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Bautista disappointed in AL MVP voting; doesn’t think pitchers should qualify

TORONTO – Jose Bautista doesn’t think starting pitchers should qualify for MVP awards.

The Toronto Blue Jays slugger spoke out after Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander took the American League MVP award on Monday ahead of Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Bautista.

“There’s nothing in the criteria that says a pitcher cannot receive the award,” said Bautista on a conference call. “But at the same time, there’s a couple of items that should eliminate a pitcher from receiving the award from the get go.”

In particular, Bautista was critical of the amount of time starting pitchers play compared to fielders who are in the lineup on a daily basis.

“When one of the first items in the criteria for the MVP award states that the player should be on the field for the most amount of games for their own particular team and knowing that us position players have to be out there 150 plus times over … I don’t know, 30, 32, 33 times that a pitcher has to go out there, in my eyes that’s pretty much an elimination right there,” said Bautista.

Verlander received 13 of 28 first-place votes and 280 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

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Ellsbury came second with four firsts and 242 points, followed by Bautista with five firsts and 231 points.

“It doesn’t make a difference to me if Verlander of Ellsbury wins,” said Bautista. “The bottom line is that I wasn’t chosen but, at the same time, I know that he (Verlander) had a great season and I feel excited for him, that he was able to get the award. Congratulations to him.

Added Bautista: “I’m not knocking on Verlander or the year that he had.”

Verlander is the first starting pitcher to win an MVP in 27 years. He was given the Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher on Nov. 15 after winning 24 games in 34 starts with a 2.40 earned-run average and 250 strikeouts.

He also threw a no-hitter in Toronto on May 7.

Bautista wasn’t alone in his criticism of a pitcher winning the MVP.

Jim Ingraham of The Herald-News in Ohio did not have Verlander on his ballot. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal voted Verlander eighth.

Ingraham thinks pitchers should not be eligible for MVP awards.

“I’d wrestled with this for a long time. If I was ever going to vote for pitcher for MVP, it would be him this year,” said Ingraham, who was one of Bautista’s first-place votes. “He hasn’t appeared in 79 per cent of their games, any starting pitcher really doesn’t appear in 79 per cent of his team’s games in a year.”

Ingraham compared baseball’s MVP to other sports to underscore his point.

“Would you vote for an NFL quarterback for MVP if he only appeared in three of his team’s 16 games, which would be 21 per cent? So that’s part of it,” Ingraham said to The Associated Press. “Another part of it is I think they’re apples and oranges. The guys that are in there every day, there’s a grind to a season that a starting pitcher doesn’t, I don’t think, experience the way the everyday position players do playing 150, 160 games.”

Other pitchers to win MVP and Cy Young in the same year were Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe (1956), Los Angeles’ Sandy Koufax (1963), St. Louis’ Bob Gibson and Detroit’s Denny McLain (1968), Oakland’s Vida Blue (1971) , Milwaukee’s Rollie Fingers (1981) and Detroit’s Willie Hernandez (1984).

Bautista won the AL’s Hank Aaron Award as the league’s best offensive player and a Silver Slugger as the best hitter at his position. He finished 2011 with a .302 batting average, 43 home runs and 103 RBIs.

The 31-year-old Jays slugger was the only player who earned a vote that was not on a team in the playoff picture in October.

“I don’t see how only guys that are on playoff-bound teams should be considered for the award,” said Bautista. “The name of the award is ‘MVP’ not ‘MVP for playoff’ teams, but, that’s just the way I look at it.”

Despite his obvious disappointment, Bautista tried to keep the MVP snub in perspective.

“I play the game to win on a daily basis and hopefully accumulate enough Ws at the end of the year to get into the playoffs and win the World Series,” said Bautista. “I don’t put on a uniform that says ‘Blue Jays’ on the front on a daily basis to garner personal accolades, that’s not what I’m about.

“Even though they’re nice – it’s nice to be recognized by the league and by the writers – it’s not what I go out on the field every day for.”

___

With files from The Associated Press.

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Prairie Bible college has nothing to hide, will co-operate with RCMP: president

THREE HILLS, Alta. – The president of a Bible college northeast of Calgary says notifying the RCMP about allegations of sex abuse was the right thing to do.

