NDP facing an election without a quarter of its caucus as Rankin ponders retirement

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New Democrat MP Murray Rankin said today he’s still thinking about whether to run for his party in this year’s federal election — despite having said he intended to make a decision about his future by early January.

« I’m one of those people in the yet-to-be-nominated, yet-to-confirm category, » Rankin told CBC News.

« I’m thinking about it. It’s four more years. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’ve got to figure out with my family whether … taking me into 2023 of my life is something I want. All those things have to be sorted out. I am definitely thinking about it right now. »

Rankin said that he will make a decision within the next month, despite having told the Canadian Press last year that he would make the decision by early last month.

If he decides to join other NDP MPs and leave federal politics before the fall campaign, he’ll leave behind a party facing down an election cycle without a quarter of its current caucus.

Tom Mulcair gave up his seat in Outremont after he was ousted as party leader. Kennedy Stewart, the former NDP MP for Burnaby South, stepped down to launch a successful run for mayor of Vancouver.

Both of those seats go to byelections Feb. 25. Party Leader Jagmeet Singh is hoping to secure the seat in Burnaby South for himself.

Sheila Malcolmson, the former MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, gave up her seat to run as a B.C. MLA in Nanaimo, an election she won last month.

Erin Weir, the former NDP MP who now sits as a party of one representing the defunct CCF, was kicked out of caucus by Singh a year ago after sexual harassment allegations were made against him.

The ones not running again

Another six NDP MPs have announced they will not run in the next federal election: David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre), Fin Donnelly (Port Moody-Coquitlam), Linda Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona), Hélène Laverdière (Laurier-Sainte-Marie), Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe) and Romeo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou).

Robert Aubin, the MP for Trois-Rivières, has said he is pondering a choice between carrying on in federal politics or making a run for mayor in Trois-Rivières.

Rankin, meanwhile, has accepted a job — an unpaid one, he told CBC News — as the B.C. government’s representative in its Indigenous reconciliation process with the Wet’suwet’en.

The news that Rankin has yet to commit himself to running in the fall comes as his party continues to struggle in Quebec, scene of the ‘Orange Wave’ that propelled the party to the Official Opposition benches in 2011.

Over the past month, three polls have put the NDP below the 12.2 per cent of the vote the party captured in Quebec in the 2008 federal election, when Mulcair was the province’s sole NDP MP. The party stands at 13.8 per cent support nationally in the CBC’s Poll Tracker aggregate of federal polling.

A recent Nanos poll found that just six per cent of Quebecers pick Singh as the best person to be prime minister, well behind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (44 per cent), Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (18 per cent) and People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier (10 per cent).

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Justices of the peace use retirement to dodge disciplinary hearings

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Less than a month before he was set to face a discipline hearing for allegedly making racist remarks about Indigenous people in court, Kenora Justice of the Peace Robert McNally retired.

As a result, the public hearing into his case scheduled for this month was scrapped, as the law does not allow for the disciplining of retired justices of the peace and provincial court judges.

Critics say it’s time for that to change, and to bring the system closer in line with other bodies that maintain jurisdiction for discipline over retired professionals, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

“There is a public interest in judicial oversight bodies retaining jurisdiction to investigate complaints and make appropriate findings against judicial officers even when they retire or resign,” said Michael Lacy, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, one of the organizations that had complained about McNally to the Justices of the Peace Review Council.

“Although sanctions might be limited in such a case, there is value in allowing hearings to proceed. It would provide an opportunity for the judicial officer to answer the complaint and potentially clear his or her name in the face of a serious allegation,” Lacy said.

Judges and justices of the peace have also retired while their cases were being investigated by council complaints committees; in those circumstances, their names are kept secret and only a summary of the complaint against them is published in the councils’ annual reports.

Justices of the peace earn about $132,000 a year, and are appointed by the provincial government. Dressed in black robes and green sashes, they conduct bail hearings, sign off on search warrants and preside over trials in provincial offences court, which deals with non-criminal matters. Provincial court judges are also appointed by the Ontario government and earn about $290,000.

As first reported by the Star, McNally was alleged to have made racist remarks in bail court in August 2017 to lawyer Shannon McDunnough, who is Mi’kmaq. After making a joke about late British comedian Benny Hill, McNally wondered aloud if anyone even knew who Hill was. When McDunnough said she did, a court transcript says McNally responded, “Your ancestors probably scalped him or something.”

McNally, who was appointed in 1993, also faced allegations of judicial misconduct for allegedly acting in a manner that was “rude, dismissive, confrontational, condescending, impatient and sarcastic” in other cases, including allegedly making “inappropriate and gratuitous comments” to a female duty counsel.

Now that the hearing in his case has been cancelled, the allegations remain unproven and the complainants against him are left disillusioned.

“I can’t talk about the specifics of my client, but I can certainly point out that he was interested in fully defending himself when all of this arose almost two years ago,” McNally’s lawyer, Howard Rubel, told the Star. “Suffice it to say that he’s in his mid 70s and mandatory retirement is at 75.”

