David E. Wade: 'Will midterm elections embolden or undermine President Trump?'

I’ve been a witness to the way the world processes American political dialogue.

As a young speechwriter, I was puzzled when my boss erased an applause line that could have been misinterpreted overseas.

When I arrived at the State Department, I learned he was right: foreign diplomats consume our news voraciously.

A great line in Dubuque might not be worth the headache in Dubai. The whole world always watches America’s elections, but few will keep them glued to their televisions like the one on November 6, when voters go to the polls in congressional midterm elections.

Conventional wisdom has it that a Democratic wave is soon arriving, to change control of at least one house of Congress two years into the Trump administration.

The American political deck will likely be reshuffled – and with it the geopolitical one as well. How will it resonate beyond our shores? The answer is, more and less than you might think.

First, some context. Donald Trump’s low approval ratings have been an anchor around Republicans’ necks.

But he would be far from the first American president to receive a failing midterm grade.

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In fact, US politics, dating back to 1974 when Democrats took 49 seats from the Republicans in a repudiation of Nixon and Watergate, has been punctuated by “wave” elections delivering a message of discontent – including 1982 for Democrats unhappy with Reagan, 1994 for the anti-Clinton Republicans, and 2010 for the Tea Party Republicans who opposed Obama.

Yet Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Obama were all reelected when they next faced the voters.

A tsunami could wipe out Trump’s majority in the House of Representatives, but the map of Senate races still favors the Republican Party. Trump is likely to still have a Senate backstop after the election, and time to recalibrate.

But if Trump loses the House the world would assess a realigned Washington very differently.

Obama headed to Asia right after the 2010 midterm losses. His appearance on the world stage implicitly reminded the public at home of something Bill Clinton felt compelled to express explicitly after his party’s losses in 1994: the American president is always relevant.

What would Trump do in a new dynamic?

Trump faces two immediate international tests.

First, when he sees Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on November 11, he must avoid a repeat of the Helsinki fiasco, where the US president received widespread condemnation for praising his Russian counterpart and rejecting the US intelligence agencies’ finding that Moscow had meddled in the 2016 US election.

Trump’s post-midterm challenge will be complicated: he can’t afford to again appear tone-deaf about Russia and further alienate his ever-more important Republican base.

But he needs to demonstrate that his outreach to Moscow has borne some fruit.

Putin may be inclined to throw Trump a lifeline. National Security Adviser John Bolton will be under pressure to determine whether any Putin offering – such as greater cooperation on Syria, Ukraine, or Iran – is real, or a ruse.

At the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires November 30, Trump faces an even bigger test: a meeting with China’s Xi Jinping.

If he suffers significant electoral losses, Trump will be under pressure to deescalate a trade war that’s always been a sore spot for his Republican supporters.

But will Beijing, with its patient command and control authoritarian system, rush to resolve a trade war begun by a president it may now see as permanently weakened?

China is more insulated and better able to function as a “resistance economy”, but a “freeze for freeze” on tariffs while the two countries return to negotiations may benefit mutual interests.

Trump may also seek greater Chinese cooperation on North Korea, but is unlikely to get it if his administration doubles down on a growing anti-China narrative.

Was Vice President Mike Pence’s tough-talking China speech on October 4 a preview of escalation against Beijing, or will Trump instead pursue strategic cooperation?

These are among the vital questions a weakened president would have to answer.

If Republicans lose power, his North Korean diplomatic gambit will be tested: Kim Jong Un may perceive that Trump will now be even more desperate for a “win” on the world stage.

Will Trump continue to base his North Korea policy on his personal relationship with the dictator with whom he says he “fell in love” – or reach out for greater leverage from the allies he often finds frustrating?

Certainly, at home and abroad all of these calculations will be affected by political jockeying, which will only intensify.

On the day after the midterms, an “invisible primary” among Democrats will begin in earnest to choose a candidate capable of winning in 2020.

The Democrats will have to define a foreign policy for that campaign, navigating thorny issues that include articulating an alternative to Trumpism globally while still reconnecting with persuadable Trump voters who feel left behind by globalization.

