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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Prime minister's office involved in senator's expenses payback: police report

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 24/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   What did Prime Minister Stephen Harper know about a Conservative senator’s improper expenses and when did he know it?
   That’s the question politicians and the public are asking about a police investigator’s preliminary report into Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses claims.
   Police found there was “no evidence” Harper had detailed knowledge of an elaborate plan within his office to repay Duffy’s questionable housing and travel expenses.
   The investigation into fraud and bribery allegations suggested that former chief of staff Nigel Wright received Harper’s approval for an initial plan to have the Conservative party cover about $32,000 of the expenses.
   When the amount escalated to $90,000, the plan was dropped, the report said.
   Police suggest the prime minister’s office tried to contain the “embarrassing” scandal and halt the audit into Duffy’s expenses.
   Harper continues to insist he knew nothing of the arrangement in which Wright gave Duffy the money to pay back the expenses.
   The Senate has suspended without pay Duffy and two other Conservative senators appointed by Harper who have repaid expenses of about $278,000 while a fourth Liberal senator retired and paid back $231,649.
 (For more Canadian news of the week, click "Read more . . .")

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bid to reform or abolish Canada's Senate gains support from western provinces

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 17/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government’s bid to reform – or even abolish – the non-elected Senate is being supported by two western provinces.
   Alberta and Saskatchewan have agreed at a hearing before the Supreme Court with the federal government’s position that senators should be elected.
   Both provinces also support that outright abolition of the scandal-plagued upper chamber would require the approval of seven provinces with 50 percent of the population.
   And, Saskatchewan agrees the federal government could unilaterally impose a term limit of least 10 years instead of senators serving now until age 75.
   The historic ruling into how much or little approval by the provincial governments is needed to make changes is expected to take up to a year.
   There are concerns by the provinces that the prime minister would not be bound to appoint the winners of Senate elections and that views of smaller provinces would be overlooked in considering abolition.
   The Conservative government has been embarrassed lately with the suspension without pay of three former Conservative senators who were told to repay “improper” expenses totaling about $278,000. A fourth Liberal senator retired and repaid $231,649.
(For more news of the week, click Read more . . .)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Political scandal scoreboard: Three Senators suspended; Toronto Mayor in holding pattern

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 10/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s political scandal update has three disgraced senators suspended without pay and Toronto’s embattled crack-smoking mayor considering his options.
   The Senate voted to suspend for the balance of the term – about two years – Sens. Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin for inappropriate expense claims.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who appointed the trio in 2009 and has since had them lose their Conservative party affiliation, said they had to pay a price for their actions.
   The three were ordered to repay expenses totaling about $278,000 while a fourth senator, former Liberal Mac Harb, retired and repaid $231,649.
   They will not be able to collect their salaries of $135,200 a year but continue to receive extended health benefits during their time-out.
   A police investigation continues into possible fraud and breach of trust by the three.
   “I think it's an extremely sad day for democracy if we can't expect the rule of law in Canada, then where on earth can we expect it,” Wallin said after being suspended.
   In Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford has apologized as a “drunken mistake,” a profanity-laced video in which he threatened to kill someone a week after admitting to having smoked crack cocaine as purported in an earlier video.
   Attorney Dennis Morris said the mounting pressure on Ford to resign has him considering his options including taking time off and going into rehab.
   (For more Canadian news of the week, click "

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Political scandals dominate Canadian news

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 3/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Scandal-plagued Canadian politicians are refusing demands that they quit, except in Quebec where voters are about to replace two disgraced Montreal mayors.
   “I have no reason to resign,” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said after Police Chief Bill Blair said they have uncovered a video showing him appearing to smoke crack cocaine.
   Police surveillance video also shows Ford in the company of alleged drug dealers and users and discarding two empty liquor bottles and urinating beside his vehicle in a park.
   Blair said there are no “reasonable” grounds to arrest Ford over the video.
   In Ottawa, the Senate still hasn’t decided whether to suspend without pay Sens. Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin for inappropriate expense claims.
  The senators, appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have paid back expenses totaling about $278,000.
   In Montreal, polls say Denis Coderre, a former Liberal cabinet minister, will be elected mayor in the municipal election today.
   The two previous mayors quit after over a corruption controversy in the ongoing Quebec construction industry kick-back inquiry.
   London, Ontario’s Mayor Joe Fontana has been ordered to stand trial for fraud.
   He is accused of using taxpayer money to help pay for his son's wedding reception in 2005 when he was a Liberal Member of Parliament.

 (For more Canadian news of the week, click "Read more' below)