By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, May 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
First, CTV says Pamela Wallin was forced out amid concerns about the audit of her expenses. Next, CTV says the Senate’s report on Mike Duffy was edited as part of a deal with Nigel Wright. Via Twitter, the Prime Minister’s director of communications denies CTV’s report that the Prime Minister might prorogue Parliament in early June.
The weekly meeting of the Conservative caucus, which normally occurs on Wednesday, has been rescheduled for Tuesday morning before the Prime Minister departs for Peru. The Star describes this as an emergency caucus meeting at which the Prime Minister is expected to set out a zero tolerance policy on spending transgressions.
Jason Fekete notes that Mr. Duffy, Ms. Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were all nominated for the Senate on the same day—December 22, 2008—along with 15 other Conservative appointees. But that date is particularly interesting for everything that occurred in the month preceding it.
In the 2006 election, the Conservatives promised to not appoint to the Senate anyone who hadn’t won a mandate to do so from voters. And up until December 22, 2008, Stephen Harper had only appointed two senators—Michael Fortier, shortly after the 2006 election, so that Mr. Fortier might serve in cabinet, and Bert Brown in 2007 with Mr. Brown having won a Senate election in Alberta.
Then Stephen Harper almost lost his government.
Four weeks before those 18 appointees were announced, the Conservative government tabled its fall economic update (the last such economic update to be tabled in the House, actually). The measures contained therein, including the elimination of the public subsidy for political parties, had precipitated coalition talks between the Liberals and New Democrats. On December 1, the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois announced their accord. Facing an imminent vote of non-confidence and the possible replacement of his government with a coalition government led by Stephane Dion, Mr. Harper asked the Governor General, Michaelle Jean at the time, to prorogue Parliament. After some consideration, she agreed to do so.
The coalition’s moment might have thus passed, but it was not yet officially dead. The Liberals quickly installed Michael Ignatieff as leader and he maintained that the coalition was an option. Not until Parliament reconvened in late January and a new budget was tabled, did Mr. Ignatieff effectively kill the coalition.
Just as Mr. Ignatieff was taking over the Liberal caucus, the Prime Minister’s Office revealed that Mr. Harper would fill 18 Senate vacancies before Christmas. A debate about the legitimacy of doing so ensued. Mr. Harper claimed to be in a difficult spot that compelled him to do something. And then, on December 22, Mr. Harper named his 18 appointees, asserting that the appointments were important both in the pursuit of Senate reform and in the interests of opposing the coalition.
“Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” said the Prime Minister. “If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for.”
The incoming Senators have all pledged to support eight-year term limits and other Senate reform legislation. Each incoming Senator has also declared his or her unwavering commitment to support Canadian unity and oppose the coalition.
This did not go over terribly well with Mr. Harper’s opponents.
“Mr. Harper knows that he does not have the confidence of the House of Commons,” Ignatieff said in a statement. “Appointing senators when he lacks a mandate from Parliament is not acceptable.”
It’s possible that the coalition was less a cause of the appointments than an excuse to make them. And possibly Mr. Harper was going to have to appoint senators at some point anyway (he’d hinted at such a possibility in October 2008). But December 22, 2008 does now seem like the plot point of a bad political thriller.
Four and a half years later, the Harper government’s Senate reform legislation is collecting dust while the Supreme Court prepares to hear a reference on the matter and three of the December 2008 appointees have either been removed or removed themselves from the Conservative caucus.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 7:35 PM - 0 Comments
This might otherwise have been the week that a government with a notable aversion to the legislature was reelected in a vote that included the ballots of just 52% of eligible voters. This might otherwise have been the week that Peter Penashue, he of the disputed campaign finances and boasting of holding up public projects in Newfoundland for the sake of a highway in Labrador, was soundly defeated in a by-election. Instead this was the week of Mike Duffy. At least in those places where it was not the week of Rob Ford. Or the mayor of Laval’s envelopes.
This was more specifically, at least in Ottawa and at least where people care about how public officials are behaving in regards to public funds, the week of Mr. Duffy’s housing allowance. Something like $90,172.24, including interest and some disputed per diems, spread over a few years.
Could this possibly have been worth that much? Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Senator Pamela Wallin.
I have been involved in the external audit process since December 2012 and I have been cooperating fully and willingly with the auditors. I have met with the auditors, answered all the questions and provided all requested documentation.
I had anticipated that the audit process would be complete by now, but given that it continues, I have decided to recuse myself from the Conservative Caucus and I will have no further comment until the audit process is complete.
And a succinct statement from Conservative Senate leader Marjory LeBreton.
“Senator Wallin has informed me that she has resigned from Caucus to sit as an independent.”
CTV reported in February that Ms. Wallin had paid back some amount of expenses, but Ms. Wallin declined to confirm that.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 3:10 PM - 0 Comments
A little more of the back story to this week’s news about Thomas Mulcair and the envelope.
In November 2010, Bloc Quebecois MP Serge Menard, since retired, alleged that, in 1993, he was offered a cash-filled envelope by the mayor of Laval. On November 16, 2010, Mr. Mulcair—nearer the end of a news conference with Pat Martin about Louis Riel—was asked about the controversy.