Mark Maxwell, the president of Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alta., and the grandson of its founder, said rumblings about sex abuse dating back 30 to 50 years started in August. He said he saw the allegations on a Facebook page and went to police earlier this month.

“I took it over on a thumb drive to the RCMP to say there seems to be a lot of noise around this possibility that we’ve had criminal activity on our campus and if you would like to look into it, then you’ll find us most co-operative,” Maxwell said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

He said he discussed the situation with students on a number of occasions in chapel to let them know what was going on.

The RCMP confirmed over the weekend that investigators are looking into complaints of past abuse at the school.

Sgt. Patrick Webb said it can be difficult to come up with evidence of “historic” sexual assaults.

“There is no physical evidence,” he said. “It just comes down to finding witnesses.”

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Prairie Bible Institute boasts 16,000 alumni in 114 countries. It was founded in 1922 when L.E. Maxwell taught the Bible to eight local farm children. It later grew to include a ministry for mission preparation, a technical college and an aviation school.

Linda Fossen, an alumni member who attended the school during the 1960s and 1970s, has started an online petition demanding the case be examined by the Virginia-based Christian counselling group Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.

The organization helps churches work through allegations of sexual abuse.

Fossen has said she has encouraged several alumni to contact police about their allegations of sexual abuse. Fossen, who now lives near Orlando, Fla., met many of the people through a Facebook page for alumni.

But Maxwell said he opposes the idea of getting GRACE involved because the group is U.S.-based and there is some suggestion that members of the Facebook group have an affiliation with it.

“The highest bar, without any doubt, in terms of an independent third party would be the police. To be sure we can’t bribe them and the probability of a victim taking them in would not be high either,” he said.

“They are an excellent, independent third party.”

Three Hills, a community of just over 3,000, is about 130 kilometres northeast of Calgary.

– By Bill Graveland in Calgary

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Hospitality industry slams proposed changes to impaired driving legislation

EDMONTON – Alberta is cracking down on impaired drivers with legislation that calls for more mandatory vehicle seizures and licence suspensions, but the proposed changes aren’t sitting well with some in the hospitality industry.

“I think it’s being rushed through too quick without research and insight into how they should go about these legislations,” said David Wilk, general manager of On the Rocks, a bar in downtown Edmonton.

“It would affect people who go out for a casual drink after work … they want to have a glass of wine or a pint of beer, it’s going to make them think twice about going out and doing that now.”

Wilk isn’t the only one with concerns – he and about 30 other members of Edmonton’s service industry met to discuss the legislation on Monday afternoon. The consensus is that the proposed legislation would punish social drinkers as well as drunk drivers.

“Our members are very, very concerned that this is going to cost them business and it’s going to confuse their customers as far as what they can do as far as having a social drink and driving,” said Mark Von Schellwitz of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

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Under the proposal, a person caught driving over the legal limit of 0.08 for the first time would lose there vehicle for three days, and lose their licence until the criminal charge is resolved.

They would then have to install an alcohol screening device for one year at their own cost that prevents a vehicle from starting.

Drivers caught repeatedly with blood alcohol levels just under the legal limit would lose their vehicle for up to seven days and their licence for up to 30 days. These drivers would not be charged under the Criminal Code.

Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the plan to impound the vehicles of suspected impaired drivers for 72 hours will get results. He says similar legislation in B.C. that targets drivers with alcohol levels just below the legal limit has resulted in a big drop in impaired driving deaths.

Alberta Transportation says 96 people died and 1,384 were injured in the province last year because of impaired driving.

“We’re in favour of getting drunk drivers off the road,” Schellwitz said. “But the statistics clearly show that two-thirds of all alcohol-related fatalities are by drivers that are over double legal impaired limit, not under .08.”

Schellwitz says hundreds of his association’s members have written their MLAs urging that the legislation be reconsidered. He plans to meet with representatives from Calgary’s hospitality industry on Tuesday.

“We’re hoping that at the very least that we can convince the government to focus their legislation on those that are over .08,” Shellwitz said.

“Going after the real impaired drivers – we’ll support that, but please leave the social drinker that’s not impaired alone.” 

With files from the Canadian Press.

