Trudeau government leaks support in wake of SNC-Lavalin, Wilson-Raybould matter: Ipsos poll – National

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The Trudeau government is leaking political support in the wake of the resignation of its former justice minister, making its chances of re-election this fall far less certain than they seemed to be at year’s end, according to a new poll provided exclusively to Global News.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s personal approval ratings are down; a declining number of Canadians think his government deserves re-election; and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives narrowly lead the Liberals on the ballot box question.

“This is the worst couple of weeks the PM has had since the India trip,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of polling firm Ipsos. “The biggest problem is that it hits at what gives the Liberal Party its appeal: the prime minister.”


READ MORE:
Charges against SNC-Lavalin explained — and how the PMO allegedly got involved

Ipsos was in the field last week, after revelations surfaced that, last fall, while she was justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould felt that unnamed individuals in the prime minister’s office were pressuring her to intervene in a criminal court case in favour of Quebec-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. Those allegations were first reported by the Globe and Mail, citing unnamed sources.

If she did feel pressured, she did not act and did not intervene on behalf of SNC-Lavalin. But a few months later, she was shuffled out of her job as justice minister and attorney general and into the job of veterans affairs minister.

Then, last week, as Liberals themselves seemed divided over the optics of seeing the country’s first-ever Indigenous justice minister being shuffled aside for what appeared to be craven political calculations, Wilson-Raybould stepped down from cabinet altogether.

WATCH: Jody Wilson-Raybould quits Trudeau cabinet






Meanwhile, all through the week, Trudeau and other Liberals struggled to explain what had happened while Wilson-Raybould announced she had retained a former Supreme Court justice to provide her with advice about what, if anything, she might say about the whole matter.

Voters took notice.

Ipsos found that, among the 1,002 Canadians it surveyed online from Thursday through to Monday, nearly half or 49 per cent said they were aware of this rapidly shifting story involving SNC Lavalin, Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould.

And it appears many are changing their opinion of the government as a result.


READ MORE:
Justin Trudeau’s top adviser Gerald Butts resigns amid SNC-Lavalin affair

Support for the Trudeau Liberals is now at 34 per cent, down four percentage points, from a poll Ipsos did in December. In the 2015 election, the Trudeau Liberals won their commanding majority with 39 per cent of the vote.

Scheer’s Conservatives appear to have benefited from this slide. That party is now at 36 per cent support, up three points since the end of 2018.

“The big trouble spot is now Ontario, where the Tories have a six point lead over the Liberals,” said Bricker. “The way the vote breaks in Ontario suggests that the Tories are doing well in the 905, where the Liberals won their majority in 2015.”

The NDP and its leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, continue to languish, with 17 per cent support right now versus 18 per cent at year-end.

The poll was out of the field before Monday afternoon’s bombshell news that Gerald Butts had quit his post as the prime minister’s principal secretary. Butts, one of Trudeau’s closest friends, had played a critical role in the revival of Liberal fortune and was, along with Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford, central to Trudeau administration. Butts said he had done nothing wrong but was resigning to avoid being a further distraction to the government’s agenda.

WATCH: Justin Trudeau’s top adviser Gerald Butts resigns amid SNC-Lavalin controversy







In any event, Ipsos found that even before that additional turmoil, voter approval of the Trudeau government had dropped nine points since the beginning of the year down to 42 per cent in its most recent pulse-taking.

Trudeau’s own personal approval rating is now two points lower than it was after his disastrous trip to India this time last year.

“Those who strongly disapprove of his performance now outnumber those who strongly approve by a margin of four to one,” Bricker said.


READ MORE:
Halifax artist apologizes for controversial cartoon of Jody Wilson-Raybould

And yet, Trudeau is still doing better than his two main rivals, Scheer and Singh, who continue to have lower approval ratings than Trudeau.

“All is not bad for Trudeau,” Bricker said. “When assessed head to head with his major rivals, Scheer and Singh, he still does well on specific leadership attributes. Although the gap appears to be closing now.”

And just 38 per cent of those surveyed believe the Trudeau Liberals deserve re-election, while 62 per cent agreed that it was time to give another party a chance at governing.

A margin-of-error could not be calculated for this poll as the sample surveyed was not drawn randomly. That said, Ipsos says the accuracy of its polls can be gauged using a statistical measure known as a credibility interval. Applying this technique to this poll, Ipsos believes this poll would be accurate to within 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, compared to a poll of all Canadian adults

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between Feb. 14 and Feb. 18, with a sample of 1,002 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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The Ford government set for changes to the planning act, education and health care

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They’re back and should be busier than ever.

MPPs return to the legislature Tuesday after the Christmas break with a full slate on their plates.