Two questions for Mr. Mulcair. One, you might have heard of allegations of the mayor of Laval handing out cash in envelopes. Were you ever offered cash in an envelope by the mayor of Laval? Did you ever see cash in envelopes around the mayor of Laval?
Mr. Mulcair responded as follows.
No. And one thing preoccupies me with that is that a person who went on to become justice minister and public security minister, felt that he wouldn’t do anything about it. In my career, the only time anybody ever came up to me with an issue they described had happened to them, that would’ve constituted an offence, I invited the person to go to the police and when they said they weren’t sure if they could do that, I said that I would do it myself and I did. And it had nothing to do, by the way, with Laval city hall. It was an issue involving somebody in the work that I was doing at the time. So I’ll leave it to you to sort out the different versions that are no doubt going to come out today. But all I can say is, as a citizen, I’m worried with regard to our democratic institutions when someone who went on to become justice minister and public security minister says he didn’t seem to have anything he could do about it and in regard to those institutions I think it’s a serious preoccupation for all of us.
As the Canadian Press noted yesterday and the Globe’s Daniel LeBlanc notes in his story, whether Mr. Mulcair saw what was in the envelope that the mayor of Laval alleged brandished during the 1994 meeting—apparently before Mr. Mulcair was elected, for whatever that is worth—is a matter of some debate. But the Conservatives seem to be trying to chide Mr. Mulcair now in a similar fashion to the way Mr. Mulcair chided Mr. Menard in 2010.
By Paul Wells - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 2:28 PM - 0 Comments
Ten years ago this month I quit my job. There was a small element of principle about it, although there’s no point exaggerating that. I had gone to work for a newspaper owned by Conrad Black and edited by Ken Whyte. Then Black sold the paper and the new owners fired Whyte. The editor they put in Ken’s place seemed, to me, incapable of running a newspaper properly. So I left the newspaper. It’s how I wound up here. I was unemployed for all of two weeks; it wasn’t a martyrdom.
I’m wondering what’s going through the minds of the people who work for Rob Ford today. The Toronto mayor stands accused by two news organizations of appearing in a cellphone video smoking crack cocaine. He has denied the allegation, or rather, called it “ridiculous,” which I am not sure is the same. The story comes weeks after another asserting that he appeared intoxicated at a military ball. There are previous stories about reckless behaviour on the Toronto mayor’s part.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM - 0 Comments
According to a Conservative Senate source, Conservative senators will be asking on Tuesday that the internal economy committee’s report on Mike Duffy be referred back to the committee so that the committee can investigate yesterday’s reports about Mr. Duffy’s expense claims during the 2011 election.
The Elections Canada guide for parties explains the rules around “expenses of senators and elected members” thusly.
Where a senator, or a person who is an elected member of the House of Commons or any provincial legislature, campaigns on behalf of a party, the expenses related to that person’s involvement in the campaign are campaign expenses of the party and must be authorized beforehand by a registered agent.
For example, if a minister or other member of Parliament travels from Ottawa to assist in the party’s campaign, the costs of travelling to the district, and the costs of accommodation and transportation within the district, are considered campaign expenses of the party.
However, if the minister’s trip is carried out in conjunction with an official government function, using government‑paid transportation, then the chief agent must allocate a proportionate share of the transportation, and accommodation and any other expenses to the party as an election expense. This allocation should be made on the basis of the proportion of time spent on each activity.
Elections Canada will accept the basis of allocation used by the chief agent, provided that it is reasonable, in the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer, and provided that the auditor agrees that the allocation is reasonable and in keeping with this handbook.
The chief agent or registered agent must pay the expenses of senators and elected members incurred while campaigning for a party because senators and elected members of Parliament are not eligible contributors to a party’s campaign other than as individuals.
The handbook for candidates has similar language.
If a senator, a minister or another candidate campaigns on behalf of the candidate, the expenses related to that person’s involvement in the campaign are election expenses and have to be authorized in advance by the official agent, the candidate or a person authorized in writing by the official agent. Any travel expense has to be reimbursed using campaign funds or accepted as a non-monetary contribution if paid by an eligible contributor.
The Prime Minister’s director of communications spoke with reporters this morning. John Geddes looks at what he had to say.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is scheduled to depart for Peru on Tuesday afternoon and return on Friday evening. He’ll presumably take questions from reporters during the trip to the Pacific Alliance Leaders’ Summit—perhaps on Wednesday—but he’ll be away from the House all next week.
Scott Reid, former director of communications to Paul Martin, says Nigel Wright “will have to go.”
Update 1:06pm. NDP MP Craig Scott has written to the Commissioner of Canada Elections to ask that he investigate Mr. Duffy’s actions during the last campaign. The full letter is here.
In terms of Mike Duffy, audits performed by Deloitte indicate that Senator Duffy was listed as being on Senate business at an “other location” during six days of the month of April, wholly during the writ period. There is also evidence of Senator Duffy campaigning for the Conservative Party of Canada and for various local Conservative candidates throughout the writ period. Some of these local campaigns have stated in their financial reports that they reimbursed the Senator directly for his trip expenses. Given that the Senator claimed taxpayer-funded Senate per diems on several occasions during the month of April, it raises the question of whether Mr. Duffy claimed both expenses on the same days.