In other words, Trump is not the only one with a difficult dance to perform.

Americans rarely vote on foreign policy, and certainly issues from healthcare to jobs and immigration are on the ballot in bold font, looming far larger than America’s place in the world.

But the outcome will nonetheless set the stage for how Trump navigates the next two years of his presidency, both among voters and international leaders.

Will Trump be emboldened, or undermined, as he pursues his foreign policy? By November 7, we will begin to have our answer.

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Democrats and Republicans make last pitch as midterm campaigns clatter to hectic end

Bitter U.S. political campaigns thundered to a hectic, unpredictable finish on election eve on Monday, as candidates scoured the country for votes in dozens of crucial races that opinion polls showed were still razor-close.

Control of both chambers of the U.S. Congress and 36 governor’s offices are up for grabs on Tuesday in an election widely seen as a referendum on the first two years of Republican President Donald Trump’s leadership.

In the final stretch, Trump has ramped up his hard-line rhetoric on immigration and cultural issues, including warnings about a caravan of migrants headed to the border with Mexico and “liberal” mobs, and touted a growing U.S. economy that he said would be threatened by Democrats.

He amplified that message with an advertisement linking Democrats and immigrants to violent crime, which aired on NBC on Sunday night. Even fellow Republicans had criticized the spot as racially divisive when it first debuted online last week.

NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp on Monday said it would no longer run the 30-second spot. CNN had earlier refused to run it, calling it “racist.”

“After further review we recognize the insensitive nature of the ad and have decided to cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible,” a spokesperson for the network said in a email.

Trump planned to spend a final day on the campaign trail on Monday, hitting the Midwestern states of Ohio, Indiana and Missouri at the end of a six-day pre-election sweep focused mostly on competitive U.S. Senate races.

“It’s all fragile. Everything I told you about, it can be undone and changed by the Democrats if they get in,” Trump told supporters in a conference call on Monday aimed at getting out the vote.

Opinion polls and election forecasters favor Democrats to pick up the minimum of 23 seats they need on Tuesday to capture a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would enable them to stymie Trump’s legislative agenda and investigate his administration.

But Republicans are favored to retain their slight majority in the U.S. Senate, currently at two seats, which would let them retain the power to approve U.S. Supreme Court and other judicial nominations on straight party-line votes.

But 75 or more of the 435 House races remain competitive, forecasters said, and control of the Senate is likely to come down to a half-dozen close contests in Arizona, Nevada, Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana and Florida.

Democrats also are threatening to recapture governor’s offices in several key battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, a potential help for the party in those states in the 2020 presidential race.

Trump, who frequently warns of voter fraud and has claimed without evidence that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in 2016, said on Twitter on Monday that law enforcement should be on the lookout for “illegal voting.”

Democratic former President Barack Obama delivered donuts to campaign volunteers in a House district in suburban Virginia, where Democrat Jennifer Wexton, a state senator, is challenging Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock in a fiercely contested race

Obama said the country’s character and its commitment to decency and equality are on the ballot on Tuesday.

“All across the country, what I’m seeing is a great awakening,” he said. “People woke up and said ‘Oh, we can’t take this for granted. We’ve got to fight for this.'”

Trump’s polarizing style has spurred record turnout, cranking up enthusiasm in both parties as voters cast ballots to oppose or support the president.

Approximately 40 million early votes – including absentee, vote-by-mail and in-person ballots – will likely be cast by Election Day, according to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who tracks the figures. In the last such congressional elections in 2014, there were 27.5 million early votes.

The numbers suggest turnout will be very high for a non-presidential election, McDonald wrote on his U.S. Elections Project website. He estimated turnout would reach 45 percent; that would be the highest for a midterm election in 50 years.

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MAP: These are the Rona and Lowe’s stores closing in February

Thirty-one Rona and Lowe’s hardware stores are closing in 2019, the company announced Monday during a “strategic reassessment.”