“We’re moving at breakneck speed on all kinds of stuff. We’re going to have a robust schedule when the house resumes,” government house leader Todd Smith said in an interview Friday.

First up will be a revised version of Bill 66 to eliminate an amendment to the Planning Act that would have allowed municipalities to bypass existing development requirements and restrictions for companies creating jobs.

Projects would have been granted expedited provincial approvals within one year, allowing businesses to begin construction, but critics warned that would have put prime farmland and the 1.8-million acre Greenbelt around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area at risk.

Smith said another piece of legislation in the days ahead will be Health Minister Christine Elliott’s bill to reorganize the health-care system.

A draft version — which confirmed the incorporation of a new “super agency” called Health Program Initiatives that the Star revealed in January — was leaked to the NDP and a mid-level bureaucrat was fired Feb. 4 for the breach.

While the New Democrats claim the bill will usher in additional privatization to health care in Ontario, Elliott has dismissed that as “fear mongering.”

Also expected this month are potentially controversial bills on policing oversight from Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones and on schools from Education Minister Lisa Thompson.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who has already called for the resignation of Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod over the Tories’ contentious revamping of funding for autism services, warned the government is in for a bumpy ride on many fronts.

Horwath pledged to “fight for the services people care about, whether that’s young people, whether that’s children with autism, whether that’s our public health system that we so fiercely want to defend, that’s what we’re going to be doing.”

“Doug Ford is not the king of Ontario. He has to answer for his actions,” she said Friday.

With such rhetoric, Smith conceded it should be an emotionally charged session.

“They scream that the sky is falling no matter what we do. They seem to be a protest party and they like to plan protests,” the house leader said of the New Democrats.

Still, Smith said autism funding is “a tough file” and the Tories are bracing for the issue to dominate question period this week.

The opposition parties will also be hammering the government over its bid to appoint Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, a 72-year-old friend of Ford’s, as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.

That OPP posting is now subject of an ethics investigation by integrity commissioner J. David Wake.

Horwath said she will be highlighting the “tidal wave of criticism” over the appointment.

The government, which took office last June, is also looking ahead to its first budget.

Although Ford has promised to cut 4 per cent of spending — the equivalent of $6 billion on a $150 billion budget — he’s insisted “not one job” will be lost as the Tories move toward balancing the books.

“We’re going to be responsible. If it takes a year longer, so be it,” the premier said Thursday, referring to the timetable for being back in the black.

“I’ve said over and over again, I’m not going in there hacking and slashing, and with a chainsaw cutting it up. It’s not going to happen under our administration. We’re going to find efficiencies.”

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, who is hoping to reduce a $13.5 billion deficit, is signalling Ontarians to gird for austerity measures.

“We have to start with the understanding that the previous government was spending $40 million a day more than they brought in,” said Fedeli of the Liberals of former premier Kathleen Wynne.

“We know that in this budget we must also indicate our path to balance. It’s mandatory in this budget,” he said, declining to tip his hand on when the province will be out of the red.

“I like to use my Goldilocks reference: it won’t be too soon, because, quite frankly, nobody would believe it; it won’t be too long, because anybody can do that; it will be just right.”

Asked what that means, Fedeli smiled and said: “It means that the 2019 budget will see a detailed path to balance.”

With files from Rob Ferguson

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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Time to ‘push back’ against federal government, Conservative leaders say at Sask. pro-pipeline rally

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The battleground for pipelines and the oil and gas industry was set in Moosomin, Sask., on Saturday, as the federal  Conservative Leader blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his handling of the energy file.

« His attack on Canada’s energy sector is by design. It’s on purpose, » Andrew Scheer told the audience gathered for the pro-pipeline rally, also attended by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Conservative Senator Denise Batters.

« This is the one area where he’s doing exactly what he said would do. »

Trudeau has spoken about transitioning Canada away from fossil fuels. Scheer says, if he becomes prime minister, he would  promote Canadian oil and gas. 

« I will travel around the world promoting Canadians’ energy sector, as a source of ethical and responsible and sustainable energy around the world, » he promised, to cheers from the audience.

The federal government had bought the Trans Mountain pipeline in order to make progress on a stalled project, but a Supreme Court blocked further progress, ruling that Canada’s efforts to meaningfully consult with Indigenous people, as required by law, fell short.

Scheer criticized Trudeau for overpaying for the pipeline by $1 billion.  

« Justin Trudeau paid more than the sticker price for a pipeline that he can’t even build, » he charged.

Crowds gathered in Moosomin, Sask. to hear from various politicians and other pipeline advocates. (Trevor Botherel / CBC)

Scheer had set the stage for Saturday’s pro-pipeline appearance with an appearance in Saskatoon on Friday night, talking about the need to build pipelines.  