This also raises concerns over whether Senator Duffy charged Conservative campaigns for the full cost of his travel, or whether part of these costs were unfairly born by the taxpayer and possibly constitute an unclaimed campaign expense. I note that the Elections Canada Act specifically prohibits the concealment of donations under the “Contributions” section of the act…
Given that Senator Duffy apparently refused to co-operate with the Deloitte auditors and reportedly failed to fully disclose details regarding his whereabouts and activities during the 2011 election campaign, we are asking that you initiate an investigation to determine whether any money was improperly used or concealed by Senator Duffy, the Conservative Party of Canada or any of the local campaigns involved.
Mr. Scott also cites several other senators whose expenses he would like to see scrutinized.
Update 3:58pm. Via email, a comment from Senator Grant Mitchell, who is referenced in Craig Scott’s letter.
While the paper files are archived and we are getting them asap, all the electronic info my office and the Senate Admin have confirmed that I claimed absolutely nothing for the writ period from the Senate. It was certainly my policy and recollection, confirmed by the data I have right now, that I claimed nothing from the Senate. I even shut down my Senate web site. I am pushing to get the archived files.
It might be that the NDP have checked the election expense reports submitted by campaigns which may have included expenses attributed to my visit to a constituency(s) to campaign(s), for example. This is done so there is clear reporting on that spending is within election limits. I recollect that I got no direct reimbursement from any campaign either.
Update 5:40pm. The NDP’s director of fundraising has just sent out a note, entitled “90,000 reasons to abolish the Senate.”
Enough is enough. It’s time to abolish the Senate. Make a special one-time donation to our Senate campaign today…
Donate to our Senate campaign right now. Your donation of $5, $10 or $50 will help pay for websites, emails and online advertising – all the tools we need to send Stephen Harper and Mike Duffy a message they can’t ignore.
Update 5:55pm. And now Pamela Wallin has left the Conservative caucus.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 9:10 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Marjory LeBreton, leader of the government in the Senate.
“Senator Duffy has informed me that he has resigned from caucus to sit as an independent senator.”
And a statement from Mr. Duffy.
“It is clear the public controversy surrounding me and the repayment of my Senate expenses has become a significant distraction to my caucus colleagues, and to the government. Given that my presence within the Conservative caucus only contributes to that distraction, I have decided to step outside of the caucus and sit as an independent Senator pending resolution of these questions.
“Throughout this entire situation I have sought only to do the right thing. I look forward to all relevant facts being made clear in due course, at which point I am hopeful I will be able to rejoin the Conservative caucus.
“This has been a difficult time for me and my family, and we are going to take some time away from the public. I ask the media to respect our privacy while these questions are resolved through the appropriate processes.”
A government source says “there are a growing number of questions about Mr. Duffy’s conduct that don’t have answers” and that reports that Senator Duffy had taken out a loan—as CTV first reported last night—came as a “complete surprise.”
Update 10:07pm. CTV is now reporting that Mr. Duffy “attempted to influence the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s upcoming decision involving the right-leaning Sun News Network.”
A well-placed source told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that Duffy approached a Conservative insider with connections to the CRTC three weeks ago to discuss Sun Media, which is asking the federal regulator to grant its news channel “mandatory carriage,” or guaranteed placement on basic cable and satellite packages. The move would boost Sun News Network’s profile and revenues.
“You know people at the CRTC,” the insider quoted Duffy as saying. “This is an important decision on Sun Media. They have to play with the team and support Sun Media’s request.”
Update 11:39pm. The Canadian Press reports that Senator Duffy was facing a revolt.
Conservative sources said the vast majority of his Senate colleagues had signed a petition calling for his ouster from caucus and they were prepared to confront Duffy with that petition at a meeting next Tuesday evening.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
In the wake of a report from La Presse about Thomas Mulcair’s statements to police about a meeting with former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, the NDP released a statement from Mr. Mulcair this morning.
In early 2011, I met with the police in order to help in their investigation.
I gave to them my account of a meeting I had with Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt dating back to 1994.
As is indicated, I effectively and immediately ended the meeting with Mr. Vaillancourt.
This matter is currently before the courts and I will therefore avoid further comment.
The Conservatives followed that with a statement from Peter Van Loan.
The Canadian Press summarizes.
