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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Canada's Prime Minister broke conflict laws with vacations: Ethics commissioner

  Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 24/17

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been found to have violated conflict-of-interest rules by accepting family vacations from an Islamic leader.
   Federal ethics commissioner Mary Dawson said this concerns vacations at Bells Cay, a private Bahamian island owned by Imam Aga Khan, last Christmas and in March 2016.
   Dawson said it can be seen as a gift to influence Trudeau with the billionaire philanthropist and spiritual leader and his charitable foundation.
   The commissioner also said Trudeau didn’t recuse himself in 2016 from private meetings about the Aga Khan and a $15-million grant to his endowment fund of the Global Center for Pluralism.
   “I’ve always considered the Aga Khan a close family friend, which is why I didn’t clear this family trip in the first place,” Trudeau said.
   At the same time, John Kerry, then U.S. Secretary of State, was also a guest on the island.
   Dawson said a monetary penalty was “not relevant” for Trudeau who will be spending the holidays in Canada this Christmas.


   Grocer Loblaw Companies Ltd. has admitted to taking part in a 14-year bread price-fixing deal and is offering customers a $25 gift card as a goodwill gesture.
   By acknowledging a part in the price-fixing deal, Loblaw and parent company George Westin Ltd. were given immunity as the Competition Bureau investigates seven other companies including bakeries.
   “This conduct should never have happened,” said company head Galen Weston.
   Major grocers Metro and Sobeys said they didn’t violate the Competition Act.
   Up to six-million customers are expected to go online to LoblawCard.ca to register for the rebate card.


   News in brief:
   - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among 7,000 mourners at the funeral of billionaire philanthropists Barry and Honey Sherman who died mysteriously in their Toronto home. Barry Sherman, 75, was the founder of generic drug firm Apotex and he and his wife were found hanging beside their indoor pool. Police have said only the deaths are “suspicious” with speculation it was a murder-suicide.
   - Investigators say an improperly secured tool bag hit the rear rotor of a helicopter causing it to crash, killing four Hydro One powerline workers. The Transportation Safety Board has issued a warning on the risks of unsecured cargo after the crash near Tweed, Ontario. The bag had been carried on a platform outside the helicopter and blew loose during flight.
   - Canada’s annual inflation rate climbed to 2.1 percent last month – its highest level in nearly a year – that could lead to an interest rate increase next month. Statistics Canada said higher costs for gasoline and air transportation were major factors that pushed the rate higher than the Bank of Canada’s ideal target of 2 percent.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has advanced to 78.62 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.271 in Canadian funds before exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3.2 percent.
   Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index 16,165 points while the TSX Venture index is 810 points.
   The average price for gas in Canada has risen to $1.165 a liter or $4.42 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (Dec. 20) 3, 4, 28, 30, 34 and 41; bonus 31. (Dec. 16) 2, 13, 24, 26, 31 and 41; bonus 40. Lotto Max (Dec. 15) 8, 14, 17, 27, 28, 30 and 48; bonus 37.


   Regional briefs:
   - People in Ontario and Eastern Canada are being advised to consider avoiding romaine lettuce because of an E. coli outbreak linked to one death and 40 illnesses. The Public Health Agency of Canada gave the warning as the cases appear to be associated with the type of lettuce. Quebec and Newfoundland/Labrador have each reported 13 cases, Ontario has had 8, New Brunswick, 5, and Nova Scotia, 1.
   - It appears likely it will be a white Christmas in many parts of the country, including often “balmy” Vancouver and Victoria. Toronto and southern Ontario as well as other areas received several inches of snow on Friday. Weather watchers warn of another winter storm heading for Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver by Sunday.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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