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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Audits underway for four Senators over expense claims

   Canada column for Sunday, March 3/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Three Senators, including former TV news journalist Mike Duffy, continue to be investigated over alleged improper housing expense claims.
   Auditors are also examining the travel expense claims of former TV news broadcaster Pamela Wallin.
   A Senate board is investigating allegations three Senators who live in Ottawa were improperly claiming allowances meant to compensate those who keep a secondary residence there.
   The board has reviewed documents from all 98 Senators such as driver’s licenses, health cards and residency information on their income tax returns.
   It identified potential problems with the claims of three Senators – Duffy, Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau, who was removed from the Conservative caucus after being arrested for assault.
   External auditors are now looking at their expenses while Duffy has volunteered to repay the $22,000-a-year allowance.
   A report shows Wallin, representing Saskatchewan, has claimed travel expenses of $321,000 since September 2010.


   Documents produced by British Columbia’s New Democratic Party (NDP) show a plan by the Liberal government to woo ethnic voters in advance of the May 14 provincial election.
   Building support in ethnic communities is laudable, NDP House Leader John Horgan said, but shouldn’t be conducted by taxpayer-funded workers, some attached to Premier Christy Clark's office.
   “What we object to, and I think every British Columbian would object to, is their tax dollars being used to prop up the B.C. Liberal election machinery,” Horgan said.
   Multiculturalism Minister John Yap said the year-old report does not completely portray the government's plans for engaging with ethnic communities.


   News in brief:
   - Montreal police were pelted with snowballs and ice chunks as thousands of students renewed street protests over university tuition fee increases. This followed an announcement by the Parti Quebecois government of a three-per-cent-a-year increase in fees. This is significantly lower than that proposed by the previous Liberal government that led to massive protests last year. Premier Pauline Marois had earlier said Quebec’s era of social unrest was over.
   - The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that automobile insurance companies can charge older drivers higher premiums due to an increased risk of collisions. The decision doesn’t contest the practice of more to drivers 80 and older. The ruling was made in a discrimination complaint filed by Denis Olorenshaw, 92, of Toronto against Western Assurance Company.
   - Claude Patry has defected from the New Democrats to become a Member of Parliament for the Bloc Quebecois in Jonquiere-Alma, Quebec. Patry said he no longer feels comfortable with the socialist Opposition party and becomes the fifth member of the pro-independence Bloc in the House of Commons.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar remains lower at 97.22 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback is worth $1.0285 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index up at 12,777 points and the TSX Venture index down at 1,122 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Feb. 27) 11, 15, 19, 25, 34 and 39; bonus 22. (Feb. 23) 4, 12, 19, 21, 26 and 41; bonus 40. Lotto Max: (Feb. 22) 5, 12, 24, 31, 39, 45 and 49; bonus 35.


   Regional briefs:
   - A 15-day jail sentence was given to a former hockey coach for intentionally tripping two boys after a game between the University of British Columbia Hornets and Richmond Steel. Martin Tremblay pleaded guilty to assaulting the boys aged 10 and 13.
   - Two men were arrested after a sheriff was shot in the hand in a Whitecourt, Alberta courtroom. After the shooting, the men fled in a court van. Jake MacIntyre, 22, and Clayton Ness, 29, are being held on counts of aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and armed robbery.
   - Many flights were canceled and driving became dangerous after a “Texas low” moved into southern Ontario and Quebec with freezing rain and about six inches of wet snow. In Atlantic Canada, the storm brought rain, ice pellets and snow of up to eight inches. Out west, there were several days of rain in Vancouver with highs in the mid-40s while Calgary had two days of highs of 50F.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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