By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair stood to a hearty cheer from his caucus and, when the applause had quieted, he attempted a joke.
“Mr. Speaker, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, to Peru apparently,” he quipped.
There were grumbles and complaints from the government side—it being unparliamentary to refer to the presence, or at least the lack thereof, of anyone in the House of Commons. Mr. Mulcair hadn’t quite done that here, but the Speaker was compelled to intervene here anyway and call for order.
The floor was returned to Mr. Mulcair and the NDP leader now proceeded to recap the story so far, a mix of the acknowledged, the alleged and the reported. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Benjamin Perrin, former legal advisor to the Prime Minister, in regards to last night’s story from CTV.
Last night’s CTV story in relation to me, which is based on unattributed sources, is false.
I was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright’s decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy’s expenses.
I have never communicated with the Prime Minister on this matter.
In all my work, I have been committed to making our country a better place and I hope my record of service speaks for itself.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 5:04 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Liberal MP Scott Andrews.
“The revelations about ethical misconduct in the Prime Minister’s Office are truly outrageous to Canadians. That is why today I gave notice of motion at the House of Commons Ethics committee calling for a thorough investigation into this matter.
The Liberal Party will be calling on the Ethics committee to invite as witnesses the Prime Minister, former and current senior PMO staffers, as well as Conservative Senate leaders and Senator Mike Duffy.
It is of paramount importance that Canadians be assured of transparency and full disclosure by this government, and thus far, Mr. Harper has failed to answer Canadians’ very valid questions.
We trust we will receive the support of all parties – including Conservative MPs – in order to get to the bottom of this troubling scandal. While Mr. Harper may call it a ‘distraction’, Canadians expect real answers and the truth, and Liberals will continue to work on their behalf.”
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 3:28 PM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was billed as a game-changer when it was signed in 2010. After years of battling each other in the media and on logging roads throughout the country, 21 forestry companies and nine environmental groups vowed to try a different approach by working side by side to create a healthy, sustainable industry that everyone could be proud of.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it didn’t work.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 2:52 PM - 0 Comments
Outgoing Bank of Canada Mark Carney had said before that, as he leaves Canada to head the U.K.’s central bank on July 1, the economic picture he’s leaving behind in his home country is that of a glass that is “more than half full.” Today, in his last public remarks as a Canadian central bank official, he reiterated that point.
What awaits the next BoC chief is a delicate transition from a growth model based on household consumption, real estate investment and government stimulus to one propelled by exports and business investment, Carney said at the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
“We cannot grow indefinitely by relying on Canadian households increasing their borrowing relative to income.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 1:15 PM - 0 Comments
In his letter to the elections commissioner last Friday about whether Mike Duffy had claimed Senate expenses while campaigning for the Conservatives in the last election, NDP MP Craig Scott named several other senators whose expenses might be scrutinized.
As noted, Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell told me on Friday that he claimed no expenses during the writ period. Today, Liberal Senator David Smith called me to say he had not claimed expenses during the last election and the office of Conservative Senator Nancy Greene Raine emailed me with a statement from the senator.
“I was very careful during the writ period not to claim any expenses connected with campaigning on my Senate budget.”
By Econowatch - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 1:14 PM - 0 Comments
The governor is speaking at the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal today. Here are his prepared remarks:
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 12:44 PM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when opposition and government MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. Today, QP runs from 2 p.m. until just past 3 p.m. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. Once a week, we’ll feature a guest blogger to sort through the madness. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Read our morning tease to catch up on the issues of the day, and then chime in on Twitter with #QP.
Questions abound about the personal cheque former PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright handed to Senator Mike Duffy, since resigned from the Conservative caucus, to cover over $90,000 in improperly claimed expenses. Also, Senator Pamela Wallin resigned from the Tory caucus, and a number of Senators are speaking up about the need for consequences for colleagues who break the rules. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who addressed his caucus this morning, won’t field questions in the House. He’s flying to Peru, but his designated point person will surely have their hands full.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister arrived to the stage with a slight smile, an acknowledgement perhaps of his caucus’ willingness to stand and applaud his presence at this particular moment. He quickly turned serious.
“Good morning, everyone. Colleagues, obviously the reason I’m speaking to you this morning is I want to talk about some events that have transpired recently. And I don’t think any of you are going to be very surprised to hear that I’m not happy,” he said. “I’m very upset…”
So upset that he would commit here and now to release any and all relevant documents and correspondence in the possession of his office? So upset that he would submit to a news conference today to address the allegations concerning his former top aide? So upset that he would detail precisely what he knows about the arrangement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy? So upset that he would offer any kind of explanation here now with all these cameras summoned to transmit his remarks to the nation?