« We know that the best way to transport that energy, the most environmentally friendly way, taking oil and gas off of rail cars, is to build pipelines, » Scheer said, while speaking in Saskatoon on Friday, one day before news of a derailment of a train carrying crude oil in Manitoba.

« We need a government that has a plan to get them built through the private sector by providing certainty and clarity in approvals process and that’s what my plan will do. »

Scheer said his plan, if he is to become prime minister in this year’s election, would be to repeal a carbon tax and repeal Bill C-69, which he argues muddies the approval process for pipelines. Bill C-69 provides a process for assessing the environmental, health, social and economic effects of pipeline and other projects.

Instead, these pipelines need to be declared in the national interest, because of the benefits they confer to every single region, said Scheer.

« And come October, after forming government, we will start to clean up the mess that [Trudeau’s] left us, » he promised the crowd.

Moe also took to the stage, saying the strength of the audience on a frigid February day spoke volumes about their frustration with the downtrodden oil and gas sector.  

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe walks through the crowd before speaking at a pro-pipeline rally. He said ‘It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard’ against the federal government. (MIchael Bell/Canadian Press)

« For far too long, this conversation has been dominated by those who disapprove of how you and myself and and our neighbours in this province make a living in our communities, » he said, adding the federal government was simply not listening to people whose livelihoods depended on sectors like oil and gas and mining.  

« The moment has come in the nation of Canada. It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard. »

Speakers were scheduled to address the crowd on issues affecting the oil and gas sector. (Trevor Botherel / CBC)

Moosomin economy driven by energy 

The rally was organized by Moosomin Economic Development, with Moe saying that the southern Saskatchewan town of about 2,500 people was among the communities that depended on a thriving oil and gas industry. 

A news release indicates « Moosomin would have played a part in the cancelled Energy East project with a 1,050,000 barrel tank farm planned for the Moosomin Compressor Station and a feeder pipeline from Cromer, Man.,  to the Moosomin Compressor Station, both part of the Energy East plan. »

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Ford government and Hydro One at odds over CEO salary

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A showdown over executive pay is taking shape between Premier Doug Ford’s government and Hydro One after the publicly traded company proposed a cap of $2.78 million for its next CEO.

Energy Minister Greg Rickford warned the province will not approve more than $1.5 million in salary and incentives for the chief executive as a search wraps up with a preferred candidate to replace ousted boss Mayo Schmidt, whom Ford dubbed the “six million dollar man” in last spring’s election campaign.

“We will not stand by any further and see out-of-control and out-of-touch salaries at Hydro One,” Rickford told a news conference Friday, calling on the partially privatized former Crown transmission utility to show “respect for Ontario’s electricity customers.”

The Hydro One board — replaced by the government last summer — quickly fired back, insisting it needs leeway “to attract, retain and motivate highly-qualified leadership” at the company with $25 billion in assets and annual revenues approaching $6 billion.

“We continue to seek the approval of Management Board of Cabinet.”

Hydro One had proposed up to $1.86 million for executive vice president and $140,000 for directors, with $169,500 for the chair of the board.

Rickford described the disagreement as a “significant divide between the views of the Hydro One board and the largest shareholder, the people of Ontario.”

Hydro One board chair Tom Woods — who was appointed by Ford — noted in a separate letter to Rickford that majority shareholders in the company owned 47 per cent by the province are good with the $2.78 million CEO cap.

“As you know, we have been in discussion with a very talented prospective CEO, who we believe would accept the role with compensation as contemplated under the proposed framework,” wrote Woods, a veteran investment banker with CIBC.

“As we have previously advised, the entire top management team (five individuals) are under retention agreements and it appears likely that all five will depart soon after their agreements mature in the next 2 1/2 months.”

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said the split public-private ownership of Hydro One engineered by the previous Liberal government is proving unworkable, pointing to a need to bring the company back under full provincial control with a share buyback.

She warned that government “meddling” in Hydro One — a reference to the Schmidt ouster — has already cost the company $103 million (U.S.) for a “kill fee” after American regulators cited concerns about “political interference” in the company, scuttling a $6.7 billion takeover of Avista Corp.

“Mr. Ford’s got to realize he can’t keep pretending he’s trying to save people money while at the same time undertaking activities that are costing us millions,” Horwath told reporters a day after the premier, in launching a new strategy to save auto sector jobs, proclaimed “for too long, government has been getting in the way.”

In the letter to Rickford, Woods said he recognizes the government’s push to reduce electricity bills but said “none of Hydro One’s top executive compensation will be charged to customer rates — it will all come out of bottom line company profits, borne by shareholders, not ratepayers.”

