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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Canadian senator resigns and repays $231,649 in "improper" expense claims

   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 1/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Mac Harb, one of four senators accused of submitting improper expense claims, has resigned and paid back $231,649 to the Canadian government.
   The veteran Liberal politician refunded all of the living-related expenses in question in a scandal that has reopened a debate of whether to abolish the non-elected Senate.
   “My dispute with the Senate committee on Internal Economy made working effectively in the Senate unrealistic,” he said.
   The Mounties continue to investigate Harb’s expenses concerning compensation paid because he said his main residence was outside the capital region.
   Attorney Paul Champ said an independent audit did not determine that Harb violated any rules but the rules themselves weren’t clear.
   Harb, 59, could have remained in the Senate until age 75 and was earlier a Member of Parliament for 15 years.
   Three other senators named in the inappropriate claims’ audits are also being investigated by the police.
   Mike Duffy has paid back $90,172 while Pamela Wallin has returned $38,369 and must repay another $100,000 for improper travel expenses and Patrick Brazeau has been asked to pay back $48,745.

 (For more Canadian news of the week, click Read More)

   Who smoked pot, regardless of whether they inhaled, is a pop culture question for Canadian politicians.
   This started after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau admitted he has used marijuana and wants the law changed to legalize and regulate the drug.
   Now Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has admitted she smoked pot “very, very infrequently” 35 years ago.
   Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who gained international notoriety denying he used crack cocaine after an alleged video of him using the drug surfaced, says he has smoked marijuana.
   “I won't deny that – I smoked a lot of it," said Ford, who was arrested for marijuana possession in Florida in the 1990s.
   “Do I seem like I smoke marijuana?" Prime Minister Stephen Harper said when asked, adding that asthma prevents him from smoking anything.


   News in brief:
   - Prime Minister Harper, who has been briefed by U.S. President Barack Obama, said Canada has no plans for military intervention in Syria. He said Canada supports its allies who are contemplating forceful action against that country's regime over the apparent use of chemical weapons on its people. “Our government has been a very reluctant convert to the idea that there needs to be some western military action regarding the Syrian situation," Harper told reporters.
   - Vancouver has been named the “best place to live” in North America in the annual Economist Intelligence Unit livability survey. Canada’s west coast city was third in the world behind Melbourne, Australia and Vienna, Austria and had perfect scores for health care, education, culture and environment. Toronto was fourth while Calgary ranked fifth and Damascus, Syria was last on the list.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has dipped to 95.05 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar is valued at $1.0520 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 lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,721 points and the TSX Venture index 937 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Aug. 28) 13, 17, 19, 22, 28 and 46; bonus 38. (Aug.24) 2, 8, 32, 36, 47 and 49; bonus 33. Lotto Max: (Aug. 23) 5, 6, 10, 17, 22, 36 and 48; bonus 3.


   Regional briefs:
   - Health officials have traced bacteria in maple bacon jam used as a topping on a popular hamburger that resulted in gastrointestinal ailments for 150 people at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. Epic Burgers and Waffles, which served the cronut burger – a croissant-doughnut filled with a beef patty and cheese – has reopened after the problem was traced to a supplier of the jam, not the burger.
   - Ron Joyce, billionaire and former owner of Tim Hortons coffee shop chain, is selling his 161-foot luxury super yacht asking a discounted price of $19.95 million. Joyce paid $30 million for Destination Fox Harb'r Too in 2008 now offered by Fort Lauderdale-based yacht brokers Northrop and Johnson. “I'm tired of boating; I'm almost 83 years old,” Joyce said. Anyone can charter it for just $230,000 a week, he said.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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