By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 0 Comments
CAP-PELE, N.B. – A funeral service is underway in a New Brunswick village for four teenagers killed in a highway crash over the weekend.
Rev. Louis-Joseph Boudreau says people in the Acadian fishing community of Cap-Pele are having a difficult time coming to terms with their deaths.
The victims, all from the village, died when their car crashed into a culvert and rolled several times in nearby Notre-Dame early Saturday.
Police say speed was a factor in the crash.
Justin Leger, Sebastien Leger and Justin Brown were all 18 years old, while Luc Arsenault was 17.
The caskets carrying their bodies are draped with flowers.
Boudreau says he is worried about how the young people in the area are coping.
“These four boys were so close to them,” Boudreau said prior to the funeral service Tuesday at Eglise de Paroisse Ste. Therese D’Avila.
“They depended so much on their cheerful attitude, on their sharing of school life and leisure. It is a challenge for them.”
The municipality has asked people in the community of 2,300 to keep their Christmas lights turned off until after the funeral.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 2:58 PM - 0 Comments
Albertans are digging out after a massive burst of winter weather buried the southern part of the province in up to 40 centimetres of wind-whipped snow.
Crews were working hard to get a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway east of Calgary open after blowing and drifting snow forced it’s closure Monday.
The Calgary Board of Education kept its schools open, but cancelled bus service and urged parents to make their own decisions about sending kids to class.
At the airport in Calgary, several flight were still listed as cancelled and many more were delayed — a repeat of what happened Monday, at the storm’s height.
Lethbridge, to the south of Calgary, received 30 centimetres of snow and nearby Pincher Creek was dealing with an excess of 40 centimetres.
Environment Canada’s Bill McMurtry said snow drifts in some areas have been measured at more than two metres.
Blizzard warnings for the Lethbridge area ended Tuesday morning.
While the storm brought many things to a crawl, it didn’t stop Albertans from helping out when needed.
Calgary Meals on Wheels issued a plea for drivers to help deliver meals, as many of its regular drivers couldn’t get through snow drifts in their small vehicles.
In short order, spokeswoman Christine Conley said they were able to fill the vacant routes.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 2:49 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Sen. Romeo Dallaire says he nodded off at the wheel of his car and crashed into a traffic barrier on Parliament Hill today.
The retired general says the news last week of three suicides of Canadian soldiers, coupled with the coming 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, have left him unable to sleep, even with medication.
He says he simply did not monitor his fatigue level and fell asleep at the wheel.
Dallaire commanded the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda which could not stave off the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people in 1994.
He suffered debilitating psychological problems afterward and eventually retired from the military.
He was named to the Senate by Paul Martin in 2005.
Dallaire apologized to his fellow senators for his car accident, saying he was grateful no one was injured.
“I simply ran out of steam and fell asleep and crashed my car,” he said.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 2:11 PM - 0 Comments
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A woman has pleaded not guilty to what is believed to be the first traffic citation alleging a motorist was using Google’s computer-in-an-eyeglass.
The device known as Google Glass, not yet widely available to the public, features a thumbnail-size transparent display above the right eye.
Cecilia Abadie was pulled over on suspicion of speeding in October. The officer saw she had Google Glass and tacked on a citation usually given to drivers who may be distracted by a video screen.
On Tuesday, Abadie pleaded not guilty to both charges in San Diego traffic court.
Her lawyer says she will testify at a trial scheduled for January that the glasses were not on when Abadie was driving, but activated when she looked up at the officer.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 1:43 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The federal government is moving ahead with its consumer friendly agenda, unveiling new rules for prepaid credit cards, more inspections at gas pumps and plans to create a national financial code to streamline regulations and enhance consumer rights.
The measures were announced at two separate events involving three cabinet ministers Tuesday morning and appear to be tied to the throne speech pledge to make consumer protection a key policy in the two years leading up to the 2015 election campaign.
“A consumer code will help Canadians make more informed financial decisions today and in Canada’s rapidly changing, increasingly digital financial marketplace in the future,” said Maxime Bernier, minister for small business, in launching a public consultation process.
People can comment on the government’s proposed consumer code online (email@example.com) until the end of February.
More concretely, the government said it will introduce new regulations banning expiry dates on prepaid credit cards, as well as ensure card issuers aren’t allowed to impose fees that eat away at a card’s balance within the first year.
The changes come after consumers complained that terms for using the cards were unclear and cumbersome and that card issuers imposed unfair fees.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 1:37 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO, Cananda – A Hamilton woman who lost her winning $50-million lottery ticket last year is on the verge of getting her prize after an extensive investigation.
The CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation says Kathryn Jones’s case is “one of the most unique in OLG’s history.”
OLG says Jones bought a ticket at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Cambridge, Ont., last year which turned out to have the winning jackpot numbers from the Nov. 30, 2012, Lotto Max draw.
