By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 - 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 The Associated Press - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 4:21 PM - 0 Comments
PARIS – David Beckham’s pecs are at least as much a part of his brand as his kick; his brand of shoes ultimately more lucrative than the game he’s giving up. Listed as the world’s highest-earning athlete for 2013, Beckham’s retirement from play still leaves him with valuable endorsements and unparalleled celebrity. The question is whether he can maintain it.
Only a few athletes, once their job is preceded by ‘ex,’ manage to maintain a connection with fans: Those who have carefully built up their image beforehand.
Michael Jordan retired from basketball for the third time in 2003 and turned 50 this year. His eponymous Nike brand — a partnership that dates back to the first days after he left the University of North Carolina for the Chicago Bulls — is still going strong. The Jordan brand makes up nearly 60 per cent of the American basketball shoe market, and a significant part of the estimated $80 million that Jordan reportedly earns each year from ventures that also include deals with Hanes and Gatorade, according to Forbes magazine.
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 Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 12:18 PM - 0 Comments
The sixth floor atop the grand Canadian Embassy on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue has some of the best views for watching the pomp of Washington, DC, from Inauguration Day parades to Fourth of July fireworks. And now it also has some very cool art. In honour of Canada taking over chairmanship of the Arctic Council this week, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, recently transformed the sixth floor’s “Large Salon” into an “Arctic Room.” Always great to view Canadian art in Washington:
“North (Walrus)”, 1998 – Renée Duval, from the Collection of the Canada Council Art Bank
“Lone Polar Bear”, 1988 – Marvin Luethe, from the Collection of the Canada Council Art Bank
More photos from Arctic Room unveiling and Embassy reception for the President of Iceland. The Embassy also has an art gallery featuring photos of the Arctic.
All photos by Keegan Bursaw.
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 John Geddes - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 11:46 AM - 0 Comments
Andrew MacDougall, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, spoke with reporters today in the National Press Theatre, just off Parliament Hill, about the unusual decision of Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to cut Sen. Mike Duffy a cheque for about $90,000.
As most Canadians know by now, Duffy resigned yesterday from the Conservative caucus, which puts some distance between the controversy-plagued senator and the government. But Wright’s decision to dip into his personal wealth to give Duffy the money he needed to repay improperly claimed Senate expenses has brought the issue to the very heart of Harper’s own political operation.
MacDougall’s responses today offer three key indications about how the Tories hope to contain the damage from this controversy. Here are the main points that emerged from his exchange with reporters:
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 7:48 AM - 0 Comments
Shocking news is hard to believe. Last night, there was lots of news, plenty of it shocking. The sun was setting on another day, literally, when newsrooms tore up their front pages and started from scratch.
Mike Duffy, the Conservative Senator who’s fighting for his political life after questions arose about how he repaid improperly claimed expenses, resigned from his party’s caucus. Paul Godfrey, the chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission who had pushed aggressively for new casinos in the province, walked into a meeting only to get fired—a move that saw the agency’s entire board resign in protest. And then, the pièce de résistance of an evening built to shock: a video that few saw, but everybody talked about all night, allegedly starring Toronto’s mayor. Rob Ford will never be remembered as a boring man, nor will he ever escape questions about his conduct as a public figure.
But now they claim he smoked crack cocaine, and there’s allegedly a video to prove it.
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 Peter Nowak - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 4:46 PM - 0 Comments
Every now and then someone comes along and criticizes space exploration – and inevitably makes a fool of themselves in the process. Add NOW Magazine to the list.
The Toronto alt-weekly trashed both Commander Chris Hadfield and space exploration in general as PR-seeking glory hounds and wastes of money, respectively, in a piece that ran this week.
Hadfield – the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station – of course returned to Earth on Monday evening, but not before posting a video of himself performing David Bowie’s Space Oddity… in space. That capped off a 146-day stint aboard the ISS that was punctuated by frequent tweets, photos and even an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit.