The government issued an order in August that Hydro One trim “generous pay packages,” with Rickford refusing to say publicly at the time how low they should go.

Critics have warned that government interference in pay levels for a publicly traded company will send a chill through the business community.

Under legislation passed last summer, the government retains the power to control executive, CEO and senior executive salaries at Hydro One until the end of 2022.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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Google vision for Port Lands a no-go with Ontario government, source says

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Google’s expansive vision to plan and build communities and transit across Toronto’s east waterfront — in exchange for a cut of property tax and development revenues — is a non-starter, the Ontario government says.

At Queen’s Park, a senior government official told the Star’s Robert Benzie that Google sister company Sidewalk Labs’s plans — revealed by the Star’s Marco Chown Oved on Thursday — is a non-starter.

“There is no way on God’s green earth that Premier Doug Ford would ever sign off on handing away nearly 500 acres of prime waterfront property to a foreign multinational company that has been unable to reassure citizens their privacy and data would be protected,” confided the high-ranking Progressive Conservative insider.

The Ford confidant spoke to the Star on condition of anonymity due to the province’s contractual obligations to negotiate in good faith with Sidewalk Labs.

A Sidewalk Labs presentation, prepared for Google last fall, show that Waterfront Toronto’s preferred development partner for the 12-acre Quayside district at Queens Quay and Parliament St. has bigger ambitions, for redevelopment on 350 acres in the Port Lands area — an area almost 30 times larger than Quayside — by financing underground infrastructure and a light rail line.

These future revenues, based on the anticipated increase in land value once homes and offices are built on the derelict Port Lands, are estimated to be $6 billion over the next 30 years. Even a small portion of this could amount to a large, recurring revenue stream diverted from the city into private hands.

Reaction to the secret plan was swift and negative from several councillors when the Star broke the news Thursday evening.

Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents downtown Ward 13 Toronto Centre, tweeted: “A tech giant never having built transit + city infrastructure anywhere, or even pitched a dime for the $1.25B for Port Lands flood protection, has the audacity to stake claim for future land value, property taxes + development charges on land they don’t own.”

Councillor Paula Fletcher, whose Ward 14 Toronto-Danforth encompasses the Port Lands, tweeted: “Suspicions confirmed. Sidewalk Labs really wants control of Toronto’s PortLands.”

Ward 4 Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks took aim at Sidewalk Labs for hiring Keerthana Rang, a former communications staffer in Mayor John Tory’s office, and then former city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, who retired from politics last fall, as “director of community” to explain and sell the Quayside vision to Torontonians.

“A $700 billion corporation is paying a former communications staffer for the Mayor and a former City Councillor to tell us what we want,” Perks tweeted.

Waterfront Toronto, comprised of federal, provincial and city representatives, is spending at least $1.25 billion in public money to flood-proof the Port Lands and make it available for development.

The vast majority of the Port Lands — 78 per cent — is owned by the city, according to a staff report from March 2018. Only 11 per cent is privately held, while another 11 per cent is owned by the province.

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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As RCMP investigated casino money laundering, police distrust of B.C. government grew

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Senior police officers were concerned B.C. government officials might have leaked information that “compromised” October, 2015 RCMP raids targeting sophisticated alleged underground casinos in Richmond, B.C., according to records from a B.C. Lottery Corp. whistle-blower.

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The records obtained by Global News and source interviews suggest that as RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) unit ramped up casino money laundering and underground banking investigations in 2015, senior police and B.C. Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch (GPEB) investigators increasingly viewed B.C. Lottery Corp. (BCLC) — and possibly others in B.C.’s government — with distrust.


READ MORE:
B.C. casino ‘knowingly accepted’ millions from banned loan shark, audit alleges

Notes taken by Ross Alderson, BCLC’s former head of anti-money laundering, say that on Oct. 19, 2015 he and senior Vancouver Police anti-gang officer Mike Serr discussed co-ordinated RCMP raids that took place on Oct. 15, 2015 as part of the E-Pirate investigation.

WATCH: Global investigation raises more money laundering concerns






And there were serious concerns that the suspected illegal casino operators may have gotten advance warning that police were watching.

“Discussed sensitivity in sharing information as Operation was compromised,” Alderson’s notes say. “No. 4 Rd Location had original warrant date (Oct 14) circled on a calendar. Concerns Govt knew more than Senior Police did.”

The E-Pirate raids of 11 locations, including an alleged underground bank in a Richmond office building and luxurious homes that RCMP said hosted illegal casinos, targeted a suspected organized crime loan shark named Paul King Jin and a number of Lottery Corp. high-rollers from China, according to Alderson’s notes.