A statement from House Leader Peter Van Loan accused Mulcair of remaining silent about corruption for two decades. It also accused him of lying during a 2010 press conference, when he said he had never been offered a bribe during his time in Quebec politics…
It’s unclear whether Mulcair was in fact lying on Nov. 16, 2010, when a journalist asked at an Ottawa press conference whether he had ever been offered cash envelopes by Vaillancourt and he said: “No.” The report in La Presse said Mulcair told police he’d actually left the 1994 meeting without opening, or accepting, a white envelope and did not know for sure that there was cash inside.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 4:04 PM - 0 Comments
“No more Mr. Nice Guy’ – The “positive campaign” as a strategy in the face of relentless attacks does not work, especially when the ballot question winds up being leadership. Everyone remembers the 2012 Obama campaign as positive, but seems to forget that a brutal series of negative ads against Mitt Romney six months earlier paved the way for their positive end-game. Voters (especially women) might tell focus groups ahead of time that they don’t like negative attacks and prefer positive campaign ads, but that feedback is given in isolation from exposure to the other campaign. Once you get into an election period, with the two main campaigns running in parallel, if one campaign is constantly attacking you, turning the other cheek looks wimpy…
“Anger is better than love, and fear works better than hope” – In the chaotic and frenzied info-saturated world electoral campaigns now have to function within, strong negative emotions repeated endlessly cut through the clutter if they’re not answered better with strong communications and marketing. The BC Liberal campaign was able to change the ballot question for enough people from ‘time for a change’ to ‘fear of weak leadership’, while the hopeful kids who wanted ‘change for the better’ did not seem to feel it necessary to vote.
And then there are the kids these days…
“The lessons are different for right and left” – Conservative parties received confirmation last night that they are right to stay in their own bubble and mistrust the ‘analysis’ coming from the policy wonks in the media (or, evidently, me). They learned that they can speak to their core supporters, who have very different demographics and values, and ignore everyone else. Ranking the BC ridings by turnout shows the older, wealthier ridings near 60% turnout, and the less-well-off, younger ridings down in the low 40s. The turnout bonus for conservative parties is apparently accelerating, as well, going from a 3- or 4-point gap in the 2011 federal race to a 10-point gap last night in BC. Ten ridings were decided by less than 3.7% of the vote, and while under BC elections law there are six kinds of absentee ballots that won’t be counted until May 27 which could conceivably change the outcome in several of those seats, it was not closeness of the race but turnout that was decisive in explaining last night’s historic upset. If the traditional demographic bases of support for progressive parties do not vote in sufficient numbers, they will become increasingly powerless to effect other changes in their society.
The federal New Democrats and Liberals might have plans that don’t include attracting a large number of young voters, but their respective causes likely become easier to realize if either wins the strong support of those under the age of 30 and, importantly, if that age group votes in significant numbers. Barack Obama narrowly lost the vote to Mitt Romney among voters over the age of 30, but he won 60% of the vote among those under the age of 30. And voters between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 19% of the American electorate in 2012.
I can’t find directly comparable numbers, but Elections Canada has estimated that voters between the ages of 18 and 34 accounted for 20% of the Canadian electorate in the 2011 election. Votes among those 18 to 24 were estimated to be up slightly from 2008, but both the 18-to-24 group and the 25-to-34 group voted at a rate below the national average.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
Liberal MP Denis Coderre announces he’s seeking to be the next mayor of Montreal and with that the race for Bourassa can be begin. And with that might come the first real test of Justin Trudeau’s leadership.
After losing in his first run for the riding in 1993, Mr. Coderre won it six times between 1997 and 2011, but the 40.9% of the vote he received in 2011 was the lowest share a Liberal has ever received in Bourassa.
The New Democrats came within 3,300 votes in that election, but that was with the NDP receiving 43% of the vote in the province and the Liberals taking 14%. The latest monthly polling average put the Liberals at 36% and the New Democrats at 26%, but then there seems to be some belief among New Democrats that Liberal support in Bourassa is tied to Mr. Coderre.
It was, of course, the NDP’s win in a previously safe Liberal riding in Montreal—Outremont in 2007—that gave the NDP a presence in Quebec and rattled the leadership of Stephane Dion. (Fun fact: Before the Liberals nominated Jocelyn Coulon, it was thought that Justin Trudeau might be the Liberal candidate in Outremont.)
Meanwhile, Bloc leader Daniel Paille, still without a seat in the House, has said he won’t run in Bourassa.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 9:01 AM - 0 Comments
Here’s one version of the story about Senator Mike Duffy: When he claimed a primary residence in P.E.I., and not the suburban Ottawa home where he’d lived for decades, he was legitimately confused about the rules. He ticked the wrong box, inadvertently—oops—and, as a result, accidentally claimed $90,172.24 in expenses.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:31 AM - 0 Comments
Liberal MP Sean Casey says Mike Duffy should resign and Mr. Casey likely came to that conclusion before he was aware that Mr. Duffy’s Senate expense claims seem to overlap with time he spent campaigning for the Conservatives in the last election.
The full extent of Duffy’s Senate expenses during the writ period remains a mystery — the Conservative government is refusing to reveal the full breakdown of the senator’s claims and his repayment of $90,172.24. But independent auditors at the firm Deloitte listed Duffy as being in Ottawa on Senate business and claiming a daily expense for seven days in April 2011, a month that was dominated by campaigning for the May 2 vote.
All of yesterday’s news is here.
Update 11:21am. On the off chance that the Senate Ethics Officer hadn’t heard about Mr. Duffy’s situation, NDP MP Charlie Angus has written to her to request that she look into the cheque he received from Mr. Wright.
Update 11:33am. The CBC finds more paperwork related to Senator Duffy’s campaigning in 2011.