The company named 27 affected stores are from New Westminster, B.C., Calgary, Alta., along with various locations in Ontario and Newfoundland. That amounts toto about three per cent of the company’s Canadian footprint.

They will be closed by Feb. 1, 2019.

“The decision was informed by the strategic reassessment work we have been doing over the last few months. … We plan to continue to evaluate all businesses and elements of our portfolio annually,” the company told Reuters.

There is so far no news on how many employees will be affected or let go because of the closures.

“Everything will be done to ensure a smooth transition until the stores are closed, and Lowe’s Canada will support impacted employees, including by transferring eligible employees to other locations within our network whenever possible,” said Sylvain Prud’homme, chief executive of Lowe’s Canada, in a statement.

Here’s where the stores are closing:

British Columbia: 

RONA Columbia Square – 105-1015 Columbia Street, New Westminister

Alberta:

RONA Calgary – 11520 – 24th Street SE, Calgary

Reno-Depot Calgary West – 12330 Symons Valley Road NW, Calgary

Ontario:

RONA Mississauga – 1133 Dundas Street West, Mississauga

RONA Mississauga – 1692 Lakeshore Rd, Mississauga

RONA Sault Ste. Marie – 132 Black Road, Sault Ste. Marie

RONA Sudbury – 943 Barry Downe Road, Sudbury

RONA Peterborough – 1575 Chemong Road, Peterborough

RONA Kingston – 1452 Bath Road, Kingston

RONA Lakefield – 178 Water Street, Lakefield

Lowe’s North York – Centerpoint – 6600 Yonge Street, North York

Lowe’s Sault Ste. Marie – 248 Northern Avenue, Sault Ste. Marie

Québec: 

RONA Ste-Clotilde – 335, Route 209, Sainte-Clotilde-de-Chateauguay

RONA Iberville – 870, boulevard d’Iberville, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

RONA L’Assomption – 723, boulevard L’Ange-Gardien, L’Assomption

RONA Granby Moeller – 788, rue Moeller, Grandby

RONA Ste-Rose – 134, boulevard Sainte-Rose, Laval

RONA Rivière-des-Prairies – 9200, boulevard Maurice-Duplessis, Montréal

RONA Rouyn-Noranda – 1200, rue Mantha, Rouyn-Noranda

RONA Ange-Gardien – 194, rue Principale, Ange-Gardien

RONA Saint-Elzéar – 100, rue du Parc Industriel, Saint Elzéar

Newfoundland:

RONA Conception Bay South – 825 Conception Bay Hwy, Conception Bay

RONA Goulds – 53-59 Main Highway, Goulds

RONA St. John’s – 1297 Topsail Road, St. John’s

RONA St. John’s – 60 O’Leary Avenue, St. John’s

RONA St. John’s – 710 Torbay Road, St. John’s

RONA Bay Roberts – 242 Conception Bay Hwy, Bay Roberts

*with a file from the Canadian Press and Reuters

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Eugene Scott :''Unqualified' tag is all to do with Abrams being a black woman'

Stacey Abrams is hoping to make history as America’s first black female governor. But to hear US President Donald Trump tell it, the Georgia Democrat is unqualified.

Trump has not said exactly why he thinks Abrams is unqualified, but he has communicated why he thinks Ron DeSantis, a former Republican congressman running for governor in neighbouring Florida, is.

Trump sent out a tweet in support of DeSantis, citing his Yale undergraduate education and five-and-a-half years in the House of Representatives. Last Thursday, he opined on Abrams, telling reporters: “She is not qualified to be the governor of Georgia, not qualified.

“Take a look at her past, take a look at her history, take a look at what she wants to do and what she has in mind for the state. That state will be in big, big trouble very quickly, and the people of Georgia don’t want that.”

Let’s take a look at Abrams’s past and compare it with that of DeSantis, who Trump thinks would be “a great governor”. Abrams has a doctorate from Yale Law School, America’s top law school, according to US News & World Report. It’s also the same law school as Mr Trump’s most recent Supreme Court pick, Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She also has a master’s degree in public policy and has a longer political career than DeSantis, even serving as minority leader in Georgia’s House of Representatives.