“11 locations hit – Some residential. No arrests at gaming houses (vacant),” Alderson’s notes say.


READ MORE:
‘BCLC could have stopped this’: Former casino investigators question whether officials unwilling to stop criminal activity

Serr, who is now the chief of Abbotsford Police, said he could not comment for this story.

Alderson’s notes contain a detailed breakdown of the cash, computers, and casino equipment the RCMP say they seized in the E-Pirate raids. About $6 million in cash was seized, and three Baccarat tables, plus 7,000 decks of new cards, according to police.

And there were two illegal casinos, including a mansion on Richmond’s No. 4 Road, with “29 surveillance cameras,” and stacks of chips that could have come from Lottery Corp. casinos, according to allegations in the notes.

But the alleged casinos believed to be run by Chinese Triads appeared to have been quickly abandoned.

Global News asked the RCMP and B.C.’s government whether information was believed to be leaked that compromised E-Pirate raids, and whether there have been investigations into the integrity of information sharing between RCMP and B.C.’s government. By deadline they had not responded to questions.


READ MORE:
Secret police study finds crime networks could have laundered over $1B through Vancouver homes in 2016

Global News has been unable to reach Jin directly or through his lawyer for comment on the allegations. No charges have been filed. Charges were stayed in the E-Pirate investigation, and the B.C. combined forces anti-gang and illegal gaming unit has made a number of arrests in a related investigation. Evidence is now being reviewed by B.C. crown prosecutors, and its not known whether charges will be laid.

Alderson told Serr that the Lottery Corp. was aware of the location of the alleged gaming houses and lists of Chinese VIPs believed to be connected to Jin, his notes say. BCLC also knew high levels of B.C.’s government had been briefed, according to Alderson’s notes.

Alderson’s notes said that he and Serr “agreed that a lot of people had inside knowledge of this operation but reiterated no one (to my knowledge knew of any dates of the operation).”

“I talked about concerns that (BCLC’s) gaming expertise may not be utilized through cutting BCLC out,” Alderson’s notes on the call with Serr, concluded. “Assured him that BCLC did not know dates of operation.”

But sources with knowledge of the perspectives of GPEB and RCMP investigators, said that GPEB investigators had joined a special task-force in the spring of 2015 and accompanied RCMP on the E-Pirate raids in October. And the B.C. gaming regulator investigators later openly complained that the raids had been compromised.

WATCH: B.C. union calls for casino money-laundering public inquiry in B.C.






Growing distrust

According to Alderson’s notes, even before the compromised E-Pirate raids, he had learned by September 2015 that senior police in B.C. and GPEB investigators were losing trust in the Lottery Corp.

But back in February 2015, according to Alderson’s records, the Lottery Corp. and RCMP apparently had agreed to share information for a targeted probe of Jin.

On Feb. 12 at the Lottery Corp.’s head office in Vancouver: “BCLC met with RCMP (federal serious and organized crime) to lodge a complaint (of) cash drop offs at Casinos involving a male by the name of Paul ‘King’ JIN who was believed to be associated to organized crime,” a report filed by Alderson says. Alderson told Serr that the Lottery Corp. was aware of the location of the gaming houses and lists of Chinese VIPs believed to be connected to Jin, his notes say.

On July 20 and 22, Alderson had discussions on the Jin file with senior RCMP officer Calvin Chrustie. A report from Alderson says that Chrustie advised him of investigations into underground banking at an alleged Richmond “cash house” as well as probes of gamblers in Lottery Corp. and illegal casinos.

The RCMP had “uncovered that potentially some of the funds at the cash house were linked to transnational drug trafficking and terrorist financing,” Alderson’s report says.

Alderson’s records say that in the following days, officials including Lottery Corp. executives, and high-level officials in B.C.’s government were briefed on the bombshell information.


READ MORE:
A B.C. money laundering public inquiry is backed by every demographic that was asked in this Ipsos poll

But for some reason, information sharing with the Lottery Corp. had gone sour by September 2015, according to a report filed that month by Alderson.

In his September 2015 report, Alderson wrote he had “received information that senior police had directed their operational staff to deal with GPEB rather than BCLC. Comments were made that there had been unwillingness by BCLC leadership to address, what was in the police’s eyes, clear acceptance of huge volumes of cash which ‘one could reasonably suspect were likely proceeds of crime.’”

In response, BCLC said that it takes money laundering seriously, and that in advance of E-Pirate, from late 2014 through February 2015 BCLC asked the RCMP to investigate suspected loan sharks.

WATCH: Were B.C. casino staff connected to money-laundering suspects?