While recognizing that retirement may be appropriate in some cases, there are others — such as McNally’s — that should proceed for the sake of transparency and accountability, said Mary Bird, area director of Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services, another organization that complained about McNally.

Cancelling public hearings due to retirement “does not increase the public’s confidence in the administration of justice,” Bird said. “People don’t get to walk simply by saying ‘Oh, I’m going to retire,’ but apparently justices of the peace do.”

The law on disciplining judicial officers in Ontario applies only to sitting judges and justices of the peace, said Marilyn King, who is the registrar of both the Justices of the Peace Review Council and the Ontario Judicial Council.

“Unlike some legislation governing other bodies, neither the Courts of Justice Act or the Justices of the Peace Act contain any provisions that authorize proceeding or imposing dispositions when a person is a former judge or former justice of the peace,” King said.

The law sets out a number of potential penalties for a judge or justice of the peace who has been found guilty of judicial misconduct, including a warning, reprimand, an order to take additional training, paid or unpaid suspension, or a recommendation to the attorney general that the person be removed from office.

Granting power to the two councils to discipline retired jurists would require a change in legislation, something the government is not interested in doing. “Once a judicial official has left office, taking further action would not be an effective use of justice system resources,” said Ministry of the Attorney General spokesman Brian Gray.

University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach disagrees.

“I think from the complainants’ perspective and the public’s perspective there may be an ongoing interest, and frankly from the perspective of other judges and justices of the peace so that they know what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour,” he said.

Since January 2015, three other justices of the peace have retired before facing discipline hearings:

  • Alfred “Budd” Johnston retired in 2018 before a discipline hearing for alleged courtroom behaviour described as “condescending, sarcastic, bullying and mocking” toward a self-represented defendant. In 2014, Johnston was suspended without pay for seven days for dismissing 68 traffic cases because a prosecutor was 71 seconds late. At that time, his lawyer told the discipline panel that Johnston intended to retire in the summer of 2015.

Robert Whittaker retired in March 2015, just 10 days before a scheduled discipline hearing regarding allegations that he showed a lack of understanding to people with mental illnesses and had preconceived notions of Somalis. The review council recommended reimbursing Whittaker about $4,600 in public funds to cover part of his legal costs.

Santino Spadafora retired for a second and final time in January 2015 prior to facing a discipline hearing for allegations that he falsified more than 600 expense claims for meals, hotels, highway tolls and mileage for court dates in the Niagara region, totalling more than $16,000. Spadafora was originally supposed to face a hearing in November 2014, but retired, which led to the hearing being cancelled. Days later, he withdrew his offer to retire, which led to the hearing being rescheduled for January 2015, at which point he retired again. Then-attorney general Madeleine Meilleur accepted a review council recommendation to reimburse Spadafora $14,600 in legal costs.

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

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Councillor exit interview: Bob Monette talks about ‘sentimental’ retirement from Ottawa City Hall – Ottawa

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Bob Monette was ready and set to run a fifth campaign for a city council seat, but decided in June it was time to leave politics after nearly 13 years at Ottawa City Hall.

Friday marked Monette’s last day on the job as councillor for Orléans, a ward in the city’s east end where he has lived for the last 40 years. Before his time at city hall, Monette – born and raised in Ottawa – served as a councillor in the former Cumberland township from 1985 to 1991.


READ MORE:
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After amalgamation, he was first elected to Ottawa City Hall in the 2006 Orléans byelection. Most recently, he served as one of Ottawa’s deputy mayors and sat on the audit committee, the finance and economic development committee and the transportation committee.

Global News sat down with Monette on Nov. 28, before the final city council meeting of the term.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How are you feeling today, before your last city council meeting?

A: I mean it’s special. I’ve had a long career in politics, 19 years… everything comes to an end. Today is going to be a bit sentimental but I don’t regret the decision. It’s the right decision to move forward.

Q: How did amalgamation change the nature of your job as a councillor?

A: Oh, drastically. Before amalgamation, it was a more hands-on approach. When I was in Cumberland township, I did not have staff, so basically everything I did, I did on my own. We had constituents come to your door and you deal with the issues … they’d be calling you at home. I had one constituency office for all the councillors, so it was very difficult. But it was more hands-on and the staff lived in the community and knew the community.


READ MORE:
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Q: Over the time you’ve served at Ottawa City Hall, what are you most proud of?

A: For city issues, I think my involvement with Lansdowne was something I will really cherish. It was a very difficult file, you had people who were strongly opposed to it and I always felt it was a right decision at the right time. I attended all the public meetings from one end of the city to the other end, spoke out… I’m pleased with what we have today.

Another city file is the Ottawa River Action Plan. As you know, direct sewage going into the rivers has been a problem for many years. In Ottawa, what we had seen in the sewage, E. coli spiked … to amounts … like something we had never seen. People were talking about: “Why is there raw sewage going into our Ottawa River?” From that time, we have had federal, provincial and municipal governments put in over $200 million to rectify that problem. This is a legacy that you’re leaving your children and you want a clean water system for your children. So that’s something I’m very proud of.