OLG received more than 435 inquiries since that draw and in the process of reviewing them, it determined that Jones, who is a regular lottery player, had the winning ticket for the huge jackpot.
When Jones wasn’t able to find her ticket, OLG carried out its “Lost Ticket Prize Claim” process to ensure she was the rightful winner.
That investigation included interviews with Jones, using the OLG transactions database to verify her purchase, checking surveillance video which showed her buying the $16 ticket and referencing her credit card statements.
OLG also found out that Jones had a sister who owns a retail outlet in Ottawa that sells OLG tickets, a finding which prompted an additional review of her win by an independent third party, which found no issues.
OLG says the prize will now be held for a minimum of 30 days and if there are no additional valid claims on the $50 million, Jones will get her winnings.
Jones says she is still in shock and is “very grateful” that OLG approached her over her prize.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 1:30 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Chong Day has overtaken Parliament Hill. The MP who wants to empower his colleagues by way of some serious parliamentary reform has generated quite a bit of commotion around his private member’s bill, which he tabled this morning in the House of Commons. The legislation would give local riding associations, not party leaders, the power to approve candidates’ nomination papers. The Reform Act would also provide for leadership reviews of sitting party leaders at the behest of their own caucuses.
Don’t expect to hear much about parliamentary reform during Question Period, though. The Wright-Duffy affair endures. The opposition’s questions about the sudden reappearance of a former PMO legal adviser’s emails went sufficiently unanswered yesterday, so expect more on that today. The hook, at least on the Liberal side, may be that Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault has launched a preliminary investigation into the curious case of the Perrin correspondence. That comes as a result of a complaint filed earlier this session by Liberal MP Ralph Goodale. The stink of the broader Senate expenses scandal lingers, too, with last week’s resignation of Sen. David Braley three years shy of his mandatory retirement. In September, Braley had mused with the Hamilton Spectator about quitting the upper chamber, and mentioned that the indiscretions of a few senators “tarred and feathered” the whole institution. Today, Braley told the Toronto Star his resignation “follows a natural path.”
Few good days greet the government, but its defenders soldier on. Today, they continue their fight.
Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer, which we produced with J-Source. Today, QP runs from 11:15 a.m. until just past noon. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Chime in on Twitter with #QP.
Who will feel the heat? Either the Prime Minister or his designate chosen to give voice to the government’s insistence that Stephen Harper is innocent in the Wright-Duffy affair.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 1:24 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A collection of parliamentarians of all stripes are backing Conservative MP Michael Chong’s provocative new bill, one designed to rebalance the power between MPs and domineering party leaders.
As Chong held a news conference Tuesday about the legislation he had just tabled, colleagues from the House of Commons and the Senate took their seats nearby in a public show of support.
They included Conservative Sen. Hugh Segal, Tory MPs James Rajotte, Stella Ambler and Larry Miller, Green party Leader Elizabeth May and Independent Bruce Hyer.
Up to two dozen Conservatives could be poised to back Chong’s so-called “Reform Act of 2013,” at a time when Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office is already facing scrutiny for heavy handedness.
Chong is a moderate, well-liked MP across party lines, and has long advocated for the empowerment of parliamentarians.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 12:32 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – A drug used to treat advanced breast and colorectal cancers has been linked to potentially fatal skin reactions in some patients, says the medication’s manufacturer in an advisory from Health Canada.
Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. said Tuesday that severe skin reactions have been reported in patients taking the drug Xeloda.
Xeloda is used to treat advanced breast cancer or breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, as well as metastatic colorectal cancer and cancer of the colon following surgical removal.
Severe skin reactions such as Stevens–Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis, in some cases with a fatal outcome, have been reported during treatment with Xeloda, the company said.
Signs and symptoms of severe skin reactions may include flu-like symptoms, fever, skin itching and a painful, red or purplish skin rash that spreads and blisters, causing the skin to shed. Other possible symptoms include mouth sores, eye burning, itching and discharge.
Patients who develop any of these symptoms should contact their health-care professional immediately, Hoffmann-La Roche said.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The federal information commissioner has launched an investigation into the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of emails related to the Senate expenses scandal.
Suzanne Legault’s office confirms an investigation has been initiated in response to a complaint from deputy Liberal leader Ralph Goodale.
Goodale had submitted an access-to-information request to the Privy Council Office, seeking all emails, correspondence and other records related to former prime ministerial chief of staff Nigel Wright’s deal to pay Sen. Mike Duffy $90,000 so that he could reimburse the Senate for invalid living expense claims.
Among other things, he specified all records from or to Benjamin Perrin, former legal counsel in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The PCO, which provides bureaucratic support to the PMO, eventually responded in late June that, after a thorough search, no records were found.
Since then, however, documents obtained by the RCMP from the PMO and filed in court, have disclosed hundreds of emails exchanged between Wright, Duffy, Perrin, various other top aides in the PMO and several senators.
