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Monday, October 14, 2013

Police investigate more alleged financial irregularities in Senator Mike Duffy case

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 13/13

   By Jim Fox

   The Mounties have disclosed additional alleged financial improprieties against Conservative Senator Mike Duffy.
   The Senate’s “expenses’ scandal” has widened into a police investigation in which authorities want a judge to allow access to the banking records of Duffy, a former national TV news commentator.
   In a court statement, police said they are looking at new allegations of fraud and breach of trust concerning Duffy giving $65,000 in Senate contracts over four years to a friend who did little actual work.
   As well, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff had a “quite detailed” calendar and notes about Duffy’s travel, meetings and activities that weren’t given to investigators, Corporal Greg Horton wrote in a statement for a judge’s review.
   Nigel Wright, now the former chief of staff, gave $90,000 in March to Duffy, appointed by Harper to the non-elected Senate, to repay questionable housing and travel expenses.
   The Senate had initially asked independent auditors to review Duffy's expenses after allegations he was improperly claiming a house in Prince Edward Island as his main residence.
   The Mounties are also seeking bank records for Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau in connection with disallowed housing claims.
(Click on Read more for more Canadian news of the week)

   Two Canadians recently released from prison in Egypt are unable to leave the country despite the efforts of their government.
   The Egyptian Foreign Ministry now says the two remain under suspicion and can't leave the country.
   Tarek Loubani and John Greyson had been detained for seven weeks related to anti-government demonstrations in Cairo while they said they were on their way to a “medical mission” to Gaza.
   Canada’s Foreign Affairs office said it is a matter of bureaucratic routine that has to be completed before they can return home.


   Names in the news:
   - Paul Desmarais, described as a “powerful, influential business tycoon,” has died at his home near Quebec City at age 86. A staunch federalist supporting a united Canada, Desmarais made Power Corp. one of the country's largest conglomerates with interests in insurance, transportation, paper, media and financial services. He was a business partner and mentor to several of Canada’s top politicians and a friend of U.S. presidents and world leaders.
   - Celebrated short-story writer Alice Munro is the first Canadian-based author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Calling it “quite wonderful,” Munro, 82, is a “master of the contemporary short story,” the Nobel judges said. Her last published book was the 2012 collection Dear Life.
   - Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin, co-founders of the now-struggling BlackBerry (Research In Motion) smartphone maker based in Waterloo, Ontario are considering a buy-back bid. Documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicated they are considering a joint bid “with the goal of stabilizing and ultimately reinventing the company based on a plan developed by them.” There was no further comment.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is at a four-month low at 96.12 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.0403 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 higher at 12,894 points and the TSX Venture index lower at 935 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Oct. 9) 18, 22, 24, 30, 43 and 48; bonus 42. (Oct. 5) 2, 12, 18, 26, 35 and 36; bonus 7. Lotto Max: (Oct. 4) 12, 16, 19, 20, 28, 34 and 42; bonus 9.


   Regional briefs:
   - Nova Scotia voters gave Stephen McNeil’s Liberal party a decisive victory, defeating the ruling social New Democratic government in Tuesday’s provincial election. McNeil, a former appliance repair business owner from Bridgetown, said his government will cut the cost of health-care administration, cap classroom sizes and allow more competition in the energy industry.
   - The Ontario government has abandoned plans to spend billions of dollars for two new nuclear reactors, saying they aren’t necessary. Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said “new nuclear will not be part of the long-term energy plan.” The reactors could have cost $26 billion that Chiarelli said is not a “wise” investment “where the power is not needed.”


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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