BCLC stated: “a senior official of the RCMP advised that while BCLC should continue to share information with the RCMP and complete suspicious transaction reports, that official also cautioned BCLC not to take any other action without first discussing it with the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime, ‘so as not to impede any ongoing criminal investigation.’”

While Serr is not with the RCMP, court filings show that throughout 2015, RCMP’s FSOC and Vancouver police had overlapping drug-trafficking and casino money laundering probes focused on a transnational Chinese gang connected to a massive alleged underground bank in Richmond with suspected links to Latin American and Middle East drug traffickers.

International anti-money laundering officials estimate the Richmond underground bank laundered over $1.2 billion per year for international narcos.

sam.cooper@globalnews.ca

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Trudeau government still trying to figure out national youth policy – National

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OTTAWA – Three years after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a national youth policy, the federal government is still trying to determine what it should include.

Trudeau appointed himself the minister for youth in his cabinet in 2015 and in the following year’s budget promised a national youth policy to make sure young people’s needs and concerns are reflected in what his government does.

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In 2017, the government set up a committee of deputy ministers on youth issues, urging the top bureaucrats to bring young public servants to the meetings. The government also created a youth council in 2016, a special advisory group of Canadians aged 16 to 24, to help create the policy and started soliciting ideas for what belongs in the policy.

READ MORE: Young people can now text for mental health help through Kids Help Phone across Canada

They came up with a lot of suggestions. A briefing deck for the deputy ministers last June, obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information legislation, says that more than 1,200 participants participated in 40 roundtables across the country, 18 of which were hosted by youth-council members, and produced 9,000 ideas. Major themes included gender equality, Indigenous reconciliation and climate change.

This was something of a problem. “There will be questions of jurisdiction,” the briefing material says, noting that “a significant volume of ideas and issues fall within PT (provincial and territorial) jurisdiction.”

Also, the same slide says, “there will be expectations to manage … in the context of ambitious ideas and competing government priorities.”

READ MORE: Prime minister’s youth council split over Trans Mountain pipeline purchase

In other words, not all these things are possible, or even the federal government’s business.

“In my opinion, they definitely did a good job of I think identifying broad topics based on what the youth had said,” said Riley Yesno, whose two-year tenure on the council ended in January. She’s a University of Toronto student, an Anishnaabe woman who grew up in Thunder Bay.

“My personal hope for it is it ends up having some sort of teeth or being more actionable because while I think the guiding principles that we established were really great … unless there’s really actionable items attached to those principles, it could just be another kind of paper sitting wherever,” Yesno said.

The timeline for producing an actual policy remains unclear.

READ MORE: No federal supports, funding planned for children caught up in opioid crisis

“We all know that the next elections are in less than seven months so there’s not much time to put in place that policy,” said NDP youth critic Anne Minh-Thu Quach Monday. “I’m wondering if the prime minister is just using the youth policy as a political token or if he’s really going to do something about it.”

When Quach pressed the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary for youth issues Peter Schiefke last week in question period, he responded he would have “good news to share … in the weeks and months to come.”

In an email, Trudeau’s spokesperson Matt Pascuzzo called the youth consultations a “first step,” noting that through discussions with the prime minister and cabinet ministers, the youth-council members have been able to more indirectly shape policy.

WATCH: Trudeau says legalizing marijuana will make it harder for youth to access drug







“This engagement is essential in helping our government identify issues important to youth and to find solutions that will improve the lives of young Canadians,” he wrote.

The file falls under the Privy Council Office. Spokesman Paul Duchesne said by email that the next meeting of deputy ministers is scheduled for March. The committee’s job is to “ensure a whole-of-government approach to youth initiatives,” he wrote and promote a youth perspective in government.

He didn’t say how far along the national youth policy is.

Planned spending on the work fell from $1.6 million in 2018 to just over $1 million this year, though it’s to rise again to $1.3 million in 2020.

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Quebec government creates guidelines to control problem hockey parents – Montreal

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Parents of minor hockey players in Quebec will now be required to make sure their conduct in the stands measures up to new guidelines set by the provincial government.

The Education Department in conjunction with Quebec’s minor hockey federation has put together a behaviour protocol governing how hockey associations should handle aggressive and unacceptable events involving parents of minor hockey players.

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READ MORE: Acadia, St. Francis Xavier to meet in first round of AUS men’s hockey playoffs for first time since brawl

“Excessive bad language and disgraceful conduct cannot be tolerated in hockey,” Junior Education Minister Isabelle Charest said Monday at a news conference presenting the 43-page booklet.

“And unfortunately today, we continue to see this type of behaviour too often in Quebec’s arenas.”