Moreover, PCO acknowledged Sunday that it mistakenly told the RCMP that Perrin’s emails had been deleted when he left the government’s employ in March, according to standard practice. In fact, Perrin’s emails had been preserved because of his involvement in an unrelated legal matter.
That development has prompted Goodale to write Legault again today, arguing that her investigation is even more crucial now, given the “absolute relevance of the Perrin documentation and the spotty record of PCO in handling this hugely important and sensitive file.”
He says it’s important to ensure that PCO is able to maintain and retrieve records “free from political interference.”
Last spring, Perrin denied any role in the Wright-Duffy affair.
But the email trail disclosed by the RCMP shows he was intimately involved in negotiating a deal with Duffy’s lawyer, under which Duffy agreed to repay his expenses on condition that he be fully reimbursed, that an audit into his expenses be halted and a Senate report on his expense claims be whitewashed.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 11:14 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO, Cananda – A growing number of Canadian businesses are betting against BlackBerry as they consider how to spend their future technology budgets.
From the big banks to small retailers, uncertainty about the future of the Waterloo, Ont.-based company has left some longtime customers worried, and that has forced BlackBerry to get on the defensive about its device management infrastructure.
On Tuesday, BlackBerry (TSX:BB) announced the latest update to its Blackberry Enterprise Server, the security and management system that supports a swath of corporate and government clients. The company said numerous changes have been made that will “significantly reduce” costs for customers who have a large number of devices on the system.
The decision comes as BlackBerry watches a number of its prized corporate clients turn to other companies for similar device management support, after some complained about how expensive it was to use BlackBerry’s services.
Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) and TD Bank (TSX:TD) switched part of their smartphone management systems to a competitor earlier this year.
In the United States, even more customers have opted to completely sever ties with BlackBerry, including drug giant Pfizer Inc. and the U.S. defence department.
In a letter posted online Monday, BlackBerry’s interim chief executive urged some of its largest customers to stay with the company.
“Reports of our death are greatly exaggerated,” John Chen wrote.
He said the smartphone maker would return to its roots with a focus on business users.
But the move was more an attempt to stem the bleeding, rather than anticipate a problem.
At one time, corporate and government clients were the faithful and reliable backbone to BlackBerry’s business model, because they would sign multi-year agreements for its enterprise services, known as BES.
Over the past year, many of those contracts have come up for renewal, and after weighing cost and the growing popularity of bring-your-own-device for employees, some clients have chosen to look elsewhere.
A number of competitors have aggressively began promoting their services as an alternative to BlackBerry, including device management companies like AirWatch LLC and a similar service called Samsung Knox.
Jeff Holleran, BlackBerry’s senior director of enterprise product management, said the outflow of customers was a key reason why BlackBerry decided to open its services to support iPhone and Android devices.
“For us the move to cross-platform is to bring our customers back,” Holleran said.
“We do have customers coming back to us,” he added.
BlackBerry declined to say which clients had returned to its services, after leaving for a competitor, citing confidentiality reasons.
Keeping track of how many companies have begun to scale back on their reliance on BlackBerry is a difficult task.
Many Canadian firms have shied away from confirming whether they’ve switched to a competitor, mostly because they’re concerned about a backlash from consumers.
Earlier this fall when Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) decided to forego selling the BlackBerry Z30 it faced a barrage of complaints on social media for abandoning BlackBerry in its most desperate moments. The telecom company quickly relented and sold the phone online.
A statement from BMO spokesman Ralph Marranca said the bank “will continue to use BlackBerry enterprise server for Blackberry devices and AirWatch technology for non-BlackBerry devices.”
A TD Bank spokesman declined to confirm whether it has stopped using BlackBerry management services, though sources familiar with the bank said it has moved non-BlackBerry devices onto a competitor’s service.
However, BlackBerry has also managed to secure new agreements with many of its large corporate clients, including most recently German companies Mitsubishi Motors Deutschland, manufacturing giant Grohe AG and sugar producer Sudzucker AG in November.
BlackBerry shares were down two cents to $6.78 in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 9:53 AM - 0 Comments
SASKATOON – Potash Corp. (TSX:POT) is cutting its workforce by about 18 per cent, affecting about 1,045 people — with the biggest hits in its home province of Saskatchewan as well as Florida and New Brunswick.
The Saskatoon-based company says the decision is necessary because of soft demand for potash and phosphates, two major types of fertilizer used to promote crop growth.
“This is a difficult day for our employees and our company,” said Bill Doyle, PotashCorp’s president and chief executive.
“While these are steps we must take to run a sustainable business and protect the long-term interests of all our stakeholders, these decisions are never easy.
“We understand the impact is not only on our people, but also in the communities where we work and live, and PotashCorp will work hard to help those affected through this challenging time.”
PotashCorp (TSX:POT) says the biggest job cuts will be in its home province, where 440 people will be affected — about 42 per cent of the total affected by the downsizing.
