CALGARY – Penn West Petroleum Ltd. has agreed to sell its properties in the Greater Mitsue area of central Alberta for $192.5 million cash.

Money from the sale will be used to reduce the Calgary-based company’s debt.

It’s the first major sale of non-core assets for Penn West since it announced two weeks ago that it was cutting its workforce by 400 full-time employees and contractors, suspending its dividend and cutting compensation for its directors.

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It also announced on Sept. 1 that it would sell a number of non-core assets, including the Mitsue properties, to reduce overhead costs. It said at the time that the Mitsue properties produced the equivalent of 4,500 barrels per day.

Penn West didn’t disclose the buyer but a second company announced about the same time that it has acquired properties in the same area that produce 3,300 barrels per day of crude oil and liquids.

Cardinal Energy Ltd said it would pay $129 million for its acquisition of light oil producing properties in the Mitsue area. It said CIBC and RBC would lead a syndicate of underwriters to provide $100 million towards funding the purchase, with the remainder coming from its credit agreements.

Penn West has said it’s aiming to keep its capital spending within cash flow generated from operations, despite the dramatic decline in oil and gas prices since the end of 2014.

It says the sale of the Mitsue properties will raise total proceeds from asset sales since June to $605 million.

Rock-bottom interest rates combined with sustained exuberance among buyers and an assist from a steady flow of foreign cash, according to experts, propelled the Vancouver and Toronto housing markets to new heights in August.

The country’s real estate association said Tuesday benchmark prices in those centres jumped 12 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, posting “by far” the biggest price increases among housing markets across the country.

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Aided by low rates, a shortage of detached homes in those regions compared to the number of interested buyers is driving the rapid price inflation, the Canadian Real Estate Association said.

“Prices continue to rise in Ontario and British Columbia, where listings are either in short supply or heading in that direction,” Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist, said.

Subdued elsewhere

Price growth was more subdued in other markets, notably in areas hit by lower commodity prices. In Calgary, which continues to feel the effects of sharply lower oil, benchmark home prices were flat – the first time index prices have notched zero growth in four years.

Other markets outside the Vancouver and Toronto areas are also responding in kind to a mild slowdown in the economy, which has registered back-to-back quarters of contraction, or a technical recession.

MORE: ‘Best. Recession. Ever.’

The health of the country’s housing market has become a talking point in the federal election, the leaders from the three major parties promising reforms if elected.

MORE: Complete 2015 federal election coverage 

But outside of the country’s two biggest and priciest regions, sales data shows a balanced market, experts say.

Excluding the Vancouver and Toronto markets, the jump in national average prices would be cut in half, CREA said. “The national average price continues to be pulled upward by sales activity in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto.

Click here to view data »

Bubble behaviour?

“Overall, while most markets are responding logically to softening domestic economic conditions, Vancouver and Toronto continue to exhibit bubble behaviour,” David Madani, economist at Capital Economics said in a research note this week.

Several media reports in recent months have suggested a steady and rising tide of foreign cash is propping up price growth in big markets. Madani said that is only part of the story, while much of the demand remains from local buyers.

“While foreign investors are no doubt playing some role, we think this explanation is overblown,” the economist said. “Low interest rates and self-fulfilling expectations of higher prices continue to inflate actual prices independently of fundamentals,” he said.

“Over the longer-term, we still believe that these housing markets will experience major price reversals.”

WATCH: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau suggests ‘potential tools’ the federal government has to step in and help regulate runaway housing prices.

©2015

TORONTO – The information commissioner is taking the Prime Minister’s Office to court, accusing it of refusing to release documents about four senators embroiled in scandal.

filed an access-to-information request to the Privy Council Office, the central bureaucracy serving the prime minister and cabinet, in August of 2013 asking for any records created since March relating to senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau or Pamela Wallin.

The PCO identified 28 pages of responsive records, but withheld 27 of those pages, releasing just two emails in which its staff discussed similar access-to-information requests.

