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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Massive floodings kills three, forces 100,000 people from homes in Alberta

   Canada column for Sunday, June 23/13


   By Jim Fox

  Massive flooding in Alberta has resulted in three deaths and led to more than 100,000 people being forced from their homes.
   Calgary and dozens of communities declared states of emergency as rain-swollen rivers overflowed their banks.
   Entire communities including High River and Bragg Creek were under mandatory evacuation orders on Friday while in Calgary, the downtown was deserted as businesses and schools were closed.
   The Mounties called in the military for assistance in removing people by helicopters from their rooftops and where roads had been washed out.
   The Edmonton police force sent about 100 officers to help out in Calgary and protect unoccupied neighborhoods.
   Days of heavy rain flooded the Bow River Basin causing problems in a wide area from Banff and Canmore in the Rockies to Calgary and beyond in the north and south to Lethbridge.
   South of Calgary, three people were killed in the high waters including two women swept to their deaths by the Highwood River.
   Water levels on the Bow River were expected to begin subsiding over the weekend, said Bruce Burrell of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Police now investigating Canadian Senate expense scandal and Ontario government email deletions

   Canada column for Sunday, June 16/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Scandals involving a Senator’s expense claims and the destruction of government correspondence in Ontario are now being investigated by police.
   The Mounties have launched a “formal investigation” into the Canadian Senate expenses scandal and the involvement of Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff.
   Wright resigned from Harper's staff last month after it was learned he gave $90,172 to Senator Mike Duffy to pay back money that was “improperly” claimed as housing and other expenses.
   Harper said he was unaware of the “gift” to Duffy that opposition politicians suggest was intended to interfere with an internal audit of Duffy's expenses and to buy his silence.
   An audit also resulted in Senator Mac Harb being ordered to repay $231,649 in expenses and Senator Patrick Brazeau must repay $48,745 for disallowed living expenses.
   Auditors are still looking a travel expense claims of $321,000 paid to Senator Pamela Wallin.
   Ontario Provincial Police are now investigating the destruction of emails by senior staff in the Liberal government concerning the cancelation of contentious gas plants at a cost of $585 million to help the party win last year’s election.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Concerns grow for Canada's Conservative government as Alberta politician defects

   Canada column for Sunday, June 9/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   There are more concerns for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives as an Alberta member of the caucus has quit to become an Independent.
   Edmonton politician Brent Rathgeber said he left the Conservative party because its ideals have been sacrificed to political expediency.
   Rathgeber said a major concern was being told what to do, say and how to vote “like a trained seal.”
   “It's difficult as a lawyer and as a Member of Parliament to find my role to be subservient to unelected masters half my age at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO),” he said.
   The office is currently embroiled in a controversy over Harper’s now-former chief of staff Nigel Wright’s secret check for $90,172 given to Conservative Senator Mike Duffy to repay “improper” expense claims.
   Two other former Conservative Senators are also being investigated over expenses.
   Harper said he did not know of the payment to Duffy, which Rathgeber said is not surprising, as "a lot of stuff goes on in the PMO that the prime minister doesn't know about."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford loses staff; Ontario Premier raises concerns

   Canada column for Sunday, June 2/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The staff exodus continues from the office of embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who denies reports he is a drug user.
   Now, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has waded into the controversy that has made international headlines and is daily fodder for TV talk show hosts.
   “The mayor needs to deal with his personal issues,” Wynne said, adding: “It would be better if he were able to deal with them, confront them and allow the city to move on.”
   Wynne said the provincial government is “monitoring it very carefully,” but said there was “no clear path of action” where it could intervene.
   Ford has said little aside from disputing claims about a purported cell-phone video that appears to show him smoking crack cocaine.
   Drug dealers offered to turn over the video to the new media, asking $200,000 for it.
   The U.S. website Gawker, said the money has been raised but the video, which Ford said doesn’t exist, can’t be found.
   In another development, two men have been arrested for the murder of one of the alleged drug dealers shown in the video.
   After Ford fired his chief of staff Mark Towhey, five other members of his staff have quit but the mayor said business continues as usual.