Most of those will be at its Lanigan division, where one of two mills will suspend production by the end of 2013, and its Cory divison, where production will be reduced, and the Saskatoon headquarters.
New Brunswick will also see 130 people affected while the rest will be outside Canada, including more than 435 in the United States.
Florida will lose 350 jobs while another 85 people will be affected in North Carolina.
One of two phosphate plants in White Springs, Fla., and the Suwannee River chemical plant, will be closed. A loss of capacity at White Springs is expected to be partially offset by higher output at Aurora, N.C.
There will another 40 jobs affected in other parts of the United States and in Trinidad.
PotashCorp is Canada’s largest producer of potash, which is sold around the world to help farmers boost crop production.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 9:21 AM - 0 Comments
Michael Chong wants MPs to have more power. Today, he unleashes his latest proposed reforms to that end. The Conservative MP for Wellington-Halton Hills has stuck his neck out for MP independence in the past. When the Conservatives first came to power, Chong was made Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. He resigned that post, on principle, when the government introduced a motion that recognized the Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada. He didn’t make a huge fuss. He just quit cabinet. Later, Chong proposed reforms to Question Period that were never implemented. People who tune into QP seemed to broadly like the ideas.
Now, Chong’s suggesting that MPs should wield more power in the House. He’s tabling a bill that would remove the requirement that party leaders sign candidates’ nomination papers, and also allow party caucuses to remove their leaders. Today, Chong tables the bill, which has received plenty more public discussion than does most private members’ legislation. Andrew Coyne supports it. Jonathan Kay said some nice things. Chantal Hebert seems skeptical, but cautiously acknowledges the bill’s merit. Aaron Wherry has more on what exactly Chong is proposing, and you can bet Wherry will follow this to the end.
4: The number of MPs who currently support the bill, according to a website that unofficially promotes the legislation.
“I look forward to a vigorous debate on the merits of these proposed reforms to Canada’s Parliament and hope the bill will receive multi-party support.” —Chong’s statement of Dec. 1, written very diplomatically
What’s above the fold
The Globe and Mail Canada dropped to 13th in global math proficiency in an OECD report. National Post
Stephen Harper’s trip to Israel is all about securing the Jewish vote. Toronto Star Ontario’s government will move to close daycare licencing loopholes. Ottawa Citizen Ontarians’ hydro bills will rise 42 per cent over five years. CBC News There are more runaway trains in Canada than previously reported. CTV News A Senate committee might call a senior Deloitte partner to testify. National Newswatch Ben Perrin’s emails give new life to the Wright-Duffy affair.
What you might have missed
THE NATIONAL Terror. When RCMP officers found books about bomb-making and torture in a British Columbia teenager’s home, they classified the unidentified 17-year-old boy as a terror threat. Judge Chris Cleaveley stripped the teen of internet access and sentenced him to 20 days in custody. THE GLOBAL Tripoli. The Lebanese army will take control of Tripoli, the country’s second-largest city, after two days of street fighting over the weekend killed 10 and wounded 49. The clashes are seen as spillover from the ongoing Syrian civil war, in which Tripoli’s Sunni and Shi’ite factions have taken sides.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 9:07 AM - 0 Comments
DETROIT – Detroit is eligible to shed billions in debt in the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history, a judge said Tuesday in a long-awaited decision that now shifts the case toward how the city will accomplish that task.
Judge Steven Rhodes turned down objections from unions, pension funds and retirees, which, like other creditors, could lose under any plan to solve $18 billion in long-term liabilities.
But that plan isn’t on the judge’s desk yet. The issue for Rhodes, who presided over a nine-day trial, was whether Detroit met specific conditions under federal law to stay in bankruptcy court and turn its finances around after years of mismanagement, chronic population loss and collapse of the middle class.
The city has argued that it needs bankruptcy protection for the sake of beleaguered residents suffering from poor services such as slow to nonexistent police response, darkened streetlights and erratic garbage pickup — a concern mentioned by the judge during the trial.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 6:55 AM - 0 Comments
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Jeff Bezos’ idea to let self-guided drones deliver packages may be too futuristic for Washington to handle.
The Amazon CEO is working on a way to use the small aircraft to get parcels to customers in 30 minutes or less. While flight technology makes it feasible, U.S. law and society’s attitude toward drones haven’t caught up with Bezos’ vision.
Amazon.com Inc. says it’s working on the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project but it will take years to advance the technology and for the Federal Aviation Administration to create the necessary rules and regulations.
The project was first reported by CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night, hours before millions of shoppers turned to their computers to hunt Cyber Monday bargains.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in the interview that while his octocopters look like something out of science fiction, there’s no reason they can’t be used as delivery vehicles.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 6:52 AM - 0 Comments
BALI, Indonesia – Top trade officials began talks Tuesday that will either produce an eleventh hour deal that could boost the global economy by $1 trillion or possibly spell the end of the World Trade Organization’s relevance as a forum for negotiations.
