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TOP STORIES: Lumber prices up; quadruple murder, RCMP killer, more


Published on July 14, 2017

A worker tidies up the wood pile at a lumber yard Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Montreal. Canada's softwood lumber industry faces average duties of about 27 per cent after the U.S. Department of Commerce slapped it with an additional 6.87 per cent in preliminary average anti-dumping tariffs. The new anti-dumping duty will overlap for about two months with average preliminary countervailing duties of 19.88 per cent announced in April that are set to expire Aug. 27.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

©THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Six stories in the news for Friday, July 14

1.) LUMBER PRICES UP AFTER B.C. WILDFIRES

The B.C. wildfires that have forced some sawmills to close have resulted in a boost in lumber prices at a time when forestry companies have been squeezed by U.S. softwood duties. The benchmark price of Western spruce-pine-fir lumber has risen 5.5 per cent to US$400 per thousand board feet in less than a week. Ketan Mamtora, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, says he expects prices will rise between six and eight per cent over the next couple of weeks, partly due to a limited supply.  IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ON THIS STORY, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN

2.) CALGARY POLICE INVESTIGATE QUADRUPLE HOMICIDE

A man and two sisters found dead in a burned-out car may not have been the intended targets in what Calgary police say was a brutal and ruthless quadruple homicide. Investigators are exploring the possibility that Cody Pfeiffer, 25, Glynnis Fox, 36, and Tiffany Ear, 39, were “simply at the wrong place and at the wrong time with the wrong people.” Their bodies were found Monday in a burned-out car and police believe the vehicle's owner, Hanock Afowerk, 26, was the target.  IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ON THIS STORY, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN

3.) SENTENCING FOR DRUNK DRIVER WHO KILLED MOUNTIE

A man who killed a mother of two when his truck rammed into her RCMP cruiser while driving drunk and speeding will be sentenced by a court near Victoria today. Court heard Kenneth Fenton had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit when he ran a red light, hitting Const. Sarah Beckett's cruiser broadside. Fenton pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death for the April 2016 crash.  IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ON THIS STORY, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN

4.) SENTENCING EXPECTED TODAY FOR ANDREA GIESBRECHT

The case of a Winnipeg woman convicted of hiding the remains of six infants in a rented storage locker will be back in court today. Judge Murray Thompson is scheduled to deliver the sentence for Andrea Giesbrecht, 43, but may also hear a motion by her lawyer, who wants the case thrown out because it took 33 months to conclude.  IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ON THIS STORY, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN

5.) PM TRUDEAU MEETS TODAY WITH PENCE, GOVERNORS

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Providence, R.I. to meet with five state governors and hold a formal one-on-one session with U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence. Trudeau and other Canadian officials hope to forge relationships that could prove useful should trade talks hit a difficult patch and Canada find itself in need of allies willing to speak up in favour of NAFTA.  IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ON THIS STORY, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN

6.) B.C. FIREFIGHTERS BRACE FOR WIND-WHIPPED FLAMES

Despite a slight break in the weather in recent days, crews battling the B.C. wildfires are now preparing for winds to pick up over the weekend. The Cariboo Fire Centre says this could fuel dozens of fires across the Interior region of the province. The province declared a state of emergency last week and more than 16,000 people have been evacuated, with thousands more on alert.  IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ON THIS STORY, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN

ALSO IN THE NEWS TODAY:

- Michelle Rice to appear in Edmonton court, charged with second-degree murder in the death of her daughter, 11, from a meth overdose.

- Representatives of the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Legacy Room initiative make an announcement today in Halifax.

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Extended coverage of the stories above:

1.) Lumber prices see 'big jump' after wildfires in British Columbia

By Aleksandra Sagan

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER - The wildfires in the B.C. Interior that have forced some sawmills to halt operations have resulted in a boost in lumber prices at a time when forestry companies have been squeezed by softwood duties on exports to the U.S.

By Wednesday, the benchmark price of Western spruce-pine-fir lumber had risen by 5.5 per cent to US$400 per thousand board feet from US$379 last Friday, according to figures from Random Lengths, which tracks lumber and panel prices.

“It's a big jump,” said Shawn Church, Random Lengths editor.

Ketan Mamtora, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, said he expects prices will rise between six and eight per cent over the next couple of weeks, partly due to a limited supply.

As early as Sunday, several companies temporarily closed some of their mills as evacuation orders, displaced employees, road closures and other factors made operations impossible or difficult.

It's possible for the industry to increase capacity at other facilities, but Mamtora said it's unlikely they can make up for all lost production. Fear over possible lumber shortages also “really pushes up the prices,” he said.