Petrie Island… I mean when I first started it was no service, none at Petrie Island. We were able to get services brought into Petrie Island, we were able to get a lifeguard facility as well as washrooms.

We have festivals now – we never had festivals in Orléans when I started in 2006. It’s creating an identity and social benefits, economic benefits for our community.

Q: What are some aspects of the job that surprised you or were more difficult than you anticipated?

A: I think when I first started, technology was a lot different in 2006 than it was in 1985, obviously. In 1985, 1988, we didn’t work with computers … I think technology was a big one. I think the bureaucracy was a lot more difficult to work with and I was very successful working with the bureaucracy but you always have to remove red tape. For a long time, it was easy for staff to come in my office and say: “No, you can’t do this or you can’t have this.” And I changed the mindset on that. Any staff or anybody who came to my office, I would tell them: “Do not tell me how I cannot do it, tell me how I can do it and what are the consequences of doing that.” By doing that, the bureaucracy and staff were then open to coming to the office with solutions. And once they tell me the consequences, sometimes I’d say: “Okay, I understand, we can’t do it.” But most times we were able to find something different by thinking outside the box.


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Q: What were the family considerations that prompted your decision to retire from politics?

A: I had submitted my name again to run one more time. I think it was at the point … in April, I guess it was, we were down in Cuba, we had a trip me and my wife. And on the last day, she told me, she says: “Why don’t you pack it in?” I wasn’t ready to pack it in and she supported that. But it was, I guess, a couple of weeks into May … two or three days in a row I’d wake up in the middle of the night … it was around 3 in the morning and I just came to realize: “Why am I doing this? I’ve done everything I want to do.” Then I waited for my wife to wake up and mentioned it to her and she was very supportive, obviously. And from then on, we decided to move on. I don’t regret that decision. My family has supported me every election and they would have supported me if I would’ve run, but they also supported that it’s time to take time for the family.

Q: So you feel like you’re leaving any work unfinished?

A: No, definitely nothing unfinished. There are a couple of files that are coming up (and) I met with the incoming councillor. Light rail transit to Trim Road is going to be a very important file for our community. We have the funding in place, it needs to move forward. The marijuana legislation, that’s going to be a big issue coming forward. How will that affect kids? How close will the shops be to schools? How close will they be to recreational complexes?

Q: You’ve mentioned that you still plan to remain actively involved in the Orléans community. Are you able to say how you plan to do that?

A: No, not yet, because I don’t know! What I want to do right now is take two, three months off… family time sort of thing. Just slow down… you know, get up every second Wednesday of the month and watch council on TV, that will be my hobby. But no, I want to spend more time with my family and go on a trip or two. And then after that, what I have said is I’d be open to different opportunities. Whether that’s part time or … committee work, I’d be open to that.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio to give back salary until retirement in January

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The mysterious case of a missing MP has taken another twist.

The Liberal party’s whip says Nicola Di Iorio, who hasn’t been seen on the Hill since Parliament resumed on Sept. 17, will give back the salary he receives during his final five months as an MP until his official retirement.

According to Mark Holland, the Montreal MP has decided to “donate his salary back” during the period from September to Jan. 22.

READ MORE: Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio announces resignation after parliament absence

While he’s been absent from the House of Commons, Di Iorio was spotted at a cannabis trade show in Montreal last month, where he made a presentation in his capacity as a labour and employment lawyer.

The base annual salary for an MP is $172,700 but, according to parliamentary rules, an MP who is absent from the Commons can be docked $120 of salary per day for each absence over 21 days.

WATCH: Jagmeet Singh calls out Trudeau not calling byelections






Di Iorio announced his intention to retire from politics in April but had second thoughts over the summer and, in September, said he was reflecting on his future.

Last week, under pressure to explain why he wasn’t showing up for work on the Hill, Di Iorio posted a short message on Facebook saying that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had assigned him responsibilities that required him to be away from the Commons — something the Prime Minister’s Office has not clarified.

READ MORE: This Liberal MP hasn’t been seen on Parliament Hill since September — his colleagues aren’t sure why

This week, Di Iorio announced he will retire on Jan. 22, after finalizing “certain projects.”

“He has a number of items, both in his constituency and items that he was working on as a Member of Parliament, including his concern around impaired driving, that he wants to finish before he leaves,” Holland said Wednesday.

“We feel that’s appropriate, particularly given the fact that he’s also … willing to donate his salary.”

In his Facebook post, Di Iorio had said he’s willing to show up in the Commons if the party whip needs him to be there. But Holland did not appear inclined to call on him.

“He’s stepping out of public life, he’s donating his salary, he’s finishing up his affairs,” Holland said. “And I wish him all the best in doing that and I expect that that’s where he’ll be focusing his time.”

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