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Alberta introduces legislation to crack down on repeat and new impaired drivers

EDMONTON – Alberta is cracking down on impaired drivers with legislation that calls for more mandatory vehicle seizures and licence suspensions.

Under the proposal, a person caught driving over the legal limit of 0.08 for the first time would lose their vehicle for three days, and lose their licence until the criminal charge is resolved.

They would then have to install an alcohol screening device for one year at their own cost that prevents a vehicle from starting.

Drivers caught repeatedly with blood alcohol levels just under the legal limit would lose their vehicle for up to seven days and their licence for up to 30 days.

These drivers would not be charged under the Criminal Code.

Alberta Transportation says 96 people died and 1,384 were injured in the province last year because of impaired driving.

The proposed crackdown is being praised by anti-drunk driving groups but people in the hospitality industry are concerned it will discourage customers from ordering a drink at restaurants, bars or hotels.

Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the plan to impound the vehicles of suspected impaired drivers for 72 hours will get results.

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He says similar legislation in B.C. that targets drivers with alcohol levels just below the legal limit has resulted in a big drop in impaired driving deaths.

Mark Von Schellwitz of the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association says its 4,000 members in Alberta will lose business.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says Alberta should consult with restaurant and pub owners before passing the legislation.

If the Alberta government implements stricter impaired driving laws, will you have second thoughts about having even one alcoholic drink before driving?
 

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Victim’s mother “helpless” after charges stayed against son’s alleged attackers

A Saskatchewan mother says she feels “helpless and hopeless” after the second degree murder charges against her son’s alleged attackers were stayed. 

The woman, who cannot be named because the victim and accused are minors, was disappointed after the decision by the prosecution.  

“I lost him and I’m down, and now it’s like I’m being kicked when I’m down,” she told Global News in an exclusive interview. “I’m losing him all over again.” 

The two teenagers were 15 and 16 at the time of the December 2010 incident on the 1100 block of Montague Street in Regina, when police responded to the report of a 16-year-old boy suffering serious injuries. 

“The Crown, on review of all the evidence, came to the conclusion there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction, and for that reason the Crown was required to stay the charges,” Crown Prosecutor Dana Brule told reporters outside the court house.  

Brule would not provide further details of the decision, but the victim’s mother says she was told the charges were stayed because the accused acted in self defence.  

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“It’s hard to say self defence when somebody is lying on the ground and you see it with your own eyes,” she said.  

The mother was preparing for a preliminary hearing this week for the teens.  

“I was so sure some justice would come out of this,” she said.  

With the one year anniversary of her son’s death only weeks away, she was hoping for some closure, but now she says that is not possible.  

“When a life is taken, there’s nothing left to replace,” she explained. “Just emptiness.” 

The teens were released on bail after a hearing in January, one where the mother spoke out against the fact they were back on the street. One of the teens was returned to custody soon after due to a series of breaches of his release. The Crown says it will be reviewed now that charges have been stayed, but it provides little comfort for the victim’s mother.  

“These kids, their parents will have them, and I’ll never have my son again,” she said. “Where’s the justice in that?” 

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Calgary Catholic considering closure of two inner city schools

CALGARY – Calgary’s Catholic School Board is planning some big changes for next school year but the proposals aren’t sitting well with some parents.

The changes include the possible closure of two inner city schools including the St. John Fine Arts school on Kensington Road, which has been open since 1916.

“There are a lot of students that are from a different location than where that school is located so it may make sense for them to go to a different location for transportation reasons, for facility usage,” says Janet Corsten with the Calgary Catholic School District.

Parents like Gloria Walls, who lives in Rocky Ridge, are thrilled with the idea of the fine arts program relocating to a school to Calgary’s suburbs.

“If they are going to take the bus sometimes it takes an hour. Let’s say when it’s snowy, it takes an hour and a half.”

But other parents who live in Hillhurst are disappointed with the idea of losing another inner city school.

“There is a lot going on in the inner city but not necessarily for children so it’s nice when there are programs for families like us who live in the inner city,” says Liz Bohach.

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Another proposed change is moving the French immersion program form Ecole Madeline D’Houet in Hillhurst to Escuela St. Margaret, making St. Margaret Calgary’s first combined Spanish and French Catholic School.

