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Overspending on luxury trips cited as part of RCMP's probe of government in B.C.

Overspending on luxury trips cited as part of RCMP's probe of government in B.C.VICTORIA — The Speaker of the British Columbia legislature alleges in a report that the clerk and sergeant-at-arms engaged in flagrant overspending, questionable expenses and inappropriate payouts of cash "in the range of a million dollars." Darryl Plecas's report was released Monday after it was reviewed by members of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee. The report says that based on what he had seen and heard, he believed there was a real possibility crimes may have been committed and he felt obligated to contact the RCMP. Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and clerk of the house Craig James were suspended and escorted out of the legislature in November without any explanation. The RCMP later said it was investigating allegations against the men and that two special prosecutors had been appointed to assist in the investigation. Plecas's report alleges overspending on luxury trips overseas with questionable business rationales; expensing of personal purchases to the legislature in the tens of thousands of dollars; inappropriate payouts of cash in lieu of vacation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and instances where thousands of dollars of alcohol and equipment may have been misappropriated from the legislative assembly. "These matters are not simply bare allegations," Plecas says in the report, adding they were based on his personal observations and interviews with others. The committee voted to release the report Monday and agreed to launch an audit of legislature financial issues, conduct a workplace review and submit that report to an auditor from outside of B.C. Plecas said regardless of what happens in the criminal context, the legislature needs to review and consider the matters to determine if the conduct is inconsistent with the duties of those involved. "British Columbia taxpayers deserve a legislative assembly that is accountable, transparent, efficient, fiscally responsible, and fair to its employees." Lenz and James were not immediately available for comment and neither was their lawyer. None of the allegations have been proven. The report says the concerns in releasing the information involve whether making the allegations public would be unfair to the employees or problematic for the police investigation. Plecas said last December he would resign his position as Speaker if the public is not outraged over his unspecified findings at the legislature. He later said he welcomed an audit of the legislature's books, adding if the results did not spark public outrage to the point people would want to "throw up," he would quit along with his special adviser Alan Mullen. Plecas hired Mullen, a former federal prison administrator and personal friend, in January 2017. He also hired Wally Oppal, a retired judge and former B.C. attorney general last December, to offer legal advice. Lenz and James denied any wrongdoing at a news conference in Vancouver last November. They said they were humiliated after being placed on administrative leave and didn't know what they'd done to provoke a police investigation but they want their jobs and their reputations back. Lenz said he was shocked when he learned he was being investigated and has had trouble sleeping and eating and James said no one had informed him of what he is alleged to have done. The Opposition Liberals had questioned the Speaker's handling of the suspensions, but Premier John Horgan expressed confidence in the Speaker. On Monday, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said he was shocked and saddened to read the report. Farnworth is one of four New Democrats on the eight-member committee. He said the Plecas report makes a strong case for the Speaker’s concerns. "When you read that report and all the documentation that is with it, I don't see how you can do anything other than accept much of what is in that report," said Farnworth. Liberal House Leader Mary Polak, one of two Liberals on the committee, said she has been waiting since last year for Plecas to make his concerns public. "We're pleased to see the public finally has some information to look at," she said. "It's very concerning what we see in terms of the allegations around expenditures." Green party Leader Andrew Weaver said his caucus fully supports Legislative Assembly Management Committee motions. "The report released today makes serious and shocking claims that have significant implications for public trust in our democratic institutions," he said in a statement. Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Yellow vests in Canada bear no resemblance to protesters in France: ambassador

Yellow vests in Canada bear no resemblance to protesters in France: ambassadorCanada's ambassador to France says this country's yellow-vest protest movement bears little resemblance to the "gilets jaunes" who started it all in France. Isabelle Hudon says the movement in Canada appears to have been appropriated by far-right extremists espousing racist, anti-immigrant views and even indulging in death threats against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Hudon, who was in Canada along with five other envoys to brief ministers at a cabinet retreat last week, says it appears to her that protesters here have adopted the symbol of their French counterparts — the yellow safety vests all drivers in France are required to carry in their vehicles — but do not share similar complaints or objectives.