After more than a decade of inertia in WTO talks, negotiators are close to a slimmed-down deal but there is no finished document for the dozens of trade ministers attending a summit on the Indonesia resort island of Bali to sign. So close to an agreement, some have been urging the trade ministers to take the unusual step of completing the negotiations themselves.
An agreement on simplifying customs procedures could help revive the WTO’s broader Doha Round of trade negotiations, sometimes known as the development round because of sweeping changes in regulations, taxes and subsidies that would benefit low income countries. Still, WTO ministerial summits are designed for enshrining done deals, not technical negotiations, so producing an agreement at a four-day conference would be unprecedented.
“Even though still possible, the chances of reaching a deal are rather slim,” said Matthias Helble, a global trade expert at the Asian Development Bank Institute and former WTO adviser.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 6:48 AM - 0 Comments
LONDON – Volkswagen turns off some employees’ email 30 minutes after their shifts end. Goldman Sachs is urging junior staff to take weekends off. BMW is planning new rules that will keep workers from being contacted after hours.
This surge in corporate beneficence isn’t an indication that employers are becoming kinder and gentler: It’s about the bottom line. After years in which the ease of instant communication via email and smartphones allowed bosses to place greater and greater demands on white-collar workers, some companies are beginning to set limits, recognizing that successful employees must be able to escape from work.
“Industry is now responding,” said Cary Cooper, a professor of organizational psychology and health at Lancaster University, who says the imperative to be constantly reachable by iPhone or tablet is taking a toll on the work delivered at the office. “Employees are turning up, but they’re not delivering anything.”
After seeing colleagues lose their jobs during the Great Recession, workers are more inclined to come in to work, even when sick, surveys show. After hours, physical presence is replaced by the next best thing — a virtual one. Many employees fear switching off, instead deciding to work on vacation, during dinner and in bed with the help of smart phones, laptops and tablet computers.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 6:46 AM - 0 Comments
SEATTLE – A sex offender who authorities say managed to steal one of the boats used for Seattle-to-Canada ferry service had his bail set at $200,000 as company officials reviewed security procedures to try to prevent trespassers from getting on board the vessels in the future.
“We were very, very fortunate this individual did not run into a state ferry or grain ship out by the grain terminal,” Clipper Vacations CEO Darrell Bryan said. “It was a hell of a wake-up call.”
Samuel Kenneth McDonough was arrested by a SWAT team that boarded a Victoria Clipper on Sunday, seven hours after the ship motored away and drifted in Elliott Bay. McDonough, 33, was jailed for investigation of burglary, reckless endangerment, malicious mischief, and an outstanding warrant for failure to register as a sex offender.
A King County judge set his bail Monday and prosecutors have until Wednesday to formally charge him. It wasn’t known whether McDonough has a lawyer. In a probable cause statement released Monday, McDonough told police he did not know how to operate the vessel or its lights.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 6:44 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A normally secretive Senate committee will take another look at whether to have a Deloitte executive testify in the Senate expense scandal.
Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella says the chamber’s internal economy committee is to hear a motion today that would call on Michael Runia to discuss allegations of interference in the audit of Sen. Mike Duffy’s expenses.
Last week, Conservative senators blocked a Liberal move to hear from Runia.
Documents filed in court by the RCMP suggest that Runia called a more junior Deloitte employee about the Duffy audit at the behest of Conservative Sen. Irving Gerstein.
The documents also allege that Gerstein made the call after being asked to contact Deloitte by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Runia is also the auditor responsible for the Tory party’s fundraising arm, the Conservative Fund of Canada, which Gerstein runs.
Gary Timm, one of the two lead auditors on the Duffy file, testified last week that Runia called him and made inappropriate inquiries.
The call came some time in March, weeks before the Senate’s internal economy committee heard the audit’s preliminary findings during an April 16 closed-door meeting.
Timm told the Senate committee that Runia wanted to know how much of his housing claims Duffy would have to pay back. Timm said he explained to Runia that he couldn’t reveal confidential audit information, then ended the conversation.
The Mounties have been looking into a $90,000 payment made to Duffy by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, and have levelled allegations of fraud, breach of trust and possible bribery against the pair.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 5:02 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may be feeling a chill coming from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s office.
She appears to be freezing out the troubled mayor amid a scandal over his admission that he smoked crack cocaine and drinks to excess.
Wynne met Tuesday with deputy mayor Norm Kelly — the man who now wields most of Ford’s powers — to talk about transit and housing, saying it’s the beginning of a “good working relationship” with him.
Asked repeatedly whether she would meet with Ford in the future, Wynne said she’s meeting with Kelly because he’s the representative of city council.
“The relationship between the province and the city has to be with the city council where the decisions are made, and so that’s why I’m meeting with the deputy mayor,” she said after her half-hour meeting with Kelly.