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PCO claimed every single word on every single one of those 27 pages might jeopardize solicitor-client privilege, or reveal personal information, or third-party information, or details on secret deliberations.

went to the federal information commissioner, who found the complaint well-founded and recommended the prime minister release “a significant amount” of additional information.

But the Prime Minister’s Office withheld the “vast majority” of the records and the information commissioner is now asking Federal Court to order the prime minister to disclose any records that don’t warrant being withheld under certain sections of the Access to Information Act.

In-Depth: Federal Election 2015

The Prime Minister’s Office “erred in fact and in law” in relying on the aforementioned sections of the act to withhold the records, the information commissioner said in the court application.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper deferred comment to the PCO, but a spokesperson there was not immediately available to respond on Monday evening.

Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy were suspended over their expense claims while Harb resigned.

Duffy, Brazeau and Harb have been charged with fraud and breach of trust. Duffy pleaded not guilty to 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery at his trial, which is set to resume in November.

Brazeau’s trial is scheduled to begin March 29, 2016. He has already pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Brazeau is also facing a separate set of charges – assault and sexual assault – arising from an alleged incident two years ago in the western Quebec city of Gatineau and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

That trial resumes Tuesday when he is expected to testify in his own defence.

Wallin has been under lengthy RCMP investigation but has not been charged.

©2015

WINNIPEG — A health-care aide’s alcohol addiction qualifies as a disability, and her employer was wrong to fire her for drinking off the job, a Manitoba human rights adjudicator has ruled.

Linda Horrocks is entitled to be reinstated, receive three years back pay and an additional $10,000 for injury to her dignity, independent adjudicator Sherri Walsh said in a report released Tuesday.

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“The issue for determination in this matter is not whether the complainant was drinking on a given day but rather whether (the employer) made reasonable efforts to accommodate the complainant as soon as it was aware that she had a disability and special needs associated with that disability,” Walsh wrote.

Horrocks was suspended from work at a personal care home in Flin Flon run by the Northern Regional Health Authority in June 2011 after a co-worker complained that she was drunk at work, according to evidence presented at the human rights board hearing.

She signed an agreement that allowed her to return to work on several conditions, including that she abstain from alcohol both on and off the job and seek counselling.

Horrocks was fired a year later when her employer received two reports that she had been drinking outside of work — once in a grocery store and once during a phone call with a manager.

Horrocks denied consuming alcohol and said she had been undergoing addiction counselling. She eventually filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, which appointed Walsh to hear the matter.

The regional health authority told the hearing that it had tried to accommodate Horrocks but also needed to protect the safety of people in the health care system.

Walsh ruled that alcohol addiction amounts to a disability under the human rights code, citing a 2013 ruling in a similar case.

She also ruled the health authority failed to accommodate Horrocks’ disability because it did not seek advice from experts in drawing up conditions for her return to work in 2011.

“Instead, I find that members of the (health authority’s) staff relied on their experiences with other staff who had required accommodation relating to addiction and on their own personal experiences,” Walsh wrote.

“Information of that sort is precisely the type of information that cannot be relied on as the basis for accommodating an employee. Each individual is entitled to an accommodation which is based on an individualized assessment of his or her specific needs.”

A spokesperson for the health authority said there would be no immediate comment.

©2015

NEW YORK – Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca died Monday evening after being diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, the company said Tuesday. He was 67.

DeLuca’s death came weeks after the 50th anniversary of Subway, which has become the world’s biggest restaurant chain by locations.

DeLuca decided to open a sandwich shop at the age of 17 to help pay for college after graduating high school. The idea came from a family friend, Peter Buck, who was co-founder and provided the $1,000 to start the business.

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READ MORE: Subway failed to investigate ‘serious’ complaint about Jared Fogle

“I knew nothing about making sandwiches, nor the food industry,” DeLuca later wrote in a book.