No, no, not that upset. Just upset enough to feel it necessary to tell everyone that he was indeed upset. A revelation that even he conceded was not much of a surprise.
“… about some conduct we have witnessed, the conduct of some parliamentarians and the conduct of my own office.”
In fact, we have not witnessed anything except the spectacle of a government attempting to slowly explain how one of the Prime Minister’s appointees in the Senate had come to pay back some unfortunately claimed expenses and how the Prime Minister’s chief of staff had come to be involved in the return of those funds. The actual events in question occurred entirely in secret.
Now though we would witness self-congratulation paraded for all to see. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 10:53 AM - 0 Comments
Steven Soderbergh ignited his career in Cannes 24 years ago by winning the Palme D’or with his first feature, Sex, Lies and Videotape, a low-budget gem that set a new template for indie cinema. Today, with the premiere of Behind the Candelabra—which Soderbergh says may be his swan song—the Oscar-winning American director has framed a miraculous comeback performance by Michael Douglas after his recovery from stage IV throat cancer.
As piano legend Liberace, the most flamboyant showbiz queen never to come out of the closet, Douglas sinks his teeth into a role rich in theatricality. But much of the movie unfolds as scenes from a marriage, Vegas-style. Based on a memoir by Scott Thorson, Liberace’s longtime lover (played with deadpan aplomb by spray-tanned, Brazilian-waxed Matt Damon), the film is the most explicit gay love story ever performed by A-list Hollywood actors, with ample smooching. Funny and tender, flashy and fascinating, it gives Douglas the opportunity to pull off the kind of bravura performance that wins Oscars. But that won’t happen. Behind the Candelabra, which is in competition for the Palme D’Or, was financed by HBO, after every Hollywood studio had rejected it as a risky proposition that wouldn’t get an audience beyond the gay community. Dumb. It will air May 26 without an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 10:03 AM - 0 Comments
Last night, via email, I asked Senator Marjory LeBreton, the government’s leader in the Senate, about the Senate’s investigation of Mike Duffy. Specifically: Do you have any reason to believe the Senate investigation and audit of Mr. Duffy’s expenses were affected by the agreement between Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright?
Here is her response.
The audits tabled are those received from Deloitte. The covering reports from Internal Economy used language for Harb and Brazeau to facilitate the recovery of the money. The language was not used in the Report on Duffy because the money had been paid back. These reports were written and approved by the Internal Economy Committee and no one else.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
This story will get buried by all the other news today. That’s understandable, but I wish it weren’t so. It’s about a long-term government failure.
In 2007 Maxime Bernier created the Science, Technology and Innovation Council to measure Canada’s science and technology performance against that of comparable countries around the world. It’s produced reports every two years. The latest was released this morning while most of us were caught up in some other hilarity on the Hill.
The STIC council, as it’s called, is a big-name panel of advisors both inside government and outside. Its current membership includes the deputy ministers of Industry, Trade and Health; the presidents of Western, Alberta and McGill Universities; and a brochette of CEOs, principally from the energy sector.
Its third biennial report is devastating. Well, maybe I shouldn’t be throwing a word like that around in a week like this one, but it’s full of bad news anyway. Here’s some jargon, which I’ll translate:
State of the Nation 2012 shows that Canada’s gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD) declined from their peak in 2008 and, when measured in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), since 2001. In contrast, the GERD and GERD intensity of most other countries have been increasing. Canada’s declining GERD intensity has pushed its rank down from 16th position in 2006 to 17th in 2008 and to 23rd in 2011 (among 41 economies).
That means that by the broadest measure of expenditure on research and development, Canada has fallen from 16th out of 41 comparable countries in the year Stephen Harper became prime minister, to 23rd in 2011. Continue…
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 9:48 AM - 0 Comments
REMOND, Wash. – Will Xbox mark the spot once again for Microsoft?
The company is set to reveal the next generation of its Xbox entertainment console during a presentation Tuesday at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash.
It’s been eight years since the launch of the Xbox 360. The original Xbox debuted in 2001, and its high-definition successor premiered in 2005.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 9:05 AM - 0 Comments
Amid the wreckage, the Conservatives in Ottawa still must govern. How they do that when two of their own Senators quit caucus late last week, and then their boss’s top aide resigned in the middle of a long weekend, is no easy task. Their headaches, mostly fuelled by the relentless reporting of CTV’s Robert Fife, will pound all week. Aaron Wherry and Paul Wells and John Geddes explain why this will be a long week.