Hadfield’s return couldn’t happen “too soon,” according to the article, since he was wasting so much time conducting public relations for himself and space agencies in general, rather than actual scientific research:
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 Martin Patriquin - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 3:45 PM - 0 Comments
The Government House Leader’s statement on bribery allegations in La Presse
Here’s a statement from Government House Leader Peter Van Loan regarding La Presse’s revelation that former Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt allegedly attempted to bribe NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair when the latter was a provincial MNA.
According to Radio-Canada [ed's note: it was actually La Presse's exclusive] Thomas Mulcair has known about corruption in Quebec politics since 1994, when the Mayor of Laval allegedly offered him “help” in the typical Liberal style: an envelope. Thomas Mulcair appears to have kept this sordid affair to himself for seventeen years. In 2010, he even denied having ever been offered a bribe. Yet after seventeen years of silence, Mulcair finally spoke up after investigations were already underway in 2011. As a result, Thomas Mulcair could be called before the Charbonneau Commission to explain his (in)action.
Mulcair kept his firsthand knowledge of corruption from the public for two more years, before choosing to dump it today, when he felt the media would be distracted by other stories.
This presents some difficult questions for Mr. Mulcair:
Why did he protect Gilles Vaillancourt and cover up this alleged criminal activity for 17 years?
Why did it take a public inquiry into the biggest corruption scandal in Canadian history for Thomas Mulcair to finally come clean with Canadians?
Why did Thomas Mulcair lie and say he was never offered any money by Gilles Vaillancourt?
Will he agree to appear if called to testify under oath before the Charbonneau Commission?
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 1:57 PM - 0 Comments
In space, Chris Hadfield had the superpower of weightlessness. Back on Earth, he’s like an old man—shuffling his feet, feeling dizzy, and suffering aches and pains, he told reporters gathered at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)’s headquarters in Montreal today, his first press conference since landing in Kazakhstan after a five-month mission to the International Space Station, where he became Canada’s first space commander.
“We’re tottering around like two old duffers in an old folks’ home,” Hadfield joked about himself and fellow astronaut Tom Marshburn, who was on the mission with him. Still, he seemed happy to be home.
Speaking from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where Hadfield and Marshburn are undergoing extensive rehabilitation to build back their bodies after life in zero gravity, Hadfield spoke frankly about the physical challenges he’s facing. His openness was unsurprising for an astronaut who’s become such a celebrated communicator.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 1:55 PM - 0 Comments
Speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations today, where he made the case for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, the prime minister took a jab at Washington’s economic stewardship:
“We know that for our country to realize its potential, the U.S. has to do better. I am encouraged by growth signs I see in the United States. I am an enormous admirer of this country, despite of the fact that I value the differences we have as Canadians, I am enormous admirer of this country. I have enormous faith in the American people, and particularly the American business community, to always find opportunity, always seize it, and always create a better future. That’s been the history of this country.
I think it requires a hell of a lot of effort by everybody in Washington to make that not true. I just don’t think they can sustain that effort indefinitely. [laughs]“
This seemed to take the moderator, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, by surprise: ”Boy, well… that’s uh… That, Prime Minister, is very well said. I hope your bet on their inability to maintain that indefinitely turns out to be right.”
Later in the conversation, talking about foreign policy, Harper softened his tone:
“All joking aside about Washington, I have a really good relationship with the president. I think that within the constraints of the American system, he’s doing what he can do on all kinds of issues. On Syria, I see a lot of criticism about inaction. I look at Syria over the last couple of years and I would urge the president and everybody extraordinary caution on jumping into this situation.”
By Kevin Milligan - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 12:48 PM - 0 Comments
Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberal government begin a new term facing a propitious fiscal situation, arguably second in Canada only to Saskatchewan. Net debt as a share of GDP is low (only Saskatchewan and Alberta’s are lower), and B.C. has a shot at balancing the budget in 2013-14 – along with Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. The Liberals made a few big-ticket election campaign spending promises, but, on the tax side, they also indicated they intend to pad revenues over the next few years with higher tax rates for personal and corporate income. In short, the new government has much freedom to work on new projects without having to fight festering fiscal fires.
