By Rob Silver - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
They’re entertaining, but not quite as wild and crazy as you remember
This weekend’s Ontario Liberal leader election and the upcoming Quebec Liberal leadership election could be the last of a dying breed—the wild, unpredictable delegated convention. Fantastic drama, questionable democracy: such conventions are crack to political junkies.
Any smart political junkie knows that delegated leadership conventions have some steadfast parameters. A former Ontario cabinet minister who is a really smart guy (really, he is) summarized them recently as follows:
In delegate-based leadership contests, frontrunners are typically doomed to lose — except where there is an heir apparent, such as Chretien succeeding Turner, or Martin succeeding Chretien (and I suppose, Ignatieff succeeding Dion). The same held true for leadership contests in the other major parties — at least until they got rid of the old-school delegate convention format and replaced it with something akin to trolling for Twitter followers.
Front runners are doomed, unless there is an heir apparent. Gotcha.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 10:04 AM - 0 Comments
Michael Bryant on his deadly encounter with an angry cyclist
Michael Bryant was on top of the world. The Harvard-trained lawyer and former attorney general of Ontario had retired from politics months earlier to become president and CEO of Invest Toronto, an agency charged with bringing new business to Toronto. He was married to a high-profile entertainment lawyer, had two young kids and a nanny to look after them. He had beaten an alcohol addiction and hadn’t had a drink in three years. But the marriage was shaky, he was preoccupied with his new job, and he had forgotten what day it was. It was all he could do to formulate a dinner plan for his 12th wedding anniversary on the fly when his then-wife, Susan Abramovitch, asked what they were doing that night. All of the decisions that followed put Bryant on a path destined to intersect with Darcy Allan Sheppard’s that night. In the following excerpt from 28 Seconds, he recounts the hours leading up to the accident, and the seconds it took to transform him from a free man to one in shackles.
As Susan and I licked honey from our ﬁngers in a Greek bakery on the Danforth, at about 9:30 on the evening of August 31, 2009, we could never have anticipated the storm of primal fury that was blowing our way.
Not terribly far away, the man we would presently come to know as Darcy Allan Sheppard, part of Toronto’s hardy, scruffy, aggressive subculture of bicycle couriers, was having the latest in a lifetime of turbulent days.
By Philip Slayton - Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 10:06 AM - 73 Comments
Amitabh Chauhan and Suganthan Kayilasanathan seemingly believe in the power of the court of public opinion
Two young and handsome doctors walked out of Toronto’s Old City Hall on Wednesday of last week, released on bail after being charged with sexual assault. Press photographs showed Amitabh Chauhan and Suganthan Kayilasanathan, both 32, impeccably dressed and groomed. That was odd, for according to news accounts they had spent the last few days in the Don Jail wearing the same clothes they’d had on when arrested and had been unshaven at their bail hearing. The two gave careful statements to the press, expressing faith in the justice system and an intention to defend themselves vigorously.
This smooth performance was reportedly the work of Navigator Ltd., an elite public relations firm hired by Chauhan and Kayilasanathan. Navigator’s website promises: “We . . . help you shift public opinion … Our clients’ challenges are always unique, but they share one constant: the need to win in the court of public opinion.” “Winner takes all,” proclaims the website.
Chauhan and Kayilasanathan certainly need to win in a court of law: if they don’t, they’ll be spending a lot of time in prison. But why do they need to win in the court of public opinion? The two doctors (or Navigator) must believe that, if the court of public opinion is favourable, then they are more likely to be found innocent in the court of law.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Last night the CBC reported that America’s National Rifle Association has cooperated with Canadian lobby groups opposing the gun registry. The NRA hasn’t spent any money in Canada, but Canadian gun advocate Tony Bernardo says it has given “logistical support” to a Canadian lobby group and “they freely give us anything else,” although he did not elaborate.