If the fires persist for a long time, that will have “a much more meaningful impact on pricing,” Mamtora added.

In the case of mills staying shut for months or even sustaining damage, he estimates prices could rise between 15 and 17 per cent.

But Harry Nelson, an assistant professor of forestry at the University of British Columbia, said essentially the province's entire production would have to be wiped out for such a spike to occur.

“At the end of the day, whatever hole these wildfires create gets filled in somewhere else,” Nelson said.

For weeks, Canada's softwood lumber industry has been hit by U.S. duties, and companies operating in B.C. have been hit particularly hard.

On average, the lumber industry faces tariffs of 27 per cent. But West Fraser Timber (TSX:WFT), Canfor (TSX:CFP) and Tolko, all of which are headquartered in the province, have been charged duties of 31, 28 and 27 per cent, respectively.

The short-term lift in prices is good for producers, Nelson said, as it means more money in their pockets after tariffs are paid.

2.) Calgary quadruple homicide: Owner of burned-out car believed to be main target

By Lauren Krugel

THE CANADIAN PRESS

CALGARY - A man and two sisters found dead in a burned-out car may not have been the intended targets in what Calgary police are describing as a brutal and ruthless quadruple homicide.

Investigators are exploring the possibility that Cody Pfeiffer, 25, Glynnis Fox, 36, and Tiffany Ear, 39, were “simply at the wrong place and at the wrong time with the wrong people,” acting Insp. Paul Wozney said Thursday.

Lorenzo Ear, the younger brother of the two women, said his sisters leave behind 16 children between them.

“The younger ones, they don't know yet,” he said. “That's going to be something that we as family are going to have to find out how to explain to them, that their mothers are no longer around.”

The bodies of Pfeiffer, Fox and Ear were found Monday after firefighters extinguished a burning 2011 Chevrolet Cruze at a construction site in a new subdivision on Calgary's northwestern edge.

Wozney, with the major crimes unit, said it's believed the Cruze's owner, Hanock Afowerk, 26, was the target.

Police confirmed that Afowerk was found dead in a rural area west of Calgary on Wednesday and that it was a homicide. They had earlier appealed to the public for help finding him and expressed concern for his safety.

It's possible Fox and Ear - from the Stoney Nakoda Nation west of Calgary - were caught up in a targeted attack against Afowerk, police said.

All four victims suffered significant traumatic injuries, but Wozney declined to elaborate.

“I will say that it ... certainly has been surprising to some very seasoned investigators.”

Police believe multiple people may have been involved and that it's possible there are several different crime scenes.

“We know that there's people in the community that have information regarding this event. We know that people know what happened. If they're scared, if they are in any way hesitant to contact us, they can do so anonymously through Crime Stoppers or through our tip line,” said Wozney.

It appears the sisters got to know Pfeiffer and Afowerk recently, he added.

Lorenzo Ear said his sisters were generous, caring and kind mothers who loved their children. Tiffany had nine, and had recently become a grandmother.

“I believe she really enjoyed that role. Even though it made her seem a little bit older, she was still happy.”

Glynnis had seven children and was about to become a grandmother when she died.

Both women were working on upgrading their education, their brother said, adding Tiffany loved books and Glynnis had a passion for learning about First Nations culture.

They wanted to one day find jobs as teachers or in other professions that would allow them to help people, he said.

An aunt who did not want her name published said in an email that Tiffany had been through a lot and struggled to make ends meet at times.

“She kept her head up, always positive and recently completed a treatment program in December of 2016 and changed her life around,” said the aunt.

The sisters were among 11 siblings, Lorenzo said, adding he wants to speak out about them to help the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The family has been gathering at Tiffany's home to get it ready for the wake, finding comfort in sprucing up the lawn and putting a fresh coat of paint on the inside.

“What we're doing is being a family unit, being together, being closer, laughing with each other, helping each other.”

3.) Man who killed RCMP officer in drunk driving crash to be sentenced today

THE CANADIAN PRESS

COLWOOD, B.C. - A man who killed a mother of two when his truck rammed into her RCMP cruiser while driving drunk and speeding will be sentenced by a court near Victoria today.

The court heard during Kenneth Fenton's sentencing hearing that he had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit when he ran a red light, hitting Const. Sarah Beckett's cruiser broadside.

Fenton pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death for the April 2016 crash that killed the 32-year-old officer.

The 29-year-old man told the court at his sentencing hearing last week that he was sorry for his actions and that he would take the officer's place if he could.

