talking points

Talking points: Better cattle farming and a real estate warning

Check out our Talking Points — short takes on the week’s news. (Sound like the smartest person in the room.)


Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Mosul’s moment

The long-awaited battle to wrench Mosul, in northern Iraq, from the grips of Islamic State is finally under way. With U.S.-led coalition fighter jets streaking overhead, Iraqi government troops and Kurdish fighters this week rolled toward the city of 1.5 million, which functions as the extremist group’s stronghold in Iraq. It won’t be easy. The operation could take months and force hundreds of thousands to flee. Still, it’s a risk worth taking since it would deal a heavy blow to Islamic State and the twisted, blood-soaked ideology it preaches.

The world’s wealthiest tour group

Members of China’s so-called “billionaires club,” made up of leaders of 50 of the country’s biggest private sector companies, are touring Canada this week in an effort to lay the groundwork for future business dealings. It’s all part of a warming relationship between the two countries following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent trip to China, where he mused about a possible free trade agreement. Ottawa, of course, needs to be mindful of China’s poor human rights record and geopolitical ambitions. But boosting ties makes sense as Canada’s economy struggles and traditional trade partners in the U.S. and Europe sound increasingly protectionist.

Supremely slow pace of change

Many expected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to nominate a woman, visible minority or Indigenous judge to the nation’s top court after Ottawa revamped its selection process earlier this year in pursuit of more diversity. In the end, however, Trudeau went with a tradition of regional representation: tapping accomplished Newfoundlander Malcolm Rowe to fill a seat vacated by Justice Thomas Cromwell of Nova Scotia. Though it’s far from clear that picking judges based on identity, regional or otherwise, is the way to go, Trudeau should nevertheless be commended for at least trying to conduct a more open national search. Here’s hoping Rowe’s appearance before Parliament to answer questions—an event that itself denotes progress—makes us feel better about his appointment.

Clean-burning cows?

Danish scientists are developing a new kind of genetically modified grass that’s easier for cows to digest. That should reduce the animals’ notorious belching and farting, which releases about 90 million metric tonnes of harmful methane into the atmosphere annually, contributing to climate change. Another bonus: low-methane cows produce more milk.

Hey, hey, ho, ho, these protests have got to go

Nine activists were arrested in Labrador this week amid long-standing protests against the hydroelectric project in Muskrat Falls. The environmental concerns are valid, but shutting down this woefully over-budget $11.4-billion infrastructure project is not in Canada’s best interest. The same goes for the protesters who stopped millions of barrels of oil from flowing to the U.S. by using bolt cutters to access pipeline flow stations as part of a coordinated attack. There is a balance to be struck between environmental concerns and energy issues. Unflinching opposition is not the answer.

Raising the red flag

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has a pretty poor track record when it comes to market prediction, but it’s still cause for serious concern when the agency issues its first ever “red” warning for Canada’s national housing market. In CMHC’s next report, to be released Oct. 26, its risk assessment of the country’s residential real estate sector will go from “moderate” to “strong,” citing potential spillover effects from the red-hot housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto. Perhaps that explains Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s recent market shock, tightening mortgage rules for buyers and lenders alike.

Hold onto your driver’s licence

Roborace’s self-driving racecar was supposed to show off a few laps at Formula E’s season debut in Hong Kong last weekend, but DevBot—the first robot racecar—couldn’t get the green flag from its engineers. Apple, meanwhile, is reportedly parking its plans to build automous cars while Tesla is facing pressure from German regulators to cease using the word “autopilot” to describe its driver assistance system, claiming the term is misleading customers. Ten and two, everyone!

A trick only grandma would fall for

Curious how hackers got a trove of private emails from Hillary Clinton’s top staffers? According to a report by the SecureWorks cybersecurity company, a group of Russian hackers known as Fancy Bear sent emails on March 10 to Democratic National Committee staffers and Clinton aides which looked like a Gmail security update asking them to reset their passwords. One click later, they’d be at a fake Google login page which could then steal their password and download malware. It’s almost too simple. Also: No word on the long-lost relative promising to share a massive family inheritance.

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