How did CBC’s Senior Investigative Correspondent Diana Swain uncover this scandalous bit of information? Bernardo said so in a published interview a decade ago. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 28, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 1 Comment
Hugo Chávez plays traffic cop, Naomi Campbell goes to The Hague, and Venus puts the ‘French’ in French Open
Prosecutors withdrew criminal charges Tuesday against former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant in the very public death in downtown Toronto last Aug. 31 of bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard. There was no prospect of conviction on the charges, which included criminal negligence causing death, said independent prosecutor Richard Peck, who was brought in from Vancouver because of the sensitivity of the case. Experts determined Sheppard, who was intoxicated, was trying to attack Bryant, when he tried to grab the steering wheel of Bryant’s convertible. Bryant sped off and Sheppard, clinging to the car, was slammed into a mailbox and a tree, before falling under the car. Bryant now works for a Toronto law firm.
By Jonathon Gatehouse and Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:08 AM - 30 Comments
How the lives of two men were destroyed by a cruel twist of fate
Toronto’s “Mink Mile” was designed for gawking. A two-block stretch of Bloor Street West populated with the kind of high-end retailers—Cartier, Prada, Chanel, Tiffany—whose imposing prices strictly limit the hoi polloi to window shopping. Close to several luxury hotels and fine restaurants, it’s a favoured hunting ground for paparazzi when the film festival rolls into town. But since the night of Aug. 31, a new and far grimier attraction has emerged—a grey Canada Post mail collection box. Bouquets of cheap flowers surround its battered legs. Scrawled courier slips and handwritten Post-it notes cover the sides and top. Expressions of sympathy and anger at the violent death of Darcy Allan Sheppard, a 33-year-old bike courier. “R.I.P. A helluva way to die,” reads one. “Heaven’s got lots of bike lanes,” says another.
The incident, an all-too-common big-city dispute between a cyclist and a motorist that somehow escalated into a confrontation that saw Sheppard clinging to the car as it bashed him against trees, lampposts and finally the mailbox, before he fell into the road and was run over, was shocking enough. But the fact that the driver was Ontario’s former attorney general, Michael Bryant, makes it all the harder to comprehend. The 43-year-old, touted as a rising political star and perhaps future premier, has been charged with criminal negligence and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. And the question of whether the pillar of the community is guilty of an unconscionable act of road rage, or himself a victim of violent attack at the hands of the cyclist, is the debate consuming the city, sparking angry, traffic-blocking protests by bike advocates, incredulous cocktail party chatter, and an all-out media frenzy.
Only fate—or a fertile literary imagination—could have brought such a disparate pair together. A troubled young man who lived on society’s margins crossing paths with a striving power broker on a patch of Canada’s richest real estate. Two very different stories, one tragic result, and an ending that has yet to be written.
“He came out of nowhere.”
By Philippe Gohier - Friday, September 4, 2009 at 3:58 PM - 13 Comments
The case against Michael Bryant tests Ontario’s judicial system
As Ontario’s attorney general, a post he held until 2007, Michael Bryant was responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the province’s justice system, a job which included overseeing all criminal prosecutions in Ontario. But after an accident that left a Toronto cyclist dead, Bryant now finds himself on the other side of the fence. The one-time wunderkind of provincial politics is facing charges of dangerous driving causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, and criminal negligence causing death, for which he could face life in prison.
Bryant is, of course, no ordinary defendant, and the case against him promises to be one of the most highly-scrutinized in the province’s history. The provincial Ministry of the Attorney General usually refers cases involving the prosecution of people working within the legal system to what it calls the Crown Law Office-Criminal. The Crown Law Office-Criminal was set up in the early 1980s to handle the province’s appeals, as well as some of the province’s more complex criminal cases, like stock manipulation or organized crime cases. Its mandate also covers the prosecution of people like police officers, judges, prosecutors, court reporters, and anyone else considered a participant in the “administration of justice.” The problem in Bryant’s case is that the office’s prosecutors are former employees of his—he may have even hired some of them—and the mere perception of conflict of interest risks tainting the trial.