“The ongoing relationship, the ongoing discussion, will be with the representative of city council, who is the deputy mayor.”
Kelly said it’s in both their interests to forge a good working relationship.
“I was looking forward to meeting with the premier to let her know that she has a stable, reliable partner going forward, that at city hall we now have a stable, calm and reasonable government that is looking forward to working with each other,” he said.
But Ford feels shut out, saying he asked Wynne for a meeting a month ago, but she didn’t take him up on it.
“So that’s fine. That’s their prerogative,” he said. “They can go ahead and meet. The last time I checked I was elected as mayor and that’s all I have to say.”
The troubled mayor wrote to Wynne on Monday, saying she should be talking to him instead of Kelly to discuss important matters, such as plans for a subway extension and “cuts to vital provincial funding.”
“However, I believe that it would be most appropriate for you to meet with the elected mayor of Toronto on these matters, which affect our city as a whole,” he said in the letter.
Wynne said she takes a lot of meetings with people who are looking to work with the province.
But the province has to work “with the people who are responsible for the decision making at the municipal level,” she said.
“We’ve always done that with Toronto and with all the municipalities,” she said. “We will continue to do that.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak was mum on whether Wynne should meet with Ford as well as Kelly.
Ford has refused to step down or take a leave of absence, despite the international mockery his actions have brought to the city.
So city council, which can’t force Ford out of office, stripped the mayor of most of his powers.
Caught in the middle, the governing Liberals said they were concerned about the scandal surrounding Ford, but wouldn’t intervene.
However, Wynne has said she would consider offering “new tools” to Toronto if the city’s government decides it simply can’t function as a result of its scandal-plagued mayor.
The mayor’s troubles aren’t over. A judge has ordered that information on a police investigation into the mayor should be released.
Portions of the police document that were previously released disclosed allegations from former staffers that Ford was intoxicated at work, drank while driving and associated with suspected prostitutes — none of which have been proven in court.
The mayor has denied consorting with prostitutes and insists he is not an alcoholic or drug addict.
The document was filed in the drug case of Ford’s friend Alexander Lisi, though it mostly focuses on the mayor. Police launched the probe months ago to investigate allegations that a video showed the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
They later confirmed that they had the video, which prompted Ford to confess that he’d taken illegal drugs while serving as mayor.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 2, 2013 at 10:42 PM - 0 Comments
WASHINGTON – A former Harper government appointee used a keynote speech at a Washington event Monday to trample Canadian authorities’ message on oil pipelines and described the country as an environmental “rogue state.”
Mark Jaccard was one of the first people nominated by the Conservatives to the environmental file when he was named in 2006 to the federal government’s now-defunct National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.
Seven years later, the environmental economist delivered a lengthy rebuke of Canada’s climate-change performance at Monday’s event while the Obama administration grapples with whether to approve the Alberta-U.S. pipeline.
Jaccard, an adviser to different governments and a professor at B.C.’s Simon Fraser University, said he doesn’t want the oilsands shut down — he just doesn’t want them to grow.
“On climate, Canada is a rogue state,” Jaccard said.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 2, 2013 at 7:23 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe says Quebec’s proposed charter of values should allow doctors and teachers to wear religious symbols while on the job, something the proposed law would ban if it is passed.
However, he said judges and others in authority such as police officers should be banned from wearing religious symbols.
Duceppe made the observations Monday in media interviews after completing his mandate on a commission looking into employment insurance.
He did not come out as forcefully as former premiers Lucien Bouchard and Jacques Parizeau, who said the proposed charter went too far.
The charter, which still has to be passed by the provincial legislature, would ban public sector employees from wearing any obvious religious objects or clothing such as the hijab.
Opposition parties have already said they won’t support the effort by the minority Parti Quebecois government.
Instead, Duceppe called for a calm debate on the issue and said that people supported about 80 per cent of what was in the document.
While he didn’t believe bans on religious symbols worn by teachers and health-care workers are necessary, he would favour forbidding any face-covering from being worn by anyone who worked in public or private daycare centres.
Duceppe said his position reflects that of the Bloc Quebecois before the provincial Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation of immigrants, which reported in 2007.
He praised the current government for having a debate on religious accommodation and said it should have happened long ago when the Bouchard-Taylor commission examining the issue released its report.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 2, 2013 at 7:22 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Opposition parties aren’t buying the Harper government’s explanation for the sudden discovery of a cache of emails that could shed more light on the Senate expenses scandal and attempted cover-up.
The Privy Council Office, the bureaucracy that supports the Prime Minister’s Office, is taking the blame for mistakenly telling the RCMP that emails belonging to former PMO legal counsel Benjamin Perrin were deleted when he left the government’s employ last March.
But New Democrats and Liberals suspect the PMO was sitting on the emails and is now throwing bureaucrats under the bus. And they’re questioning whether anyone can trust that Perrin’s emails haven’t been tampered with to remove damaging information.