The Deloitte audit that reviewed the living and travel expense claims for Duffy and senators Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau shows that Duffy was neither in Ottawa or Prince Edward Island but in an “other location” on Senate business on April 27 and 28, 2011 … But an invoice written by Duffy is titled, “Mike Duffy campaigning in the GTA, April 27 & 28, 2011.” It indicates he flew out of Ottawa on April 27, spent the night in a hotel in Toronto on April 28, and flew back to Ottawa on April 29. The invoice is included in Elections Canada campaign expense records for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s campaign. Oliver was elected in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.
An email from a political operations officer for the Conservative Party of Canada, Felix Wong, to Oliver’s campaign manager, John Penner, is also in the expense file. It says the total cost for Duffy’s trip to Toronto was $1,355.56 and “that amount will be divided between the eight ridings that he visited, so each riding will be responsible for $169.45.”
Update 11:49am. Included in CTV’s report last night was the suggestion of some influence over the Senate committee’s investigation. I asked the Prime Minister’s Office if there was a response to that report and here, for the record, is what I was told.
The committee reached its own conclusions based on the independent audits provided by Deloitte.
I also asked the office of Senator David Tkachuk questions about any knowledge he might have had of Mr. Wright’s agreement with Mr. Duffy. Here, for the record, is what I was told by his office.
Senator Tkachuk says that the cheque for reimbursement that we got from Senator Duffy was a personal cheque. We never inquired as to where he got the money for that cheque, nor will we be concerned from where Senators Harb or Brazeau get the money. Our business is to see that taxpayers are reimbursed.
Update 1:21pm. The Senate Ethics Officer won’t comment on specific cases, but I asked the office of the Senate Ethics Officer for guidance in interpreting Section 17 of the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code—noted here yesterday and identified by the NDP today in Ms. Angus’ letter to the ethics officer—and it provided the following.
Section 17 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators (the Code) governs gifts or benefits, but only those that relate to a senator’s official functions…
Subsection 17(1) prohibits a senator from receiving any gift or benefit, directly or indirectly, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the senator’s position.
Subsection 17(2) is an exception to this general prohibition about receiving gifts or benefits in the context of a senator’s official duties and functions. This subsection provides that, if the gift or benefit does relate to the senator’s position, but was received by the senator as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol or was received within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany a senator’s position, the senator may accept it.
Under subsection 17(3), only those gifts or benefits that are received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or those that are within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany a senator’s position, are required to be disclosed to the SEO, who then publicly discloses them, and only if the value of any such gift or benefit exceeds $500. These gifts or benefits must be disclosed to the SEO within 30 days of receipt of the gift. As already noted, the SEO will then make this information publicly available.
Whether a particular gift or benefit is acceptable depends upon the particular facts involved. So, by way of example, a gift or benefit from a family member or a friend of a senator could not, in most cases, reasonably be considered to relate to a senator’s official duties and functions and, as such, would fall outside the prohibition in subsection 17(1) of the Code. On the other hand, a gift or benefit that is provided to influence a senator in the performance of his or her duties and functions could reasonably be considered to relate to a senator’s position.
Update 4:09pm. Nigel Wright apparently still has the confidence of the Prime Minister.
Update 5:31pm. And now Senator Patrick Brazeau wants a public hearing into the expenses scandal.
Update 9:36pm. Mike Duffy has resigned from the Conservative caucus.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 2:30 PM - 0 Comments
After I redirected my request—possibly I wasn’t using the best contact point—Canada Border Services Agency has responded to my question about how tariffs are applied to imported iPods. Here is the response in its entirety.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can confirm that MP3 players imported into Canada are generally classified within two tariff items, depending upon their specific features:
- those players that have only audio capabilities are classified in tariff item 8519.81.29 and are subject to a 5% rate of customs duty under the Most-Favoured-Nation (MFN) Tariff, and 0% under 15 other preferential tariff treatments covering Canada’s free trade partners and countries eligible for one of Canada’s three development-oriented tariff preference regimes (General Preferential Tariff; Least Developed Country Tariff; and, Caribbean Commonwealth Countries Tariff).
-Those players that also have video capabilities are classified in tariff item 8521.90.90 and are subject to a 6% rate of customs duty under the MFN Tariff and 0% under the 15 other tariff treatments.
However, since these MP3 players can be connected to a computer for the storage and transfer of data (e.g., music, videos, etc.), they may be imported into Canada duty free under tariff item 9948.00.00, regardless of their origin.
This response does not address the specifics of my question, so I asked again: To qualify under 9948, must sellers of iPods and MP3 players collect “end user certificates” from the final consumer?
In response, I was told to refer to the CBSA’s original response. And that leaves a rather important question unanswered.
In other news, Mike Moffatt recently quibbled with the government’s assertion that lower tariffs amounted to special breaks for Chinese companies.
See previously: A tax on imported blankets, The Commons: Ted Menzies challenges everyone to find a tax increase in the budget, A tax on bicycles, baby carriages and iPods, The Great iPod Tax Crisis of 2013, The iPod tax: The finance department responds, Will the Conservatives repeal the iPod tax?, Breaking news: Your imported hockey helmet will cost less, Letters from Justin and Still trying to explain those tariff increases
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 12:07 PM - 0 Comments
Back in February, Mike Duffy announced that, in order to turn the page, he would be repaying the housing allowance he had claimed as a senator.
