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‘Canadians deserve answers’: Opposition to press on with parliamentary probe after Gerald Butts resignation

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A day after the bombshell departure of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s closest adviser, the SNC-Lavalin affair shows no sign of abating as the opposition parties cast his resignation as a sign there may be more to the scandal than initially thought.

The House of Commons justice committee will reconvene today to continue its study of a report that senior members of the Prime Minister’s Office pressured former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to help Quebec-based multinational engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution on bribery and fraud charges in relation to contracts in Libya.

Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary and right-hand man, resigned Monday stating definitively that neither he or anyone else in the PMO pressured Wilson-Raybould to direct the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to sign a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) — a legal tool resembling a plea deal — with SNC-Lavalin.

« At all times, I and those around me acted with integrity and a singular focus on the best interests of all Canadians, » Butts said Monday.

Rather than wipe the slate clean, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Butts’ departure « does not in any way settle this matter. In fact, it presents even more questions that must be answered. »

Scheer said the staff changeover is a sign the prime minister is « desperate to keep the truth hidden. »

« Conservatives on the justice committee will continue to demand a thorough and public investigation, and all other options remain on the table, » Scheer said.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, the party’s ethics critic, said Butts’ departure — he calls the former staffer the « architect of the Sunny Ways » Trudeau playbook — could provoke a « political revolution. »

« For Gerry Butts to resign shows how much damage [the scandal] has done inside the Prime Minister’s Office … If Mr. Butts is willing to take a jump for the prime minister, at this point, it shows that they’re in free fall and total damage control, » Angus said in an interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

« The best thing the prime minister could do to restore public confidence is come into the House and agree to an independent inquiry … or else these questions are going to continue. »

The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing. He has said he told Wilson-Raybould last fall that any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone.

The Liberal and opposition members of the justice committee are expected to squabble today over who should be called to testify at the committee and just how wide-reaching the parliamentary probe should be.

At the top of the opposition witness wish list is Butts himself, but also Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from cabinet last week after the Globe and Mail published its initial report.

Wilson-Raybould had been demoted from the high-profile justice portfolio to the Veterans Affairs ministry in January.

Wilson-Raybould has stayed silent, claiming solicitor-client privilege — as attorney general, she was the government’s top lawyer — prevents her from speaking publicly.

She has taken the highly unusual step of retaining Thomas Cromwell, a recently retired Supreme Court justice, as her legal counsel as the scandal enters a new phase.

While the Liberal-controlled justice committee has agreed to study the matter, Liberal MPs defeated an NDP motion that would have compelled Butts and Wilson-Raybould to appear.

Following normal parliamentary procedure with respect to committee planning, members will discuss who they will call to the committee and define the scope of its investigation in private. The opposition parties had demanded these proceedings be held in public, whereas Liberals successfully pushed for closed-door discussions.

The parliamentary probe itself is expected to be televised.

More to come?

Opposition members have pointed to one line of Butts’ resignation statement in particular as an indication that there might be more developments to come.

Butts said, « My reputation is my responsibility and that is for me to defend. It is in the best interests of the office and its important work for me to step away. »

Not satisfied with a committee study alone, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling for a public inquiry into the government’s handling — and allegations of political interference — of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Singh is demanding Trudeau waive solicitor-client privilege to allow his former justice minister to speak freely. Trudeau has said the privilege question is complicated and he is awaiting advice from current Attorney General David Lametti on what he can say in public. He has also said some of the government’s handling of the case is protected by cabinet confidentiality.

Speaking to reporters in B.C. a week out from the Burnaby South byelection in which he is running, Singh said intransigence by Liberal members of the justice committee demands another forum for investigation.

He said a public inquiry is the best way to « get to the bottom of what’s happened. »

« The scandal cuts to the heart of our democracy, » Singh said. « Canadians deserve a government that works for them, not a powerful multinational corporation that has deep ties to the Liberal Party. »

In addition to the committee study, federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is examining the prime minister personally for any potential ethics code violations.

Trudeau loses long-time political ally

​In a tweet Monday, Trudeau said Butts served Canada with « integrity, sage advice and devotion. » He thanked the former staffer for his service and « continued friendship. »

In addition to the political partnership, the prime minister is close friends with Butts — a relationship that dates back to their time as students at McGill University in Montreal where they were members of the campus debating club.

Born in Glace Bay, N.S., a coal-mining town on Cape Breton Island, Butts worked on public policy in Ontario before becoming a senior staffer under former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty at Queen’s Park.

Butts then made the leap to federal politics and helped chart Trudeau’s political future as leader of the Liberal Party and later prime minister.

Trudeau chats with Butts after the Liberal leadership debate in Mississauga, Ont., on Feb. 16, 2013. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Praised by his allies as a brilliant mind, and vilified by foes as the political puppet master behind the prime minister, Butts said Monday he is proud of his time as Trudeau’s top adviser.



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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