“What we’re talking about is the operating protocol of the Prime Minister’s Office, which is to deny until they get caught and then change their story,” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said in the Commons.
“How can Canadians be assured of the integrity of any of this evidence when the Conservative government has been withholding it for three months?”
Liberal House leader Dominic LeBlanc suggested the emails have surfaced now only because the RCMP has dug deep enough that Prime Minister Stephen Harper “has no other choice but to confess the truth.”
“It looks a bit like the Rob Ford crisis management strategy,” LeBlanc said, referring to the Toronto mayor’s abrupt confession that he smoked crack cocaine after months of vehement denials.
Harper was not in the Commons on Monday.
Pierre Poilievre, minister responsible for democratic reform, fielded the opposition questions by repeatedly citing passages from a PCO letter to the RCMP, released late Sunday.
The letter, from Isabelle Mondou, assistant secretary to the cabinet, says that it twice advised the PMO in September that, following standard practice, Perrin’s emails were deleted when he left the government’s employ last March to teach law at the University of British Columbia.
However, when asked again last week by PMO about Perrin’s emails, PCO discovered on Friday that they had, in fact, been preserved due to his involvement in an unrelated legal matter. In Sunday’s letter, Mondou apologized for the error and promised to hand them over immediately.
Previously disclosed emails obtained from other PM staffers and filed in court by the RCMP, have shown Perrin was intimately involved in negotiating a deal to get Sen. Mike Duffy to repay his disallowed living expenses.
Perrin has engaged legal counsel and has declined all comment.
Duffy agreed only on condition that he would be reimbursed for the full amount plus his legal fees, that an audit of his expenses would be halted and a Senate report softened to remove any criticism of his conduct. Duffy also wanted the government to ensure there would be no question he was entitled to sit as a senator for Prince Edward Island, although he lived primarily in Ottawa.
The Conservative party initially agreed to reimburse Duffy when the tab was thought to be about $32,000, but the party balked when the bill reached $90,000. In the end, Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, personally gave Duffy the $90,000.
Duffy and Wright are now under investigation by the RCMP amid allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. No charges have been laid.
Duffy has refused to comment on the latest allegations, while Wright has maintained he acted within the scope of his position as chief of staff and remains confident his actions were legal.
Perrin and Duffy’s lawyer, Janice Payne, last week became the subject of a complaint filed last week by a University of Ottawa law professor with the Ontario and B.C. law societies. Amir Attaran claims the duo “violated the ethics of the profession” by helping to craft an illegal deal between Wright and Duffy.
Harper insists he knew nothing of the deal with Duffy until May 15, when news of Wright’s payment leaked in the media.
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said the PCO letter seems to be a case of top bureaucrats “throwing themselves under the bus willingly to deflect attention from the prime minister’s handling of this.” And he said that raises the question whether the PCO is acting in a neutral manner.
“I wonder now how far the rot goes. Does it go right from the Prime Minister’s Office into the Privy Council, because something’s wrong here,” Angus said.
While the RCMP has had trouble getting hold of Perrin’s emails, the Senate has been fully co-operating with the Mounties’ request for all emails from four senators implicated in the alleged deal to pay off Duffy’s expenses and whitewash a report on the matter.
The RCMP last month obtained a court order for the emails but there was a possibility the Senate could have refused to provide them, claiming parliamentary privilege.
However, Noel Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate, said Monday he’s decided parliamentary privilege should not be used as “a shield” to stymie a police investigation. Senate officials are working with the RCMP to provide the emails within 30 days of the Nov. 20 court order, he added.
The RCMP wants to see the emails sent and received by Duffy, Marjory LeBreton, former government leader in the Senate, and two key members of the Senate’s internal economy committee which oversaw the audit into Duffy’s expenses: former committee chair David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen.
With the Senate’s reputation in tatters after a full year of damaging revelations in the expenses scandal, Kinsella took the unprecedented step of holding an hour-long news conference in the red chamber, which does not sit on Mondays.
He gave reporters a history lesson on the role the Senate plays as the chamber of sober second thought and a regional counterbalance to representation by population in the House of Commons.
Kinsella last week was named chair of the Senate’s internal economy committee, which oversaw the independent audit of Duffy’s expenses, as well as those of disgraced senators Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb.
The committee last week heard from three Deloitte auditors, who insisted their findings on Duffy were not affected by interference from a Deloitte partner, Michael Runia. Emails filed by the RCMP in court have shown that Wright got Senator Irving Gerstein to contact Runia in a bid to shape the findings of the Duffy audit.
The committee’s Conservative majority concluded it wasn’t necessary to hear directly from either Gerstein or Runia. However, Liberal senators will try Tuesday, through a formal motion, to persuade the committee to reconsider and call Runia as a witness.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 2, 2013 at 5:34 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO, Cananda – Disgraced theatre mogul Garth Drabinsky will have to make another pitch for full parole.