“I think children who learn a second language when they are young generally have affinities for leraning languages, so having access to the teaching staff, French, English and Spanish, is a positive thing,” says Dermot O’Connor, whose child attends Esuela St. Margaret.

The Catholic School Board is still looking for public input into the plans; if approved, they would be implemented next fall.

Parents can have their say by emailing the school board or attending public input sessions on December 6th, 7th and 8th. Click here for more information.   

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Newt Gingrich’s arrogance, baggage likely means his bounce in polls is short-lived

WASHINGTON – First came Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain. And now Newt Gingrich is the latest candidate raining on Mitt Romney’s parade in the Republican presidential race.

Six months after his campaign got off to a near-disastrous start, Gingrich has risen like a phoenix “out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia,” to borrow a phrase from one of the formerly embattled candidate’s infamous news releases at the time.

A new USA Today/Gallup poll has the former speaker of the House of Representatives as the favourite of 22 per cent of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters, in a statistical tie with Romney at 21 per cent. Cain, damaged by a sexual harassment scandal and difficulties answering foreign policy questions on the campaign trail, is in third at 16 per cent.

“I was dead in June and July,” Gingrich said recently at a Florida campaign event, making reference to a period of his campaign when his entire team quit en masse in frustration over some of his decisions.

“As a candidate – not as a person – as a candidate. And now I’m apparently not dead.”

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And like Bachmann, Perry and Cain before him, Gingrich’s moment in the spotlight is leading to scrutiny about his liabilities, with many detractors pointing not only to his checkered personal past but also to his storied arrogance.

“He’s condescending and rude to just about everybody,” Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire’s political survey centre, said Monday.

“He’s a smart guy, but likeability is an important factor; it’s one of the things people judge when they go to the polls. And Newt Gingrich really doesn’t have it.”

Some of Gingrich’s recent public proclamations are providing his detractors with plenty of ammunition, particularly his Occupy Wall Street comments.

“Go get a job right after you take a bath,” Gingrich said over the weekend, prompting an outburst by one cable news personality.

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski called his comments “arrogant” and “disgusting” on Monday given Gingrich has admitted he received payments from the beleaguered housing agency Freddie Mac.

“To hear Newt Gingrich standing on literally his high horse, after taking advantage of the system, cashing in on it, being literally the biggest hypocrite in the Republican field, probably in politics today, and then to cast aspersions and to speak down to these people as if they should be flicked away – it’s disgusting,” she said.

On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, George Will, the Washington Post’s high-profile conservative columnist, said Gingrich “embodies almost everything disagreeable about modern Washington.”

“Poor George,” was Gingrich’s simple retort when asked about the comments on the campaign trail in New Hampshire a day later.

Gingrich also welcomed news on Monday that a congressional supercommittee has failed to reach an agreement on deficit reduction, calling the development “good for America.”

He blamed both U.S. President Barack Obama and a Congress he claims doesn’t work nearly as well as it did when he was a key player in the 1990s – when the federal government, incidentally, briefly shut down after a brawl between Republicans and Democrats over former president Bill Clinton’s spending plans.

Gingrich later confessed he forced the shutdown in part because he was miffed that Clinton made him sit in the back of Air Force One during a presidential trip.

Even today, however, Gingrich says the shutdown was the right thing to do, denying it hurt Republicans even though Clinton’s poll numbers soared, while Gingrich’s plummeted, in the aftermath of the shutdown.

Gingrich once again touted his accomplishments as speaker on Monday, citing the balanced budgets and welfare reform legislation he pushed through despite a Democrat residing in the White House.

“We followed a strategy fundamentally different from the way Washington is operating right now,” he said.

He also said he was the best debater in the Republican field, suggesting primary voters should throw their support his way because of his oratory skills.

“Who do you want to have debate Obama to draw clarity between the various lies they will be telling and the truth?” he asked. “I think most people end up thinking I’m probably a better debater than my friends are.”

Not only that, Gingrich added in an appearance at Rivier College in New Hampshire, he’s got better ideas than his rivals.

“The scale of the solutions that I propose … are much bigger and much more comprehensive than any other person running for office,” he said.