DeLuca and Buck opened their first store in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in August 1965 under the name “Pete’s Super Submarines,” with the priciest sub selling for 69 cents. The name was changed to the snappier “Subway” in 1968, and the pair decided to start franchising to fuel the chain’s growth.

By 1988, the company had 2,000 locations. By 1990, it reached the 5,000-store mark. And by 1994, it had more than 8,000 locations.

Subway, based in Milford, Connecticut, is privately held and has given the public few glimpses into its inner workings. But in July 2013, the company announced that DeLuca had been diagnosed with leukemia. It said DeLuca was in regular contact with his management team, but on a reduced basis as he received treatment.

READ MORE: Subway’s latest challenge; getting out from Jared’s shadow

Earlier this summer, Subway announced that DeLuca’s younger sister, Suzanne Greco, would take over as president and oversee day-to-day operations.

In his book “Start Small Finish Big: Fifteen Key Lessons to Start – and Run – Your Own Successful Business,” DeLuca recalled living in public housing in the Bronx as a child. His father hadn’t graduated high school, but his mother had stressed the importance of education while growing up.

After he graduated high school, DeLuca had planned on becoming a doctor. That was why he started the sub shop with Buck – to support his college education.

“It wasn’t intended to support me forever,” DeLuca wrote.

DeLuca is survived by his wife, son and sister, according to Subway.

©2015

Phyllis Whitsell was always told her biological parents had died of tuberculosis, but she never really believed it.

“Throughout my childhood I was convinced, somehow, that my mother was alive. I told myself that one day, when I was old enough, I would track her down,” the 59-year-old told the Birmingham Mail.

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Abandoned at eight months old and adopted at age 4, Whitsell was raised in Birmingham, U.K., and grew up to become a nurse.

Determined to find her birth parents, she tracked down her original birth certificate and even found a staff member at the orphanage where she was left as a baby.

“She was reluctant to tell me much about my mother but it was clear that she disapproved of her,” said Whitsell. “I had no idea why – I thought it was just because she had handed me over to the orphanage at such a young age.”

After more investigating, Whitsell found her mother, Bridget Ryan. She was an alcoholic living in the red light district of Birmingham, known locally as “Tipperary Mary.”

“She wasn’t the fairy-tale figure I had imagined, but she was still my mother,” said Whitsell.

As a district nurse, Whitsell decided on her own to include Bridget in her daily visitation route, taking care of her ill mother.

“I took her clean clothes, bathed her wounds and got her to talk about the five children she had given away, including me,” said Whitsell.

“The day she spoke affectionately of ‘little Phyllis’ and told me my birth date accurately was the best, and the worst, day of my life.”

From 1981, Whitsell took care of Bridget until her death in 1990. She never told Bridget who she really was.

Whitsell continues to take care of others in a nursing home and has written a book called Finding Tipperary Mary about finding and getting to know her mother.

©2015

Stephen Colbert asked tennis star Novak Djokovic – fresh off his U.S. Open grand slam win – to help him start Monday night’s show and you might get a kick out of how Colbert protected himself.

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“Champion Novak Djokovic is going to fire tennis balls at me,” The Late Show host explained as he headed to the rear of the stage to retrieve a hidden object. “While I protect myself with Captain America’s shield.”

“In this scenario, I’m the new Captain America and you’re the captain of Hydra’s tennis team.”

‘Cap’ went on to ask the world’s top-ranked male player how hard his serve can be.

“130 miles per hour,” Djokovic replied. That’s 209 kilometres per hour.

The Serbian nailed Colbert with his first shot. And even though it looked like he took some steam off of it, that’s much better than having to look for a new Late Show host…again.

©2015

EDMONTON – An Edmonton Catholic School Board meeting got extremely heated Tuesday evening as trustees were expected to vote on a proposed policy regarding gender identity and inclusion.