That said, budgets must still be watched, lest the current advantages be frittered away. Below, I outline the main challenges on both the revenue and expenditure sides.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 12:02 PM - 0 Comments
1) One head rolls: As the Internal Revenue Service came under fire for singling out Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny and audits, the acting IRS commissioner announced his resignation at the request of the Treasury Secretary. Obama had not appointed a permanent IRS commissioner but now reportedly plans to do so this week.
2) One document dump: While controversy raged over whether the State Department and/or White House role in doctoring talking points about the fatal attacks against a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya last September, the White House released emails last night showing the back-and-forth between government officials over how the event should be portrayed to the public. The emails are here. Republicans say they emails contradict statements by White House spokesman, Jay Carney, who had minimized the role of the State Department in changing wording put out by the CIA. Some critics are also calling for Carney to step down.
3) One legislative initiative: Amidst outrage over Justice Department seizures of extensive telephone records of journalists at the Associated Press in connection with a leak investigation, the administration yesterday asked lawmakers to pass a media “Shield Law” that would give reporters more power to protect their sources.
The moves show that the White House recognizes the seriousness of the collective controversies now sucking most of the oxygen out of Washington, DC. But they won’t end them. The first congressional hearing into the IRS actions will be held on Friday, adding new fuel to that fire. The emails around Benghazi have raised new questions and put additional pressure on the White House spokesman. And media organizations are demanding to know whether other journalists, beyond the AP, have had their phone records seized and scrutinized by the government without their knowledge.
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 11:42 AM - 0 Comments
Cannes can always be counted on to deliver surreal contrasts. As a fierce rainstorm swept the Croisette, Leonardo DiCaprio and the gang from The Great Gatsby climbed the red stairs of the Palais, umbrellas in hand, for the premiere of a movie based on the novel that F. Scott Fitzgerald had written just a few miles away while his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald, was having an affair on the same strip of beach where the Palais now stands. I’d already seen Gatsby. So as that lavish melodrama played in 3D, I sat in a wet tuxedo in the theatre next door, watching Mexican gangsters suspend a man from a ceiling of a family home in the desert and set his genitals ablaze while their children watched. The first of 20 features to be shown in the festival’s main competition, the movie was Heli, by Mexican director Amat Escalante–a grimly realist portrait of how the drug wars ravage innocent lives in his country. It was like igniting the battle for the Palme d’Or with a Molotov cocktail.
Composed with a poetic eye, Heli is a potent drama of random cruelty. Too bad its merits will be forever upstaged by the horror show of a man’s burning junk. The gratuitous killings of two dogs, which prompted walk-outs earlier in the film, seemed mild compared to this–a provocation from a young director showing us something we’ve never seen before. Most likely it’s based on a real incident; you don’t have to make this stuff up in Mexico. But as the camera lingers on the poor man, you’re yanked out of the movie. You can’t help wonder how it was done, because it’s clearly not a digital effect. And you wonder what Steven Spielberg, the president of the jury will think. The Cannes competition is like that: at every movie, it’s as if you’re watching it with an invisible date, or dates, as you try to imagine what it will look like through the eyes of a Spielberg, a Nicole Kidman or an Ang Lee.
So why was I watching a movie in a damp tux? Because my next stop was the festival’s opening night dinner for The Great Gatsby, a glittering soiree held under a vast tent with a level of glamour worthy of one Gatsby’s own parties. Sitting next to festival director Thierry Frémaux, DiCaprio held court at a long table with the Gatsby cast and the film’s director, Baz Lurhmann. It’s strange how this actor, who once struggled to shake his image as Titantic‘s boyish heartthrob, has morphed into a patrician. Incarnating a series of uber-powerful men, from Howard Hughes to J. Edgar Hoover, he has become deeply invested in his own gravitas. And he owned the room.