Last night, CTV reported that there was some kind of deal between Mr. Duffy and Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff. This morning, CTV reports that Mr. Wright wrote a cheque for the $90,172 in question, apparently as a gift from Mr. Wright to Mr. Duffy. The Canadian Press reports that the Prime Minister was not aware of the gift.
Here is the official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Government believes that taxpayers should not be on the hook for improper expense claims made by Senators.
Mr. Duffy agreed to repay the expenses because it was the right thing to do. However, Mr. Duffy was unable to make a timely repayment.
Mr. Wright therefore wrote a cheque from his personal account for the full amount owing so that Mr. Duffy could repay the outstanding amount.
The independent external audit by Deloitte looking into Senate expenses was completed and the results tabled.
Mr. Duffy has reimbursed taxpayers for his impugned claims. Mr. Harb and Mr. Brazeau should pay taxpayers back immediately.
Update 1:35pm. The NDP wants an “independent investigation” into this entire matter and they allege “unethical behaviour” inside the Prime Minister’s Office, but it’s not yet entirely clear how the Conflict of Interest Act or the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code should be applied in a situation such as this. I’ve asked the Ethics Commissioner and the Senate Ethics Officer for comment.
Update 2:33pm. The ethics commissioner’s office corrects me: the Conflict of Interest Act doesn’t apply to Mike Duffy. As a Senator, he is covered by the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. Mr. Wright is covered, as a public office holder, by the Act, but there’s no indication that he received a gift here. Otherwise, I’m told “Commissioner Dawson is reviewing this matter in order to determine how the other provisions of the Act might apply, and is following up with Mr. Wright.”
Senator Duffy has not yet commented, but CTV’s Robert Fife’s has referred to “financial problems” and concerns that, because of health issues, Mr. Duffy’s wife might left with a debt to pay. The Canadian Press adds similar context.
A government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Wright and Duffy are friends and that Wright offered the money as a gift rather than a loan. Duffy had been experiencing financial difficulties, the source said.
Update 4:59pm. A statement from Senator David Tkachuk, chair of the Senate’s internal economy committee.
There have been inquiries in the press recently about untoward influence on the Senate Committee on Internal Economy’s conduct of its work involving Senator Mike Duffy’s living expense claims. The Steering Committee of Internal Economy referred Senator Duffy to independent auditors. This was supported by leadership on both sides, the point being that in the interest of propriety the issue should be dealt with at arm’s length. We on the committee conducted ourselves appropriately throughout this whole process. We made available to Deloitte all documents in the hands of our Finance Directorate pertaining to Senator Duffy’s expense claims for the entire period of the audit. We had no control – nor did we wish to have control – over what Deloitte would conclude.
The Star has reviewed some of the concerns raised about the Senate’s investigation.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reviews Senator Duffy’s role as a Conservative fundraiser.
Update 5:32pm. The Sun seems to have the only comment, such as it is, from Senator Duffy today.
The former television host wouldn’t comment Wednesday. “I can’t talk and I’m not talking,” he said when reached by phone.
Update 5:57pm. John Geddes considers Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy and the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. Here is what Section 17 of the Code states.
Prohibition: gifts and other benefits
17. (1) Neither a Senator, nor a family member, shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the Senator’s position.
(2) A Senator, and a family member, may, however, accept gifts or other benefits received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany the Senator’s position.
Statement: gift or other benefit
(3) If a gift or other benefit that is accepted under subsection (2) by a Senator or his or her family members exceeds $500 in value, or if the total value of all such gifts or benefits received from one source in a 12-month period exceeds $500, the Senator shall, within 30 days after the gift or benefit is received or after that total value is exceeded, as the case may be, file with the Senate Ethics Officer a statement disclosing the nature and value of the gifts or other benefits, their source and the circumstances under which they were given.
Update 6:20pm. Kady O’Malley offers her thoughts on Section 17 and whether Mr. Wright’s gift constitutes a violation of the Code.
Update 8:33pm. Global adds some context on the relationship between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy.
An official speaking on background said Wright and Duffy go back to the 1980s during the Brian Mulroney days.
The Globe notes that Mr. Wright worked in Mr. Mulroney’s PMO.
What this amounts to seems, to me, to depend on whether Mr. Wright’s cheque was inappropriate or merely odd. That’s at least the question I’m still trying to sort out.
Update 11:19pm. CTV has now posted the latest report from Robert Fife—click on the video—including Senator Duffy’s denial last night that Mr. Wright was involved and Conservative sources who say Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright were not close friends.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
Actually, Forum Research’s last poll in Labrador was fairly reflective of the final vote—and Conservatives could point to that as evidence of Mr. Trudeau driving voters away, but then the 20-point drop they claimed on Monday night becomes a nine-point drop (from 57% in early April to 48% on by-election night).
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 5:44 AM - 0 Comments
‘People are going to re-examine the truthfulness of polls.’
VANCOUVER – Among the biggest losers in the B.C. election campaign are the pollsters who for months have been predicting an NDP majority.