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs go to overtime

Paul Menard, head of Hockey Quebec, said the guide will be sent immediately to all minor hockey associations across the province. He said parent behaviour won’t change overnight, but he expects people to fall in line soon.

“If we have a situation, we will have to address it by what’s in the guide,” he said in an interview.

“And if you start working with a tool, people will join in.”

The guidelines set out the roles and responsibilities for parents, team and arena personnel, officials, league administrators and fans who wish to intervene when an aggressive situation risks getting out of control. The booklet also includes a list of unacceptable behaviours and suggests ways to intervene.

If parents tell a child to fight another player, for instance, the guidelines suggest they be confronted, placed into a mediation process and then brought in front of a disciplinary committee. For parents who threaten a coach or someone else, they could be expelled from the league.

WATCH: Hockey teams involved in brawl had ‘agreement’ about on-ice comments two seasons ago: league






Menard said the guidelines detail how associations should react up to the point when police need to be called.

“When a situation gets out of hand, or when people are not stopping, the thing to do is to call the police,” Menard said.

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Experts call Ontario’s full-day kindergarten ‘visionary.’ The Ford government is eyeing changes

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Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program is in a class by itself.

With a full-time teacher and full-time early childhood educator working together, it provides a unique staffing model and two-year curriculum for the province’s 4- and 5-year-olds.

But now, the Ford government is eyeing potential changes, raising concerns among experts who say the program — while costly, at $1.5 billion a year — is worth the price.

“It would be extremely disruptive to change the model — disruption for education, for children, for families,” said Rachel Langford, a professor in the school of early childhood studies at Ryerson University.

The staffing, which has been in place since full-day kindergarten was rolled out almost a decade ago, has made Ontario “a leader, a visionary in this regard, and that, from our perspective, is very positive,” said Langford, who at one time was a kindergarten teacher.

Other provinces with full-day kindergarten typically use a teacher-only model.

Late last month, Education Minister Lisa Thompson launched consultations, asking unions and trustee associations about the “implications of the present two-educator model” for students, working conditions as well as “value for money” — and whether other options are available — as the government faces a deficit of up to $14.5 billion.

Last month, she and Premier Doug Ford caused an uproar after they wouldn’t commit to keeping full-day kindergarten. They later backtracked, affirming they would continue with what they referred to as “full-day learning.”

The full-day program was introduced by the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. The original report on its design had recommended teachers work a half-day, with early childhood educators (ECEs) covering the rest of the school day as well as after-hours care.

However McGuinty — in a move to please the teacher unions — opted for one full-time teacher and one full-time ECE for the school day, adding half a billion dollars annually to the cost.

Since it was implemented, critics have derided it as expensive daycare; economist Don Drummond recommended scrapping it to trim the deficit, and in 2014 former PC leader Tim Hudak proposed a teacher-only model — with smaller class sizes — to save $200 million a year.

When full-day began, there were growing pains: Teachers were used to working alone at the head of the class, and ECEs working in teams in child-care settings. Their differing education credentials and huge salary discrepancy meant some ECEs felt more like assistants than educators. (School-based ECEs can earn well below half of what top-earning teachers do.)

Over time, “the level of integration of the staff team increased,” said University of Toronto professor Janette Pelletier, a researcher of Ontario’s full-day program. “Staff members reported that they benefited professionally from working together and that families benefited from the integrated team approach.”

Team teaching has also been key to the academic, social and emotional success children have had in full-day kindergarten, added Pelletier of the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study.

“The current model works,” she added. “If student success is important, then why talk about changing the model? I can speculate — perhaps student success would be negatively affected if educators no longer had the same combination of professional training and expertise.”

A teacher-only model might mean less focus on the play-based nature of the program; two early childhood educators would need to be trained in kindergarten curriculum, she added.

Pelletier also noted there is a shortage of ECEs in the system.

For teachers and early childhood educators, the strengths they each bring to the classroom are key.

Sarah Fernandes, who teaches one of five full-day kindergarten classes at Scarborough’s St. Maria Goretti Catholic School — each with the maximum 29 students — has worked with early childhood educator Anthonia Ikemeh for the past five years.

“We work well together,” said Ikemeh, adding the two bounce ideas off one another and create inquiry-based projects on topics the kids are interested in.

The two closely document everything their young students do, taking photos and creating a binder of pictures and classwork to detail their progress over the two years they are in the full-day program.

Over the years, they’ve refined and improved their program and projects. They’ve brought in bins of “loose parts” — bottle caps, paper towel rolls, buttons, clothespins, smooth beads — and put them out on shelves for children to touch, play with and use to help with counting and adding. They created a family tree on the wall with photos of students’ families, as well as their own.