After several hours of back and forth, the topic was eventually put off until next month’s meeting. That decision had a member of Edmonton’s transgender community calling on Alberta’s education minister to step in.

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“I call on the Minister of Education, David Eggen, to immediately address this issue by imposing an appropriate policy or desolving (sp) the ECSD Board of Trustees. Further, I call on the Minister to set guidelines for all school boards in Alberta to follow in such cases,” Marni Panas wrote in a blog following the meeting Tuesday.

The proposed policy, which Panas was involved in drafting, would allow students to use the washrooms and change rooms with which they identify, play on sports teams of their choosing and change their school records to align with their gender identities.

Panas said via 桑拿会所 she was in tears watching the meeting online from overseas.

READ MORE: Majority of Alberta Catholics support gay-straight alliances: poll

The policy was developed after controversy arose over a transgender elementary school student who wanted to use the girls’ washroom. She was told by a teacher that she had to use the school’s gender-neutral bathroom instead.

Education Minister David Eggen said Wednesday morning he found the comments made by some of the trustees. to be “entirely unacceptable and quite disturbing.”

“What is a sensitive, important issue in regards to human rights broke and dissolved into acrimony,” said Eggen. “I don’t expect that I will see that again and if it does so there will be consequences.”

“I expect a higher standard from all elected officials here, generally in Alberta, and specifically with Edmonton Catholic.”

Eggen said he spoke with board chair Debbie Engel Wednesday morning and she assured him the board “will move forward to build a coherent transgender policy.”

Eggen said he will be monitoring the situation very carefully and expects it will be dealt with as soon as possible.

READ MORE: 16×9’s “Gender Identity”

“We know that it is our responsibility under the School Act and the responsibility of Edmonton Catholic under the School Act to ensure that we have safe, caring and secure places for all students.”

The girl’s mother, who has asked her name not be published, spoke before the meeting Tuesday to say she was there “not only for my child but all the transgender children in the Catholic system.”

“Today is not only about the rights, responsibility and obligations of care of all children, it’s also about accountability of our actions,” the mother said before getting cut off due to a three-minute time allowance.

READ MORE: Local mother accuses Edmonton Catholic School Board of discrimination

Before discussions on the policy began Tuesday, Trustee Cindy Olsen hoped to pass an amendment to drop the topic from the agenda. Olsen said the board needed more time to discuss the draft policy and consult with parents.

“My intention was to give the board time to discuss and provide an opportunity for consultation on an inclusion policy.  My comments and intent last night was to remove the item temporarily from the agenda which would give us time to discuss and consult with our community,” Olsen said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

After pushback from other trustees – Vice-Chair Marilyn Bergstra in particular – a vote was held and the discussion went ahead as planned. Tempers in the room and on social media quickly flared, with a clear divide on the topic.

In the end, trustees voted in favour of referring the vote on the policy until Oct. 15 with the hope that more discussion and consultation can take place.

The trustees then voted to end the meeting. All other issues on Tuesday’s agenda were put on hold.

Parents of transgender Edmonton student search for answers

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Following the meeting, Archbishop Richard Smith released the statement below, saying in part, “The Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta has approved a resource document intended to assist Catholic school divisions in formulating policies and procedures to address the needs of students around gender identity and expression.”

The Archbishop encouraged trustees to consider CCSSA resources when drafting district policies.

Read the full statement below. 

View this document on Scribd

With files from Kent Morrison, Slav Kornik, Global News.

©2015

MONTREAL – The head of the Quebec Bar Association is stepping down.

READ MORE: Four ex-premiers weigh in on suspension of head of Quebec Bar association

Lu Chan Khuong made it official in a joint statement Tuesday with the association, just days after both sides said they reached a mediated agreement over her suspension.

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READ MORE: Quebec Bar President suspended for allegedly shoplifting jeans

Khuong was suspended by the board on July 1 after it was revealed she had been the subject of a shoplifting complaint at a Laval clothing store in April 2014.

