Dec 16 (Reuters) - The following are the top stories from selected Canadian newspapers. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
** Export Development Canada is lending British telecom giant Vodafone Group PLC $850 million, the bulk of which will be used to finance the purchase of BlackBerry Ltd handsets and services. The financing package comes at an opportune time for BlackBerry, which is poised this week to unveil its latest smartphone. (bit.ly/1Gq7osL)
** Talisman Energy Inc has agreed to be acquired by Spain's Repsol SA in an $8.3 billion deal that allows Respol to expand in Canada and internationally at a time of weak energy markets. (bit.ly/1xoeDzU)
** A report to be released on Tuesday by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says the animals, which roam the northern forests that stretch from British Columbia to Alberta, continue to die off as their ranges are eroded by human activity. (bit.ly/1BSDJsv)
** After a year and a half in which the Liberals led in the national polls by six to 10 points, the gap has narrowed appreciably in recent weeks. As of last month, an average of polls compiled by threehundredeight.com put the Grits ahead of the governing Conservatives by just three points, 35-32. The latest Ekos poll has them closer still, just a point apart: effectively, a tie. (bit.ly/1svVqFU)
** Canadian heavy crude traded below $40 a barrel for the first time in five years just as a surge of new projects are scheduled to start operation. A total of 14 new oilsands projects are scheduled to start next year, with a combined capacity of 266,240 barrels a day, according to data published by Oilsands Review. That's 36 percent more than was started in 2014. (bit.ly/1zkILMd) (Compiled by Zara Mascarenhas in Bengaluru)