“I think people are going to re-examine the truthfulness of polls,” Premier Christy Clark said shortly after learning her party would form the next B.C. government.
“If there is any lesson in this, it’s that pollsters and pundits and commentators do not choose the government. It’s the people of British Columbia that choose the government.”
Ipsos Reid polled samples of British Columbians on their voting intentions as far back as February and on each occasion found the NDP had at least a six-point lead over the Liberals.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
The RCMP is apparently reviewing the Senate’s expense troubles and former senator Lowell Murray says the word “crisis” is applicable here. Meanwhile, Postmedia reported yesterday that the Senate’s internal economy committee was seeking a legal opinion on the precise nature of the Constitution’s residency requirement for senators, but that the Senate was not likely to release that legal opinion publicly.
However, the Senate should soon interpret the residency requirement to settle questions that have swirled for months and longer about Duffy but fellow Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin.
Underlying that decision will be a legal opinion about the section of the Constitution dealing with senators’ qualifications. The Senate’s powerful internal economy committee has asked for the legal opinion, but it has not yet arrived at the committee’s table and it’s unlikely the conclusions will ever be made public.
This afternoon, I asked the office of Senator David Tkahuk, chair of the internal economy committee, why that legal opinion wouldn’t be released and have just now been told that the senator has no comment. But NDP MP Charlie Angus has written today to the Senate seeking a legal opinion that Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton apparently referenced and the legal opinion the internal economy has sought.
And now, Senator Patrick Brazeau’s office has released a statement that quibbles with the Senate’s findings against him.
On December 11, 2013, Senator Brazeau met with the sub-committee on Internal Economy to discuss issues pertaining to his primary residence. At that meeting, Senator Brazeau disclosed documentation and facts regarding that, in fact, Maniwaki, Quebec is his primary residence. As requested, Senator Brazeau provided his driver’s license, health card, income tax returns and voting information.
On February 26, 2013 Senator Brazeau met Deloitte auditors at which time additional information was requested. On February 28, 2013 the additional information was hand delivered to Deloitte. On April 15, 2013 Senator Brazeau once again met with the Deloitte auditors to answer any final questions they had.
On April 29, 2013 Senator Brazeau received a copy the draft report prepared by Deloitte. In that report, no conclusions were made regarding Senator Brazeau’s primary residence. Senator Brazeau was, nevertheless, deemed to have met all four primary residence “indicators.” Furthermore, the report states no false claims were made by Senator Brazeau.
Despite meeting Deloitte’s primary residence criteria and co-operating fully and completely, the Senate committee on Internal Economy tabled a report in the Senate Chamber on May 9, in which orders Senator Brazeau to repay the sum of $34,619 in living expenses and $144.97 in travel expenses.
It is unclear how the Committee could have come to this conclusion when there is no clear definition of what, for purposes of their own policy, constitutes a “primary residence.” Deloitte notes that the current Senate policy uses the following terms without any definitions – primary residence, secondary residence, NCR residence and provincial residence. The Deloitte report in no way finds anything untoward regarding the claims and documents filed by Senator Brazeau.
Additionally, Senator Brazeau has fulfilled his obligations in forwarding all relevant documentation requested by the Committee and auditors. It remains unclear if all other sitting Senators meet the primary residency indicators – which Senator Brazeau does — or if they were treated with the same scrutiny, rules, regulations and definitions.
As a result, Senator Brazeau will be seeking greater clarification and will explore all options to have this determination overturned by applying the current policies, rules and regulations pertaining to this matter including calling a public meeting of the Senate Committee on Internal Economy to explain their decision.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 10:51 AM - 0 Comments
John Ivison says Tony Clement was shocked to learn that the $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding couldn’t be tracked and Ivison suggests part of the solution is reforming the estimates process. The Hill Times considers the same possibility.
The thought that estimates reform might be linked to the missing $3.1 billion occurred to me when the Auditor General released his report, so I asked Scott Clark and Peter DeVries if there was such a link to be made. In response, they suggested there was not.
The information on what happened to the $3.1 billion will not be resolved by any of the proposed changes to the Estimates process. Since all monies must be approved by Treasury Board and then Parliament, the records are there as to what happened to the $3.1 billion. However, to find out would be very time consuming given the number of years under review. If it lapsed, the info should be there. If it was reprofiled, TB would have to approve it. If it was reallocated to other programs, TB would have to approve it.
After John’s column yesterday, I double-checked with Scott and Peter. Was moving to a program-based estimates system a solution to problems such as $3.1 billion?
Not necessarily. TBS and departments would still need to keep track of all of the transactions as to whether they lapsed, were reprofied or directed to another vote or program. Details on programs would require more info. There is no reason why the $3.1 b can’t be accounted for except for slopply paper work. The same could happen under a program system.
Whatever the applicability of estimates reform to the question of the $3.1 billion, the estimates process needs to be reform. And $70 million seems a relatively small price to pay to ensue Parliament can better scrutinize government spending. As no less than the Finance Minister was recently moved to declare, “Canadians are entitled to know what their government is up to.” And $70 million is considerably less than the Harper government has already spent on “economic action plan” ads.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:24 PM - 0 Comments
With 84 of 91 polls reporting, Liberal Yvonne Jones leads Peter Penashue 51.2% o 28.5%. Turnout is already at 53.5%, slightly above the 2011 election.