READ MORE: Court rejects suspended head of Quebec bar’s bid for immediate reinstatement

She was never charged in connection with the incident and the matter was dealt with non-judicially at the time.

©2015

MONTREAL – An overwhelming 91 per cent of parents said they are satisfied with the level of English instruction their children are receiving, according to a survey by the English Montreal School Board’s Central Parents Committee (CPC).

READ MORE: Not so fast, QESBA tells Quebec’s new education minister

That number dips to 73 per cent for French instruction.

About 850 families responded to the survey, with 69 per cent of parents saying they don’t believe the EMSB’s Commissioners value their opinion.

“I think it shows a lot of disillusionment about how decisions are made at the school board level,” said CPC member Andrew Ross.

“Two out of every three parents at the school board don’t believe the council of commissioners actually thinks about their opinions. For a commission that’s supposed to be looking at those views, that’s an astonishingly bad number.”

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The survey was wide-ranging, covering questions from the reasons for sending children to English schools to government cutbacks.

READ MORE: Quebec’s English school boards fight for survival

The results come at a time where the English school boards are fighting for survival.

In April, Education Minister François Blais announced a plan to abolish school board elections because of low voter turnout and high cost.

“We’re seeing that parents are demanding change. They have lost faith and lost confidence in the structure of the school board right now,” Ross insisted.

READ MORE: Can Quebec school board elections be saved? Should they be?

The Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA) declined Global News’ request for comment.

According to the parents’ commission, the EMSB initially tried to block the survey from being distributed to parents.

READ MORE: No more school board elections, says Blais

WATCH: The results of a controversial survey regarding the English Montreal School Board have been released. Kelly Greig reports live.

The board claimed that out of 19,000 students in their schools, the number of parents who responded was too low.

“It’s not significant to me in terms of the numbers saying we need to act quickly. However, there are obviously disgruntled parents that are sending us a message,” said EMSB Commissioner Angela Mancini.

More results from the survey are expected to be released after governing board meetings wrap up on Sept. 30.

On Wednesday, a group representing Quebec’s English school boards will unveil their alternatives for selecting commissioners.

©2015

OTTAWA – A Federal Court of Appeal panel has dismissed a government appeal over a ban on face coverings at citizenship ceremonies in what amounts to a major policy rebuke of the Harper government.

The three justices ruled from the bench, saying they wanted to proceed quickly so that Zunera Ishaq, the woman who initially challenged the ban, can obtain her citizenship in time to vote in the Oct. 19 federal election.

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Ishaq, a 29-year-old woman with devout Muslim beliefs who came to Ontario from Pakistan in 2008, refused to take part in a citizenship ceremony because she would have to show her face.

READ MORE: Most Canadians say faces shouldn’t be covered at citizenship ceremonies

The swift ruling left Ishaq speechless, although she said she looks forward to casting her ballot.

One of her lawyers, Maryls Edwardh, said the Immigration Department would be contacted this week so she could attend a citizenship ceremony – accompanied by her lawyers “just in case.”

The Harper government’s rule banning face coverings at such ceremonies was earlier found unlawful by the Federal Court.

Justice Department lawyer Peter Southey argued unsuccessfully that the lower court justice made errors in his original decision to overturn the ban.

Appeal Justice Mary Gleason said the court had no reason to interfere with the earlier ruling.

READ MORE: Canadian ambassador says niqab debate important

The ban on face coverings sparked a bitter debate in the House of Commons when it was first announced.

At Tuesday’s half-day hearing in Ottawa, a Justice Department lawyer told court that the government never meant to make it mandatory for women to remove their face coverings for citizenship ceremonies – a position that left both the judge and Ishaq’s lawyers scratching their heads.

The admission appeared to be a climbdown from the Conservative government’s past position on the issue.

The controversial edict was a regulation that had no actual force in law, Justice Department lawyer Peter Southey told a Federal Court of Appeal hearing.

