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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Senators cleared in long-running Canadian Senate expenses scandal

   Canada column for Sunday, May 22/16

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The long-standing Senate expenses scandal is winding down with a former senator being cleared of fraud and breach of trust while a second senator won’t be arrested.
   Charges were dropped against Mac Harb, who retired three years ago, over housing expenses that were called inappropriate.
   Mounties decided that criminal charges were not warranted after a “thorough investigation” of Sen. Pamela Wallin’s travel claims, said assistant commissioner Gilles Michaud.
   “It has been a very long three years and I’m glad this nightmare is over,” Wallin said.
   She repaid $150,000 in expenses, blaming a “lynch mob” mentality in the Senate, and will consult with her lawyer about possible legal action.
   Prosecutors said Harb will not face a criminal trial because there isn’t a reasonable expectation of a conviction.
   He repaid $231,000 in housing expenses that were under investigation.
   This follows Sen. Mike Duffy being cleared of 31 charges of defrauding the Canadian government last month during a 62-day trial.
   Only one case remains, with Patrick Brazeau facing fraud and breach of trust charges.


   Canada’s House of Commons had another “fuddle duddle” incident after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau uttered an obscenity and inadvertently elbowed a politician.
   Trudeau, a Liberal, stormed across the floor and grabbed Conservative whip Gordon Brown by the arm while elbowing New Democrat Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the process.
   He was trying to get the politicians back to their seats for a vote to limit debate on an assisted suicide bill.
   It was reported that Trudeau was overheard saying “Get the f--- out of my way.”
   This led to a shouting match between Trudeau and New Democratic leader Thomas Mulcair who told the prime minister he was “pathetic.”
   Trudeau apologized for the incident that brought back memories of his dad, the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who mouthed a similar obscenity in 1971 that he later said was “fuddle duddle.”


   News in brief:
   - The massive wildfire that destroyed 2,400 homes and businesses in Fort McMurray, Alberta has advanced toward oilsands facilities and communities in northern Alberta. Cooler and wet weather is helping crews keep the fire contained but flames have spread into neighboring Saskatchewan. The fire forced more than 80,000 people to leave their homes, with some expected to be allowed to return beginning June 1.
   - There are some concerns about the strength of the Canadian economy as wholesale sales
fell more than expected in March. Statistics Canada said sales fell 1 percent to $54.6 billion and manufacturing sales were off by 0.9 percent. Growth outlooks could also be affected by the Alberta wildfire, economists said.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is lower at 76.15 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.313 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
   Markets are higher, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 13,928 points and the TSX Venture index 680 points.
   The average price for gas nationally has risen to $1.054 a liter or $4 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (May 18) 4, 11, 21, 25, 44 and 47; bonus 3. (May 14) 8, 21, 24, 33, 41, and 46; bonus 29. Lotto Max: (May 13) 3, 6, 8, 17, 21, 28 and 34; bonus 2.


   Regional briefs:
   - The National Energy Board is endorsing the controversial $6.8-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion as being in Canada’s best interests. After a two-year review, the board recommended the approval of Kinder Morgan Canada’s proposal subject to 157 conditions, many concerning safety and environmental issues. The company wants to triple the capacity of the pipeline that carries diluted bitumen from oilsands near Edmonton to Burnaby, British Columbia for export.
   - Canadian food stores will be able to start selling genetically modified salmon produced in Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island. Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reviewed the process of biotechnology firm AquaBounty Technologies Inc. that promotes rapid growth of Atlantic salmon using a hormone gene from Chinook salmon.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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