Next to his table sat the jury. I chatted briefly with Spielberg, who was about to dig into his appetizer of sweet onion mousse with bergamot, caviar and peas. I mentioned that at the afternoon’s press conference he seemed to be approaching jury duty with a huge sense of fun. “The great thing is, nobody’s on trial for their life here,” he said, grinning. Later I ran into his fellow juror Ang Lee, who still seemed to be weighing his responsibility with a heavy heart—”it’s my duty, I have to do it,” he sighed.
Oh yes, and there were stars. Carey Mulligan and Nicole Kidman and Elizabeth Debicki all sheathed in creamy white evening gowns. Standing next to Kidman, she seemed taller than me (I’m 6′), but I guess it was just the heels and the sculpted hair, because Google says she’s just 5’9″. Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, jury member, was the shiniest man in the room, a vision of black sequins. And Harvey Weinstein . . . well, he looked like Harvey Weinstein.
Quebec’s Denise Robert, producer and partner of Denys Arcand, eagerly pointed out legendary shoe designer Christian Louboutin, who she considered to be by far the most desired man at the dinner. More than any movie star. He was wearing pearl-tassled patent leather shoes with red soles. I know nothing about fashion. But I ‘m learning. I just saw Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, based on a Vanity Fair article about a gang of teenage girls who robbed the homes of celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom. The title of the article: ‘The Suspects Wore Louboutin.’ More on that later . . .
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 John Geddes - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 5:36 PM - 0 Comments
It is tempting to frame the news that Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, took the extraordinary step of personally giving more than $90,000 to Mike Duffy, the senator from (ostensibly) Prince Edward Island, strictly in terms of the stark contrast between the two main characters.
The story—broken over at CTV by Robert Fife—has Wright giving Duffy a fat cheque to allow him to repay improperly claimed Senate housing allowances. The gift-giver could hardly be a more guardedly low-profile public office holder; the recipient is about the most outsized character in the Upper Chamber.
If Duffy’s fame as a longtime TV news personality, before his Senate appointment, was once a boon to the Conservatives, allowing him to serve as a party fundraising draw, that same notoriety now makes this unwelcome story that much bigger. And if Wright’s reticence was previously seen as an exemplary attribute in a Harper-era political aide, that same discretion might make him seem, in this new context, a rather shadowy figure.
By Bookmarked - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 5:24 PM - 0 Comments
This week’s bestsellers, compiled by Brian Bethune:
1. A DELICATE TRUTH John le Carré 5 (2)*
2. PARIS Edward Rutherfurd 4 (3)
3. LIFE AFTER LIFE Kate Atkinson 1 (6)
4. BEST KEPT SECRET Jeffrey Archer 7 (2)
5. RIVER OF STARS Guy Gavriel Kay 6 (6)
6. DEAD EVER AFTER Charlaine Harris (1)
7. INFERNO Dan Brown (1)
8. MOUNT PLEASANT Don Gillmor 2 (8)
9. THE STORYTELLER Jodi Picoult 8 (11)
10. CAUGHT Lisa Moore (1)
1. LET’S EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS David Sedaris 1 (3)
2. THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN Thomas King 10 (19)
3. LEAN IN Sheryl Sandberg 2 (8)
4. MY WAY Paul Anka 4 (6)
5. WAITING TO BE HEARD Amanda Knox (1)
6. SALT SUGAR FAT Michael Moss 6 (10)
7. COOKED Michael Pollan 7 (3)
8. COUNTRY GIRL Edna O’Brien 9 (3)
9. EVERYTHING IS PERFECT WHEN YOU’RE A LIAR Kelly Oxford 3 (5)
10. LEVELS OF LIFE Julian Barnes 5 (4)
*LAST WEEK (WEEKS ON LIST)
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 4:05 PM - 0 Comments
The President released his financial disclosure forms today. He still owes between $500,000 and 1 million on his home mortgage. His rate is 5.625%. Guess he’s been too busy over last few years to notice this.