- Related coverage: 12 thoughts on the Duffy scandal
The Toronto Star calls the current conniption enveloping Ottawa—the Mike Duffy Affair, let’s call it—the “worst scandal” that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s gang has faced since they took power on the promise of unprecedented transparency and accountability in 2006. In Ottawa, what anyone usually means by scandal is a thing the government has done to piss off its critics. Harper’s scandals have gone mostly unpunished by voters, despite its critics being so routinely pissed off by so many things. Even when Conservatives were found guilty during the “in-and-out” affair that saw them improperly shuffle money around during the election campaign that brought them to power, John Geddes recalls, the party claimed victory. They were also found in contempt of Parliament, and we all know what real victory they claimed not long after, in May 2011. They’ve always found a way.
But the last week in federal politics would actually have made good television—depending on your tastes, obviously. Maybe that’s the barometer of what counts as real controversy. The Liberals’ demise a few years back, the Sponsorship Scandal, would have kind-of-sort-of made good TV. There was lots of corruption, anyway. So, when Harper stands up to address his caucus this morning, with cameras rolling, we’ll see how he looks on stage.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 8:15 AM - 0 Comments
WASHINGTON – Apple’s CEO is disputing assertions by a Senate panel that the company avoids billions of dollars in U.S. taxes by shifting profits to foreign affiliates.
Tim Cook testified at a hearing Tuesday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which released a report Monday attacking Apple’s tax practices.
“We pay all the taxes we owe — every single dollar,” Cook said. “We don’t depend on tax gimmicks.”
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 6:09 AM - 0 Comments
BANGKOK – World stock markets were mixed Tuesday as investors waited for the U.S. Federal Reserve to telegraph what it plans to do next with its economic stimulus program.
The Fed is conducting its third round of massive bond purchases known as quantitative easing to help drive down interest rates and spur lending. But recently improving data on the U.S. economy has led to speculation that it might consider scaling back the program or winding it down earlier than expected.
On Wednesday, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will appear before Congress and the central bank will release minutes of its most recent policy meeting.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 5:43 AM - 0 Comments
Goodbye, genital warts! Can’t say you’ll be missed! A new study of Australian visitors to sexual health clinics reveals that vaccines against the most dangerous forms of the human papilloma virus (HPV) are turning out to be very effective at eliminating genital warts—so much so that it is actually a bit mysterious. In 2007 Australia introduced a program of free(-as-in-beer) HPV vaccination for schoolgirls aged 12-13, with optional free “catch-up” programs available to older girls and women. This effectively created the conditions for a controlled experiment: Australia now has an under-21 age cohort in which there was near-total vaccine coverage in the populace, a 21-30 cohort that is somewhere around 50% covered, and a 30-plus group among which almost nobody has had the jab.
The clinics, which are all over Australia, were instructed to record incidence rates of genital warts among patients visiting for the first time. As you can see if you peek at the tables, the rates have stayed the same amongst the unvaccinated oldies and have plunged in the younger populations. It’s not just the women who benefit in this regard (while receiving hypothetical protection from future cervical cancer); the incidence rates dropped among younger men, thanks to herd immunity, and even declined significantly among gay men. It is not as though Australians have stopped having sex, as the matching incidence figures for chlamydia suggest. In fact, they suggest that they’re probably at it a bit more. (And why wouldn’t they be, what with everybody having much tidier genitalia and all?)
Most remarkable is the finding (see Figure 2) that genital warts have disappeared altogether among those in the youngest group of women, those almost universally vaccinated in early or pre-adolescence. For the year 2011 there were 235 patients; 235 were wart-free. In the words of the authors, “We were surprised by this finding, as some of these women probably had only one or two doses of vaccine, and false positive diagnoses are always possible.” The vaccine is designed to suppress only strains of HPV thought to cause most genital warts; the docs speculate that either “most” was actually “all” all along, or that the vaccine is knocking out other strains it wasn’t engineered to fight. Either way, this is probably an auspicious leading indicator when it comes to the ongoing cancer-prevention powers of these “quadrivalent” HPV vaccines.