Beckett's husband told the court the hardest thing after his wife's death was telling their six-year-old son that mom wasn't coming home.

The Crown has asked for a three-to-five year prison sentence, while his defence lawyer says a three-year sentence would be more appropriate.

British Columbia's prosecution service announced earlier this week there was not enough evidence to approve charges against an officer who tried to stop Fenton's truck moments before the fatal collision.

4.) Sentencing expected for Andrea Giesbrecht, who hid remains of six infants

THE CANADIAN PRESS

WINNIPEG - The case of a Winnipeg woman convicted of hiding the remains of six infants in a rented storage locker will be back in court today.

Judge Murray Thompson is scheduled to deliver the sentence for Andrea Giesbrecht, 43, but may also hear a motion by defence lawyer Greg Brodsky, who wants the case thrown out because it took 33 months to conclude.

A Supreme Court ruling last year said legal proceedings can be presumed to be unreasonably delayed if they take more than 18 months in provincial court or 30 months in a higher court.

Her trial heard from medical experts who testified the infants were Giesbrecht's, were at or near full term and were likely to have been born alive, though how they died remains a mystery because the remains were so decomposed.

At a sentencing hearing, Brodsky asked Giesbrecht be sentenced to time already served while Crown attorney Debbie Buors asked for an 11-year sentence minus time served.

Thompson has agreed to let his decision be livestreamed by media outlets.

5.) Bilateral speed-dating: Many Canada-US meetings today, including PM and VP Pence

By Alexander Panetta

THE CANADIAN PRESS

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - It's like a day of Canada-U.S. political speed-dating: Dozens of American governors, several Canadian federal and provincial representatives, holding meetings in quick succession, hoping to leave a good impression before the relationship gets tested by the cold reality of trade negotiations.

They're all converging today at a Rhode Island convention centre where about three-dozen U.S. state governors are holding their annual summer meeting, with trade uncertainty looming ahead.

The Canadian side will be led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: he will deliver a keynote address, participate in a public panel, hold separate meetings with five state governors, and have a formal one-on-one session with Vice-President Mike Pence.

It's all happening with major economic developments potentially days away. Next week, the U.S. is expected to publish its negotiating positions for a new NAFTA, then there's an impending U.S. decision on steel tariffs, a dispute over Bombardier, and negotiations aimed at settling the softwood lumber dispute.

Trudeau's keynote speech to the annual state-governors' conference in Rhode Island is titled: “Collaborating to Create Tomorrow's Global Economy.”

Canadian officials say the long-term objective here is to create relationships that could prove useful, should trade talks hit a difficult patch and Canada find itself in need of allies willing to speak up in favour of NAFTA.

The federal government has identified 11 U.S. states that might have the most political clout in upcoming trade debates, with several having been won at least once by Barack Obama, swung to Donald Trump, and exporting heavily to Canada.

The Canadian contingent is poised to hold individual meetings with about half of the three-dozen governors present. That contingent includes Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Quebec's international relations minister, Nova Scotia's transport minister, federal cabinet members, and senators.

“Our conversations here have one focus: free trade, and the renegotiation (of NAFTA),” Quebec minister Christine St-Pierre said in an interview. “It's a real public-relations exercise, one of convincing our partners of the importance of trade.”

Trudeau will be meeting the governors of five states - Kentucky, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Iowa and Colorado. St-Pierre has conversations planned with the governors of four U.S. states and one Mexican state.

The Quebec minister said there's a good level of teamwork between the various delegations from Canada: “There is really, really, really a desire to work closely together on this... We're all on the same page.”

6.) Officials say scattered showers won't help B.C. wildfires, winds may fuel flames

THE CANADIAN PRESS

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. - Despite a slight reprieve in weather conditions in recent days, crews battling wildfires in British Columbia are now preparing for the worst as officials predict winds to pick up over the weekend.

The Cariboo Fire Centre says although winds remained calm yesterday, there's a chance they will pick up Saturday, fuelling dozens of fires across the Interior region of the province.

Environment Canada forecasts a chance of rain for Williams Lake where 11,000 people are on standby to evacuate, but officials say any showers that develop will not be enough to douse active fires.

A special air quality statement remains in effect for the Interior and eastern parts of the province. Residents are warned to avoid strenuous activity outside and children and seniors are encouraged to stay indoors.

The province declared a state of emergency last week and more than 16,000 people have been evacuated, with thousands more on alert.

The province says evacuees must remain patient and wait for official notice before they can return home, and warns violating orders can detract from firefighting efforts by diverting first responders to take part in avoidable rescues.