A two-member panel hearing his case on Monday couldn’t agree on whether he should be allowed to live with his wife rather than at the halfway house where he has stayed since his release on day parole last year.
That means he will have to make his case to another parole board panel in the coming months.
The panel didn’t give reasons for the split decision, but both members had raised concerns about Drabinsky’s current work as an entertainment consultant.
As part of his conditions, the ex-CEO of the now defunct Livent Inc. is prohibited from owning or operating his own business or managing money for any other individual, company or charity.
He and his longtime friend and business partner Myron Gottlieb were convicted in 2009 of fraud in a book-cooking scheme that eventually led to Livent’s bankruptcy.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 2, 2013 at 5:31 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – Two men on trial for the murders of six people, including two innocent bystanders, who were found dead in a Vancouver-area highrise were full members of a gang that trafficked crack cocaine and used violence to take care of its problems, a former girlfriend told their trial Monday.
The woman, who can only be identified as K.M., is the latest witness at the trial of Cody Rae Haevischer and Matthew Johnston, who are each charged with six counts of first-degree murder for the October 2007 mass killing in Surrey, B.C.
They had been standing trial along with alleged gang leader Michael Le, but he pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit murder.
Six people, including fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg and 22-year-old building resident Chris Mohan, were shot dead in what the Crown has alleged was originally intended as a hit on a rival drug trafficker. Haevischer, Johnston and third suspect, who can’t be named, are alleged to have been directly involved in the killings.
K.M.’s testimony on Monday had yet to touch directly on the killings, but she offered a first-hand account of life inside the Red Scorpions gang, which, she said, ran dial-a-dope trafficking operations that expanded throughout B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
The woman, who appeared emotional as she took the stand, testified that she first met Haevischer in 2003, when she was working at a McDonald’s restaurant and he and Johnston were frequent drive-thru customers. Haevischer — who she knew by his pseudonym, Blake — asked for her telephone number and they began seeing each other.
Before long, K.M. became aware of what Haevischer did for a living, she told the court. She said Haevischer sold crack cocaine as part of a dial-a-dope operation in Coquitlam, the suburb east of Vancouver where she grew up.
Her friends from high school wanted nothing to do with her new boyfriend, she recalled.
“They all got scared and didn’t want to hang out with Cody and his friends,” said K.M.
K.M. said she hadn’t heard of the Red Scorpions until the spring of 2004, when she went to a house where Haevischer was hanging out with a number of other men. She saw crack cocaine on a table, police-style batons in the room, and a newspaper article about a recent shooting in Vancouver, she said.
“They were joking around, they were saying how they did that shooting and that now that I knew that they were going to have to kill me,” said K.M., who was high on magic mushrooms that day.
“I think they knew I was on shrooms and they wanted to freak me out. I didn’t really think they were going to kill me.”
Shortly after, Michael Le, who she understood to be one of the gang’s leaders, offered her a full-time job driving Haevischer around on his drug deliveries. It paid about $150 a day — far more than she could make working at in fast-food drive-thru — and she took the job.
Over the next several years, K.M. ascended into the gang’s inner circle, she recalled. At one point, Le sent her to Langley to set up her own dial-a-dope operation, which ultimately failed, she said. She moved around the Vancouver area to different suburbs to work on other dial-a-dope lines.
“We were like a family; we were always together,” she said. “If you needed somebody, they would always be there.”
Le was in charge, handling the money and buying new product to sell, she said. The drugs would then be distributed to “work houses,” where the drugs would be divided into smaller quantities to be sold, she said.
If runners had any problems — for example, if they encountered rival drug traffickers — they would call someone such as Johnston for help. K.M. said she saw both Johnston and Haevischer assault people who were seen to be causing problems.
There were strict rules designed to avoid being monitored by the police, she said. Every one had nicknames that would be used on the telephone, and they would speak in code. Heroin was referred to in phone conversations as “pants,” she said.
It was frowned upon to talk openly in vehicles, she said. Before speaking indoors, they would remove the batteries from their cellphones. At one point, they bought encrypted BlackBerry smartphones to better conceal their communication, she said.
Drug runners were expected to swallow any crack cocaine they were carrying if they were pulled over by the police, she said, which she did more than once.
By 2007, K.M. and Haevischer were living in an apartment complex in Surrey known as the Stanley. The Crown has alleged Johnston and the third suspect picked up Haevischer at the Stanley shortly before the killings.
The Crown’s theory is that Le and alleged gang leader Jamie Bacon, who is scheduled to stand trial next year, ordered the killing of a rival drug trafficker named Corey Lal.
The Crown alleges Haevischer, Johnston and a third man went to the Balmoral Towers condominium complex to murder Lal, but ended up killing five more to eliminate potential witnesses.
Aside from Lal, the other victims were Schellenberg, Mohan, Lal’s brother Michael, Edward Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo.
None of the allegations against Haevischer, Johnston and Bacon have been tested in court.