If you check the footnotes of the study, you can see that these researchers are probably quite delighted to have arrived at these conclusions, since some of them are cozy with Merck, makers of the Gardasil HPV vaccine. No doubt this study has been spun to create the greatest possible sensation, but there are plenty of urogenital specialists in Australia; an “absolutely no young people anywhere are turning up with warts anymore” finding is the sort of thing that wouldn’t be accepted if it weren’t close to the truth. Big Pharma is obnoxious in many ways, but we must give the monster its due when warranted.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 10:33 PM - 0 Comments
CTV reports tonight that the Prime Minister’s legal advisor was involved in drafting the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy.
Sources told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that back in February, Benjamin Perrin helped draft the letter of understanding that called for Duffy to publicly declare that he would repay the money. In return, sources say, Wright would give a personal cheque to Duffy to cover the $90,000. Sources say the agreement also stipulated that a Senate investigation into expense claims would go easy on Duffy.
So will the Prime Minister’s Office now release the terms of that agreement? Apparently not.
The PMO also declined to release the letter of agreement, saying it is now in the hands of Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, who is investigating Wright’s $90,000 cheque to Duffy.
What the Prime Minister’s Office has done is invite reporters to watch the Prime Minister deliver a speech to the Conservative caucus tomorrow morning. If Mr. Harper is later going to entertain questions from reporters, the PMO has yet to say so. But perhaps the Prime Minister’s remarks could involve reading aloud the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy.
Meanwhile, the Globe has video of Mike Duffy declining to explain himself as he’s chased through the Ottawa airport.
By The Associated Press - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM - 0 Comments
WASHINGTON – Apple Inc. employs a group of affiliate companies located outside the United States to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes, a Senate investigation has found.
The world’s most valuable company is holding overseas some $102 billion of its $145 billion in cash, and an Irish subsidiary that earned $22 billion in 2011 paid only $10 million in taxes, according to the report issued Monday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
The strategies Apple uses are legal, and many other multinational corporations use similar tax techniques to avoid paying U.S. income taxes on profits they reap overseas. But Apple uses a unique twist, the report found. The company’s tactics raise questions about loopholes in the U.S. tax code, lawmakers say.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 2:35 PM - 0 Comments
Our govt has the highest ethical standards demonstrated by 3 resignations: 2 from Senate caucus & the PM chief of staff.
It’s a clear demo of accountability folks from some other parties could emulate.
Indeed. It is by precisely that measure that the Nixon administration is widely considered to be the most ethical in American history.
How might the Harper government demonstrate even higher ethical standards this week? The Prime Minister could start tomorrow by convening a news conference, at which he could stand and face at least a dozen questions from reporters. The Prime Minister’s Office could release any and all paperwork related to the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy. The government’s leadership in the Senate could also appear publicly to face questions about their knowledge of the situation.
Conservative MPs could aid the government they support by demanding that Nigel Wright appear before a parliamentary committee and inviting Mike Duffy to do likewise.
Ms. Crockatt is right, in a way. Ensuring that certain consequences follow from questionable actions is part of being accountable. But so is fully and completely explaining the events in questions and opening oneself to public scrutiny.
Update 10:36pm. Ms. Crockatt would like to explain herself.
After a deluge of sarcastic comments from Twitter users — such as, “That’s like a criminal saying he has the highest ethical standards because he went to jail” — Crockatt told the Herald that her comment has been misinterpreted. When asked to clarify what she meant, Crockatt said, “That accepting the resignations was the right thing to do.”
By The Associated Press - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 8:32 AM - 0 Comments
SAN FRANCISCO – Yahoo is buying online blogging forum Tumblr for $1.1 billion as CEO Marissa Mayer tries to rejuvenate an Internet icon that had fallen behind the times.
The deal announced Monday represents Mayer’s boldest move yet since she left Google 10 months ago to lead Yahoo’s latest comeback attempt. It marks Yahoo’s most expensive acquisition since the Sunnyvale, Calif., company bought online search engine Overture a decade ago for $1.3 billion in cash and stock.
Yahoo is paying all cash for Tumblr, dipping into some of its remaining stash from a $7.6 billion windfall reaped last year from selling about half of its stake in Chinese Internet company Alibaba Holdings Group. Taking over Tumblr will devour about one-fifth of the $5.4 billion in cash that Yahoo had in its accounts at the end of March.
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 8:23 AM - 0 Comments
Politicians and pundits weigh in on Nigel Wright’s resignation and what comes next:
The Toronto Star
“Mike Duffy is radioactive. The one-time Conservative cheerleader is now the poster boy for the filth which envelops the party brand. The man holed up on Friendly Lane in Cavendish, P.E.I., has brought down one of the most powerful men in Canada, shaken the Stephen Harper government to its core and blown a hole in the confidence the increasingly skeptical Conservative base has in the party.”