If Bryant is to receive a fair trial, says Ed Ratushny, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and the former president of the Canadian section of International Commission of Jurists, “the preoccupation of the police and of the prosecution is to make sure that in reality and in perception, this accused is treated in the same way that any other accused would be treated.” That’s where Richard Peck comes in. Peck just happened to be in town on the night Bryant was involved in the accident that killed cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard. (The prominent B.C. defense lawyer was in Brampton on Monday evening for a meeting regarding the prosecution of an OPP officer charged with corruption.) The next morning, Peck met with Toronto police to discuss the charges to be laid against the former Ontario attorney general. He was eventually brought on to prosecute the case.
Though the case against Bryant is said to be unprecedented, the processes involved in his prosecution appear likely to mirror those involved in the case against Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien. As mayor, O’Brien was in charge of the city’s police force, which is responsible for deciding which charges to lay against a suspect. Further complicating matters, the influence-peddling charges filed against him involved officials at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government. As a result, an outside lawyer from a private firm in Toronto was charged with prosecuting the case against him. (O’Brien was acquitted.) Peck is expected to play a similar role in the case against Bryant.
Now that Peck has been hired to act as an independent prosecutor, the second part of the equation in Bryant’s case involves finding a trial judge. Ontario’s provincial court judges are appointed by the Attorney General from a ranked list of its recommendations compiled by an advisory committee. During his time in office, Bryant made dozens of appointments to the provincial court. But finding an impartial judge may not be much of a challenge given the seriousness of the charges against Bryant. In fact, Ratushny doesn’t expect Bryant’s case to end up before a provincial judge. Based on the evidence made public so far, “my inclination would be to want to go before a jury,” he says, meaning Bryant’s case is likely to end in Ontario Superior Court, for whom judges are selected and paid for by the federal government. The only time at which Bryant is likely to face a provincial judge is at his preliminary hearing. A Bryant appointee, according to Ratushny, would likely step aside from the case.
Still, because of his former job of ensuring that criminals end up behind bars, the case against Bryant represents a unique challenge to Ontario’s judicial system. The province’s citizens will no doubt be paying close attention to how the legal community treats one of its own.
By Lianne George - Friday, September 4, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 1 Comment
Newsmakers of the week
In a Toronto minute
Former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant was charged on Tuesday with criminal negligence causing death after an altercation he was involved in Monday night ended in tragedy. Bryant had allegedly been driving his black convertible Saab in Toronto’s swanky Yorkville neighbourhood around 9:45 p.m. when he collided with a cyclist, 34-year-old Darcy Allen Sheppard, and an argument ensued. Witnesses told police that at one point the cyclist hung onto the driver’s side of the car while the driver swerved into the oncoming lane, sped up, and drove up onto the curb in an effort to shake the cyclist off. Eventually, the cyclist let go after hitting a mailbox. He fell off the car in front of Sephora, the cosmetics emporium, with severe head trauma, and died later that night. Leaving the police department on Tuesday afternoon, Bryant tearfully made a brief public statement: “I want to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Sheppard,” he said.
Apparently, not even the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve is safe from identity theft. Last week, ofﬁcials revealed that Ben Bernanke and his wife, Anna, were victims of identity theft last year when Anna’s purse was stolen from a Starbucks in Washington. “Our family was but one of 500 separate instances traced to one crime ring,” Bernanke said. In fact, identity theft has become so rampant that it even happens right under the government’s nose. In Miami, a former government “hacker hunter” stands accused of committing the largest cases of identity theft in U.S. history. Albert Gonzales, 28, is alleged to have stolen more than 170 million credit card and debit card numbers. First arrested for hacking in 2003, Gonzales managed to avoid punishment by agreeing to become a Secret Service informant. For the past five years, he has allegedly divided his time between hacking into the systems of Fortune 500 companies and stealing information, and helping the feds bust other hackers. Gonzales is currently negotiating a plea bargain. “My client is extremely remorseful as to what has happened,” his lawyer told the Associated Press. Continue…