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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Canada's Conservative government presses the reset key by taking a break

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 25/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s government is taking a time-out as Prime Minister Stephen Harper prepares to lead his Conservative party into the next election.
   Harper said his decision to prorogue, or suspend, the current session of Parliament until mid-October is to prepare a new economy-focused agenda.
   The action effectively ended the parliamentary session and killed legislative bills not yet enacted to await a new direction for governing.
   By pressing the reset button, Harper is buying time to deal with stalled political support after a recent shuffling of Cabinet positions and to prepare for his fifth election campaign as leader.
   In the election, expected in 2015, Harper will face a reinvigorated opposition with new leaders – Justin Trudeau for the Liberals and Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party.
   The break also comes when the government deals with the Senate expense-claim scandal.
   Former Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin, now an Independent and Harper appointee, has been told to pay back $138,970 for ineligible travel expense claims.
   The Mounties are investigating Wallin’s claims and those of senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Mac Harb.
   (For more news of the week from Canada, click "Read more")

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Senator's "questionable" travel expenses being investigated

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 18/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Mounties are now investigating Senator Pamela Wallin’s “questionable” travel expense claims amounting to more than $140,000.
   Wallin, a former TV broadcaster named to the Senate in 2009 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said it was a “fundamentally flawed and unfair” audit of her claims.
   A former Canadian consul general to New York, Wallin has been told to pay back tens of thousands of dollars plus interest from among $321,000 in expenses under review.
   The audit, which cost taxpayers $126,998, flagged $121,348 in inappropriate expenses and called for further review of nearly $21,000 in additional claims.
   “I never intended to seek, nor sought, reimbursement for travel expenses in any situation where I did not believe such a claim was proper," she said.
   “Where I made mistakes, I have already paid money back (amounting to $38,000),” said Wallin, a former Conservative senator who is now an Independent.
   Former TV news broadcaster, Senator Mike Duffy, who also left the Conservative caucus and became an Independent, has repaid $90,000 in disallowed claims through a “loan” from former Harper chief of staff Nigel Wright.
   The Mounties are also looking at Duffy’s claims while audits showed improper housing claims by Senators Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb.

(For more news of the week, click)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Huge python that killed two boys was being kept illegally, New Brunswick authorities say

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 11/13

   By Jim Fox

   New Brunswick authorities say a pet store owner was illegally keeping a 15-foot-long African rock python that killed two children.
   The snake managed to squeeze out of its enclosure and smother Connor Barthe, 6, and his brother Noah, 4, who were sleeping in an apartment in Campbellton.
   The 100-pound snake escaped from its glass tank and made its way into the living room where the boys were during a sleepover with the store owner’s son.
   They were in the apartment above Reptile Ocean, an exotic pet store, owned by the friend’s father, Jean-Claude Savoie.
   Police said he had taken the boys to farm before the sleepover and it is suspected the snake was attracted by animal scents on their clothing.
   The snake has been euthanized and other animals, including four large alligators, six crocodiles, tortoises, turtles and snakes, were seized and sent to Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton and the Indian River Reptile Zoo near Peterborough.
   Mountie Sgt. Alain Tremblay said preliminary results of autopsies showed the boys were asphyxiated.
   “We recognize that this has touched the hearts of people across the world and that people want to know how this could have happened,” he added.

(For more Canadian news of the week, click)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Proposed pipeline would ship Alberta oil to Canada and U.S. east-coast ports and overseas

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 4/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   TransCanada Corp. plans to ship western Canadian oil to east coast markets in Canada and the United States through a proposed new pipeline.
   The company announced the $12-billion project as environmental protests and U.S. political delays continue to stall its proposed Keystone XL pipeline to carry crude to Texas from Alberta.
   The Calgary-based company said the Energy East pipeline would deliver up to 1.1-million barrels of crude oil a day to Quebec by late 2017 and to New Brunswick a year later.
   Plans call for converting a portion of TransCanada's underused natural gas main line to ship the oil to near the Quebec-Vermont border from Alberta.
   There would be new pipe built to Saint John, New Brunswick to feed Irving Oil's to-be-expanded refinery and shipped overseas to energy-hungry markets such as India.
   It would also allow shipments to refineries along the U.S. eastern seaboard, an 800,000-barrel-a-day market, as well as to Europe.
   TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling called it “historic” for the company and Canada, comparing it to construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Trans-Canada Highway and the company's cross-country natural gas mainline.
   The project will free eastern Canadian refineries from expensive oil imports from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Libya.
   Environmentalists say they plan to challenge the proposal that requires Canadian government regulatory approval.

   More news of the week . . . click below