Vern White, Conservative Senator and former Ottawa police chief
Interview in the Ottawa Citizen
“Loyalty can never override integrity. And I hope everyone else in the Senate starts to get their head around that. Now, some have that, but I hope everybody starts understanding that integrity’s all we have, that loyalty can’t be more important than integrity.”
The Chronicle Herald
“I’m almost ashamed to admit this now, but I once considered Mike Duffy a friend.”
Tim Powers, VP Summa Strategies
Interview in the Hill Times
“I think there are Senators who make immense contributions, whether it be on the mental health front like Marjory LeBreton, or Hugh Segal, and Romeo Dallaire, when it comes to advocacy around combat issues and child soldiers All of that is obscured by the actions and behaviour of a few—but it is not just obscuring, it’s almost becoming an eclipse.”
The Ottawa Citizen
“The loss of Nigel Wright is also Canada’s loss. As I mentioned in a Citizen op-ed last September when he was being attacked by opposition parties for his business connections, “his firm commitment to public service — in this case, politics — has never been a mystery.” Very few people of his stature and experience would ever take a significant pay cut and come to Ottawa. Sure, his position at Onex was always secure — and my guess is he’ll go back there. But the fact still remains that he didn’t have to come, and he was never forced to stay. Unfortunately, Wright made a huge tactical error and paid the ultimate price.”
Norman Spector, former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney
Interview in the Hill Times
“There are a lot less consequential matters that a chief of staff would seek direction on or inform the Prime Minister about. I can’t imagine doing anything of this consequence without informing the Prime Minister, and I can’t imagine doing anything like cutting a cheque when I was a chief of staff—a personal cheque at a time when a Senator is being investigated.”
“The chief of staff’s resignation means that the Senate scandal registers high on the Richter Scale — the highest since Harper almost lost his government in the 2008 coalition crisis over a fumbled budget statement. It has now reached “gate” status. It is now Duffygate.”
Michael Den Tandt
“These are the questions facing the prime minister Tuesday, as he sits down with 163 Conservative MPs (there are 164 in total, including him) whose collective reputations have been tarnished to an as-yet unknown degree by this affair: How much did you know? If you knew, what on Earth were you thinking?”
“Surely the wrong man has quit!”
A sampling of what’s being said on Twitter:
I really feel for Nigel Wright. It was the right thing to do.
— Joan Crockatt MP (@Crockatteer) May 19, 2013
— Phil vonFinckenstein (@PhilvF) May 19, 2013
I’ve known Nigel Wright since the mid-1980s. I can think of nobody in politics in the US, UK and Canada whom I admire more.
— davidfrum (@davidfrum) May 19, 2013
By Brian D. Johnson - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 5:52 AM - 0 Comments
I tend to approach a new Coen brothers movie with the wariness that comes from being a fan who’s been burned too often. In their lesser films, such as Burn After Reading, their wit can curdle into smugness. But when the brothers let their passion override their reflexive cynicism, they’re amazing. In No Country for Old Men and True Grit, they graduated to an epic scale with an emotional maturity and lyrical grandeur they’d never attempted before. Now with Inside Llewyn Davis, which premiered in Cannes yesterday, the Coens retreat to a smaller canvas. But without softening their signature edge of sardonic humour, they strike a chord of unprecedented tenderness. This is the Coen brothers unplugged, and it’s a slice of pure heaven. I didn’t want it to end, something you can’t say about many films in competition at Cannes. And I’m not alone. Inside Llewyn Davis arrived as an exhilarating tonic amid the visions of violence and angst that tend to be the red meat of a Cannes competition. Finding the sweet spot between droll humour and bittersweet emotion, it was universally embraced by critics as a rare treat—a Coen brothers comedy with a heart of gold.
Loosely drawn from The Mayor of MacDougal Street, a memoir by folksinger Dave Von Ronk, the movie features a breakout performance by Oscar Isaac, whose first name could be prophetic. He’s a riveting presence as both an actor and singer. A Julliard-trained musician, Isaac performs several of Van Ronk’s ballads under the musical direction of Coen brothers veteran T-Bone Burnett. The songs are sparsely measured out, but they play in their entirety as high points of the drama, making time stop with an uncanny intimacy. Continue…
By Aaron Hutchins - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 12:09 AM - 0 Comments