Crown opens case against accused: Winnipeg bus driver was stabbed multiple times

Crown opens case against accused: Winnipeg bus driver was stabbed multiple timesA Winnipeg bus driver was killed on the job by an angry passenger who refused to leave the vehicle at the end of a run, a Crown attorney said at the opening of a two-week second-degree murder trial. Irvine Jubal Fraser, a 58-year-old driver working the late shift, was spat on and repeatedly stabbed after forcibly removing Brian Kyle Thomas from the bus, Crown attorney Keith Eyrikson told the jury Monday in his opening statements. While people might question why Fraser physically removed the passenger, that is not the issue, Eyrikson said.


Coroner probes exposure death of Gilles Duceppe's mother outside seniors' home

Coroner probes exposure death of Gilles Duceppe's mother outside seniors' homeMONTREAL — A Quebec coroner will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Gilles Duceppe's mother after the 93-year-old woman was found Sunday in the snow outside an upscale Montreal seniors' residence where she lived. The coroner's office said Monday it will try to determine how Helene Rowley Hotte, mother of the former Bloc Quebecois leader, perished after leaving her building when a fire alarm sounded in the early hours of Sunday. Police said she ended up locked out in the middle of a frigid snowstorm, and her body was discovered more than seven hours later. Montreal police said the victim had hearing problems and likely didn't understand the announcement that her part of the building — one of three wings in the complex — was not part of the 4:15 a.m. evacuation order. The door locked behind her as she went into a backyard. Montreal's fire department responded to a call at the complex that night, but the all-clear was given around 6:20 a.m. Const. Caroline Chevrefils said police received a call shortly before noon about a woman found dead in the snow, likely from hypothermia. They transferred the investigation to the coroner's office after determining there was no criminal element to the death. Quebec Premier Francois Legault extended condolences to Duceppe and his family Monday. "Isabelle and I are shattered by the death of Mrs. Rowley, Gilles Duceppe's mother," Legault wrote on Twitter from France, where he is on an official visit. "I offer all my sympathy to Gilles, his brothers and sisters, and to the whole family in this moment of great sadness." Marguerite Blais, the minister responsible for seniors, said she has asked health officials for a full briefing. "My sincerest condolences to the family of Mr. Gilles Duceppe on the death of his mother during this tragic event," Blais wrote. "We will shed light on this very sad story." Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet also offered condolences to Duceppe. Rowley Hotte, a mother of seven, was married to well-known Quebec actor Jean Duceppe, who died in 1990. Her father — John James Rowley — was British by birth, leading Duceppe to frequently quip that he was a "bloke who turned Bloc." A longtime friend of Duceppe, who asked not to be identified, said Rowley Hotte was in excellent physical and mental health and had dined with family members the previous evening. Family checked in with her every morning, and they became worried when there was no answer to their calls Sunday. They arrived to find her unit empty, the friend said. Duceppe declined to comment when reached by The Canadian Press. At a news conference in Quebec City, Blais said she has asked her deputy minister to see if provincial standards for seniors' residences need to be reviewed. "Never, never, never will I give up when it comes to the security of the elderly," she said. Blais said the Lux seniors' residence where Rowley Hotte lived had its certification renewed last April and met all the required standards, including the number of staff at night. According to the province's registry of seniors' homes, the Lux, located near the Olympic Stadium, has 440 units and opened in 2009. Of the 660 residents, 493 are 75 and older. Six employees, including two nurses, would have been working on a weekend evening, according to the registry. In a statement late Monday, the residence said Rowley Hotte was wearing winter clothing when she went outside. Its security cameras show she fainted a while after having exited. "We are sincerely sorry for Mrs. Rowley Hotte's family and loved ones," the statement said. "The safety and well-being of our residents has always been and remains a priority for Lux Residences." Joannie Lambert-Roy, a spokeswoman for Quebec's coroner's office, said coroner Gehane Kamel has been assigned to investigate Rowley Hotte's death. According to statistics compiled by the coroner's office, there was 121 accidental deaths in Quebec from exposure to excessive cold between 2000 and 2016 — 31 of which involved victims aged 75 or older. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press