As the news media fixes its attention on Gingrich in the weeks to come, however, it’s clear he’ll face tough questions, particularly about his personal life. Gingrich left his ailing first wife for his second, and then carried on an affair with Callista Bisek, a congressional aide who went on to become his third wife, while still married to Spouse No. 2. All this went on as he publicly assailed Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

He’s already faced questions about his past on the campaign trail; one response spurred giddy reaction from late-night talk show hosts when Gingrich claimed his passion for his country fuelled some of his bad behaviour.

Last week, the Gingrich campaign unveiled a new website to confront those questions head-on.

“Newt has been honest and forthright about the fact that he has had moments in his life that he regrets, that he has had to seek reconciliation, and go to God for forgiveness,” a post on the site reads.

“Newt believes that by continuing to be honest and forthright about his past failings, voters will come to understand the man that he is now and conclude they can trust him to represent the American people in the White House.”

But Smith says the new website likely won’t do much to prevent his personal life from coming back to haunt him.

“Most of the public doesn’t know Newt Gingrich anymore; people stopped paying attention to him years ago, so the personal stuff is going to come as news to some people and it will hurt him,” he said.

But it’s the Freddie Mac payouts that will prove most damaging, he predicted. Gingrich said he earned only US$300,000 working as a “historian” for Freddie Mac before it emerged last week he made almost $2 million doing consulting work for the mortgage giant.

“He’s been a lobbyist or a political fixer in D.C. for years, ever since he resigned, and to be going for the nomination in a year when the party is running against Washington – you’ve got to be clean of any serious associations to Capitol Hill, and he’s not,” Smith said.

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Quebec Innu start international campaign against Charest’s northern plan

QUEBEC – Quebec’s Pessamit Innu say they will go to major American and European cities to denounce Premier Jean Charest’s cherished northern development plan.

Raphael Picard, chief of the Pessamit Innu band council, says the Plan Nord violates the rights of aboriginal people and “rapes” their land.

Besides the international protest, the band is ready to go to court to stop the government and has also threatened to block a key highway in the area 400 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

Picard says his band wants $5 billion in compensation over 50 years for past and future development of the area’s resources.

The provincial government has offered $350 million in compensation paid out over five decades. That amount would come as $113 million from the government and more than $210 million from other economic proceeds.

Picard rejected the compensation flatly, calling it an insult.

“It’s frivolous on the part of the government, it’s disrespectful,” he told a news conference on Monday.

“It’s sad to see them returning to a colonial attitude, (where they) offer us knives and hatchets in return for bundles of furs. They think we’re stupid.”

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Premier Jean Charest said in Montreal he regrets that negotiations have failed but said the door remains open to further talks.

He pointed out the Pessamits are only one community and others support the wide-ranging plan. Plan Nord would increase mining, energy production, transportation and protected land across a huge stretch of land.

“It does not compromise the Plan Nord,” Charest said of the Pessamits opposition, adding the government negotiated in good faith.

Plans for an international awareness campaign are reminiscent of Cree protests in the 1990s against the Great Whale hydroelectric project.

It was eventually cancelled because of public concerns about its impact on aboriginal communities and the environment.

The Cree canoed to New York City from Hudson Bay to lobby potential electricity customers; they also took out newspaper ads denouncing the project.

Picard was scathing in his criticism of Charest, saying he had sold American, European and Japanese companies a load of “false advertising” during trade missions to promote the plan.

The Plan Nord centres around the mining and energy sectors and lays out, for example, 11 new mining projects during the next few years. It is considered a likely legacy item of Charest’s premiership.

Charest has said the Plan Nord could lead to $80 billion in public and private investment over the next 25 years.

The Innu aren’t the only ones with harsh words for the plan.

Former Parti Quebecois premier Jacques Parizeau said in a recent newspaper interview that he felt the government wasn’t getting enough from the private proceeds.

He noted that new infrastructure such as roads would have to be built in the area to accommodate companies’ operations.

Charest didn’t dispute Parizeau’s right to have an opinion but said the government had done its homework and Quebec would be getting a fair deal. He also said Parizeau should refer to previous deals cut by PQ governments in similar circumstances.

(With files from Lia Levesque in Montreal)

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Modest medal prospects for Canada at Lake Louise World Cup ski races

CALGARY – John Kucera has experienced some of his highest highs and his lowest lows while racing at Lake Louise.