Meanwhile, next door, teacher Kayla Larkey and ECE Celeste Riparip take turns instructing students, working with small groups.

Larkey, who worked as an early childhood educator before returning to university to earn her teaching degree, said, “I love it because I feel like we both bring different things to the table.”

Riparip “has a lot of experience with what’s child-appropriate and developmentally appropriate for kids in the class, and she keeps me on page to make sure everything is play-based,” Larkey said.

In turn, Larkey, who has taken professional development in areas such as special education, shares that expertise and knowledge.

“Recently we’ve noticed (students) are really into snow, so we are doing a snow inquiry,” Larkey added. “I might bring in some books from the Toronto Public Library; Celeste might prepare some activities for them.”

Recently, “we brought in some snow and they were watching it melt.” (A student put a snowball in his pocket to share with the class.)

“With both of us being here, we can work with kids one-on-one or in a smaller group,” said Riparip. “Whereas if it’s just a teacher, it’s harder to do that with 20, 25 or 30 kids. It’s a lot for one person to handle.”

Larkey points to the teacher desk in the classroom, saying it’s nice to have but it’s hardly used.

“We never sit.”

The University of Toronto’s Charles Pascal, the architect of Ontario’s full-day program, said after consultations on his report to McGuinty, “we decided to combine the specialized knowledge of kindergarten teachers about the school environment” and also thinking ahead to the transition to Grade 1.

Using ECEs only would require about 8,000 more when there is a shortage within the profession, Pascal added.

“The cost savings would not actually be huge and the major disruption to something that is working would produce chaos for several years that’s not good for kids and parents,” he said.

“It’s taken nine years to begin to smooth out the model — and now, on the back of an envelope, a hasty change that will likely inhibit the social and economic progress being made, is irresponsible.”

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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Conservative senator says ‘parts of the government’ want to kill the oilsands with Bill C-69

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Conservative Sen. Doug Black says if the Liberal environmental assessment bill currently being studied by the Senate isn’t amended, it could kill the oilsands.

And he says that might be the intent.

READ MORE: ‘Lack of clarity’ in Bill C-69 leads Senate to send act to committee

“There will be no new development in the oilsands. Many would argue that’s the very intent of the legislation,” he said in an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson when asked whether the bill’s proposed new environmental assessment rules could kill the oilsands.

“I believe there are parts of the government that believe that would be a desirable outcome.”

WATCH BELOW: Conservatives demand Liberals scrap ‘no pipelines’ Bill C-69







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Introduced to the House of Commons in February 2018, the Liberals’ Bill C-69 would change how natural resource projects are assessed.

The legislation would get rid of the National Energy Board, replace it with a Canadian Energy Regulator, and also create an Impact Assessment Agency to measure how best to mitigate environmental impacts from proposed developments.

It could also lead to confusion and delays over project timelines.

READ MORE: Alberta environment minister says federal energy bill C-69 inadequate in current form

The bill lowers the timeline for major projects from 720 days to 600, but also sets aside 180 days for early engagement with stakeholders like Indigenous communities and allows the government to repeatedly extend that engagement period with few, if any, real limits.

Opponents of the legislation argue projects like the Trans Mountain expansion wouldn’t have been able to get approval under the proposed system and that it puts too heavy a burden on businesses to jump through hoops before a project gets approval, which could make them reconsider seeking approval in the first place.

LISTEN: Alberta Senator Paula Simons joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss Bill C-69

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Supporters of the bill, including the Mining Association of Canada, argue that while the bill is “not perfect,” passing it will reduce uncertainty to the mining industry because the legislation has the confidence of many Indigenous communities and offers a more coordinated approach to assessing overall impacts of proposed projects.

WATCH BELOW: Trudeau talks about Bill C-69 to Alberta’s Chamber of Commerce






Having received approval from the House of Commons, the bill is now before the Senate, which it will need to pass if the government wants to get royal assent on the legislation before the end of the session in June — without that, it will die when the election is called.

The Senate Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee met for the first time last week and Black was among the senators arguing for a travel budget to be set up so members can meet with Canadians outside of Ottawa about the impact of the bill.

The government, meanwhile, argues that would be an expensive political stunt.

But Black says the legislation would create significant hurt for Canadians working in the natural resource industries and that their voices will not be heard if the committee only stays in Ottawa as is usually the case for such studies of bills.

“You don’t hear it here in Ottawa. You don’t see it, you don’t feel it in Ottawa, so this is very important,” he said.

“Of course, there’s a cost [to travel], but the cost of the Canadian economy of not getting this right is literally trillions of dollars.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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