively killed Harper’s vision of Senate reform. Today’s decision comes after federal lawyers argued their case before the Supreme Court in November and it wasn’t all that surprising, given that the justices seemed skeptical during the November hearings. But, it does mean Senate reform plans end here for the Conservatives. For more on the decision, and what might come next, Maclean’s has plenty of analysis over here.
Conservatives relent on Fair Elections Act. Not only did the Conservative’s master plan for Senate reform run into a hitch Friday, their point-man on controversial reforms to the Elections Act also said he would make changes to some elements of the proposed legislation. Pierre Poilievre, minister of democratic reform, said the government would change the elements of the Fair Elections Act concerning: retention of automated calling records, authority permitted to the chief electoral officer, and the ID needed to vote, among other things. The Conservative’s proposed changes to the Elections Act have come under intense criticism from opposition members, election experts and ordinary citizens in the past month, all of whom saw the new laws as potentially disenfranchising to voters. Until today, the Conservatives have defended their act, saying it was based on “common sense.”
Russian credit rating cut to one level above junk amid instability. The ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine were reflected on international markets Friday, after Standard & Poor’s cut Russia’s credit rating from BBB to BBB-, that’s just one notch above its lowest rating. The Russia Central bank also increased rates to 7.5% in an effort to curb the inflation brought on by tougher sanctions against the country and a tumbling ruble. The currency drop, combined with the S&P rating, caused Russian stock valuations to tumble. However, economic consequences aren’t yet stopping pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. A bus carrying international observers was reportedly seized by pro-Russian forces in the eastern part of Ukraine Friday.