All things considered, the Liberals should have won here: a traditionally Liberal riding and a Conservative incumbent forced to resign amid election-spending unpleasantness. But the Liberals gain a new voice and the Conservatives suffer another bit of bad news. The real test for Justin Trudeau will come if, as expected, Denis Coderre resigns and a by-election in Bourassa is called. That would put in play a Montreal riding where the New Democrats finished a strong second in 2011.
Update 10:59pm. A statement from the Conservative party, celebrating a victory in Labrador.
As we know, majority governments do not usually win by-elections.
In fact, Liberals have won the riding of Labrador in every election in history except for two, so we are not surprised with these results.
What is surprising is the collapse of the Liberal support during this by-election. When this by-election was called the Liberals had a 43-point lead in the polls. Since electing Justin Trudeau as leader and having him personally campaign there, they have dropped 20 points in Labrador. That’s a significant drop in only a few weeks. Labradorians were able to see firsthand how Justin Trudeau is in over his head.
I’m not sure how the Conservatives can claim the Liberals dropped 20 points in the riding. The final count gives Yvonne Jones 48.2% of vote, which is about 15 points off what Abacus gave her a month ago.
In terms of actual votes, Mr. Penashue lost 334 votes between election day in 2011 and today, this despite Stephen Harper’s assessment that Mr. Penashue was “the best member of Parliament Labrador has ever had.” Yvonne Jones, conversely, received 1,637 more votes than Todd Russell did in 2011.
Total turnout increased by 1,315 votes.
One possible explanation for tonight’s vote: a decent number of Liberal voters who stayed home in 2011 came back to the party tonight.
Update 11:58pm. Of course, given their previous comments on this by-election, Stephen Harper and Pierre Poilievre will be terribly disappointed in the Conservative party’s response.
By Paul Wells - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 3:50 PM - 0 Comments
Congratulations, National Research Council: Just about the only international coverage for your recent change in approach is this article in Slate tearing you a new one.
“…I was thinking that no one could possibly utter such colossally ignorant statements. But no, I was reading it correctly. These two men—leaders in the Canadian scientific research community—were saying, out loud and clearly, that the only science worth doing is what lines the pocket of business.
This is monumentally backwards thinking….”
I’ve been in Ottawa so long I’m well trained: My first instinct was to check whether the article’s author is a Canadian with a long history of donations to the Liberal party. But no: Phil Plait is one of the more prominent science bloggers in the U.S. He didn’t write this because he’s a Canadian looking for bigger bang outside our borders. He wrote it because he believed it. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 2:28 PM - 0 Comments
Canada’s oil sands are already subject to provincial regulations that are driving investment in new environmental research and bringing emissions down through technological innovation. Alberta has regulations that require large oil sands operators to either reduce emissions or contribute money toward innovative research to improve the environmental performance of the industry.
Indeed, the Alberta government has a “Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund” that prices carbon emissions at $15 per tonne. And Peter Kent recently seemed to suggest that this wasn’t a completely terrible thing.
Amid reports that Alberta might be prepared to increase that price, Erica Alini explained the province’s system last month.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 12:14 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberal leader invites your questions.
Michael Ignatieff tried something like this in the fall of 2010—see here and here for examples. I don’t recall whether Mr. Ignatieff actively solicited questions as Mr. Trudeau is doing now, but (as Susan Delacourt notes as well), during its earliest days in the House, the Reform party had phone and fax lines through which constituents could submit questions that would be asked in the House (note the Speaker’s concern about that gambit).
During the last election, the Liberals promised that, if elected, they would create a “People’s Question Period,” during which the Prime Minister and various cabinet ministers would take questions from the public.
By Mike Moffatt - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 11:01 AM - 0 Comments
The government’s favourite talking point on recent tariff hikes is that the existing system represents a “special tax break for Chinese companies.” I have already addressed the tax fairness issue, but there is also an underlying assumption here that Canadian tariffs on Chinese goods are wholly or mostly paid for by Chinese companies. The reality is that very little of the tariffs placed on Chinese goods are paid for by Chinese companies.
The argument made by the government is not one about laws as the tariff is not placed on the Chinese manufacturer. Rather, the tax is placed on the Canadian importer of the good, since the manufacturer is outside of Canada’s jurisdiction. However, the importer will likely share this burden with other parties including the retailer (through higher wholesale prices) and the consumer (through higher retail prices).
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:52 AM - 0 Comments
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:29 AM - 0 Comments
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty arguing that Parliament needs a fully independent and better-funded parliamentary budget officer?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty saying that the government will spend the necessary funds to implement full estimates reform?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty expressing regret for the lack of disclosure that resulted in the government being found in contempt of Parliament two years ago?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty agreeing that government backbenchers need to be more independent so that they can properly hold the government to account?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty pledging that comprehensive access to information reform will be a priority over the next two years?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty explaining that the government will comply with the interim parliamentary budget officer’s request?
Nope. That’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty explaining why the Harper government spends money on ads like this.