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Talking points: On Olympic pains and cut-rate planes

Speed read the news with our Talking Points round-up—our short takes on the news—and sound like the smartest person in the room


 
A high-angle view of Vancouver's False Creek real estate as seen from the Fairview Slopes neighbourhood, Vancouver, B.C., February 24, 2016. (Bayne Stanley/CP)

A high-angle view of Vancouver’s False Creek real estate as seen from the Fairview Slopes neighbourhood, Vancouver, B.C., February 24, 2016. (Bayne Stanley/CP)

1. It’s time to act on Vancouver’s housing crisis

In typical Canadian fashion, Finance Minister Bill Morneau will create a working group to study skyrocketing house prices in Toronto and Vancouver. He had better hurry. The cost of owning the average Vancouver bungalow now eats up a mind-bending 120 per cent of a median family’s income, according to RBC, and Toronto is not far behind at 71 per cent. No wonder Vancouver’s mayor wants to slap a speculation tax on empty homes—unilaterally, if necessary. It’s about time politicians woke up to the housing bubble threat in both cities. We’ll hope it’s not too late.

2. A man, a plan, a Panama Canal fix

The 102-year-old Panama Canal’s new US$5.4-billion access lane will open for business this week after nearly a decade of construction. The canal’s new locks make it possible for the next generation of megaships, carrying as many as 14,000 containers, to complete the roughly eight-hour transit between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Getting here hasn’t been easy. The project suffered numerous delays and setbacks, including leaky concrete walls. Still, it’s an impressive piece of engineering that promises to keep global commerce afloat for decades to come.

3. A new way to be flying frugally

NewLeaf Travel has resumed selling airfares as cheap as $79 on flights between a dozen Canadian cities this summer. The discount travel upstart, based in Winnipeg, had shuttered operations shortly after its January launch while it waited for regulators to rule on its licence requirements. One word of caution: critics say passengers might not receive the usual protections in the event of cancelled or overbooked flights since NewLeaf isn’t actually an airline, but rather resells tickets on Flair Airlines, a charter outfit based in Kelowna, B.C. (hence the licence confusion). So be it. Breaking up Canada’s cozy airline duopoly is worth the risk.

4. Ooh, no need to wonder

Led Zeppelin can still take credit—or blame—for one of the most recognizable, if cloying, ballads in rock ’n’ roll history. A U.S. court ruled Robert Plant and Jimmy Page didn’t pilfer the opening bars of 1971’s “Stairway to Heaven” from L.A. band Spirit’s 1967 instrumental “Taurus.” The case turned on the ubiquity of the disputed chord progression, since Zeppelin had ample opportunity to hear Spirit play. It even covered one of Spirit’s songs, with Page explaining it wasn’t unusual for the band to “chip a wink to what’s hot.”

Rory McIlroy tees off on the 14th hole during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, May 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Rory McIlroy tees off on the 14th hole during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, May 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

5. Rio’s ruinous start to the 2016 Olympics

Rory McIlroy, the former world No. 1 golfer, became the most prominent athlete to announce he’ll skip the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro due to concerns about the Zika virus—understandable, given how much time golfers spend on the grass, where mosquitoes like to rest. Also watching from home will be cyclist Tejay van Garderen, who recently became the first American to pull out of the Games, and perhaps NBA basketball star Pau Gasol, who remains undecided if he’ll play for Spain—but will freeze his sperm if he does end up going to Brazil. What else could go wrong in Rio? A jaguar named Juma took part in an Olympic torch relay ceremony, but when she broke free from her handlers and tried to attack a nearby soldier, she was shot and killed. At this point, traffic woes may be the least of Rio’s concerns.

5. Republican lawmakers stick to their guns

In the aftermath of the Orlando shootings, Democrats tried a sit-in to get the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress to vote on gun-control bills that would expand background checks and prohibit people on no-fly lists from legally obtaining firearms. But the Republicans didn’t blink, calling the move a publicity stunt. The Democrats ended their protest after 25 hours, without getting their vote. Meanwhile, Apple staged a protest of its own when it nixed the rifle emoji as part of an upgrade to the colourful characters on its popular iPhone, drawing the ire of gun advocates. Real progress is still a long shot.

6. Keep your head up, kid

The NHL made it official: Las Vegas, not Quebec City, will be home to the league’s 31st team. Commissioner Gary Bettman said the fluctuating loonie was partly to blame for the decision, which disappointed anyone in La Belle Province hoping to resurrect the Nordiques. The snub comes on the heels of recent playoffs that did not include a single Canadian team. Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs are seeking to quash efforts by rapper Snoop Dogg to use a similar logo to its own on a new line of marijuana products. Isn’t this supposed to be Canada’s game?

7. Who let the cats out?

Cats don’t present the same danger to children as dogs, but that hasn’t stopped city council in Peterborough, Ont., from approving proposed new bylaws that force owners to either leash their felines or keep them enclosed in yards. Two flaws: cats can climb fences, and they’re great at ignoring humans.


 

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