So it’s with mixed feelings the Calgary skier makes his return to the World Cup there after a two-year absence.

The 2011 Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup opens Saturday with the men’s downhill followed by Sunday’s super-G.

Kucera broke his left leg during the men’s downhill at Lake Louise in 2009. It was a catastrophic injury that prevented him from competing at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

But two of Kucera’s three World Cup medals were won at the mountain resort west of Calgary. He became the first Canadian to win at Lake Louise when he took super-G gold in 2006, followed by silver in 2008.

“I think of a hill I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with right now,” Kucera admitted Monday in Calgary.

“It’s a hill I know very well. I’ve had some great success there in the past and I’m comfortable there. Obviously, I also had that brutal injury there.”

Kucera capped the 2008-09 season by winning the men’s world downhill championship in Val-d’Isere, France, which set him up nicely for the Winter Olympics the following year.

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But his Olympic aspirations ended just a few months later, when Kucera crashed going about 100 kilometres per hour at the season-opening downhill at Lake Louise.

Kucera broke his tibia and fibula and the impact of the crash pushed a bone through the back of his leg. A rod was surgically inserted through his tibia.

Just as Kucera was getting back on snow, he broke the bone again while training in Aspen, Colo., last February.

The confidence to race on the edge of danger will be slow to return for the 27-year-old.

On the bright side, Lake Louise provides a familiar venue for Kucera to start erasing doubt from his mind. The first of three scheduled training runs is Wednesday.

“Getting that confidence and getting that mental edge back, I would say it will be the most time-consuming thing,” he said. “The great thing about Lake Louise is it’s the first time I’m getting back into a world-class field.

“I’m going to run the training runs and see where I stack in. Obviously, the better it goes, the quicker that confidence comes back but I’m also prepared that it might take a little longer.”

Louise first hosted a World Cup ski race in 1980 and has done so annually since 1994.

Canada’s teams for both the men’s World Cup and the women’s races next week were introduced Monday in Calgary at Canada Olympic Park. They were ushered into a room full of excited schoolchildren, who rang cowbells and presented the athletes with hand-painted signs.

Canadians were shut out of the medals at Lake Louise in 2010 for the first time in five years. Podium prospects for 2011 are also not strong, even though there are proven performers among the men.

Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., is the reigning world downhill champion. He backed away from heavy weight training in the off-season to deal with a chronic back problem.

He’s lost about 20 pounds. In a gravity sport, less body mass may slow him down.

“I can feel I’m struggling to keep pace with the other elite athletes,” Guay said. “We just got back from a camp in Colorado and I could see that I was playing catch-up a little bit.

“I’d expect a slow start to the season in Lake Louise, but I’m typically a slow starter anyway.”

There’s Kucera, the 2009 world champion, whose racing abilities are currently unknown. Calgary’s Jan Hudec was a silver medallist at the 2008 world championship, but a herniated disc in his back also forced him to abbreviate off-season training.

Robbie Dixon of Whistler, B.C., has posted 10 top-10 results during his career. Dixon suffered a season-ending concussion midway through last season, but says he’s symptom-free.

Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Vancouver won the super-G at Lake Louise two years ago, but he’s rehabilitating a knee injury. He’s not expected back on the World Cup circuit until January.

So men’s coach Paul Kristofic tempers expectations for Lake Louise.

“I don’t expect a huge weekend from the guys, but I expect solid skiing and good tactics,” Kristofic said.

“A lot of guys missed time on snow so from that perspective I would say we’re a touch behind schedule as far as coming into the race season completely in top form. We’re well on our way. We’ve had a great training period the last couple of months. We’re going to look to Lake Louise as a builder for us.”

The women arrive next week for downhills Dec. 2-3 followed by a super-G on Dec. 4. Canada’s medal prospects are even less for a women’s speed team decimated by injuries and retirements.

Kelly VanderBeek of Kitchener, Ont., and Larisa Yurkiw of Owen Sound, Ont., are the most experienced, but have yet to return to racing following knee injuries. Emily Brydon of Fernie, B.C., and Britt Janyk of Whistler, B.C., retired after the Olympics.

Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., and Madison McLeish of Whistler, B.C. are 22 and 19 respectively. They may be joined by one or two racers from Canada’s developmental team.

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Massive leadership failures stalled probe of missing sex workers, inquiry hears

VANCOUVER – A massive leadership failure within the Vancouver Police Department stalled the investigation into reports of missing sex workers in the late 1990s, the public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case heard Monday.

That failed leadership extended all the way up to the chief, who was apparently unaware of the most basic details of the case and did nothing to ensure it was taken seriously, according to a review prepared by an outside police agency.

“While some recognized the increased number of missing women as significant, certain officers failed to take ownership and ensure the proper resources were dedicated to the problem,” says the report by Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans of Ontario’s Peel Regional Police.

Evans’ report offers scathing criticism of both the Vancouver police and the RCMP, which together failed to stop Pickton as he hunted sex workers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was able to continue killing for years after he was first identified as a suspect.

Portions of the report were read at the hearings Monday, as Vancouver’s current deputy chief, Doug LePard, entered his second week of testimony. LePard said he agrees with nearly all of Evans’ conclusions.

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By early 1999, the investigation consisted of just a single dedicated officer, despite growing concern within the community and among Vancouver police officers that the disappearances weren’t being taken seriously.

That officer, Det. Const. Lori Shenher, gave a public presentation in the Downtown Eastside in February 1999, providing an update on the investigation. She told the audience it was her opinion “the majority of these women have met with violence” – an assessment she had already shared with her superiors months earlier.

All of that appeared to come as news to the chief at the time, Bruce Chambers.

“The fact that he (Chambers) was shocked at the news in February ’99 following Det. Const. Shenher’s community meeting demonstrates that senior management was not aware of such an obvious concern to the community,” said Evans’ report.

“I believe he took no action to address the concern. I believe he did not recognize or take ownership of the missing women issue during his tenure.”

The missing women investigation didn’t receive any additional resources until April 1999, when Const. Dave Dickson, a well-known beat cop in the Downtown Eastside, was assigned to the case. In May, a review team was created consisting of six officers and a civilian clerical worker.

The problems weren’t confined to Chambers, according to Evans’ report, but reflected an apathy that defined how Vancouver police management viewed the missing women investigation. That, in turn, prevented the investigation from receiving adequate resources, Evans wrote in her report.

For example, in September 1998, a working group was preparing to launch an investigation into whether a serial killer might be at work in the Downtown Eastside and was weeks away from issuing a news release to inform the public.

But the head of the force’s major crimes unit, Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, didn’t believe the missing sex workers had met foul play. He successfully argued to have the working group disbanded.

Biddlecombe didn’t receive any pushback from others on the force’s management team, wrote Evans.

“It’s unfortunate that members of senior management could not discuss their concerns regarding the missing women issue in a more constructive manner, instead of deferring ownership and effectively washing their hands of it,” said the report.

That lack of urgency didn’t change when Chambers was replaced and a new chief, Terry Blythe, took over, according to Evans’ report.

Blythe was already aware of the missing women’s case, having encountered it when he was deputy chief of the section within the force that handles major investigations.

“I believe it was his responsibility to pursue that information and remain informed,” said Evans’ report.

“He had every opportunity to review what was going on and take action. I saw no evidence of that. I believe he failed to take ownership over the issue and ensure that this growing concern was addressed in the best possible way.”

The inquiry has already heard allegations that both the Vancouver police and the RCMP were slow to investigate reports of missing sex workers and neither dedicated enough attention or resources to solve the case.

The Vancouver police has already offered a public apology for failing to catch Pickton, and an internal report released last year admitted a number of failings.

The RCMP has not offered such an apology or admitted there was anything wrong with its investigation.

An internal report prepared in 2002, released at the inquiry last month, offers a relatively positive review of the RCMP’s investigation and concludes “nothing would have changed dramatically if those involved had to do it over again.”

Pickton was arrested in 2002, when a junior officer who wasn’t working on the missing women investigation obtained a search warrant related to illegal firearms.

The arrest set off a massive search of Pickton’s farm, where investigators found the remains or DNA of 33 women.

Pickton was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, though he has claimed that he killed a total of 49.

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