By Josh Dehaas - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 3:54 PM - 0 Comments
Two summers ago when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 arrived at the cinema in Ancaster, Ont., Stephanie Kesler took the day off work and lined up for 12 hours to make sure she got a good seat. Afterward, Kesler, now 23, says she felt “a little bit sad.” Growing up she had eagerly anticipated each of J.K. Rowling’s books and films. “That was my whole childhood.”
But last semester, the third-year English student at Western University in London, Ont., realized that the end of the series didn’t mean saying goodbye. In her children’s literature course, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban was on the syllabus.
For her class assignment, Kesler presented to her peers on the symbolism of Rowling’s Dementors, dark creatures that suck the life out of people, and the Patronus Charm, the only thing that can fight them off. She likened the Dementors to depression and the Patronas to overcoming it through positive thinking.
Not far away at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo Ont., dozens of wizarding fans had a similar idea. Emma Morrison, a third-year Medieval Studies and Religion major, had started a chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance, a global network of campus and community clubs where Potter fans jointly work for social justice. The Laurier chapter’s first big project focused on Dementors and depression. After a social media campaign promoting awareness of mental health services on campus, the group held a Yule Ball (a Hogwarts-inspired formal) during February mid-terms. “We wanted to have something fun to allow people to let loose in their time of stress,” she says. More than 220 showed up for butter beer and dancing.
Professor Gabrielle Ceraldi, who teaches children’s literature at Western, is unsurprised by the focus on the Dementors. “Emotional states in the series are always represented through magic,” she says. Hogwarts, the school for witches and wizards, is bewildering, much like university, she points out. “The staircases never stay in the same place from one period of class to the next.”
Ceraldi, who has only just heard about the Harry Potter Alliance, will soon teach what she believes is the first Canadian course fully dedicated to the books. She has also just learned about the Quidditch leagues where students use broomsticks and throw Quaffles, yet another of the ways today’s university students are connecting to each other and to school through Harry Potter.
Harry helps them connect to school by introducing academic themes. One obvious example is the classism Hermione Granger highlights with her Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (SPEW), a group she starts to fight for the underclass toiling in Hogwarts’ kitchens. Harry and Ron first turn up their noses at Hermione, “but, in the end,” Ceraldi says, “grasping the value of house elves becomes pivotal to the triumph of good over evil.”
Morrison, the Laurier student, suggests that the theme of classism was inspired by Rowling’s own life. “Before she published Harry Potter, [Rowling] was a single mom who didn’t have a lot of money and relied on the government for a lot of what she was able to provide her children,” she points out.
Racism is exemplified in the mudbloods, people who come from muggle (non-magic) families and end up being capable of magic. At one point in the series, the mudbloods are accused of stealing wands from true witches and wizards, which leads to (ironically) a witch hunt.
Classism and racism were both considered by the Laurier chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance this year when they learned about child labour on African cocoa plantations and then collected signatures on a petition demanding Warner Bros. use fair trade chocolate in all their Potter treats.
But the Laurier chapter isn’t just for humanitarian work. Morrison says it’s also a place “where fans can get together and nerd out.” One just-for-fun meeting offered tea leaf readings.
Ceraldi says the Potter books offer more than social justice lessons. In her upcoming course they will provide an entry to other genres of fiction, including Gothic, dystopian and detective. Students may be asked to compare one book to a Sherlock Holmes novel and another to a story by Victorian writer Elizabeth Gaskell who, long before Rowling, used a mirror to symbolize self-reflection.
Though it’s not until January, Ceraldi is getting many e-mails from students wanting to sign up. They’re keen, she says, writing things like, ‘I am the person I am today because of those books.’
That, she says, is unsurprising. “They know these stories have incredible power and meaning.”