DeSantis held no leadership positions while in Congress. And Brian Kemp, Abrams’s Republican opponent in the governor’s race, also held no leadership positions while serving the state Senate. (Kemp has been accused of using his position as Georgia’s secretary of state to suppress the vote of more than 50,000 residents.)

In fact, Abrams has more elite education and political experience than Trump himself. So how could she be “unqualified” for the job for which some say she’s been preparing since the days when Trump was a Democrat?

Judging by his comments and the policies he proposes, many Americans consider Trump to be racist and sexist. Given Abrams’s identity as a black woman, some conclude that this makes her “unqualified” to be the most powerful politico in Georgia, a state that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has a history of dismissing black women and the concerns and experiences that they bring to the table. Abrams supporter Representative Maxine Waters – who Trump frequently calls “a low IQ” individual – is one of his most frequent targets of derision.

And Oprah Winfrey, who campaigned for Abrams this week, has found herself on the receiving end of Trump attacks, after conversations about her running against Trump in 2020.

In the 2016 exit polls, 76pc of black women said they were “scared” of a Trump win.

And in a Gallup poll the summer before the election, 72pc of black women said they “strongly agreed” that they were afraid of what would happen if their preferred candidate did not win the election.

This is perhaps why black women are one of the groups that voted against Trump at the highest rate in 2016 – and are expected to continue to show lack of support for the Republicans in the midterms. (© The Washington Post)

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Sask. Scholarship of Honour recipients recognized by province

The 27 recipients of the Saskatchewan Scholarship of Honour were recognized at the Saskatchewan Legislature on Monday.

Recognizing Canadian Armed Forces members, along with the spouses and children of injured or fallen members, the scholarships offers a one-time award of $5,000 towards post-secondary education.

“Our government is forever grateful to the many men and women serving in Canada’s Armed Forces,” Advanced Education Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor said.

“This scholarship will help them pursue their post-secondary studies and is a small way we can honour these brave individuals who have given so much to protect our country and our freedom.”

There have been 206 scholarships awarded since 2009, totaling $1,030,000.

In order to be eligible for these scholarships, candidates must be current or former Saskatchewan residents and must be returning service men and women who actively served in designated military operations in the Canadian Armed Forces after January 2001.

A spouse and/or child of permanently disabled or deceased individuals who served in designated military operations after January 2001 may also be eligible.

All candidates must be enrolled in a recognized Canadian post-secondary institution.

For more information regarding the Saskatchewan Scholarship of Honour visit http://www.saskatchewan.ca/residents/education-and-learning/scholarships-bursaries-grants/scholarships/saskatchewan-scholarship-of-honour.

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Alberta needs legislation to ensure medically assisted death is accessed equally: advocates

Friends of Medicare is calling on the provincial government to create legislation that would ensure equal access to Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID) at all Alberta hospital facilities.

The not-for-profit organization is concerned that faith-based hospitals, like those run by Covenant Heath, are “preventing the provision of MAID within their publicly-funded facilities,” Friends of Medicare said in a news release.

Medically assisted death became legal in Canada in June 2016.

Supporters say one significant barrier to access is faith-based facilities. Dozens of patients in Alberta have had to be transferred from those centres. Covenant Health has an “ethical and moral opposition to medical assistance in dying” and won’t provide the service in all its facilities, which means patients have to be transferred elsewhere.

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“In some cases, in response to both a patient’s consented request and an external provider arrangement to assume care of the patient, this may require safe and timely transfer of the patient and their records to a non-objecting institution for continued exploratory discussion and assessment,” the Covenant Health policy states.

Several media reports have surfaced recently detailing the struggle Alberta patients face trying to access MAID at Covenant Health hospitals.

“Faith-based institutions should not be able to interpret the law to the point where those Albertans who are seeking a perfectly legal public medical service are impeded from having equitable access,” said Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare.

