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Friday, April 17, 2015

Housing and travel expenses on trial for Senator Mike Duffy

   Canada column for Sunday, April 12/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   When is a house not a home for Canadian senators, the fraud, bribery and breach of trust trial for suspended Sen. Mike Duffy has to determine.
   At issue for Duffy and some other senators is their expense claims for having a primary residence outside of the Ottawa area in Canada’s Capital Region and travel costs.
   Duffy, who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said his main residence is a house in Prince Edward Island.
   That was despite spending most of his time living in suburban Ottawa and for which he received a housing allowance of about $82,000, the trial was told.
   An observer in the courtroom is suspended Sen. Patrick Brazeau who also faces trial related to his living and travel expenses.
   Brazeau said his principal residence is in Maniwaki, Quebec but police allege he actually lives in Gatineau across the Ottawa River from the Parliament.
   Investigators continue to review the expense records of suspended Sen. Pamela Wallin along with claims of more than 100 current and former senators.

   Two weeks after admitting trying to influence national news coverage, Bell Media president Kevin Crull has left his job.
   George Cope, head of Bell Canada and BCE Inc., said the “independence of Bell Media’s news operations is of paramount importance to our company and to all Canadians.”
   Crull was unhappy with Canada’s broadcast regulator requiring companies to offer a low-cost package and a “pick-and-pay” option to cable television subscribers.
   He then ordered journalists at Bell’s CTV network not to give any airtime to Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.


   News in brief:
   - Canada’s jobless rate held steady at 6.8 percent last month with more people finding part-time work, Statistics Canada said. The federal agency said there was a net gain of 29,000 jobs in March and 63,000 so far this year.
   - Best Buy Canada is in the process of converting 65 of its Future Shop electronics stores to its banner after abruptly closing the 131-store  chain, putting 1,500 people out of work. Part of the decision was that many of Future Shop’s 131 stores and Best Buy locations were next to each other and many people are shopping online.
   - How fast is fast enough, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is asking about Internet speeds. The agency has launched a study to keep Canada a world-class player in the digital economy. It wants to know what upload and download speeds are needed, the prices charged, the location of underserviced areas and regulations for the industry.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has dipped to 79.40 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.259 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.75 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.85 percent.
   Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 15,390 points and the TSX Venture index 696 points.
   The average price of gasoline is up slightly at $1.053 a liter or $4 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (April 8) 2, 4, 14, 16, 18 and 19; bonus 25. (April 4) 2, 9, 32, 33, 35 and 49; bonus 4. Lotto Max: (April 3) 10, 11, 23, 28, 32, 34 and 41; bonus 29.


   Regional briefs:
   - Law student Harrison Jordan, 22, held a mock funeral for Target as it retreats from Canada this weekend after a two-year failed attempt to do business. Jordan was Target’s first Canadian customer when he bought a Snickers bar at the grand opening of the Guelph, Ontario store in 2013. He said the funeral in Toronto was to close the “circle of retail life” for the 133 stores.
   - Chainsaws appear to be the intimidating weapon of choice in Quebec. Twice in the past week, police have arrested men for threatening people with power saws. The first was a road-rage incident in St-Jerome where a man approached a vehicle swearing and revving a chainsaw. Manuel Delisle, 37, was arrested for armed assault. The other incident was at a house in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield where a man picked up a chainsaw and used it to intimidate two others, police said.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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