United Conservatives leader Jason Kenney disputes expense allegations while MP

United Conservatives leader Jason Kenney disputes expense allegations while MPEDMONTON — Alberta United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney and his staff are firing back at a lawyer who is questioning Kenney's residential expense claims from his time as a cabinet minister in Ottawa. Kenney's spokesman Matt Wolf says Kyle Morrow's suggestions are not true and he can't point to any rule Kenney is supposed to have contravened regarding having homes in two cities. "Mr. Morrow has no case to be made," Wolf said in an interview Monday. "He hasn't shown any rule that's been broken." Wolf called it an attack from a former provincial Liberal candidate meant to undermine Kenney as a provincial election approaches this spring. "Mr. Morrow has certainly proven nothing other than injecting innuendo and sleazy partisan smears," he said. Morrow, an Ottawa-based lawyer, has been sharply critical of Kenney in previous Twitter posts, particularly accusing him of working against or failing to support LGBTQ issues. In recent days, Morrow has posted travel and expense documents on his Twitter feed and questioned why Kenney, while working as an MP, listed a Calgary home as his primary residence from 2013 to 2015 when flight records suggest he spent little time there. "Jason Kenney was collecting around $900/month in secondary residence subsidies at the same time he was listing his address in Calgary as a senior's retirement home. Those subsidies were contingent on him permanently residing in Calgary," Morrow posted. Morrow could not be reached for comment Monday. Kenney has said he rented out part of his mother's home in a retirement village at the time to be near her and to help her out when he could. House of Commons rules say that time spent living in a home is only one of many conditions to be considered for an MP to qualify to have a residence in a second city. The rules state that as long as MPs have ties to an area — such as paying taxes or having a driver's licence from there — they qualify for the second residence. Wolf said Kenney met those conditions in Calgary. "If you look at the House of Commons rules, it makes it very clear that Jason checks multiple boxes to qualify for his Calgary residence as his primary residence," he said. "He's been a Calgarian for over 20 years, either owning, co-owning or renting his primary home in Calgary. He pays his taxes in Calgary, he votes in Calgary, his driver's licence and health card are from Alberta." Kenney has also said the Calgary housing expenses came out of his own pocket while he received about $10,000 a year allowance to subsidize his place in Ottawa. Kenney, in a weekend Facebook post, said the allegations are false. "Yes it is true that my work as a senior cabinet minister in Stephen Harper's government also meant I spent a large amount of time outside of Calgary. "As a member of Parliament I was afforded the same living allowance that all MPs get for accommodation in Ottawa." In his Twitter posts, Morrow also accused Kenney of lying to Elections Canada in 2013 by listing his home that had been sold by his mother the year prior. Wolf said that would have been filed by a volunteer or someone else on Kenney's campaign and was likely to have been an honest mistake. He noted other filings at the same time gave Kenney's correct address. Premier Rachel Notley's NDP waded in on Monday by alleging Kenney broke election rules in 2016 when he contributed $399 to Ontario's Progressive Conservative party while not being eligible to do so because he was living in Alberta. "For somebody to have spent 20 years in Ottawa, claim that you're an Alberta resident, donate to an Ontario political party … and then say, 'Trust me to govern your province,' I think there are a lot of questions," deputy premier Sarah Hoffman said at the legislature. Wolf said the $399 was a registration fee, not a donation, when Kenney attended the 2016 Ontario PC general meeting in Ottawa. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press


Tuesday 22nd of January 2019 01:44:32

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