Doreen Nowicki, an Edmonton woman in pallative care with ALS, was forced to have her assisted death assessment in a wheelchair on the sidewalk across from the hospital after the Catholic-run Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre suddenly withdrew permission for the meeting to happen on-site.

“She didn’t know why it was happening and it was just a real shock to her — why she was out on that busy street with the assessor trying to ask her questions and having cars going by and people going by,” her husband Terry said.

“This should not happen to anybody.”

“These recent stories sadly point to the undue pain and suffering to these patients who may not have had the option but to be placed in these facilities,” Azocar said.

“Covenant Health provides the bulk of palliative care in this province, and the transfer of patients from institutions during this very private, personal and painful moment in patients’ lives is a difficult problem which must be resolved.”

June 2016: Last month, an Edmonton judge granted John Tuckwell the right to a physician-assisted death. The former government spokesperson – diagnosed with ALS in 2012 – explains what the right to end his life on his own terms means. Su-Ling Goh reports.

The group is calling on the Alberta government and Alberta Health Services to take a clear position and establish legislation that will address unequal access and various interpretations of the federal law.

“Albertans need a position and legislation that is humane and follows the intent of the federal legislation,” Azocar said.

According to the group Dying with Dignity Canada, more than 70 people have been moved from Covenant Health facilities since 2016 in order to receive medical assistance in dying.

Friends of Medicare says the federal legislation doesn’t address how provinces implement health services. Therefore, the group says provinces and regional health authorities must create their own legislation “to close interpretive gaps and ensure appropriate access to care.”

Physicians have the right to opt-out of providing MAID for moral or religious reasons, but they must make referrals that ensure patients can access the service elsewhere.

“In our public health care system, institutions who are in receipt of public funding should also have a responsibility to ensure that all Albertans receive the same level of care and service,” Azocar said.

July 2016: John Tuckwell, the first Edmontonian to be granted a medically assisted death, passed away of natural causes Wednesday morning. Su-Ling Goh has more.


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City of Saskatoon working towards inclusive change rooms at leisure centres

The City of Saskatoon says it is actively working towards converting recreational facilities that are outdated, with the aim of making them more inclusive to all patrons.

Officials acknowledge half of all six leisure centres run by the city have designated men’s and women’s change rooms, leaving some transgender people with few options if they want more privacy.

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“There are limited spaces that are available provide to people that need assistance or to people that are wanting a private area for various reasons,” said Jody Hauta, the city’s manager of recreation facilities and programs.

The three recreational facilities that would force a transgender person to chose between into two distinct change rooms: male and are Cosmo Civic Centre, the Field House, and Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre.

“Those would be the ones that would have facilities that would not be appropriate to seniors that need assistance, for people that maybe transitioning and also families that are bringing their younger children into the facility,” Hauta added.

Interior of Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre in Saskatoon.

If concerns arise, staff who have received sensitivity training would deal with each situation on a case by case basis. Hauta said the only solution at this point are individuals who require more privacy are allowed to use staff washrooms/change rooms at these facilities as an alternative.

“We need to respect everyone’s gender identity so what we try to do is accommodate as best as we can within our facilities,” Hauta explained.

“We also have to recognize that we need to provide safe and welcome facilities within our community for everyone.”

Exterior of the Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre in Saskatoon.

Over the past few decades, Amanda Guthrie, education and operations manager with OUTSaskatoon, said there has been a huge amount of work to make facilities more inclusive for everyone all along the gender spectrum and weighed in on the staff room option.

“If they choose a staff washroom and that’s of their choosing than that’s a great option,” she said.

“But we always want to make sure they’re given a choice.”

The city said it’s determining what needs to be done to convert these three facilities, the cost and sources of funding.

In the meantime, OUTSaskatoon wants people to open their hearts and minds to others in the community. Guthrie also wanted to reinforce that public safety is something that everyone has in mind when visiting these shared spaces.

“If any incident were to occur within a washroom in which safety was at risk then steps will be taken,” Guthrie added.