“It indicates a desire in the strongest possible language,” Southey said – an argument that appeared to come as a surprise to Justice Johanne Trudel.

“I cannot see how this is not mandatory,” Trudel said during the hearing.

Southey later told the court that the immigration minister was conceding that he “could not impose a mandatory rule in a guideline” for the purposes of this appeal.

Lorne Waldman, the lawyer for the woman at the centre of the case, dismissed Southey’s argument, saying everyone from former immigration minister Jason Kenney , his successor Chris Alexander and even Prime Minister Stephen Harper have said in public they see it as a mandatory policy.

Reading from internal government emails, Waldman told court there was not “one iota of discretion” within the policy.

“Everything says mandatory, no discretion – that’s the facts of the case.”

The controversial case focuses on whether a Muslim woman should be required to remove her face covering to take the oath of citizenship.

Outside court, Ishaq questioned the federal government’s new line.

“If it’s not mandatory I would simply say, why they are fighting for it? Just let me go,” she said.

“I can’t even make sense of the statement – what the lawyer said about it that it’s not mandatory. If it’s not mandatory, so why that all this fuss is for?”

©2015

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal rival Justin Trudeau both say they have agreed after all to take part in a campaign leaders’ debate focused on foreign affairs issues scheduled for later this month.

The NDP’s concerns over whether or not the Munk debate would be sufficiently bilingual have been satisfied, Mulcair said Tuesday during a campaign event in Lethbridge, Alta.

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“It now appears that it is going to be on the shoulders of the participants to ensure that it’s going to be in French,” Mulcair said.

READ MORE: Economic issues, not the refugee crisis, at the top of mind for Canadian voters

“I can tell you that I will ensure that it will be bilingual.”

The Liberals later followed Mulcair’s lead, with spokeswoman Kate Purchase issuing a statement that said Trudeau would be there despite lingering doubt about the extent to which the debate will take place in both official languages.

“While we continue to have concerns with the nature of the format with regards to language, there has been some accommodation,” the statement said.

“Foreign policy is a critical issue, particularly with the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, and we look forward to debating these issues fully.”

READ MORE: Leaders debate to put weak economy on front-burner this week

Trudeau had made his participation in all of the national leaders’ debates conditional on having an equal number take place in French and in English.

The Munk debate is scheduled for Sept. 28 at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. The Conservatives have already confirmed that Stephen Harper will be taking part.

The leaders had until noon Tuesday to officially accept the debate invitation.

The Munk debate will be broadcast in French and English both online and on CPAC, the Canadian Public Affairs Channel.

©2015

TORONTO – The Liberal cabinet has bypassed Ontario’s opposition parties and appointed Barbara Finlay as the province’s temporary ombudsman.

The New Democrats had blocked Liberal motions in the legislature to give the job to Finlay, who was deputy ombudsman, until the three parties could agree on a permanent candidate.

The NDP wanted to give Andre Marin another extension while he applied for a third, five-year term as the government watchdog, but the Liberals refused so Marin’s term expired at midnight.

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Government house leader Yasir Naqvi wrote his Progressive Conservative and New Democrat counterparts saying it is “absolutely unacceptable” for the ombudsman’s position to be vacant for even one day.

Naqvi says the government had to appoint the deputy as the temporary ombudsman until the parties can agree on a permanent candidate because the NDP was “playing politics.”

Marin held a news conference Monday to appeal for reappointment, and criticized the Liberals for politicizing the hiring practice and treating him unfairly as he reapplied for the job.

“Unfortunately there’s no ombudsman for ombudsman because I’d be knocking on that door,” Marin told reporters.

The three parties did agree on a new environmental commissioner for Ontario, appointing lawyer Dianne Saxe to a five-year term.

Former environmental commissioner Gord Miller retired after three terms and is a Green Party candidate in the Oct. 19 federal election.