“However, if no one is at risk and everyone that is in that washroom has chosen to be in that space because it aligns with their identity then we have to be honouring human rights.”

Guthrie also noted OUTSaskatoon said it a great resource for open and safe dialogue for members of the public who have questions or concerns.

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Networks, Facebook drop Trump's anti-immigrant ad

Trump’s ad sparked outcry last week, drawing accusations of racism and fear-mongering ahead of the midterms.

    NBC, Fox News and Facebook pulled a widely-condemned anti-immigrant ad by President Donald Trump’s campaign as a bitter election fight for control of the US Congress headed on Monday for an unpredictable finish.

    Tuesday’s elections, widely seen as a referendum on Trump, have been portrayed by both Republicans and Democrats as critical for the future of the country. At stake is control of both chambers of Congress, and with it the ability to block or promote Trump’s agenda, as well as 36 governor’s offices.

    A surge in early voting, fueled by a focus on Trump’s pugilistic, norms-breaking presidency by supporters of both parties, could signal the highest turnout in 50 years for a midterm US election, when the White House is not on the line.

    The 30-second ad, which was sponsored by Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and which debuted online last week, featured courtroom video of a Mexican citizen convicted in the 2014 killings of two police officers, juxtaposed with scenes of a US-bound caravan of Central American migrants and refugees. 

    Critics, including members of Trump’s own party, had condemned the spot for its open racism.

    The ad fit into the president’s near-daily attacks on immigrants and the caravan, which he has described as an “invasion”.

    CNN had refused to run the ad, saying it was “racist”. NBC, owned by Comcast Corp, said on Monday it was no longer running the ad, which it called “insensitive”.

    Fox News Channel, which Trump has repeatedly named his favourite broadcaster and is highly supportive of his increasingly nationalist policies, also said it would no longer run the spot. Fox News, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, said it had made the decision after a review but did not elaborate.

    Facebook Inc said it would no longer allow paid promotions of the ad although it would allow users to share the ad on their own pages.

    ‘A lot of things are offensive’ 

    Trump batted away reporters’ questions about the networks’ decision to drop the ad.

    “You’re telling me something I don’t know about. We have a lot of ads, and they certainly are effective based on the numbers we’re seeing,” Trump said as he departed Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for a rally in Cleveland, Ohio.

    He continued, “A lot of things are offensive. Your questions are offensive.”

    After Ohio, Trump was headed to campaign against vulnerable Democratic US senators in Indiana and Missouri at the end of a six-day pre-election sweep.

    Opinion polls and election forecasters favour Democrats to pick up the minimum of 23 seats they need on Tuesday to capture a majority in the US House of Representatives, which would enable them to stymie Trump’s legislative agenda and investigate his administration.

    But Republicans are favoured to retain their slight majority in the US Senate, currently at two seats, which would let them retain the power to approve US Supreme Court and other judicial nominations on straight party-line votes.

    With Trump focusing much of his increasingly heated campaign rhetoric on immigrants, the lead-up to the midterm vote has been marked by violence, including a spate of attempted pipe bombings targeting some of the president’s vocal critics and a deadly assault on a synagogue by a gunman.

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    Man struck, killed by train in Brant County

    A man was pronounced dead at the scene after being struck by a train on Powerline Road, west of McMillan Road near Brantford.

    The Ontario Provincial Police arrived at the scene at around 9:15 p.m. Sunday, after reports of a collision on the railway tracks.

    OPP say an investigation determined that a Via Rail train carrying approximately 309 people was travelling eastbound when it collided with a pedestrian.

    The identity of the deceased is not being released until next of kin have been notified.

    Police say they are continuing to investigate.

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    Taradale Calgary Co-op grocery store to close

    Calgary Co-Op will be shutting down its Taradale grocery store.

    The company made the announcement on its website on Monday.

    The store, located in a plaza at 6520 Falconridge Blvd. N.E. will close on Dec. 10.

    The gasoline bar will remain open, the website said.

    Calgary Co-op operates 21 grocery stores within the city limits.

    More to come

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